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The Future: This is Not your Father’s SEO

While everyone left and right of me is either not really doing much SEO or is deeply engaged in hard-core SEO, the middle ground is an active battle field. That middle ground… which I refer to as Competitive Publishing, involves smart, strategic deployment of publishing (using technology) to achieve business goals (specific to search and search marketing).

Under the Competitive Publishing scenario you :

  1. Decide to publish into a market as a way to achieve specific business goals
  2. Choose and implement technology to enable effective and efficient publishing into the corresponding search markets
  3. Execute for optimal results, which may include SEO tactics, content strategies, market shaping, etc etc.

While you do this, you are under constant pressure. Sometimes extreme, constant pressure.

Pressure from Direct Competitors : You’re not usually the only one chasing an opportunity, so you have to deal ith direct competitors as well as copy-cats. They can take the wind out of an opportunity very quickly, and sometimes shift the winds of opportunity in unpredictable ways.

Pressure from Indirect Competitors : Like it or not, Google is not your friend, but a competitor. In fact, just about every tech company out there wants the money you take out of the Internet ecosystem. If you are monetizing attention, you have indirect competitors that are also some of the largest and most powerful companies in the world.

Pressure from Technology : Technology is constantly advancing, and the forces driving change these days are closely tied to effective monetization of Internet consumers. In other words, if something makes money, technology adapts to reduce the costs of executing that, at scale… while those arge tech companies also create platforms that foster a “race to the bottom”. You are forced to maintain older technology while upgrading to newer technology that is not clearly better for you — and may turn out to be bad for you (overly commoditized, or lacking differentiation needed for success along your business plan).

Pressure from Economic Systems : Every time I meet up with non-Internet people, I am reminded of how desparate everyone is for an economic opportunity. Savvy people always want to know where your money comes from, and how they can get some of it. They don’t want to go to school or get training or do an Internship. They want to execute as business people have always executed:  pay for a Realtor credential, pay a middleman for a “launch your own local town website” package, hire a designer to “build a WordPress site” so they can join an affiliate program, etc. And as the economy shifts to move the pressure around (real estate, student loans, day trading, vitamins, pre-paid legal programs, etc etc etc) those pressures impact your efforts, your markets, and your ability to execute (hire, sell, market, etc).

Pressure from Markets: Search markets themselves are quite dynamic, even after separating out the major economic pressures noted above. While many in the SEO Media seem to think search is search and Google’s algorithms are what matters, the truth is that Google is chasing markets just as much (if not more) than we SEOs are. I’ve hinted at this before… if you follow Google, you are following a big heavy truck down a steep hill. Pressures from shifting markets are very real, and those shifts can be quite fickle.

The Future of SEO is Different

Now, headed into the future, we see the big players working hard to lock up segments of the Internet marketplace, seemingly as a way to protect their interests before executing sub-plays into the portions of the market they are able to corral.

Google, Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft… nearly all of the large consumer players are creating software tools and platforms that actually foster sub-Internets. Segments in the “walled garden” style, that are on the public Internet but published in ways that are not universally accessible.

I’m not referring to apps vs websites, but websites (including mobile experiences) that in the near future will be required to run on proprietary platforms that are likely to be publicized as “open source”, but are not, really.

We are 4-6 years away from Google specifying coding languages and “platforms” that enable Google to manage published content for search, discovery, and monetization. Google comes at this from the angle of search and advertising systems, which it has mastered. Webmasters will have to comply, in order to participate in Google.

Facebook is more obvious since it started as a closed system, but Facebook also developing new systems (including coding/development platforms) that will be public yet work best for Facebook, and will be required for publishers who want to participate. Again, from its existign perspective, approach the same goals.

Apples is also, from its own perspective, executing hard on this and other approaches to the same desire to segment the Internet into manageable segments. Apple already has commerce, OS, platforms, app stores, etc. from which is executes. Coming are development environments and tools to lock up some of the future — more than we’ve seen already.

Amazon has the underlying technology base and ecommerce, and is working hard to own things from the transaction outwards, eventually as far as discovery, to the extent it matters. Want to participate as a publisher? You will need to comply.

This is Not Your Dad’s SEO

The SEO of now and tomorrow is quite different from the SEO of yesterday. I think this fact is a major contributor to the failed SEO Media we have today. But I’m hopeful for a new SEO media tomorrow, focused on what actually matters to us.

The existing SEO Media will focus on segments that care about Google keyword research and Penguin updates… as you can see has already happened. That stuff is simply not relevant for true SEO any more… it only matters to a smaller subset of people…who remain passionate about it.

For the rest of us, things like the shift of WordPress from an open source code base to an API accessed via specific development tools (integral parts of practically dedicated development environments) is more important. Microsoft’s “open sourcing” of  dotNet and its new version of C# (known as M#), Facebook’s new “open source” tools that require very strong commitments from developers, are signs of what’s coming.

Have you noticed that browsers are no longer following “standards” for viewing web content? The very thing that enabled the world wide web… a standard interface to published content, has already fragmented along paths that lead to proprietary browsers and “systems” such as ChromeOS, iOS, FAcebook’s Apps… consumers may not be fully aware, but they are not all on the same Internet.

Your new Plan for Success in SEO:

Given these new systems and what they will bring in the next 2-6 years, all you need to do is:

  1. Decide to publish into a market as a way to achieve specific business goals
  2. Choose and implement technology to enable effective and efficient publishing into the corresponding search markets
  3. Execute for optimal results, which may include SEO tactics, content strategies, market shaping, etc etc.

Simple, right? All you need to do is read up on all the latest SEO blogs, press a button to install WordPress, and hire a bunch of low-cost content creators from overseas, to fill out your sites.

Or maybe it won’t be that simple. Sigh. I guess we will have to wait until Search Engine Land tells us what is working, or SEOMoz adds the new tools we need to make it work, or GreatSEMToolio shows us impressive data revealing the tactics all the winners and cool kids are doing to rank now.

Or maybe we just need to make good content that users want, and mark it up into classifyable bits that Google can harvest automatically. Whatever.

So tell me, “what do you do for a living, is there good money in it, and is it something I can do, too?”

Footnote: That is an actual quote from an interaction I had at the local yacht club. I was on the race committee boat preparing for the start of the last kid’s race of the season,  and we were chatting about a recent boat sale/purchase that was a great deal for the cash buyer. One of the men was also selling his 43′ keel boat, and he feared suffering a similar fate at the hands of cash buyers in a soft market. He was pressured to sell his boat since his last venture was over, and he didn’t have a new revenue stream. There are always two sides… liquidate something, and get somethign new going. Today, it seems you just cut to the chase – what do you do, and can I have some of that??

This picture is to reward Jon Henshaw for reading all the way to the bottom of this essay.

This picture is to reward Jon Henshaw for reading all the way to the bottom of this essay.