What People Do Is The New SEO

Is SEO a Lie?

This article is all about the lies we tell. I know everyone loves when a post starts this way, but SEO is not dead, or dying for that matter. At least I certainly hope that’s not the case, considering I and many others reading this make a livelihood working in it. But SEO is certainly changing, largely because of the lies we tell. And as it continues to evolve it will undoubtedly look very different than it does today.

In fact, if we think about the core goal of Search Engines, it has always been to give the best possible user experience. The search engines have done a fantastic job to date (more or less) to give us these results and deliver us relevant content. More information is being consumed today than ever before.

As time has progressed, SEO has evolved. As more people create and optimize content, content is becoming more “SEO’ed” than it is organic. The goal to enhance the user experience and stay relevant has been put in jeopardy. The nature and goal of SEO hasn’t changed, but the practice has evolved.

Yesterday’s keyword stuffing is just stupid. But it was a threat at one point. Today, it can sometimes be a fine line where we “over SEO-ify” our content. Engines are aware of this too and according to Matt Cutts, it will become something that could harm sites in the future.

This brings us to the problem. Search engines now need to combat overly optimized content with something else of value.

Social Networking Adds To The Equation

I am unsure if anyone is still having conversations about whether or not Facebook alone will beat Google for overall Web dominance. Frankly, I don’t think they will and I know others agree with me.

That being said, a few things which do make Social so appealing however is the fundamental difference in behavior from users.

  • Users are much more likely to be “real” when dealing in social since it is their reputations are on the line.
  • Social is a more, dare I say, passive method of discovering content. There are no actions taken or searches performed and yet, it works.
  • Open Graph, which I continue to stand on a soap box about. Optimizing your Open Graph tags is a huge opportunity for marketers.

All that being said, from a search engine standpoint we know social is important. Google has made it clear that they pay attention to Open Graph signals.

But this is nothing new.

Why SEO Needs To Evolve

So we have reached this point again where the search system needs to evolve. And honestly, it makes perfect sense to me. As AJ Kohn dubbed the “Dr House Effect”, everybody lies.

Oh, you SEO'ed your site? Well Everyone Lies - Dr House

Not maliciously, but under the ruse of creating “SEO’ed” content. I beg you not to misunderstand my words, because I am not implying that I think SEO is a crock, because it’s not.

Just like anything, done properly, it can be super helpful. But in the wrong hands, can be dangerous and compromise the relevance of our search engines, which have always been under attack from spammers. Which is exactly the reason they need to keep evolving.

For Search Engines to become even more relevant, they need to find a way to understand what we tell them with on page factors, and how they relate to the signals we pass with our actions.

Look Jiminy, I'm a real boy (and SEO is not a lie)

The fundamentals of SEO will still likely remain the same, at least for a while. I do believe that. But like I have said in the past, Entity Search is creeping up. Perhaps it will evolve into something else, but the stark difference between what Search is and what it will become has “action attribution” written all over it making it more real.

Facebook is clearly going after this model and attributing not just what we say we “like” to affect our social graph, but also our everyday actions. What we “do” is the new “like” and the evolution of frictionless sharing is the future of search engines.

Google vs. Facebook Race To The Finish

What most people don’t realize, (I know I didn’t, so again h/t to Aj Kohn for sharing this with me), is that Google is doing the same thing with Google+ and that they have created their own Action API.

I have said it before; Google+ was never about creating a rival social network to Facebook. For them, it’s about improving search results for each and every individual user. Google probably doesn’t even care if you come back to Google+. And knowing this, why should they?

What they do care about is your behavior and what you are doing across the Web. The actions you take on the Web will overtime dictate the new personalized and honest Web of our true actions. Once the engines can narrow this down, the opportunities are unlimited and results are much more relevant.

And The Winner Is…

Google owns the Web, and right now Facebook owns our actions. Considering Facebook’s partnership with Bing and Google+ layering all our activity on Google, I would say both are well positioned to make enormous advancements.

Who will be the winner in this battle for ultimate relevance?

I have my opinion. Find me at SMX Toronto and I might just tell you.

But until then, what is yours?

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

Related Topics: All Things SEO Column | Channel: SEO


About The Author: is the Director of SEO for Kahena, a Digital Marketing agency focused on sustainable SEO, vertical search optimization, and online advertising. At KDM, he leads strategy for all accounts and is experienced in SEO ranging from local, digital marketing, to national and global search marketing. Aaron also specializes in social media strategy development and its convergence with SEO, content creation, image and video optimization. Follow him on Twitter @AaronFriedman.

