Clash of the Titans: SEO vs Social Media – Who’s Going to be Left

In a recent tweet, Micah Baldwin boldly declared, “If you do SEO for a living, you will be out of business or irrelevant in 3 years.”  We’ve been reading about the death of SEO since the late 1990s when SEO was still very much in its infancy. But lately there’s been something different in the cyber air about the future of SEO and it got me wondering …

In the race for relevancy, could 2010 be the year that SEO is forced to relinquish its organic search throne to give way to the power of search filtered through and against the social graph + geo?

I think so. Here’s why:

Twitter on Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs)

A few weeks ago, Google started testing real-time Twitter search results. That got me ‘hmmm-ing’ like crazy.

If what I saw is what there is, wow. This thing is sooooo easy to game.  Check this out: Let’s say I’m looking for a new dentist. Do I really care about conversations about dentists, from dentists or dentistry in general? No, not really. But what if I could geo-filter those same conversations? Okay, that’s more interesting. Now what if I could add a second filter to these same conversations, only this time showing only those tweeple I’m following on Twitter? Ahhh ….

Are you hmm-ing, too? Now let’s take a look at this …

Social Graph Recommendations

With over 350 million Facebook users and growing, there’s a pretty good chance you have a ton of Facebook friends just a click away. With these incredible numbers, how long do you think Facebook will wait before it announces the complete revamp of its anemic search engine and launches brand-new, totally pumped search engine functionality that will make Google a little weak in the cyber knees? Perhaps it already is. Google’s recent integration of Twitter into its results is evidence of ‘first-strike’ thinking.

So ask yourself – when the search playing field finally becomes level in the not-so-distant future, which engine will be your first choice for research: Facebook or Google?

GEO the Evolution of Local Search

In a tightly woven global world, people still care most their needs at home. It’s the main reason consumers have stubbornly held onto their big yellow phone books, despite all the bells and whistles of Google and its SE brethren. When your toilet stops working, you need a local plumber. When your roof has a leak, you need a local roofer. GEO search technology? Of course! And its where EVERYONE is throwing money and lots of it.

Google Sidewiki

Love it or hate it (and most site owners seem to be crowding into the thumbs-down corner. That includes me, too.), there’s no doubt in my mind that Sidewiki’s ability to allow comments, rants, etc. adjacent to specific sites was done with an eye toward affecting overall search, perhaps even PageRank. By offering yet another way for people to comment and engage in the same space smells like another not-so-thinly-veiled strike against Facebook.

The power of social recommendation certainly isn’t new. Anytime we ask a friend to make a recommendation about anything – a new restaurant, a physician, an awesome new WordPress plugin – we’re using the power of relationship-based word of mouth (WOM). What’s different now, and incredibly exciting, is our ability to expand WOM beyond physical borders, time zones and even face-to-face personal relationships.

Today, everyone is a friend or a potential friend. Wow.

Add the quick hit of Google Adwords, Google Local 10 Pack, and a niche platform sites like Yelp (which Google is negotiating to buy for something like half-a-billion dollars, or maybe not.) Oodle and the upcoming Gowalla & FourSquare turf war (my bet’s on Gowalla) and with startups like SimpleGEO, there’s no doubt that the future of search will change. In fact, it already is. It has to. When you combine the search filter through the Social Graph and add GEO for recommendations, what you deliver are vetted results people will use and trust. Elegant. Simple. Completely awesome.

Note: I originally wrote this on ShoeMoney.com as a guest post. It includes concepts and ideas that are changing the way businesses will engage customers and I wanted to insure my readers had read it.

How do you see the way businesses are communicating with their customers due to new social networks and data?