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

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  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.

  11. Garrett, au contraire: people are finding an answer at Facebook every minute to the very most important question in media: “what do I need to know?” While print declines in its service of that question, Facebook is growing faster than any other outlet at answering that. That’s what’s changing news and publishing so rapidly.

  12. @ Ben

    People don’t go to Facebook with the INTENT to have their questions answered (nor do they go there with the intent to make a purchase).

    They go to Facebook to see what their friends and family are doing or perhaps kill time with a game or browse photos. There is no intent for any specific action other than that.

    If they are exposed to something new or find an answer to a question they did not intend to have answered going to Facebook, that is simply a by-product.

    Having done research and lots of experimentation, I’ve found that social media sites have very low transfer and carry-over rates. By this I mean posting to Facebook (or even Twitter) yields a low amount of “click through” and “action” when compared with search. (and yes this is messaging targeted to people who should gobble it up and act upon it)

    Perhaps because my world is about selling products and services, not attracting eyeballs to content my views are different.

    But there is no way that you’ll convince me that folks are going to Facebook, Twitter, etc with the intent of making a purchase .

    They may go for advice, experiences, etc (and my experience is that this is the exception, not the rule) from friends, but they still end up going to the good ‘ole search engine to find the company with which to seal the deal.

    That said, I advise every company to participate and leverage social media…then again I said the same thing about forums, message boards and instant messengers 10 years ago.

  13. Interesting post, Ben.
    I do like this quote: “The encouraging implication is that the audience values content, not keywords.”
    I’m a believer that strong content really is king.
    But, I I do agree with other comments about their needing to be a mix of SEO and SMO in order to garner the best results.

    Thank you for sharing your research and thoughts with us.

    ~ Jette’

  14. Hi Ben,

    SEO doesn’t require paid links, tricks, or hacks. It does require technical knowledge to make it more likely that search engines will crawl and index your content, avoiding things like duplicate URLs for the same pages, soft 404s, unwise redirects, and other issues that my improve the quality of your site. SEO also focuses upon creating great content, using search keywords that your audience will expect to see on your pages, and will likely search for to find what you offer on those pages.

    If SEO isn’t working for you, it’s probably because you haven’t been doing it right.

    If you think that sites like Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft/Bing haven’t been paying attention to social signals long before the Facebook/Bing collaboration (with patents exploring the topic that go back more than 5 years), and that SEOs haven’t been paying attention to social sites, then you may know less about SEO than you think you do. If you search for the origin of the acronym SMO, you’ll find its roots in the SEO industry going back at least 5 years.

  15. Jurgen Estanislao Thursday, October 28, 2010

    Hi Ben,

    I second Bill here. Apart from the fact that “SMO” is patterned after the art and science behind SEO, I do believe that people search and consume information differently in different situations.

    Likes, suggestions, and recommendations, from friends and influencers are without a doubt a powerful means to push information forward, however I do believe that the searcher’s/user’s intent to consume/use information/a product should be taken to a deeper level–it provides historical, actionable data that can help determine specific mental models and personas that “optimization” and “efficiency” practices can be built on top of.

    To say that SEO is dead is similar to saying that UxD, IxD, Usability, Design, Library Sciences, and the rest of other related practices are all dead.

    SEO will always be evolving.

    My thoughts,


    P.S. If people still continue to believe that SEO is about links and keywords, then they must’ve learned something else. SEO (simply put) is about “producing relevant content in the users language & making it accessible to search engines” – Avinash Kaushik

  16. Terry Van Horne Thursday, October 28, 2010

    Why is it always web developers, SMOs and crappy SEOs doing linkbait that do the SEO is dead shite. Cuz they are ignorant of what SEO is. Like links you can’t take Facebook shares and likes to the bank. Each of these are at opposite ends of the conversion funnel and guess which is farthest from the goal. Social and Facebook drives pageviews and metrics that fior the most part put $0 in the bank.

  17. Steffen Konrath Thursday, October 28, 2010

    Good point Ben. But those who spread content via social need to find it first. So search= SEO and distribution=SM (social media). To those the content will be distributed it will be push and no search is required but not for those in search of … . Still we face a problem: content is not keywords and to put all time in keyword optimized content writing results in loss of great content.

