Jeff Jarvis Says SEO Is Over. I Really Hope Not

Jeff Jarvis, the well-known professor of journalism & blogger whose opinions I normally totally respect, wrote a post the other day suggesting that the end of SEO is imminent:

Is there a future for SEO? In a sense, Google’s search results were the last one-size-fits-all mass product around (since most other mass media are shrinking): the first screen of results for, say, wine was the same for you as it was for me…This led to the birth of a gigantic SEO industry.

To be fair, he actually makes a good point here (one that many SEOs have already made): that the rise of personalised results could seriously shake up SEO as we know it. Where I start to have a problem with his post is when he slips into the tired old mantra of many a blogosphere celebrity, that of SEO = bad.

Jarvis says:

I think it means that true relevance becomes more important than SEO tricks.

He then talks about a wine blogger he’s been researching:

When I search for wine his store comes up fifth on the first page, the second vendor after, which spent an untold fortune to build its brand. He didn’t. His relationships with fans — search for wine TV and he’s No. 1 — pushed him higher than any tricks with metadata in his web pages.

He ends by saying:

So does SEO get replaced by people? We can only hope.

Personally I think that this is a load of rubbish. Why?Well, for a start there’s the fact that Jeff’s own blog appears to have been at least partially optimised (even if it wasn’t by design); half decent URLs, titles, etc..

Then let’s just take a look at his example of the future of marketing. Gary Vaynerch is apparently some sort of wine blogger. Which is of course fine & dandy, and the sort of thing that any decent SEO would encourage (talking about what you do in order to prove your expertise and build links). But he also seems to be an absolutely shameless self-promoter. Just take a look at his personal site, as opposed to the one about wine.

The current top post is called The Personal Brand Gold Rush is going on, where are you? and basically consists of Gary ranting on about how everyone should be doing what he is and building up niche markets by marketing themselves as brands. He’s got a point, but he’s also incredibly annoying and is seemingly unaware that not everyone has the time to do this sort of thing and that also, some people need to work for the companies that actually make the stuff that he’s talking about, or the companies that make the stuff that gets sold so that people can give him money.

And what I really don’t get is how this endless self-promotion is in any way better than traditional marketing? Why is this better than white-hat SEO? I’m really not sure. To be honest, I tend to think it’s just a case of hard-core link-baiting, even if the person doing it isn’t aware of it, or wouldn’t call it that.

I’ve got a lot of time for Jeff Jarvis, and even for the idea of the personal brand, or micro brand (ideas I think Todd or Hugh distil much more eloquently than Vaynerchuk), but is this really the future that Jeff Jarvis sees for the web? If it is, you can count me out – it’s like a world where Calacanis is President and Scoble is King. Give me SEO any day.

UPDATE: I’m not going to edit the post, but would ask that anyone who reads this also reads the comments below as I feel that some of what I wrote may have been OTT (although the main points remain valid I think).

End is nigh image by roland on flickr


  1. Ciaran I hope we get a chance to cross paths and share a glass of vino and I can show u I am a better person then u think, I really do! I wish u well and fully understand where u are coming from, I just hope I can show u that after a second look u will see theres more going on 🙂 STAY well and solid post!

  2. I’ve only been in SEO for two years, but it’s been “about to die” for that entire time and yet we’re still going. A different and more positive way of phrasing the question is, “will SEO change?” Sure it will. It’s changed since I’ve been involved in it, but as long as there are search engines and as long as they drive valuable traffic, there will be search engine optimisation. It may look pretty different in the future, but is it different to the SEO of 1999? Have you stuffed your meta keywords today?

    He talks about “tricks”: from what I see, white hats promote best practices for the most part, and black hats are too clever to rely on tricks alone. “Best practices” sounds basic, but I don’t have to explain to you how much work that can be! Take the Q&A section of my company’s site. I don’t advise people how best to “trick” search engines.

    Even if links no long matter, authority is measured by how much Flash you have in your navigation and Matt Cutts’ cats take over as chief spam detectors, I really think that there will always be something for us to do 🙂

  3. Gary – thanks for dropping by. I was thinking about this post this morning and thinking that really I was far too harsh on someone I’ve never met, especially when my real gripe is with Jeff’s assertions, something that you had nothing to do with.

    You’ve already shown that I was right (in thinking I’d been too harsh) by taking the time to stop by here – although I’m still not sure that what you do is better or worse than SEO; but that’s not down to you but, like I said, my feelings about the example Jeff used you for.


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