Every few months, something happens in search that prompts a whole bunch of people to proclaim the death of search engine optimisation (SEO).
The chief “SEO killer” earlier this year was Facebook’s Open Graph. Manifest in all those “Like” buttons now dotting the web, Open Graph was said by some to provide a more honest index of web content than any search engine. Endorsements made by Facebookers were more reliable, purer, than the paid links and other traces of grey-ish hat SEO activity that populate search engine indices.
But as it turns out, a search engine is leading the way in taking advantage of Open Graph.
Earlier this week, Bing began presenting “Liked By Your Friends” matches and Facebook-powered people search results. Bing has the advantage of Microsoft’s ownership. With Microsoft being a shareholder in Facebook, it was only a matter of time before there was closer integration between Bing and the world’s largest social network. So if Open Graph hasn’t been an SEO killer, it’s a Google killer, right?
Up to a point, Lord Copper. For one thing, it’s not the case that every type of content is equally susceptible to being “Liked”; this is a future that is very much unevenly distributed. Furthermore, Google hasn’t been sleeping, it’s been busily embedding social signals in its algorithm, although at this point its index is still primarily a link graph (as is Bing’s). Its life-dependent interest in user behaviour, coupled with its matchless development warchest, means that wherever web users go, Google won’t be far behind.
Search is doubtless becoming more social. But here, as elsewhere in life, change happens more slowly than people think. The name of the game, to quote Tony Hayers, BBC2 controller in I’m Alan Partridge, is “evolution not revolution”.
Digital communications evolve quickly, but not overnight. Case in point: despite countless email killers over the years, that communications method is over 40 years old and counting.