Blog Post

SEO Is Dead, And The New King Is ‘SMO’

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

92 Responses to “SEO Is Dead, And The New King Is ‘SMO’”

  1. 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.

  2. 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 Thank you for your post and allowing me to share!

  3.  Ben – As an SEO experienced professional and owner of a full-service Online PR and Social Media agency – http://www./, 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….

    • 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

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

    • 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,

  6. 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!

    • 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,

  7. 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.

  8. “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.

  9. Tim Vickery

    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 :)

  10. 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.

  11. Tim Vickery

    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.

  12. Tim Vickery

    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.

  13. 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.

  14. Bruno Lucarelli

    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.

  15. defendthought

    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

  16. contentnext

    @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.