SEO is dead. Long live social media optimisation
As Google search results throw up more and more ads, using SEO to reach your audience is becoming increasingly futile. Could social media optimisation be the answer?
Search engine optimisation (SEO) was always a flawed concept. At its worst, it means making web content less engaging for the reader but supposedly better for search robots and for the mysterious algorithms that determine the order in which results appear for a Google search. At its best, it means no more than following best practice in creating clear, accessible web sites with intelligible content, meaningful titles, descriptive “alt” attributes for image, no broken links, and the rest of what makes for a high-quality web destination.
Now SEO is dying. A striking post by Dan Graziano reveals that a Google search may display only 13% organic results; “the rest is ads and junk”. In addition, a recent Forrester report on how consumers found websites in 2012 shows that social media is catching up with search, accounting for 32% of discoveries versus 54% for search, according to the US respondents, up from 25% in 2011. The trend towards localised results delivered to mobile users, perhaps via an app rather than a web page, is another reason why traditional SEO is decreasingly important.
A better model for today’s businesses is to consider what it means to be social-media optimised, with a focus on customer-centric interaction rather than merely setting up a web property in the hope that Google will deliver hits. Recommendations from friends count for more than a search engine algorithm will ever achieve.
What then is social media optimisation? It is about inviting people into conversation rather than merely broadcasting a message. It is about listening to social media chatter and acting on the results. It is a hashtag or twitter handle on every ad, and a responsive team behind that social media presence for those who respond. It is integrating multiple touch points on multiple channels so that customers get a consistent experience across all of them. These things are not trivial to implement, though the technology to do so now exists, and they have the potential not only to drive sales but also to transform customer experience.
SEO will not be missed.