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 del.icio.us 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, Del.icio.us 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.