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PubCon 2011: Is SEO Dead (Again)???

Leo Laporte of TWIG (This Week in Google) seems to think so – as he announced at PubCon this year.  Pubcon, a conference about search marketing, is a place for the greatest minds in search, SEO and marketing to come together, solve problems, create transparency and promote the industry. However, for the last couple of days,  the tension among those with differing opinions has been palpable – specifically among those in Leo Laporte’s camp and those in the Google camp (like Matt Cutts).

Jason Hennessey and Matt Cutts 21 PubCon 2011: Is SEO Dead (Again)???

 

Me and Matt Cutts at PubCon 2011.

During his speech at PubCon, Laporte essentially forecasted an end of days for Google – an assertion to which Matt Cutts later responded during his own keynote address. Here, you’ll find videos of both addresses [we apologize, we had to remove the videos. To experience the keynotes, though, please see the transcripts posted at the bottom of this blog!], along with a little bit of my own commentary thrown in.

 

“Google is Actually About to Fumble the Ball, Believe It or Not”


Laporte seems to believe that Apple will displace Google as the search engine of choice with its new technology, Siri. Laporte, mentioning an article he read by his friend Mike Elkin, asserts that Siri will serve as an “intermediate” to search; essentially, he and Elkin believe that people will begin to query Siri instead of visiting the Google search engine. Noting that he has seen many companies rise and fall, Laporte ominously predicts the epic fall of Google because of this and other factors (like the fact that Google’s social network will contribute to this failure  because Facebook is so focused and Google is not). Don’t believe me? Read the PDF posted at the bottom of this blog to read specifically what he said.

Laporte feels that Larry Page has a challenge when it comes to Google +; but he doesn’t stop there. He addresses the audience full of SEOs and search engine marketers, as you can see in the video, saying “If I were in your business, I would really be looking at alternatives to search engine marketing and search engine optimization.” He continues by adding that he doesn’t feel these are viable careers, as in the long run Google won’t be existent or won’t be the search engine of choice anymore. Why not? Because, he says, we don’t actively have to search for anything anymore – that times are changing and Google isn’t on the right side of the change.

As you might be able to imagine (or, as you experienced if you are here at PubCon), this speech wasn’t received well. Many SEOs and SEMs walked out more angry, though, than discouraged. Laporte had just asserted that our careers were not going to be viable down the road, in a speech that seemed more bitter towards Google than informative. This anger remained until Matt Cutts took the stage for his keynote, and renewed our faith in Google and SEO.

 

Matt Cutts Fires Back: “The Fact Is, SEO is NOT Dead”

Matt Cutts, head of the webspam team at Google, fired back at Laporte’s comments in his own keynote speech, which he presented and then reinforced with a Q&A. Google software engineer Amit Singhal also participated in this part of the session.

As his speech opens, Cutts addresses Laporte’s claim that SEOs will be out of a job in 6 months with an incredulous “WHAT?,” a dramatic spitting of his water in surprise (in response to a tweet in which someone quoted Laporte: “I don’t know if search engines are relevant in 6 months” and then added, “Somewhere, Matt Cutts just spit out his coffee.”) Cutts notes that everybody’s favorite “mean” is to say that SEO is dead – and then goes on to disprove Laporte’s assertion. From our seat up in front, we got a great video of the keynote [no longer posted here – again, the transcript is still posted below!].

 

Pubcon 2011 3 PubCon 2011: Is SEO Dead (Again)???

 

This is where I sat anxiously awaiting Matt Cutts’s keynote and response to Leo Laporte’s inflammatory comments. Once he came on stage, I could see Cutts’s genuine incredulity at the idea of the impending “end of SEO.”

How Cutts Disproves Laporte’s Theory

So how does Matt dispel the collective angst of the SEOs in the audience who have just been told to go find a new job? He tells us the truth – that SEO is marketing, and that “marketing appeals to human nature…and that’s never going to go away.” He assures us that what we contribute is useful, and notes that SEO is akin to coaching, making sure people present themselves in the best possible light. There is nothing wrong with that, he adds.

“There will always be a role for people who want to present themselves better.”

Cutts attributes the longevity of our careers to the fact that “more and more, SEO is about human nature – and trying to appeal to human nature.” While search engines continue to change, so will SEO. And we’ll all adapt to those changes. While it’s true that SEO was simpler years ago, today it encompasses so much more – search is a different challenge now with voice, mobile, and social elements. The most important point Cutts makes, in my opinion, is that with SEO, “The only constant is change.” SEOs have always understood this, as Cutts notes, as we don’t want to go where search engines are, we want to go where search engines are going to be.

The take away from Matt’s speech? Search engines will always try to improve  user experience – so as long as we are working with them, change will benefit us as SEOs.

The Rest of His Keynote

As Matt segued away from refuting Laporte, he brought up some interesting points about SEO and its future. We’ll just graze them here (you can read the keynote in full in the PDF at the bottom of this post).

First, he addresses Panda, noting that no algorithm is perfect and that Google uses mistakes that are made to try to improve the system. Reconsideration requests have also improved communication.

What the Future of Search Will Look Like

10,000 Foot View: Long Term SEO Trends

1. Mobile

2. Social – longer term, we will begin to think about social (Google +, anyone?!) – Social is a good way to create a reputation for authors (it seems like he’s referencing the rel=author markup). He notes that if the reputation of content authors is transparent, it will make the whole web better. He also adds that social is one of the areas where you don’t really have to optimize for search engines – this is a trend toward change for SEO.

