Jeff Jarvis, the well-known professor of journalism & blogger whose opinions I normally totally respect, wrote a post the other day suggesting that the end of SEO is imminent:
Is there a future for SEO? In a sense, Google’s search results were the last one-size-fits-all mass product around (since most other mass media are shrinking): the first screen of results for, say, wine was the same for you as it was for me…This led to the birth of a gigantic SEO industry.
To be fair, he actually makes a good point here (one that many SEOs have already made): that the rise of personalised results could seriously shake up SEO as we know it. Where I start to have a problem with his post is when he slips into the tired old mantra of many a blogosphere celebrity, that of SEO = bad.
I think it means that true relevance becomes more important than SEO tricks.
He then talks about a wine blogger he’s been researching:
When I search for wine his store comes up fifth on the first page, the second vendor after Wine.com, which spent an untold fortune to build its brand. He didn’t. His relationships with fans — search for wine TV and he’s No. 1 — pushed him higher than any tricks with metadata in his web pages.
He ends by saying:
So does SEO get replaced by people? We can only hope.
Personally I think that this is a load of rubbish. Why?Well, for a start there’s the fact that Jeff’s own blog appears to have been at least partially optimised (even if it wasn’t by design); half decent URLs, titles, etc..
Then let’s just take a look at his example of the future of marketing. Gary Vaynerch is apparently some sort of wine blogger. Which is of course fine & dandy, and the sort of thing that any decent SEO would encourage (talking about what you do in order to prove your expertise and build links). But he also seems to be an absolutely shameless self-promoter. Just take a look at his personal site, as opposed to the one about wine.
The current top post is called The Personal Brand Gold Rush is going on, where are you? and basically consists of Gary ranting on about how everyone should be doing what he is and building up niche markets by marketing themselves as brands. He’s got a point, but he’s also incredibly annoying and is seemingly unaware that not everyone has the time to do this sort of thing and that also, some people need to work for the companies that actually make the stuff that he’s talking about, or the companies that make the stuff that gets sold so that people can give him money.
And what I really don’t get is how this endless self-promotion is in any way better than traditional marketing? Why is this better than white-hat SEO? I’m really not sure. To be honest, I tend to think it’s just a case of hard-core link-baiting, even if the person doing it isn’t aware of it, or wouldn’t call it that.
I’ve got a lot of time for Jeff Jarvis, and even for the idea of the personal brand, or micro brand (ideas I think Todd or Hugh distil much more eloquently than Vaynerchuk), but is this really the future that Jeff Jarvis sees for the web? If it is, you can count me out – it’s like a world where Calacanis is President and Scoble is King. Give me SEO any day.
UPDATE: I’m not going to edit the post, but would ask that anyone who reads this also reads the comments below as I feel that some of what I wrote may have been OTT (although the main points remain valid I think).
End is nigh image by roland on flickr