Ben Elowitz (@elowitz) is co-founder and CEO of Wetpaint, a web publisher, and author of the Digital Quarters blog. Prior to Wetpaint, Elowi…


Ben Elowitz (@elowitz) is co-founder and CEO of Wetpaint, a web publisher, and author of the Digital Quarters blog. Prior to Wetpaint, Elowitz co-founded Blue Nile, the online retailer of luxury goods. He is also an angel investor in various media and e-commerce companies.

Over the past five years, Web publishing has been so heavily dominated by search engine optimization (SEO) that, to many publishing executives, the right keywords have become far more important than their sites

  1. Right and if your site isn’t optimized, then you will still rank lower. SEO is ever changing, but you will need it until search changes to a point when you can’t do anything to increase your rankings….

    Yeah, you can get LOADS of traffic from facebook, but the folks who DON’T click and then try to find you later on may not if you don’t come up in the results…so you will lose that traffic if you aren’t making your site crawlable (which is NOT SMO). The science of making sure the sites rank properly won’t go away, it will just be ignored more by people who claim its not important (like this article that confuses non-industry types who google it and hear SEO is going away, making that part of my job annoying, thank you) and thus their clients won’t see the natural rankings, just the pushed social traffic (which is GREAT, but not the be all and end all).

    kinda like car lots will always need to advertise their deals until we stop using cars.

    Yes, a lot of people love Facebook, its amazing, but its not the only thing in the world. SMO is important, but SEO and SMO will be around together for a long time, SMO is just now another subset of your overall SEO campaign which (when done properly and not just in the way you mentioned where the gaming of keywords and articles leaves the ‘great content’ ideas in the past) still includes linkbuilding, content creation, internal linking structure reviews, and much more.


    Also, I personally wouldn’t use DISQUS as they own your content and comments not you. lots of people have issues with DISQUS. i just don’t use it. I guess its good for anonymous commenting if you want trolls.

    [*Update* thurs 8am, NOTE: re; ben’s comment : I’m not condoning comment spam [wtf, really ..... lolz] I’m saying DISQUS isn’t good and its only + is that is may make it easy for people to comment without saying too much about who they are quickly, possibly encouraging trolls. The proof you both (Rurik and Ben) Don’t get it is the silly 10% number you are claiming. You are generalizing way way way too much with that, which you are stating as some solid fact…please do show the research on this if you have? – a healthy discussion of course for all of us to learn from – not trying to argue just want to be accurate for those who google SEO before calling my firm.]

  2. I agree with Kronis, it will do nothing to SEO. A rubbish site with little and/or out of date content, no matter how good the SEOer was wouldn’t get to the top of the SERPS, it’s always about quality content, whether on a website, blog, membership site etc… You still need to do your homework with SEO.

    I wouldn’t mind betting that their are plenty of websites and blogs with fantastic content that are languishing in the SERPs because of poor SEO, so while SMO is definitely going to be huge in the future (FB aint going away any time soon) it’s not going to kill off SEO.

    Good post though Ben, similar to the ‘Google Instant-Will It Be The End Of SEO’ debate.

  3. Great post Ben. I think that Kronis and PaulHoff overlook your fundamental point, which is that the sun is setting on Google search. It will not go away, but will be massively downsized, as people ask friends/contacts what to read and buy — not a search engine. So instead of 90% Google / 10% other for queries, it might flip to be just 10% Google.

    One recent example: I was looking for sites that have property rental listings in London. Google’s results were useless (even though they are competitive key phrases), but Quora’s were great.

    I’ve always thought that SEO-spam outfits like HuffPo and Demand Media were a temporary blip, until human-powered discovery got more advanced — I think what you’re seeing here is exactly that.

  4. I think this is an exciting development. I’ve always thought how sterile and bland seo optimised content can often be. This headlong chase for keywords can ruin good writing. I like to write for people, so I say bring on SMO.


  5. SEO isn’t dead, it’s changing (just like everything else). SMO might becoming a more critical piece of the online marketing mix, but it won’t replace SEO or kill SEO.

    Change also takes time. I bet most of the world website’s get over 50% of their traffic from search and 40% of their online revenues. This won’t be displaced overnight (or in a few years) just because of Facebook or Twitter.

    Besides when’s the last time you went on Facebook to find an answer? You may find links to things of interest, but as a “direct response” medium, Facebook et al is not well suited to deliver.

    1. Great point here, seo is not dead. What I have found is that webmasters, project managers and firms that have zero project management experience have miss-managed what seo would do for their websites. Evaluation of your industry is key to whether seo is something worth while. I invest and build my own project and have been in seo for long-time now and those who cannot finance and take risk on their own capital, will never have good enough information to determine if seo was a good strategy for their business models. 

  6. Don’t bet too much on the misnomer that any significant amount of web traffic comes from search. I know from years of experience only 10% of visits come from search and produce next to no income. The huge majority of web traffic and business comes from mainstream media reference, direct visit or link association.

    SEO still is and is nothing more than speculative quack science. I love how people talk SEO they use a lot of “if” or “can” or “probably” or “maybe” as they talk about the science of SEO and how it suppose to work. The ones making SEO money were those creating the SEO conferences and talked about SEO luring gullible people into the junk science.

    Social marketing has always been around since the web begun with email chain letters and all Facebook was created a new channel for the same style of viral marketing.People make information reach other people, not information retrieval quackery.

  7. very interesting development

    1. True that, couldn’t agree more.

  8. SEO is not dead and won’t die at least during our lifetimes. SEO is a zombie! No matter how many times they try to kill it SEO it just picks itself up and starts back up again. Even if Facebook will figure out how to do internal searches from its immense user base it will be a while before that happens and it is safe to deduce that Google is developing something even before that happens. We’re in Los Angeles and snippets from Google Places and reviews are now showing up on our queries hence the implied added importance of SMO but as far as replacing SEO I think that is too far off to see.

  9. Coming from the guy who couldnt grow his site traffic – this post makes complete sense – http://siteanalytics.compete.com/bluenile.com/

  10. Rurik, you got it. Thank you!

    Kronis, I don’t think you do any publishers a service when you demonstrate comment spamming in support of your claims that SEO is important.

    Paulhoff, consistently great quality content – as judged by its audience – is what earns a site the best kinds of traffic: destination status and passalong. For those sites, SEO widens the funnel to expose a site to more people, but it’s the great content that truly builds durable audience relationships.


Comments have been disabled for this post