For far too many years, too many people have believed that Search Engine Optimisation was the be all and end all of Internet Marketing. Millions of pounds have been spent (wasted?) on endeavouring to get to the top of the search engines; often without fully understanding, “WHY?”

However, Google has taken steps recently that should make many realise that even Google has spied the fact that no longer is search going to be the predominant method for finding your business.



And the sooner businesses see what Google has, understand what Google is doing, and adjust where they spend their marketing pounds, the better for the bottom line.

Even in-house it has been a struggle to get SEO and PPC people to understand the importance of social media, and the changes that was bringing to SEO. That importance and those changes began a few years ago, are becoming prevalent now, and stretche far into the future. Just like language changed the stone age world, so we are seeing similar changes now, online.

For many, this is disruptive and has been hard to grasp, mainly because the mantra of “SEO is great” has been around for so long that many in the SEO world could not cope with “SEO is DEAD”. People have become locked into the algorithms so deeply they have missed what is going on in the “outside world”

The introduction of more bandwidth into the online world has meant we have gone from simply broadcasting to COMMUNICATING. And no-one communicates more than a pro-active consumer. Many businesses have attempted to ignore this fact: by locking down access to social sites for their employees; by making comments unavailable on press releases, stories, blog posts etc; by not adding Chat buttons to the site to talk to passing trade; by pooh-poohing sites such as Facebook for as long as they dared until the noise could no longer be ignored. After all, in ye olde world, businesses had control over the messages that were carefully crafted to be released. That world has long gone.

All of this communication has come, not because Google existed (there were search engines and SEO practioners for more than 10 years before Google arrived on the scene), but because the way we all use the Internet is changing. And Google have realised this, and are taking steps to extend their dominance beyond a dying industry – search – to a growing one – communication.

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Google are making a huge number of changes, and these have already begun. Google+ is one, but Google is endeavouring, and will undoubtedly succeed, to make the whole of Google’s multiplex of products work together seamlessly, or (better than they have) alone, should that be the choice of the consumer.

Google Calendar has already changed and Gmail has new profiles that are on Preview at the moment, but are shortly to be rolled out. (Click on Settings, Themes, Preview and Preview (Dense) for a ….preview!).

There are changes coming to Youtube as Google begins to hire people as citizen journalists in US cities to possibly threaten the big bad media. And search-based ads have been under threat by Facebook’s huge amount of personal data offering advertisers granular targeting, so Google is working on that too – not just through Google+, but also with the +1 button for personalised search within their own engine.

Google appears to be about to bid for Hulu as well, which will take Google into the world of Hollywood. And increase users’ time online. Which is where the purpose of Google’s trip into the world of fibre networks to the home becomes a serious threat to telcos. Particularly if Google pursues open access models which could turn the world of companies such as BT on its head, forcing them to find alternative revenue streams which Google has not already mopped up.

Recommendation engines are another big thing that has been coming at us, slowly but surely, and Google isn’t slow on getting involved in this either. One example is Hotpot is a beta recommendation engine for places you and your friends recommend, and Google+ Mobile has launched with Places in-built, which will give them a running start on gathering info, particularly as Maps is an integral part of the Google+ toolbar.

The +1 button on its own should have made SEO people conscious that the days of knowing what will show in a searcher’s SERPS are limited, of not already gone. The addition of the huge amount of slicing and dicing possible with news, discussions, realtime, shopping etc on the left hand side of the SERPS was also an indication that to optimise a web page for that level of granularity was now getting difficult, if not impossible. No longer is it an option to sit down and create profiles for users based on whether they were likely to be conducting research, or shopping.

Those days of that simplicity of search are long gone. And hence so is SEO as most agencies and SEO experts think of it. Whilst there has long been debates about where the blurry lines of SEO activity begin and end – does it include PPC, or posting to fora, or article marketing, for instance – now that debate is defunct. SEO is dead. You cannot optimise for the search engines any more and justify it. You must optimise for the consumers. After all, they are the ones who buy your products, who seek the information you offer, and who are increasingly unlikely to use a search engine to do so.

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About the author:

A practising internet marketing consultant since 1996, Lindsey Annison helps companies improve their website marketing, online PR and information architecture. Lindsey is also a qualified adult education lecturer and author. As co-founder of the Access to Broadband Campaign, she has been instrumental in the provision of high-speed internet access to rural areas in the UK. Lindsey is also a past winner of's Outstanding Contribution to UK Technology