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Is Social Search a threat to SEO?


I think it is. And I tweeted so  yesterday.  And the reason is obvious. What is SEO about? Ultimately, it is about one thing: the ‘website'. It's about making a website and its pages discoverable, ranked favorably in search results, described appropriately so that searchers hook on the description etc.

But ‘websites' are not ‘in'. Check the diagrams below from Google trends for websites for the past 12 months.

Website traffic for 5 major IT companies

Website traffic for 5 major IT companies

Website traffic for the 2 major consumer goods companies

Website traffic for the 2 major consumer goods companies

While the overall number of people online is increasing, the visits to the web sites keep falling.

At the same time the volume of searches for these brands shows a completely different picture.

Search volume for the 2 major consumer goods companies

Search volume for the 2 major consumer goods companies

Search volume for 5 major IT companies

Search volume for 5 big IT companies

In the last 12 months CG companies see a volume increase or remain steady (amidst the crisis) while for IT, a longer perspective reveals a mixed picture that has to do with what these companies are and technologies they offer:

  • oracle and ibm are gradually decreasing,
  • apple is increasing,
  • dell the same although less quickly,
  • and hp seems to hold its ground or slightly decreasing.

But there is an equally important movement undergoing: people shift their reliance from search to peers for news,  recommendations and answers.

I don't remember how many times and about how many things I  have asked my twitter friends' advise. But it always comes. And most of the time  it's good too. Not so  abundant as  search results but who reads search results past the first page anyway?

Enter social seach. Google injects (opt in) results in search from our social graphs. I don't have to reason the usefulness of this.

What should we expect? What else than  these two inversely related trends accelerating: less reliance on search, more reliance on peer recommendations.

There are some interesting implications here: SEO consulting and search advertising have profited from the reliance on search. Search won't go away anytime soon, especially with the social element in it. But what would be the need for SEO? And what would be the need for adword advertising, if the important factor in search results turn out to be your peers?

Is Google shooting its own foot?  So it seems. But I am sure they have figured it out already and they are thinking of alternatives.

Posted in business, technology Tagged: google, Google Trends, peer recommendations, search, SEO, Social Search



Join The Conversation

  • Nov 16 Posted 7 years ago CurtisLipsey

    Thanks for the great post! I completely agree with your thoughts on SMM replacing SEO - or at least threatening it.  When I was working in the corporate america space, I would constantly have this conversation with small business owners.  They had given up trying to optimize their websites and went for the social media angle.  SEO almost seems to be a thing of the past.  It's getting less and less popular.  Optimizing a website is just one piece of internet marketing.  And with most websites being static in content, and with social media exploding in terms of its usage, optimizing a website seems to lose its luster. 

    Again, great post and I am completely on board!

  • nikan's picture
    Nov 13 Posted 7 years ago NikosAnagnostou Thank you all for you comments and insights. Just a clarification for Catherine: these numbers must be accurate. Google is not only search. It is also analytics, remember?  With access to such a vast pool of accurate web site traffic data from analytics and with the proper technics, it is easy to predict the traffic of most web sites in the world, especially the big ones. And it is much easier to predict the trend. The traffic represented here is not the traffic of search only. The clicks from tweets you are mentioning are included.
  • Nov 12 Posted 7 years ago CatherineWachs I wonder how accurate these numbers are, since I think they are only tracked though Google. What if someone tweets a link and you click directly from social media. That happens more and more. Another trend is that eyeballs are definitely being stretched, so all media is delivering a smaller piece of the pie as social media grabs attention.

    So I wouldn't be so quick to interpret the websites' lower traffic. It's still the best place to learn about a company, its philosophy and its products in a succinct manner. 
  • Nov 7 Posted 7 years ago AlexHawkinson As I responded in my post here, I do not think social search is a threat to SEO.  Rather, it is a threat to paid search advertising.  The total volume of searches continues to rise, but with consumers trusting peers far more than advertising, the sponsored links in a search context will become increasingly ignored.

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