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June 25, 2007

Google Universal: the SEO Doomsday Machine (according to Chicken Little)

If you’re up-to-date on the latest in SEO news and developments you’ve been reading about Google Universal. Essentially, Google wants to bundle all of its data -blogs, images, videos, book content, products, etc – into its search results. This May they started rolling out the changes. Since Google has a huge lion’s share of the search market, and is the target of so much attention in the world of search engine optimization, the alarms are already sounding in the halls of SEO firms around the world.

Mike Grehan wrote a very affective article on the topic titled, “SEO Is Dead. Long live, er, the Other SEO.” People are actually scared. The response to his article was enormous – mostly in the form of arguments against his statements, and even one nasty response by an SEO who was, no doubt, feeling a bit angry about the news. Have hard-fought battles to the top of Google page one been in vein? Is this the end of SEO as we know it!?

Calm down.

One thing you can be sure of is that Mike Grehan knows how to seize upon an undercurrent of emotion and use it to write a good article that draws attention, links and traffic. That’s his job – he’s doing it well. The article may be sensational but it’s driving home a truth. Things are changing, but that doesn’t mean there’s any reason to be afraid.

When did things ever stop changing with SEO? It’s like any other industry. Technological advances change things, sometimes drastically. Companies and individuals who can’t keep up and don’t capitalize on those changes will be left in the dust. What else is new? It’s competition, and to stay competitive you need to be versatile.

It is yet to be seen whether users will even like Google Universal to a great extent. So far the consensus has been a general worry that the results could become rather annoying. Sure, we all would love to have everything just a click away, but “everything” can be a bit messy altogether on one page. That said, Google didn’t get to be Google by making foolish decisions about what users want.

It is most likely that Google Universal will be rolled out gradually and user opinions will be measured with great care. There will be no rash decisions or drastic and rapid changes. We aren’t going to wake up tomorrow and find that the folks who Grehan calls “SEO geeks,” which I tend to use as a term of endearment rather than insult, are suddenly begging change in the streets.

We’ll adapt. That’s what we do. When you think about it, SEO has always been something of a mysterious trade. The algorithms are out there in the ether somewhere, and to a certain degree we’ll always be playing catch up with Google. So long as they hold the bulk of the market for online search it will stay that way

So get out there and start experimenting with Google Universal, because you can be sure that others have already started.

Author:  Mike Tekula handles SEO, SEM, usability and standards-compliance for NewSunGraphics, a Long Island, New York firm offering Search Engine Optimization, Search Engine Marketing, W3C-Compliant web design using full CSS layouts and all things web design/development.