  18. Seo is not dead but internet evolution makes SMO more important.

  19. Not much to add in addition to what Bill said. I guess it’s odd you don’t seem to understand SMO came from the SEO industry. The first link bait piece around “SEO is Dead” was 4 years ago and it still seems to cause a stir. I suppose gutter journalism always does. There is no need for anything to die, everything is constantly evolving and the good people adapt.

    “For those who are still working on implementing search strategies: if you haven’t turned your focus to SMO, you will be left behind as the allure of gaming search engines fades into the past.”

    I hope people do listen to you, it will make competitive industries a lot easier for people who are putting time and effort into creating a holistic strategy that incorporate search, social, analytics, cro and the many other strands that work together.

    I can just see all those companies in competitive industries like insurance, gambling, cosmetics switching off their search strategies and waiting for someone to like their page on Facebook. Hey, that’s certainly going to send a flood of traffic their way.

  20. SEO can never die. SMO is nothing without SEO. You better clear your facts first.

    No doubt, SMO is important but you can not marginalize SEO. SEO is the base of every activity, be it a SMO, PPC or anything else

  21. I agree that Facebook is driving huge traffic and all publishers should be integrating social aspects into their content but tradtitional SEO won’t disappear overnight so people shouldn’t think that SMO is replacing traditional SEO, its simply an expanding part of SEO. In 5 years time, people will still be using search engines albeit in ways that are more connected.

  22. There sure are a lot of angry SEO guys out there. There is novreal difference between SMO and SEO. Each effort is trying to position the content in question to be prevalent in each presentation layer (search and social). Bing did a fun thing with Facebook, but it didn’t change the number of searches through Google or the number of tweets through twitter. SMO and SEO go together well, and if you are to take the tactics away, they are the same endeavor. Get my stuff in front of the most important eyes…

  23. Ben, SEO is NOT dead until search engines cease to operate! In fact, SEO has now become more sophisticated than ever before with Google Instant and “Real-Time” demand for innovative and optimised content. Within the last two days the ex-Chief of Microsoft wrote an article stating that the “Internet” was no longer about connectivity – but about content and service. Very simply, GIANT search engines like Google, BING and Yahoo will always need content and content will need Search Engine Optimization to compete for Top 10 SERP’s. Nowadays, especially with Google Instant who wants to rank or be listed on page 4, 5, 6 or 7? Also, SEO for BING and GOOGLE requires two sets of completely different SEO strategies. If you want to talk quality content every page still has to be OPTIMISED with relevant keywords, tags and links combined to rank top ten. Even Press Releases must have combination SEO strategies to rank and rule top ten. I think your article is more related to SM than SEO. You cannot mix Facebook, Google and Bing when talking about SEO because “Facebook” does NOT require any SEO whatsoever. It is a social “like” me website where your strategies are purely about networking and socialising not content writing or optimization. As for SMO this requires a multi-channel and multi-media strategic approach across ALL social networks and search engines. You cannot even call or approach Twitter and Facebook the same way! I rarely use Facebook and I challenge anyone to SERP my global “website title page” top ten listings worldwide. SEO is very much alive and anyone thinking pure social is like a Man or Woman with one eye.

  24. Ben, as for keywords – Google has a very sophisticated “filter” system that has thrown even the professionals of SEO of-course. In short, content now needs to be RELEVANT and keyword search engine SPECIFIC with laser-targeted strategy or it hits the Google junk listing pages many have called the sandbox for life or the GOOGLE content submissions waiting room. This is why most people cannot find their website, daily submissions or work out why content disappears and days or months later it returns. This will sound confusing too most! Why? Is anything easy about Google? That is why small businesses and companies need real professional online SEO/PPC/SEM/SMO strategists to get ranked, save cash and compete.

  25. michael lockyear Thursday, October 28, 2010

    If I need to find information I don’t “Facebook” it – I Google it! Facebook is for real friends and family, people who do not share my content tastes…why would I ask them what to read?

  26. Reading the comments above, my position still stands solid – SEO still is and is nothing more than speculative quack science. The comments above were some of the most weirdest, vague commentary I have ever read on a math/science topic such as search algorithm.