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  • http://www.livinginthailand.net/ Neale

    It’s basically changed from a hands off business, to a hands on a few hours a week business.

  • http://twitter.com/niceblogger Bitu Mihai

    Hello Aaron! I don’t agree with you that SEO needs to evolve … I think that SEO will evolve anyway day by day and we won’t see how much SEO evolved after spending a year studying it ..I’ve posted on my blog a reaction to this article and I’ve explained there why seo is not a lie.Thank you!

  • http://twitter.com/AlesiaKrush Alesia Krush

    Hey, Aaron,

    As I see it, there are two ways to discover new information: (1) by searching for something specific and (2) by aimlessly surfing the available options. When you google something, you end up on a certain site because of the search query you typed in (well, more or less).

    While, when you browse your Facebook News feed, you discover stuff because a contact has shared it with you, which is passive (I agree), because, this way , the stuff comes TO you, not vice versa.

    That said, what does search + social media alliance result in? A balance of force or something else? I’d say it results in more personalization in search, which ultimately makes you more passive, and, this way, gives more power to advertisers. It’s like, they can leverage social media to steer your search activity in a certain direction.

    And that’s why social media cannot be ignored by SEO’s nowadays, not just because it’s another hot thing.

  • http://www.iobisystems.com/ Ryan Eisenbart

    SEO has certainly evolved and will continue to evolve with the recent algorithm changes.  It is a very exciting and yet crazy time for SEO specialists like ourselves because there are so many variables to take into consideration.  I for one look forward to these changes to see what what else we can come up with to optimize our sites and that of our clients.

  • http://profiles.google.com/ajfried Aaron Friedman

    Hi Alesia,
    Actually,  I completely agree with you that it creates more personalization in search. However, I am not sure I agree that it makes you more passive in search. Users STILL have to take an active role in “typing” a search and the goal of search still stands, to get answers to questions. 

    True, its steering your search activity in a certain direction, but just because we get results quicker, doesn’t make it more passive, it just makes it more efficient.

    Why is that a bad thing?

    But I think we more or less agree on the premise that social cannot be ignored :)

    Thanks for reading!

  • Dave Lauretti

    SEO is surely evolving. There were no social indicators to contend with 6 years ago, there was no personalized search results and stuffing keywords left, right and center was the in thing as far as SEO was concerned. 

    And that’s the same for today, last year and tomorrow. As long as there are other elements within the web sphere that Google can take advantage of in order to serve end users better results, SEO will evolve and change with them, if it can. 

    We all keep alluding to SEO and whether it’s dead or not because most of us inherently sense that big changes are taking place with the search engines – Google specifically – and that the latest news points to the fact that conventional SEO practices may become useless in the near future. 

    And all this without much mention of Google’s desire to roll out their version of semantic search within the next few months.

  • http://twitter.com/NetSpeakDesign NetSpeak Solutions

    As long you can’t type-in a long query as a question on Google (or any search engine), the true value of social in search is completely lost. Also, as long as Google is focused on making even more money through ads, they will remain socially flawed and can never deliver the results we want. In fact, basing ANY social data from a terrible social network/product network is just plain dumb. If they cannot learn to at least “play nice” with the many other social media networks out there, then a MASSIVE amount of social data will never be implemented in a SERP. Thus, depending upon the growth and dominance of their floundering social network is a huge weakness – as well as a threat to search and SEO. Right now, what i see happening around me is a confusing mess of lost opportunities and a desire to dominate. This does not reflect the nature of social?  

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ariel-Corman/100001690241613 Ariel Corman

    You are an idiot (Yeah,

  • http://twitter.com/shashankscg Shashank Gupta

    Hi Aaron, totally agree how you phrased social as being a passive form of discovering information. As SEO keeps evolving, Social is going to be the best bet for companies, as well as SE to provide meaningful results to users.

  • http://seo.d-biz.co.il/ d-biz

    You quote TechCrunch saying Google doesn’t even care if you come back to Google+. I’m not so sure that’s quite right:

    “Ideas that failed to put Google+ at the center of the universe were a distraction.”
    James Whittaker, former Google engineer, March 2012


  • http://profiles.google.com/ajfried Aaron Friedman

    Ha! (hope that was actually a joke)

    Well, like I said, I do have an opinion… find me at SMX Toronto :)

  • http://twitter.com/blackwolf77 Kelvin Otis

     Alesia, that’s a great insight.