3. Local

1,000 Foot View

1. Better Page Understanding- there is an algorithm change coming up for improving page quality, specifically when it comes to the content above the fold (I’m assuming this means, if you have so many ads above the fold that the user is turned off, this algorithm will not treat you well) – all for a better user experience (the theme of the speech – and of Google’s current mentality as a whole).

2. Search as a More Personal Experience -There is a trend toward people sending more personal searches to Google. Stay tuned.

3. Better tools for Search – Google is likely working on verbatim or literal options, to give searchers exactly what they want.

4. Communication and Transparency

5. Sending information to Google – What if when you publish content, you could send it to Google so they could know where it originally came from (to stop scraper sites from ranking higher than original content)?

1 Foot View 

In this portion of his presentation, Cutts provides tips to SEOs for how to keep up with Google and the changes to which we all should adapt:

1. Sign up for Webmaster Tools.

2. Sign up for email alerts.

3. Set up “fat pings”when you publish content.

4. Subscribe to Google’s Webmaster Blog, Inside Search Blog, and Webmaster Video Channel.

The Conclusion of Matt Cutts’s Keynote Speech: Yeah right, Laporte

At the end of his keynote and just before Amit Singhal comes on stage for the Q&A, Cutts takes one more shot at Laporte’s argument, asserting with a laugh that “I think search engines will be around for a little more than 6 months.” If all SEOs understand Google’s emphasis on the best user experience possible, we’ll all experience the longevity that everyone but Laporte feels Google will continue to experience. To  read about what Amit contributed to Matt’s comments in the Q&A,  view the PDF posted below – Amit joins Matt around the twenty minute mark.

 

Get the PDF and Tell Us What You Think

Have strong opinions like Leo Laporte and Matt Cutts? Want to provide some insight into this discussion? Comment here and let us know what you think!

Download  full PDF transcripts of Leo Laporte’s speech as well as of Matt Cutts’s PubCon keynote presentation with his and Amit Singhal’s Q&A.

Download the Leo Laporte Transcript here!

pdf download 1 PubCon 2011: Is SEO Dead (Again)???

Download the Matt Cutts Transcript here!

pdf download 2 PubCon 2011: Is SEO Dead (Again)???

More Information

For more information about SEO, social media marketing and keeping up with Google, please check our blog for regular updates and free SEO tips. With questions that are specifically about your business’s SEO efforts, call our Atlanta SEO Company for help at 770-481-1766.

 

Related Information:

Digital Atlanta: Discussing the Usefulness of Google +

Content Matters: AiMA Live Blog

AIMA Social SIG Event: Live Blog Coverage

Google + Brand Pages Are Here!

Google + Opens for Google Apps Users

Google Author Markup Gets the Google + Treatment

Google + Brand Pages Coming Soon

Google + Gains Users, Improves Hashtag Functionality

Google + Gains Momentum (Despite Facebook’s Overhaul)

Is Google + Becoming A Tool For An Older Demographic?

Have Your Say



35 Responses

  • Leporte has BS and reality all confuzzled. The reality is all SEO’s will be fine if they’re good at their craft. It’s these talking heads that don’t actually DO any SEO on a daily basis that will die on the vine. Those of us in the trenches, the ones that wield the power of SEO/pulling rank, will always have jobs. People who talk about SEO but don’t actually DO any work or have clients are a complete waste of space in our business. No worries boys, us SEO’s actually have a perpetual grip on the conch and should use it’s power for the good of our clients. Ignore the prophets.

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    • We agree. Thanks for the input, Marc!

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  • Yes, I didn’t even bother to watch because the theme is so old it’s not funny. But I bet Leo is not aware of how many times this has been said before, and how it has been dead wrong every time. Danny Sullivan’s said it better than anybody when he said SEO will never die (http://searchengineland.com/seo-is-here-to-stay-it-will-never-die-50192), although I have also blogged a complaint about the old “SEO is dead” saw
    (http://strongwords.ca/SEO-blog/hey-hey-my-my-seo-will-never-die/).

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    • Thanks for the insight, Jim! It has been dead wrong every time, and will continue to be so.

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  • What did Laporte take before forecasting that Apple will beat Google in Search? Can I have some of that for my next big night?

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  • I believe Leo Laporte. Something just doesn’t feel right in SEO. Some companies are dominating everything and the rest will never rise to the top no matter how many SEO tweaks.

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  • And: if the number of websites doubles, the time it takes for your website to rise to the top of the rankings also doubles approximately. If the growth of the web is exponential, the time it takes to rise to the top will also increase exponentially. Approximately.

    It seems all business sectors reach maturity, where new entrants find it difficult to enter the market. SEO in my opinion will be no different. Here and there will be niches, but the growth of the web will probably mirror other business sectors that are now almost saturated with competition all across the world.

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  • Today, when Performance and Publicity are the two pillars that hold an Online Business intact, everyone is turning to SEO. It promises a big turnover if the performance is equally stunning. But not knowing what-is-what in the SEO sphere would be a pity!

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    • How do you know what is of value? My thoery goes back to sales – ie. finding a problem that has not been solved yet….?

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