SEO (Search Engine Optimization) helps businesses and obviously also individuals or any other group to be found in the Internet. And as long as people search for a product not knowing their name or a technology, not knowing its source or a solution not knowing who is a potential supplier SEO is an important part of the marketing mix.
However, this is slowly and steadily changing. Today 60 – 80% of the so called educated purchase decision is based on recommendations.
Recommendations in turn are made by trusted individuals or groups that have no or no significant interest in the sale but helpful and experienced people using or knowing the product or service in need. And the number of recommendation based purchases is steadily growing. I'm sure it will hit the 80 – 90% range in the next 5 to 10 years. Already today people are searching for experience, do their background checks, seek for user reports and more. The website with the actual offer or e-commerce shop is the last step in a product or service evaluation process.
Now – what does that mean to SEO? Why should a business invest in search engine optimization if most of the purchase decisions are based on recommendations? Wouldn't it be smarter to invest into the "recommendation chain" instead in SEO? Wouldn't it be more effective and successful to make sure people recommend a product than hoping to come up higher in the list of search results?
Well – today not every consumer is looking for recommendations, experience and other indicator what product or service they should buy that fits their needs. But in 10 years most of the decision maker in the age of 35 are the 25 year old from today – who would just not buy a product based on the fact that it shows up on the first page of a search engine. If they had to decide to put $1,000 in relationship improvement versus SEO – guess where they spend their money?
Today somebody may type something into the search field to get some idea what product, service or technology may come up. The highly optimized site may show up on the top. Then what? Purchase right away? Never. Now the next step is checking all the results. And here comes the key: User based feedback from blogs, communities, groups, Q+A sites and more. What the searching user gets is now a good picture and quickly realizes that this first item on the search engine may not be the best. Often times it is not taken BECAUSE it shows up first, which makes many buyers suspicious.
While we have tens of thousands SEO consultants fighting for their profession, there will be people who buy it. Like people advertise in Yellow Pages still today believing it makes sense. The same people will pay for SEO even in 30 years but the primary SEO business will be gone in 5 to 10 years. I couldn't find any reason why it would be of value.
The City of San Francisco finally banned the distribution of Yellow Pages as 90 tons of paper where thrown away a few days after the books where delivered. The only reason they still get printed is to get the ad dollars from the mom and pap shops who never knew that the books are basically go straight from print to trash.