Posts Tagged ‘wolfram-alpha

22
Feb
11

SEO Is Headed for Boot Hill

Ten years ago, the internet looked like Tombstone, Arizona, 1880. Google owned a big old silver mine,  saloon business was booming, and SEO was dealing Faro.  Faro seemed like a pretty good job to get in on—a sort of fair, sort of fixed game with few rules and lots of money, and the dealers had a major advantage. They knew how the game worked. All anybody else knew was that there was a big pile of money on the table.

And if you were an SEO back in the wild heady days of the early millennium, you were sitting pretty. The companies that were quick to adopt search optimization tactics kicked their competition’s butts all up and down the web. There was no distinction then between the shades of your hat. If you had a good strategy to get your client top rankings, you won.

I worked for a company that sort of invented DNS cloaking. They were selling top five Google listings like a commodity. Any company who could pay the per-click, could actually expect top ranks. Money poured in. The Faro dealers started branching into other games like Yahoo paid listings, GoTo’s (soon to be Overture to be Yahoo Search Marketing to be Billy Clanton) rank for bid model, and a host of other lame-brain wanna be Cowboys with dollars in their eyes and no sense in their heads.

Until Google decided to clean up the town. First they shut down the obvious crooked games like the cloaking enterprise mentioned above. The cloakers adapted. Instead of shell-game redirects, they switched their focus to the paid and bid listings. But the Faro games continued. Some the dealers turned honest, offering a fair game with decent odds. They could still help your keywords rank higher, but it took time and was not completely certain to succeed. Other dealers  moved to the back alley and continued to ply their fast-bucks, Lady-Luck’s-a-hooker game.

And now we have a Faro industry dealt by hats in various shades from white to black and all the grays between.

Oh, it is a good game. White hats make a nice living. Grays make out a bit better. And the black hats in the alley are still cleaning the suckers out. Too bad it won’t last.

In fact, I think we’re about to see the OK Corral of search marketing. And the Marshal’s name is Watson, along with his brother Wolfram Alpha.

Search optimization thrives for one reason only. Search engines all rely on some complex algorithm or another to rank search results. The algos are so complex that it takes a specialist (SEO) knowledge to game them. And they change often enough that the specialists have a steady base of new and returning clients.

That’s great, as long as it lasts. But, what if search engines get really really smart? What if they get so smart that they can actually understand what you mean when you ask for “paris hilton photos” based on your history, your search behavior, your gender, the context of your day’s searches, and even your facial expressions? IBM’s Watson just demonstrated that computer programming can solve for human intent. Wolfgram-Alpha has already demonstrated that computer programming can return knowledge instead of just references.

Which means, of course, that in the very near future, algorithmic search engines will cease to exist, shut down by a bigger, smarter, tougher dealer—the intelligent search agent. Who will understand what you want and deliver it. And no Faro dealing SEO will be able to manipulate that much more complex game. Honest, actual content will be the only game in town.

And the last SEO Cowboys will be shot down like dogs in the street.