    The notion that someone performing information retrieval is likely to buy a product than a social viral recommendation is proof-positive of how the SEO is full of quacks..

  27. out of office comment reply, really?

  28. Ben

    Just received this article from a friend – welcome to my soap box! I ‘do SEO’ for all of the clients at my agency of employ, and have been preaching this message for the last year – Content is King! If you’re not serving up relevant content to the right people, all the rest is just smoke and mirrors.

    I don’t, however, see much qualified traffic from Facebook – people don’t like to leave the Facebook environment – afterall they didn’t login to learn anything, they logged in to hang out with their friends, in a virtual sense. So we may see sporadic spikes from Facebook or other social blogs, but over time the higher volume of qualified traffic is still coming from Google.

    I don’t see that changing any time in the near future – but I am happy to see other people getting back to the basics. If your content isn’t timely and relevant, and your various initiatives (SEO, SEM, SMO, and dare I say it old school print, TV and OOH) aren’t all on the same page they aren’t doing you any good. One voice, one message, one love.

  29. SEO isn’t dead, it’s always smelled funny. SEO is only a piece of the internet marketing strategy puzzle. Too many people in the industry have been doing SEO for SEO’s sake: focused on traffic numbers alone, and SERP results. The picture is much broader, and the search engines have tried to communicate it all along, but as long as the hard core SEO people got results, they didn’t care. With so many modifications in the Google search algorithm lately, results are ever more fleeting and erratic.

    Supplanting SEO with SMO is equally erroneous. SMO, again, is only a piece of the puzzle. Basic internet marketing strategy is the core principal that will outlive all of these “fads”. Being nimble, have a good foundation, and being able to adapt to changes is what will win out.

  30. These people that declare things “dead” usually just end up being idiots that say outlandish things to get attention for something they are doing. It’s getting really annoying.

    1. this comment intentionally left blank.

  31. Show me someone who says SMO don’t work and I’ll show you someone who can’t explain how US President Barack Obama is able to get the word out quickly and effeciently to his base.

    Here is a real world test for you – a new Facebook app called “commit to vote” just came out and last week, I received over 50 direct messages from friends and colleagues asking me if I’m commited to vote. I have a feeling this may change things come next Tuesday?

    50 of my friends telling me to do something versus SEO quackery…does this really merit a debate?

    1. this comment intentionally left blank.

    2. But if I want to buy a bicycle chain how does Social Media help me with that? I can go to Google, type the name of my bike and the words “buy bike chain” and come up with 50 pages where I can immediately purchase what I want. How will social media change that? It won’t. Social media is great for content like LOLCat videos, but not for widgets. I’ve never Stumbled Upon a bike chain.

  32. Garrett, yes, I’m talking specifically about media here. Increasingly, Facebook is the new ‘start’ page – for EVERYTHING. The importance of that for media can’t be overstated: the ‘start page’ for people’s day a generation ago was the morning paper; now it is Facebook.

    For media companies, having your content and brand featured in people’s Facebook feeds is the key to earning them as habitual audience.

    Jurgen, thank you for your comments. There are too many media companies that look to SEO as a ‘shortcut’ to get them traffic, instead of focusing on the customer.

    Terry, for media properties, there is nothing more valuable than building a brand. Facebook presents a far better opportunity to build a loyal, habitual audience than search engines do.

    Khemraj, the customer should be the base of every activity. SEO is not a customer. SEO is just a set of distribution ploys.

    Thanks for the comments, Searchbrat, Steffen and SEOvalencia.

  33. I think SEO is changing. SEO tied to excellent quality is a good combination. Tied to reputable sources, it makes for a great combination. There are still a lot of ways to game social media sites by using SEO. For example, last night there was a big bruhaha over a MarieClaire article which had disparaging remarks about “fatties” (the author’s words, not mine). I did a Twitter search to get more info and saw dozens of Twitter accounts spitting out the same link to a lame SEO ad focused site. It took a lot of digging to get to a good quality source sites. This is the same problem as doing a Google search over other breaking news.

  34. Tim, thanks for the comment.

    Mr Branson, everything you comment on assumes the search engine is the customer. It’s not. For media companies, success is cued to reaching an audience, and a distributor like a search engine is only an intermediary.

