Time to forget the search engines?

The internet’s age of discovery is coming to an end along with the notion of Google-as-phonebook. That behavior places the burden on the user. In 2007 Google and MSN stopped reading meta tag keywords and began reading right into the page content (Matt Cutts – Google Software Engineer). Since 2008 Google (the only search engine that matters) has allowed for custom algorithms (personalized search) for each user so that search results may vary from person to person based upon his or her previous searches. Google seems to be moving away from its search engine and focusing on outlets such as the new Google Catalogs – an app where the user is presented with predefined choices. Because SEO and SEM are about obtaining a better listing on the search engines, they put less value on what actually matters, on what actually results in a purchase decision, which is content. The “findability” of a facebook page or other social network presence is quickly surpassing index searching. The Google-owned YouTube is number 2 after Google itself when it comes to searching, according to ComScore. Not to mention half of all internet connections take place on a mobile device and mobile users typically perform only 1% of the searches which desktop users perform (Roger McNamee from Elevation Partners). They just don’t teach kids to type with their thumbs in school.

What I’m trying to say here is that people have changed how they use interactive and that they’re just not searching as much as they used to. Web users, and people in general, increasingly expect information to be delivered to them through whatever channels they normally use.

The internet has changed everything, including itself. The longterm objective of any digital advertising agency should be to pull rather than push, i.e. – to blog and tweet constantly and to establish “social currency” on the networks where decisions are increasingly being made, and finally, to build systems in which users don’t have to type anymore.

As a freelancer I avoid doing SEO and especially SEM for indecisive clients… those which cannot make up their minds who they are or how they want to position themselves. SEO is very problematic for old websites which have already been monitized around particular search terms. SEM can kill the client-agency relationship since clients never get the ROI they think they will. And so taking all of this into consideration isn’t it time for advertising agencies to forget the search engines?