A couple of months back, Tony Welch, Social Media guru at HP, made the startling prediction that “SEO and SEM as we know it will be dead in 6 months,” knocked off by social media. Tech pundits have been foretelling the impending obsolence of SEO for at least a couple of years (see here here and here, for example), but anxiety over the threat posed by social media is a relatively new meme. Now, before I go any further, I should say that I’m more inclined to side with those who see complementary relationship between SEO & social media, rather than those lined up to write SEO’s obituary. However, a lot of businesses, small and large alike, are starting to see a declining share of total visits from organic traffic and an increasing share from social media. I smell a trend, and I seriously doubt it’ll equalize or reverse anytime soon. I also agree with folks like David Zimmerman who understands the threat as a change in the way we search for information online. Social media allows us to bypass the Google machine when we’re seeking information, instead turning to our vast networks of online connections. Social search isn’t simply a matter of technological innovation, but a revolution in the way we use the Web. Chris Voss offers an excellent example of why social media is eclipsing Google page rank in terms of traffic generation.
Now that Google and Bing have formally introduced social search tools, it will be interesting to see how SEO practices will be impacted, and how the industry will adapt. But even absent these tools, organic traffic is likely to become a diminished priority, if not an endangered species.