    Michael L, while search will still certainly fulfill a need, increasgly success as a media company means getting the right content to a user BEFORE they search for it. We haven’t had such an incredible opportunity to do that in the 15 years of online media as now that hundreds of millions of people plug into a social stream to discover what’s important. And media titles can be part of that stream. If they’re not, they’ll be trees falling in the forest for most people.

    Maddmatt, those who are using Facebook and social media optimization well are taking advantage of the Facebook and social environments as a way to acquire consumers for life. That’s where the power has been in my experience. And you’re right: a fully integrated program can’t be beat.

  35. Great Article. It think where we will end up is some kind of SEO-SMO hybrid where you are going to have to be effective across all fronts in order to get the traffic you need.

  36. DarrinSearancke Thursday, October 28, 2010

    Great post, Ben. I think you are making SEO “experts” a little worried. However, SEO will still be required (to a certain degree) just not viewed as the “one ring to rile them all” as was previously thought. SMO will obviously play a huge factor in future search, especially as developers/businesses start utilizing Facebook’s Open Graph protocol.

  37. When an entire industry becomes known by the phrase, “I can get your site to be #1 in Google for $300 a month” that industry is in trouble. Strategic analysis of the intended audience dictates intelligent, focused content that yields results, whether in social media or search engine results pages. There are no shortcuts, no automations, no quick fixes for anything in life or the internet (which may be same thing to many.) Remaining focused while creating content is the right way to get results.

  38. Ben,

    I don’t know what “intentionally left blank” supposed to mean but you could have kept such sentiment to yourself. SMO has long been established before you wrote this article and SEO has been debunked over 7 years ago very quickly as quack science.

    Until anyone can come with any true methodologies instead trying to create a circling wagon to protect misleading people with SEO (FTC sued plenty of SEO people by the way), then this discussion is just people engaged in social chatter.

  39. The web on the whole is becoming more organic. And that’s the tipping point.
    People are more attuned now to the idea of discovering content through sources other than search engines. My inference from experience is that, this shift is a pleasant change.

    And Ben, you are right about facebook being the start page :)
    in fact it’s more than a start page, it’s an ecosystem.

    People will talk about search engines, and they will talk about SEO, about keywords, link backs and web copy. These are the people who are feeding the bots to feed themselves.

    Though SEO isn’t nailed in the coffin and significant money is still spent on it, the media spend chart is more friendly with the idea of creating content that people can use and share, and in finding and friending real people.

    I wish someone someday throws light on how nasty the search advertising world is; Google included. They do, do evil.

    p.s: why is it being called SMO ? I would prefer a more organic term, Social Media Marketing.

  40. Nathan Alan Labenz Thursday, October 28, 2010

    Ben is on to something, though the SEO IS / IS NOT DEAD argument is not a particularly productive framework for discussion. In my mind, two important points are clear:

    (1) Many people are finding much of the content they need on social networks, where others have shared it. As this shared / LIKEd content makes its way into search, traditional SEO will be disrupted. The Facebook/Bing partnership already carves out a special place on page 1 for social content, and I think everyone can agree that more product developments are on the way.

    (2) At the same time, traditional SEO cannot be ignored. Search engines will not simply stop using page rank and switch to social content – they will develop hybrid strategies that rely on both algorithmic and human input.

    I’ve written more about the consquences of the Bing / Facebook partnership for commerce here: http://blog.stik.com/2010/10/20/the-consequences-of-the-bing-facebook-partnership/

  41. SMO should be sub-set in SEO in off-page optimization process. SEO is not dead. You need to get the strong fundamental such as Site Structure, Content, Keywords, before you get the back links via SMO. First mission for SEO is making the website to be crawl-able and indexable , without these two, you will get any exposure in search engine result.

  42. SEO is DEAD!!! Long Live SEO!!

    I’ll agree 100% with Bill Slawski. Ben I assume you’ve read a post or two on his blog? People continue to sing the song of how SEO is dead… but, Google’s still one of the few companies that continue to show profits. Facebook continue to not make money… why? Because as Garrett Smith pointed out, it’s all about intent. People visit Facebook, Twitter or any other social medium to socialise. When people are hitting a search engine they want a genuine answer/product.

