The Future Of SEO in a Socially Driven World

If SEO is dead, social media will be, too, in another five years. So, keep calm and tweet on.

Hold that thought for a second – I can explain.

In today’s search world, there’s a lot of talk about how social is “taking over,” how “content is king,” and how search engine optimization is “dead” – with search updates like Penguin and Panda hitting the final nails on the coffin. Sounds very dramatic, doesn’t it?

The Future of SEO

SEO is “Dead” — Or Is It?

Yes, social is more significant than ever. But, it is too early to draw any conclusions about the death of SEO based on the patterns that we’re seeing. If anything, what we’re seeing today are the after effects of a healthy transition.

We’re seeing a phase in which certain signals that were previously very significant have been given reduced importance or are being replaced with newer and more genuine signals. The system as a whole, however, remains the same.

If We Don’t Understand, We Ignore — How Convenient

What we’re missing or avoiding in the discussions of “search vs. social” are the fine details of what entities within social are becoming more significant. “Social” is a broad term — and claiming that social is taking over search is nothing but an immature observation.

Social is not “taking over.” It might add value to search, yes — but taking over is far-off a possibility.

The reality is that search algorithms are still doing pretty much the same thing they’ve always been doing: giving users the best possible results and the best possible search experience with less clutter. This has been the core focus of search engines for years and always will be.

So, what has changed?

What’s changed is the way people communicate and the way they behave and respond to content online. This, of course, includes the methods by which they share information online.

If I was Google back in 2000, I only had to worry about trillions of data from HTML pages on the “Web index.”

All I’d focus on was giving users the most relevant HTML content based on their search query. And, once I had the biggest repository of content, all I had to figure out was which is of these HTML pages contained the best content, based on various user behaviors and search queries.

But then, quite a lot has changed over the years.

Something Happened Along The Way

User behavior has changed. Information today is shared and digested in smaller, more frequent chunks, and authority has dispersed from larger silos into smaller pillars.

Back in the early 2000s, authority was attributed to a few, like Wikipedia, big brands, or published research papers. Websites were not “trustworthy” for their content, and the only way search engines could determine which content was “reliable” was by looking at referrals (which, at that time, came in the form of links). The more referrals you got, the more popular — and therefore, more trustworthy — your content was deemed to be.

Fast forward to 2013, and we are in the same situation — except that today, search engines have acknowledged the significance of social signals. People are interacting more socially online, and information is shared accordingly. Back in the day, links were the single most significant “referral” metric — today, likes, shares and tweets are a part of the mix, too.

Social Isn’t All About Likes & Shares

Social signals go beyond likes, shares and tweets, however. There are subtler, yet still significant, metrics like engagement levels, reach amplification, frequency, co-citations, demographic relevancy, historic amplification, authority circles, etc. These are all metrics that brands have always wanted to glean from their audience. With TV and radio, little was known and the rest was all guess work. Today, you have copious amounts of raw data to make use of. It’s a gold mine for marketing analysts.

So, my point is, the claim that social is taking over search is only partially true. What’s actually happening is that social has become an integral part of search today, and in ways that will evolve the two in more robust and sophisticated ways.

SEO Is Not Dead — It Has Evolved

To clarify, and to circle back to where I started — if you think SEO is dead, then social media, too, will be dead in a couple of years. My point is that neither of them is dying or dead.

Rather, search has evolved into a bigger, more significant, more sophisticated marketing channel. It has incorporated social, absorbing all its goodness and filtering out all the noise (though, it’s not 100% there yet).

Search will evolve again as it grows. Optimization techniques as we know them today will change. Some metrics will be deprecated, some new ones will emerge. So, from this perspective, SEO is “dead” — that is, SEO as we knew it years ago.

So, What Is The Future Like?

The reality is that social will evolve, as well. We are talking about new technologies in search coming in. Technology that simplifies actions changes user behavior. While we used to seek information via the Web from our desktops in the 2000s, today, we’re asking via voice commands to our smart phones. Tomorrow, we’ll wave our hands (or even just think about a topic), only to get a multiple media spectrum of information before our eyes (Google Glass?).