  • http://twitter.com/blackwolf77 Kelvin Otis

    Hello Ryan. I had a conversation with a colleague of mine and we agreed that Google’s aglorithm is in effect measuring “passion.” Does your audience buy into your passion, and are they willing to share that information with their peers? The “sharing” is how today’s new SEO metrics will measure and analyze. This means you have to get in front of website content. What’s the takeaway for the reader? What problems or concerns does it solve? How can the content be leveraged through social media?

  • http://twitter.com/johnelincoln John E Lincoln

    I really look at search and social as the same thing at this point. It is all about integrated marketing. All search marketers need to be social marketers too or they are limited in their abilities. Being an SEO that doesn’t know social is like being a baseball player that can hit well but is too slow to get past first base.

  • Les Scammell

    Perhaps the consumer will be the big winner. Businesses of all sizes are going to need ‘happy’ customers who are willing to a) come back and b) tell others. As you say, a customers reputation is on the line the moment they recommend something to a friend. And with Google looking over their shoulders when they make those recommendations, then following that friend to see if they make use of that recommendation – think of the power of that consumer’s actions.

    Can businesses afford to have unhappy customers? The effect may not be felt now, but in the future that customer activity will effect search results to the same extent that links now do.

  • http://twitter.com/EelkeKuipers Eelke Kuipers

    If SEO is done correctly, it will be doing great. That is, if SEO is done to achieve goals, part of a strategy. In the end it’s all about reaching those goals, which means you have to offer what your target audience wants. SEO just for rankings and visitors will never be a long term winner.

  • meenakshi venkatraman

    SEO is evloving giving more weight for users trends and user experience.All the major search engines are  fighting against black hat techniques.Then only they can win in the race.

  • http://www.sbuckinghams.com/categories/Cufflinks/ Cufflinks

    Hi i am 90% agree with you.

  • Jay Hachkowski

    I’d say that both networks will have a big impact on the social search factor. The differences between the two networks (google & G+ vs. Bing & FB) may be what determines who the ultimate social search winner will be. It will likely all come down to social relevance in the SERP’s in determining which network provides better search results.

  • Diet PH

    Aaron, this article shows how a complete noob you are in SEO. While I don’t judge your earning (because I know any SEO guy can make decent earning by lobbying big companies), but to be honest you are completely naive and dont know a thing about how to rank a site in popular keywords.

    You are wrong that what people do is the new SEO. The reason why Google create (and desperately push) Google+ is because they know people spend more time on facebook and other social network services (such as pinterest and twitter) compared to Google itself. It’s not true that Google doesnt care if we dont come back to G+. Sure they want our behavior but that’s not to give us relevant SERPs but more about to send feedback to advertisers. But more than that, they would feel way way happier if we come back to G+ because they want us to be active there and spend more time on G+ compared to facebook.

    people are transitioning right now. They can find almost everything from sites they know. Want funny stuffs? Go to facebook and read what people share. Want to buy something? Just go to ebay or amazon. Want to look at what people pinning? Go to pinterest, etc. Want news? Just go read it on your android/iphone app. Casual users dont use Google 1-2 hours a day because they dont need to find random sites any longer. Google SERPs dependant on small/medium business, they want random sites to appear because if it’s always wikipedia/amazon/big brands, people would stop using Google. Of course the day that people wont search on Google is still very far away but the trend of people not use Google 2 hours a day to search everything anymore is already there. This is why Google knows they must evolve. They did a great job with Android but it’s not enough. They need to get a slice of pie from social network because it’s the future of internet.

    as far as seo come to concern, you are wrong that great content pays for itself. Im quite sure searchengineland has its own marketing team and play their role in SEO. If it’s so easy to create great content and let others link to you based on it, you will make marketing department looks like bunch of idiots. dont be naive. Great content attract link baits but you certainly need to create “buzz” and that require marketing efforts as well before finally you can get natural backlinks.

    Rovio wont be able to bring Angry birds franchise to where it is today without million of dollars in their pocket back then. If it was not Rovio who created angry birds (but let’s say some unknown company from 3rd world country), would you believe, with the same content, that game would be as popular as today? in any world, SEO included, content has never been the only important thing. Content + marketing always need each other.

  • George Andrade

    SEO will always be alive as long as search engines exist. In the end, the search engines need website data to bring results back to their users…there will always be a good and bad way to manipulate these results be it through search queries or entity queries.


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