    I’d rather go and chase the market (even if it is smaller) which is more likely to convert.

    Last point, “SMO” or I prefer “SMM” should have been part of a complete online marketing plan from the get go. Any website that chases only a single source of traffic will and always has struggled to be successful.

  43. Thats is plain wrong. SEO (search) is very important if you want your customers to be able to find you. Dont you use Google anymore?

    There are no Kings, every tactic should be part of an holistic strategy where every bit counts.

  44. Niki Fielding Friday, October 29, 2010

    Good SEO has ALWAYS been about content. I wish I had a dime for every time someone claimed SEO was dead. Come on, can we admit that SEO is evolving and will continue to evolve? Now SEO incorporates elements of social media. Great. That doesn’t make it anymore dead than when airplanes became jet planes. Evolution, not extinction.

  45. SEO combined with SMO is current you need to use both to run a successful
    business platform. Alot of the current market is so far behind the trends it’s
    not even funny. Facebook is great… however from a business owner’s standpoint
    most dont use it. I am out everyday talking about all of it and see the response.
    They will all need to be combined to be successful currently SEO, SEM & SMO.
    I am sure this will be more defined in the next few years but we are in the now….

  46. Bradley Young Friday, October 29, 2010


    I work for Meteor Solutions, and we’re in the thick of measuring this stuff every day. I agree, SMO is the way forward– I posted a full response: http://blog.meteorsolutions.com/2010/10/king-seo-is-dead-long-live-king-smo.html

    I wanted to pull a few of those numbers, though just to help prove your point:

    1) sharing drives approximately the same traffic as search, but these users convert at a 1.5-4x higher rate (i.e. they buy more, view more videos, etc.).

    2) Some traffic sources can drive 10-20x the traffic when counting sharing, e.g. a niche blog can drive a huge amount of traffic through sharing, but that won’t show up in the direct traffic.

  47. SNEMarketing: Thanks for the comment, but don’t forget that SMO is all about focusing on the customer, which is about the most sound place to start you can imagine.

    Darrin and Karthik, thanks – and you’re right. But the news is actually good news for people who have been in the SEO business. Now they have a chance to help their clients and employers truly succeed by leading the SMO wave. As for why ‘SMO’ rather than ‘SMM’, social media marketing has seem to come to mean everything to everybody and it’s a problem. But my focus is on getting media properties to reenvision what it means to succeed in a new digitally- and socially-wired world – and whatever monikers help us get there the better.

    Nuttakorn, don’t confuse the goal with the tactics. The goal (for media) is to engage and monetize audience. Getting exposure in search is just one way to move in that direction. And it’s a pretty limited way.

    Ed, Jesseluna, Aarn, Tampa, Cheryl, Nathan: thanks for the comments and links.


  48. Greg Gillespie Friday, October 29, 2010

    SEO (google) = Answer Now
    SMO (fb,twitt) = Answer Maybe

    Is the world that patient?

    Not me.

    SEO > SMO = (that post would not have gotten my a (google alert) attention

    SEO+SMO = stronger relationship, not death of one over the other, (but that would have slipped by my vfisual filter also).

    Interesting thoughts though Ben.

  49. Greg Gillespie Friday, October 29, 2010

    I mean,

    SEO < SMO

    Hate this unfriendly comment screen (mac)


    PS. visual (vfisual)

  50. Great link bait article, SEO is dead…..again. Why does SEO always have to die, lmao, how come it can’t work in cahoots with other forms of marketing? It can, and does, and IMO a smart online campaign incorporates both SEO,Social Media and other forms of online marketing. Enough with the hype, its comedy if nothing else.

  51. I always have to laugh when I read posts like this.. because it’s always such a great marketing post and it’s clear why it’s being written. I just have to wonder why it’s not clear to so many responders?

    Great post. Mission accomplished, Ben. ;)

  52. SEO Design Solutions Saturday, October 30, 2010

    Ben, not quite sure why you deleted my last comment. I was merely highlighting the fact that this SMO vs. SEO “The sky is falling” Chicken Little approach and proclaiming the end of one traffic source being eclipsed by another is a blatant link-bait attempt.

