Stephen Baker

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The decline of SEO

December 16, 2009General

Robert Scoble's post this morning predicts that 2010 will mark the decline of search engine optimization. The data world is getting more complicated. Google and others are looking to other factors besides page rank to determine relevance. Location matters, and so do what friends are saying. And as they bring these new data streams into the results, the people trying to reverse engineer their algorithms have a harder time.

If you figure that Google has one of the world's greatest repositories of data, thousands of world-class engineers and near limitless computing resources to run gazillions of tests, it makes sense that the SEO people would be overmatched. That said, there will always be a consulting industry to help people optimize their ad campaigns. But like Google, they'll need to take all kinds of new factors into account.

Of course the key to good rank is to come up with something compelling to read or watch. One of the commenters on Scoble's post, Alec Perkins, urges people to "optimize for humans." He writes: "Trying to optimize for a search engine is pointless, because the search engines aren't the ones looking for you. Anyway, they're trying to mimic human behavior in terms of understanding what's important. If it's not compelling or relevant, it will never gain traction, with search engines or people, no matter how "optimized" it is."

In the video on Scoble's post, he interviews the co-founders of MyNextCustomer, a new consultancy. I found the first 15 minutes interesting. Here, for example, is how a local locksmith might game Google's search results. He lists 27 fake locations, each with a phone number that ties into a single IP phone line. Google's engine thinks its 27 businesses and gives it a higher rank than his competitor down the street...

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