SEO Resistant Search

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  • March 5, 2008

Reading ReadWriteWeb last weekend an article caught my eye in which they mentioned the concept of “SEO resistant search”. Apparently Scoble has coined this term to refer to a search engine powered by the social graph which isn’t subject to the same SEO manipulation that Google is.

The social graph is key to ad relevance because it enables “SEO resistant search”. This is what Scoble calls it in this great series of Podcasts. Skip to # 3 if you know the basics. His closing remark (made in August 2007 for historical record) is kinda fun in the circumstances “watch Yahoo, they are the wild card”.

He is right, look at all Yahoo’s social assets. Massively underexploited but great. If the social graph is the key to SEO resistant search and thus search relevance and webmail is the key to the social graph….

The problem with switching to another method of search is that it won’t stop SEO. SEO is about optimising a site so that it gets higher rankings in a search engine – it doesn’t matter whether the search engine uses social data, link data, traffic data or any other kind of signals. SEO’s will figure out how to make a site get higher rankings no matter what factors the algorithm uses.

If Yahoo starts using data in their results they could end up with some amazingly cool search results. All of a sudden all the cool stuff on the web that is buried in normal search results thanks to missing title tags or Flash navigation will become visible and start getting lots of traffic. People like Scoble might think that this is “SEO resistant” but what about the scores of SEO consultants who have been using Digg, StumbleUpon, and even Facebook for viral marketing over the last two years? These people, and their clients, were early adopters of the social graph and will have a massive headstart over the small companies that are only just figuring out normal search let alone social networking.

Imagine how hard it would be for a commercial site to get high rankings on a search engine powered by the social graph. The marketing department probably wouldn’t have a clue where to start and are likely to be labelled a spammer at the first social network they target. The only way for a commercial site to see good results would be to hire a social media consultant / SEO to create a long term social media strategy for them.

Search can’t ever be SEO resistant because any signal can be manipulated – a good SEO consultant will figure out what the search engine needs to rank a site highly and give it to them. No tricks just give the search engines what they want whether it’s links, keywords, bookmarks, RSS subscribers or anything else.

Patrick Altoft

About Patrick Altoft

Patrick is the Director of Strategy at Branded3 and has spent the last 11 years working on the SEO strategies of some of the UK's largest brands. Patrick’s SEO knowledge and experience is highly regarded by many, and he’s regularly invited to speak at the world’s biggest search conferences and events.

  • Stephan Miller

    Anything written in software can be dismantled and reverse engineered. All attempts to stop it are just temporary. And any search engine that believes it can is living in some sort of Utopian mindset. It does raise the bar for the manipulators, but that only makes the rewards more.

  • Janusz

    Good post Patrick. I completely agree. Every search ranking algorithm can be gamed by SEOs for the same reason as every DRM or software protection can be cracked. There is no ultimate algorithm, it just a constant fight between search engines and SEOs.

  • Sucker

    Exactly right. Mahola and Facebook can be manipulated just like Google and DMOZ…

  • Tyler Banfield

    I think this is another great post that takes a similar but still unique perspective to this issue Vanessa Fox brought up yesterday.

    In my opinion, the problem with all this “SEO is Evil,” “SEO Resistant Search,” etc. is the view of SEO by people who aren’t directly involved in the field. It seems like the general outsider’s view of SEO has gone from “optimizing for search engines” to “manipulating search engines.”

    While it is true that there are people who exploit search engines for their personal monetary gain (but let’s be honest, you can find exploitative/manipulative companies & individuals in any industry), all of the “experts” that are speaking out against the SEO industry need to realize that most of the major firms, as you put it, are simply giving “the search engines what they want.” For example, if large, well-known brands simply ignored search engine marketing, it would probably be harder to find many of them, which would actually be detrimental to the user’s experience.

  • The Masked Millionaire

    The problem with SEO is that the more you think you know the more you find out you don’t know hardly anything. People keep saying that it is easy and that anyone who wants to can learn it. I just don’t think that is true. It has come to the point that if SEO is important to you then you might as well admit to yoursef that you will have to hire an expert to do the heavy lifting.

  • KDye Vertical Leap

    The problem is that some people associate SEO with clicking on results that don’t have any relevance to what they were looking for.

    Good ethical SEO is about getting sites to rank for terms that they deserve to rank for because the site is relevant, and searchers will be interested in using/buying from/contacting the site that they click on in the SERP.

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