    I have been in the SEO space since 1995 and seen a lot of fads come and go from Excite, hotbot, lycos, Yahoo, Angelfire, and dozens of others. But to say SEO is dead because Google finally has a challenger as a traffic source is a bit (in my opinion) over the top.

    I didn’t come here to bash you or your post, but in all fairness I would take a consumer “in purchase mode” from a search engine vs. a Facebook reader “who might be click happy to vote up a post” but then go right back to what they were doing “which doesn’t put money in the bank”.

    Don’t get me wrong, social media is fine (for socializing) but I honestly don’t see how you can compare apples to oranges and make a bold statement like that on a whim with a few traffic stats from a few select properties.

    If you test what you proclaim (and use conversions as a baseline) I would love to see your published results of SEO vs. SMO from the perspective of profitability and conversion.

    Until then, this is sensationalism at its best, and I may as well panic and just stop conquering competitive vertical online markets now (and start buying Facebook ads).

  53. Hi Ben,

    Well, I’d say that I agree partially with you. Of course, is impossible to deny the power of social networks. And if you got good content, surely that’s going to be shared among users. But content produced at social networks themselves still seems kind of “shallow” in terms of quality content, if you know what I mean.

    Particularly, if I’m looking for a brand new notebook my destination are the search engines. That way, I can set some parameters to find precisely what I’m looking for. For instance, specific features within a given range of price.

    Besides, I’m able to find reviews and experiences posted by experts and geeks spread out through specialized sites and boards. This kind of information is quite valuable for me in order to define what product I’m going to buy.

  54. SEO, SMO, word manipulation, phrase manipulation…. a rose by any other name is the same BS. Meta tags used to be the be-all end-all until they were relentlessly abused and became irrelevant spam. Eventually to become completely ignored by the indexers. SEO has been the dominant method of traffic manipulation over the last few years and the search engines are constantly coming up with new formulas to evaluate the BS and thwart it. It is no surprise that the first websites listed in many searches these days are worthless. Sometimes they are simply lists of lists. I’m sure that Google, Bing and the other multi-million dollar search engines don’t appreciate the manipulation — but the SEO’s are selling clients on their services through fear; fear of their competition doing it first — and that’s what keeps this market thriving and that’s what keeps messing up the Internet. It has gotten to the point where it is necessary to dig into the fourth or fifth page of search engine returns to find something that is truly relevant and useful.

    Now SMO is set to become the new BUZZ for getting a message out? What message is that? The list makers and the spammers have already infiltrated that arena too. In fact Facebook and it’s constant inane/insane games, polls and other ridiculous activities is part of the problem — harvesting responses for their advertisers and for future use.

  55. @SEO Design Solutions Please use your name and not a spamy company title to make comments. I was the one who deleted your comment because it looked like spam when I was filtering through our daily comments to delete spam that go through.


  56. Jeffrey Russo Sunday, October 31, 2010

    If Wetpaint – or any other site – is currently seeing more referrals from Facebook than Google, I’d see that as a HUGE red flag. Facebook is definitely growing, and I’m not going to say that it won’t outpace Google someday, but even in intensely social verticals that would be a proportion that’s way off. And it’s clearly because Wetpaint has some serious SEO issues.


  57. SEO Design Solutions Sunday, October 31, 2010


    This just happens to be the twitter account for the company and I used Disqus to log in.My Name is on the profile @Jeffrey Smith, not a spam attempt. You are drinking your own kool-aid if you think I would try to spam a blog with comments (merely a misunderstanding).

    Had you read the comment, you would have realized there was substance to the comment. In any case, this is lame (arguing with you over SMO vs. SEO). Seriously, let me know when there is something worth discussing, this was obvious link bait. Good job, it worked.

  58. What a load of rubbish, this is probably one of the most ill informed hype articles I can recollect reading.
    How can a partnership between facebook and Bing possibly mean the end of SEO when Google holds a 71.6% search share? Im sure many other SEO’s will agree, when I quote the immortal “Mr T” and tell you to “cut out the jibber jabber” and “dont be babbling like no punk”.