We’re seeing advances in both hardware and search technology. As more sophisticated technologies like sixth sense and wearable gesture interfaces become mainstream, search, too, will climb up the relevancy levels. Additionally, I’d predict that:

  • We’ll see websites with no “SEO” done (the traditional way) crawl up to top search results on search engines, purely because of their brand relevancy and social citation strength.
  • People’s recommendations will be more cleverly used within search results for queries.
  • Local search will be more relevant and customized.
  • Platform-based customization will become more relevant and sophisticated.
  • Authority, as we know it, will be redefined by personal influence, social circle strength and domain expertise.
  • Social search will not always remain a parallel stream to “Web” search, but will collaborate and merge at certain strategic points.

The above are trends we can extrapolate from what we’re already seeing today — I’m sure there’s more surprises in store.

Today, the two entities that define search, the “user” and “data,” are evolving into forms that are more efficient, more relevant and simpler, using technologies that seem to be evolving by the minute. In such an ever-changing, dynamic world of search, its only our short-sightedness that makes us think that optimization is dead.

As long as our hunger for knowledge continues, as long as we’re searching for more information, search technology will exist and optimization methods will be in demand — social or otherwise.

There may be radical changes in the way we use our platforms, and as a result, “relevancy” will be redefined at every step — but the DNA of search will essentially remain the same.

Search engines will get cleverer as they understand our thinking patterns from search queries, and results will get more relevant and “tailor-made.” The smart marketer will be the one who’ll catch up to the bots and think like one.

So folks, keep tweeting, keep sharing. Keep the data flowing.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | Google: SEO | Search & Social | Search Engines | Search Engines: Social Search Engines | SEO - Search Engine Optimization


About The Author: is Inbound Marketing Manager at SuperMoney -- a service that super powers you with comprehensive personal finance information, powerful tools and financial expertise from a community of experts. Passionate about anything search engines and social media, he blogs at on trends in search and also on

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  • Vandy K.

    So two hours before your article was posted, there was another reaction to Matt Cutts video: “SEO is Going to Die More, Says Matt Cutts”

  • Roi Alon

    Matt cutts words on the first penguin release.
    April 24, 2012
    “We want people doing white hat search engine optimization (or even no search engine optimization at all) to be free to focus on creating amazing, compelling web sites.”

  • David Boozer

    Nice post Mani, content and the interaction of that content will be the biggest role for any success online shortly.

  • Santhosh Kumar

    is “SEO is going to Die”

  • RizzoMB

    SEO and Social Media have generally become inbound/content marketing

  • Tasha

    Well Mani. SEO will dead or live, it’s vary person to person. One SEO guy who is doing all the tricks(black hat) which are not useful anyway for users, thinks SEO is going to dead. Another SEO guy who always believes in better contribution for users will always think SEO is an endless process and it will change according to user behavior, change in technology, geographical structure etc.


    As long as there are websites and as long as their is Google, SEO will never die…

  • Ram Babu SEO

    I thoroughly enjoyed the whole story of Future of SEO, thanks Mani Karthik. Yes, SEO will never ever dead, It will become more smarter, refined and sophisticated, and of course Social is getting incorporated in the the search to provide more real time search experience which matters a lot.

  • Hans Braumüller

    Yes, our work as SEO will be more on levels how to structure onsite the information you want be found by people and offsite how to increase the relationships regarding the information yoo are offering. It is a relationship, that is the great demand to resolve, not only a signal taking from your refferals.

  • Munaz Anjum

    It’s really a treat to see a post from Mani post an article published in Silicon
    India that says that SEO is one of the skillsets that will no more get you

    I first disagree, and then agree with what Silicon India publishes. Similarly, I
    first agree, and then I disagree with what Mani puts his opinion forward.

    I ask Mani the following questions and convince me, and other users in the thread.

    1.If future SEO is socially driven, how we optimize a website to rank for good
    SERP? With growing trends of mobile users, they are mostly logged in, and keep
    chatting, checking mails, updating on FB, and tweeting throughout the day.
    Well, they are socially engaged. It’s true. What perplexes to me is how ‘we ensure
    that a particular keyword ranks’ if users on mobile devices are logged in? Google
    under SSL/HTTPS frequently tends to show personalized results. A couple of days
    back, Google has come up new content recommendation for mobile users. The
    content recommendation works for logged in users. This clearly shows that the
    users tend to get more personalized results behind secure log ins. Add to this
    apathy, Google never shows search queries ‘Not Provided’ in GA even if keywords
    for optimization purpose matter.

