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Five years ago, SEO was all the buzz. Today, it has shifted to "content marketing," which aims to create stories humans want to read and engage with. - The above chart is a good summary of this trend.
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After writing this response to Snow's article and Guillaume's response I realized it finishes a group of 3 pieces on SEO:A. SEO and Data Got A THING Going On.B. Etropy Is Creating Web 3.0 Under Our NosesC. Google and Data Got A Thing Going On (Below)Google and Data Got A Thing Going OnI agree that we've moved close to a more true meritocracy, but I'm not as far as Snow or Guillaume. Google's influence remains very significant in who sees what in search, and search still controls the purse strings. If Google didn't float their index they would have rapidly become irrelevant. By floating, by removing the absolute TRUTH of the game so well described, the game changed in ways ONLY Google can understand. Look at the Not Provided numbers now climbing close to 50%. While Google says they made this move based on security it is clear to anyone with a brain that Google's desire is to float more than their index. If you can't find absolute reference in your own Google Analytics then something fundamental has changed. In fact many things have changed including: * We live floating on a Sargasso sea now never reaching shore.
* Algorithms and predictive models will rule our future.
* Algorithms and predictive models were always going to rule.
* Google controls LESS and makes MORE.
* Mobile is DISRUPTIVE in the short run. * The longer the web is alive the more local it becomes. These last two bullets are the engine of the current discontent. Google's brilliant move to float the index would seem to be a direct response to the chilling amount of User Generated Content (UGC) being created, but, in reality, the float was in the works well before it was clear social would rule. Floating the index allows control to be harvested by Google and Google alone AND potential ad inventory moved from X to infinity. Now you can see why Not Provided was so necessary. Without the obstruction any website could model the float. The more advanced websites such as Amazon will model the float and continue to create larger and larger continents within the Sargasso sea. Finally, let's discuss Snow assertions. Yes the world is undeniably more popular and populous. There is MORE and it is being organized, at least to some significant degree, by social signals. The thing you don't get from Snow's graphics is the flocking and emergent behavior of those signals. Read Bursts by Barabasi and you come away with an understanding that a. we are not as unique as we think and b. we tend to flock or tribe into packs and clusters. What happens when you are playing in a field and it starts to rain? Everyone who was playing runs for cover (flocking behavior in response to specific stimuli). The web only SEEMS massively random. In fact, for those "psycho-historians" to borrow a term from Isaac Asimov capable of seeing and patterning the BIG DATA being produced the world quickly smooths into patterns. This is why Amazon has 1.4B pages in Google's index. At that level, many times even CNN.com one of the sites that must have the highest amount of unique content, there is clearly a new game being played. Snow and Guillaume are discussing the cosmetic layer we have influenced with out UGC social signals. Behind the cosmetic layer there is still flocking behavior-herding traffic into huge divots created by Facebook, Amazon and Twitter. Zuckerberg correctly and foolishly identified the game as a play for infrastructure. Mobile is disrupting the massive investment in status quo infrastructure by the web's biggest players AND it is eroding margins. Margins ARE ALWAYS slim in the beginning. I remember when Amazon was new they were everywhere, would give you free shipping, wash your car and bring you a pizza for an order. AND Amazon was buying just about at retail for about the first year. I was a wholesale distributor then (1993 - 1999) and we couldn't figure out what Amazon was doing. What we didn't realize was Amazon wasn't playing the same game we were. Amazon could have cared if they made a dime then. They wanted the NAMES on their FILE. NAMES = POWER. NAMES = MONEY. Snow and Guillaume are both RIGHT and WRONG. They are right that our rebellious use of social signals has wobbled the web's surface and mobile is creating a wobble in infrastructure. They are wrong because, in the end, the math always wins, the patterns will emerge and scale will harvest the crop. As we eat we will feel more HEARD and IN CONTROL when in actual fact that feeling may be mostly an illusion. At the infrastructure level what was once 3 players may expand to 8 to 10 as the telcos elbow their way in, but the principle is the same just the players are a tad different. The good news is the unrelated game for artifice does feel over with Panda. I think of Panda a little like my mom. My mom knew how reluctant I was, as a teenager, to clean my room. She knew the pattern so well she didn't have to actually see the room to know its state. Google's Panda is an algorithmic mom. They have power distributions on every element of your website (including expected UGC). Violate those means and you will be sent to Siberia. Why? Because the math always wins.