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Thinking about the future of search engine optimization

There have been a ton of small, medium and large sized business built on the back of orgnanic Google traffic. In a variety of categories.

As a result many websites are highly optimized in their desire to become the first or second result from a google search query.

I just did a Google search for the Canon 50d. Here’s what the results page looks like:

You may have guessed that the first spot would goto cnet or a big brand.

Instead it goes to dpreview.com which is a much smaller website about digital cameras and digital photography. The site includes reviews and a very active message board. The site started in 1998 but was acquired by Amazon in 2007. (they nailed SEO well before the Amazon acquitision). Think about the cost structure for dpreview vs cnet camera reviews.

I could show other examples in other categories but you get the idea. Getting Google juice is huge.

We are seeing many young companies benefit from great search engine optimization. They typically are able to do this by building the best product with the best content and they understand search. Or they partner with some interesting technology companies that can add value to their content and as a result improve their SEO. (there are also tricks that people play to try and game Google but that isn’t terribly interesting or durable in my view)

The thing I’ve been thinking about lately is how important SEO will be over time.

Here’s another example, a simple search for a review of Radioheads “In Rainbows”

If you notice Pitchfork comes up ahead of Rolling Stone on this search. For other albums Amazon may come up first. That position on search is quite important.

But would I rather get reviews from Google/Pitchfork/dpreview? Or get reviews from my online friends or social network or social search engines?

How about other categories? Restaurants? Product reviews? Service provider recommendations?

Ultimately Google isn’t going anywhere. It’s an amazing company and they have the best search engine on the planet for most things.

But I think the value of seo will change over time as search evolves and other social applications and tools offer alternatives.

Update: related posts:

  • here’s a related piece from TechCrunch back in 2008 when my firm an investor in cnet. We co-authored a paper that was included in that post. If you read the white paper on page 23,24, 25 we cite the Canon search example in the importance of seo)
  • User Reviews 2.0 – Dec 2006