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RE: Is social media the future of SEO?

For a few months now I have been subscribed to Web Designer magazine, and generally it’s a good read. This current months issue was of great interest to me, covering jQuery, and an article titled ‘Is social media the future of SEO?’.

As a SEO executive, it’s probable my view of the article is a little bias, however I felt the author got either a couple of points incorrect or didn’t clarify himself well. I’d like therefore to take the opportunity to give my thoughts on a couple of the points.

The author describes the rise in social media as having two key impacts where SEO is concerned. Firstly that users spend more time on these channels and attempting to follow the ambiguous logic of the author, is less likely to search for things using search engines? The second facet is that on Twitter and Facebook, users tend to distribute more material. This is true, however the author fails to speak of probably the biggest challenge social media presents to SEO.

With more discussion and sharing being conducted on social networks, and less blogs and general websites, Google will be more inclined to adopt social networks as reference points in the algorithm. Currently professionals use link building as a strong arm of SEO strategy but if the reference point weighting is to shift dramatically to social networks, where linking is more sporadic, organic and harder to replicate, then that does indeed represent a challenge to SEO.

After, when writing in regards to personalized search, the author states:

How can the SEO of today deal with this? It simply can’t.

Rejection of this argument is two fold. Firstly the notion of SEO as a marketing channel that comprises of a static, never changing strategy is nonsense. SEO has continuously changed in reaction to modifications to the Google algorithm, and the introduction of personalized search is no different. Indeed, SEO strategies have already been devised for people to lever personalized search to their advantage, for instance the encouragement of users to search brands.

Secondly the author’s perception of personalized search is overstated. Our tests of the change personalized search, and wider commentary provides evidence that the impact of preference of previous search behaviour affects rankings minimally. Even then it will be limited to previous markets that have been searched within. If someone decides to purchase a desktop computer, and hasn’t made any computer related in the past, how does Google personalize such results? Unless Google starts generating search results largely on preference, the current ‘traditional algorithm’ will still be hugely influential.

It’s probably the complete rejection that SEO can’t react to personalized search that leaves the author open to criticism. I agree that personalized search does provide new challenges, but also provides new opportunities to gain competitive advantage. The conclusion of the article is good. SEO has to give consideration to social media, but the general theme that social media is increasing in importance at the expense of SEO, I believe in unfounded.

Oh, and the irony that I had to resort to social media in order bring this to the attention of the author is not lost on me. 😀


So, what do you think ?