  59. Slightly hyperbolic, but directionally correct. There is certainly a trend toward social data in the future. But I’ve been thinking for over 2 years that we were headed this way and I don’t see any slow-down in Google organic searches anywhere on the horizon…

    So, overall, I agree with the directions you are noting here. But I think your time frame is WAY off. This is a very very slow migration (glacier-like). The closing statement is simply an overstatement. Yes, people should be thinking about SOCIAL. But this is not the time to drop your SEO campaign (unless YOU really want to be left behind)…

  60. @SEO Design Solutions I noticed on the second time. No cool-aid drinking. But I have a lot spam to filter through and sometimes I make a mistake. And whatever you would do personally plenty of people do spam in the comments and a surprising number of them are from SEO firms. Obviously you aren’t one of those. I was just making it clear that Ben had not deleted your comment for some sort of vindictive personal reason. It was merely a mistake on my part because after a quick glance your first comment looked like spam and my delete button got pressed a little too quickly.

  61. Jamie, SEO: I’m not a moderator, just a guest poster. I have not deleted any comments, nor can I.

  62. defendthought Monday, November 1, 2010

    SEO-SMO All bullshit. I know it and you know it. It is just a chance for people who have no real talent or skills a way to con people who have jobs and budgets. But, you live in fear; you may be found out!

    The only people I ever hear talk about social media are the ones who have skin in the game. More Crap

  63. Miguel Rincon Monday, November 1, 2010

    The ironic part is that I did not find this BS article in Facebook but in Google. U mad? LOL

  64. Bruno Lucarelli Tuesday, November 2, 2010

    I agree, ignore SMO at your own risk. Great article, everyone take your head out of the sand on this issue! SEO still critical, but now there is a new “moving part” called SMO.

  65. This is ridiculous. While it is a great way to bring new product, the amount of misinformation would put the web in a tail spin. Too many people would try to “break” the system.

    SEO is not perfect, but it’s going to be a hell of a lot better than an SMO.

    BTW – It would technically be SSMO.

  66. The basic premise of this article is fatally flawed. Without your unique content being optimized for search — how is it going to be found via the great partnership between FB & Bing….???

    Not very impressed with this read.

  67. As a supplemental — I searched for this article in both FB & Bing using the search query ‘seo is dead’ and it did not return any results. I search for it is Google, and it was 6th organic result.

  68. Tim Vickery: how did *you* come upon this article? It was on a site you visit, or linked by a post you ready, or in a tweet or facebook link you received… but I’m sure you didn’t find it it searching for “SEO is Dead”.

    The SEO community seems stuck in this tautology: “But if i’m not focused on my search rankings my search rankings will drop.” Duh, yes. Now let go of the assumption that search engine rankings = traffic, so you can move over to the real opportunity, which is SMO.

  69. Ben — I understand the principle, and if you have a loyal following to do the distribution for you — it works great. A single post and be shared, tweeted, and syndicated across multiple platforms and deep into the internet. However – most people do not have this kind of support mechanism for the socializing of their content. The best chance for the overwhelming majority of publishers is to be found via search queries on mainstream search engines. The idea that SEO is dead, and that everyone can rely on their 200 friends on Facebook to drive traffic is, IMO, simplifying the process. Linking, sharing, referrals, and the social nature of the net is an essential ingredient in the internet soup, just as search is also an essential ingredient. Neither will replace or kill the other :)

  70. “Increasingly, Facebook is the new ‘start’ page – for EVERYTHING. The importance of that for media can’t be overstated: the ‘start page’ for people’s day a generation ago was the morning paper; now it is Facebook.”

    This is an ‘everything to everyone’ argument, which time and time again has been proven as a flawed idea. Being ‘something to someone’ is much more important – Google = Search; Facebook = Connecting with friends (news and content are peripheral). It’s all about intent.

  71. This is true, and it isn’t dead. SEO and SMO are two sides of the same coin and the effects of one must feed the other. SMO is a boon for SEO. Using the two methods together yields great results.

    1. I will be out of the office on business travel the week of November 29. I’ll be checking email when possible, but if you have an urgent matter, please email Larisa Hauser at larisa@wetpaint.com.
      Thanks and have a great day!