    2. The traditional algorithm of Google and its search results are primarily based on ‘Links’ from authority domains. This has been manipulated for years. Going social, and considering number of likes, re-tweets, +1d in G plus, users’ ratings and reviews look more convincing as a reference of quality site, for such site represents the quality content, and great users’ engagement. If social is not about shares, and likes, then how Google considers these as valid references for measuring the quality versus hype? Engagement in social media comes from metric like ‘shares’, comments in thread, ‘likes’, ‘re-tweets,’ etc. Do you believe the value of a START cast on advt you see on TV, and then make decision to buy a product or you read the reviews of a product, ask your peers, and then purchase decision? Social reviews, and recommendations based on likes, and shares are our Zero Moments of Truth (ZMoT). Not sure how SEO fits in ZMoT?

    3. Man is a social animal, and I don’t agree with you that social search will not
    always remain a parallel stream to “Web” search. The way Google is going,
    the way mobile users are searching under SSL, the way reviews, and likes
    matter, the way people search behavior across the devices is changing, the way ZMoT is evolving, the way psychographic mapping of users is changing, Google is changing its algorithm to value users’ recommendations and engagement more than valuing links from authority domains. If Google continues to value the traditional ranking algorithm, Facebook will change the whole search landscape. Google has no option bit to drop its legacy algorithm and care for more social signals. This is what Google these is doing. You should remember that Google no longer has a Search group. It’s now called “Knowledge.” Hence, SEO is dying month over month.

  • Nikhil Deshpande

    Hi Mani,
    Great post!
    Your predictions appeal to my mind, especially the one which says ” Social search will not always remain a parallel stream to “Web” search, but will collaborate and merge at certain strategic points.”

    Merging of Social and Search at strategic points will “refine” the SERP’s more and more and give weight age to the best results.
    I beileve that SEO will not be dead but will “evolve” as search engines become more and more powerful.

  • Ash Vyas

    Neither Matt nor the video says SEO is dead. They have just mentioned what is expected in nearer future. And the video is just saying all those massive link builder who call themselves SEO will be dead, not the SEO or SEO industry. The people who use their brains will be there and get the top rankings, too. Each time Google comes with new algo, SEO people get the ways to deal with it. Even there is a video of Matt Cutt which mentioned that SEO is good and helpful to make your website search engine friendly. SEO is not just creating backlinks, somewhere it means guiding your clients and yourself how to be with trend and make your site compatible withe major changes like Panda and Penguin. Matt has just tried to say pull up your shoes and rush of your brains SEO guys there is a big challenge in upcoming weeks and you have to deal with it which not at all mean SEO is dead or going to be dead. It’s just that way of working will be change. In short SEO can’t ve dead ever because web is changing so rapidly and SEO is helping people who even do not have technical knowledge of search engines to come in limelight for their products to the world that ye s we are also the good authority people in particular marketing domain

  • Ash Vyas

    nop it wont.yeah but it is going to be more smarter work domain.

  • ken mcewan

    Surely SEO, as in search engine optimization, can only be dead if the search engines themselves are no longer relevant as a channel.

  • Neil Pursey

    Totally agree, as long as Google has an algorithm – there will always be SEO. How SEO looks is obviously always changing, so the industry shouldn’t panic. We just need to ensure we understand what Google is looking for in terms of ranking a website.

  • Paperlover100

    seo changes people

  • Paperlover100

    having social page is more effective, you can create groups, leave comments and look for millions of new clients

  • waqas
  • James Simmons

    hay nice

  • James Simmons

    Sometime we think that SEO is dead because we do it but rank of our our sites is not improving. No it it not dead only system has changed. Now only bulk links have no capability to improve rank. Now the question is how to rank. We need to use latest method which good and other search engines told us. We must do more guest posting, article posting and social media. I mean more attention on content.

  • Working Nomad

    This article says nothing.


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