  72. I think you have it wrong.
    But time will tell.

    Facebook, IMHO, will implode due to security issues – it already has in some ways.

    Just as 90% plus of the entire SEO thing is hype, so is most of the new FB, Twitter stuff….

    50 of my friends suggesting something? Well, how many of them work for Amway? How many are other MLM? How many of my friends actually use the Fender SuperChamp XD amp for blues?

    My advice – please don’t put any money you don’t want to lose into FB stock if they go public. FB is the biggest hairball of programming since……windows.

    AOL,IM, Friendster…..all going to change the world as we know it…….

    Google will rein. Data, science engineering and intelligence will win out over hype and marketing. Of course, people have been hyped before en masse (windows, again), so nothing is ever for certain – but the odds favor google to join Apple as the biggest and more valuable corporation in America (and maybe the world).

    My opinion only, of course!

    1. Hi, thanks for your email. I’ll be mostly un-plugged until January 3, 2011 with just a couple of days in the office, and spotty access to email.
      Since I won’t be attending to every message, if your matter is urgent please call my mobile; and if it’s critical I get back to you in the new year, please try me again at that time if I haven’t responded already.
      Thank you,

  73. Tim McGuinness Tuesday, January 4, 2011

    The world — and the ability to find information — will be a better place when SEO efforts and costs are re-focused to developing good content. If you want more traffic and your content isn’t strong enough to stand out, like another restaurant review page, then pay the SEM fees.

    1. Hi, thanks for your email. I’ll be mostly un-plugged until January 3, 2011 with just a couple of days in the office, and spotty access to email.
      Since I won’t be attending to every message, if your matter is urgent please call my mobile; and if it’s critical I get back to you in the new year, please try me again at that time if I haven’t responded already.
      Thank you,

  74. but, i think SEO is still a good thing to optimize a website to earn money

  75. FB knows a lil more about what people like, but still G will be used more than FB for ever, well unless FB creates their own search engine with at least similar quality. Nice points tho, FB is a great new source with much different playground.

    1. Hi, thanks for your email. I’ll be out of the office on business travel thru Friday, March 4.

      If your matter is urgent please call my mobile or email larisa@wetpaint.com.


  76. kaka wandi Sunday, May 1, 2011

    nice share i will share this content

  77. Jasmine Sandler Sunday, May 22, 2011

     Ben – As an SEO experienced professional and owner of a full-service Online PR and Social Media agency – http://www./agent-cy.com, I wanted to chime in. First, I know very well how blueline grabbed seo rank through really great PR(and Online PR) efforts and I am very impressed with your following Social. But, SEO as a practice, will never be “dead”. It will become a part , although you are right that SMO will be more important, as an online measurement element of brand. The online marketing team of the near future (and the one Agent-cy represents) brings together content writers, SEO developers, brand strategists and social networking experts. You have touched on some great points. I am delivering a class this next Tuesday, May 24 at General Assembly on The Impact of Social media on Search” should you want to stop by….http://socialmediasearch.eventbrite.com/

    1. I agree with Jasmine that they will be come merged and will be inextricably linked.  So many misguided people say that you cannot fake social media signals unlike backlinks, therefore the search engine will now rely on social signals like “like” “plusses” and
      number of followers.  The truth is these are pretty easily manipulated.  We as SEO professionals know  the ways to do it; but choose not to because we are White-hats.  I think that there will be something called correlation, where you will find search engines use a combination of links and social signals.. they will use an algo to determine how many links, traffic and social signals correlate to a genuine user experience

  78. Ben, what impresses me most about your article is that your wrote this a little over a year ago. The first person who comment really bashed your foresight, but ironically for him, I believe you were pretty much right on the money.
    Old School SEO, keyword and key phrases placed in content, while important, will no longer be the gold standard in optimizing content. We recently wrote an article about it on our blog at http://seo-alien.com/articles/social-media-influence/ Thank you for your post and allowing me to share!

    1. wrote an article keyword and key !

  79. SEO will always change but will never die. Will Google be passed by one day (we can only hope), maybe but SEO will always play a part in any site. I do agree that FB is another avenue and a good one at that but it is all about research.

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