False Prophecy: Onsite SEO Will Be History

SMS Text

My friend Asif Anwar posted an article over at Marketing Pilgrim titled 13 Prophecies of Internet Marketing recently which gives some of his predictions of where search marketing is headed in the future.

For the most part, I think his thoughts are probably pretty close. For instance, I, like Asif, believe that search will become more user friendly, more personalized, more local, more natural and so forth.

But, I’ll be playing the devil’s advocate on one of his predictions and toss my opinion into the ring (as opposed to the optimist role I usually take which this blog is based on). He predicts that Onsite Search Engine Optimization will be History.

Here’s his exact text:

Sorry for starting it this way. As an internet marketer, I am happy to promote the keyword Search Engine Optimization (SEO), as most of the people somehow got used to this term. But it’s a wrong word anyway. We the marketers don’t optimize search engines. Rather engineers in Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft does the exact thing.

As the search engines acquire more revenue, their pool of professionals is also drained with best brains. And it will just take some time to identify ways to evaluate each site irrespective of web development language used. But, they will eventually get rid of the need to optimize your site for the Search Engines.

Search Engines might also go for Visual Algorithm Update that will use snapshot image of the page to manipulate information like visible text, animation, and visible keyword density. With artificial intelligence using OCR technology to extract the texts, can eliminate a lot of tasks that are currently done for optimizing a site for search engines.

To quote Colonel Harry Potter from the old M*A*S*H TV series, “Horse Hockey!

First, I have never heard anyone define search engine optimization as marketers optimizing search engines. It’s probably just the difference in language, but, at least in my English, search engine optimization always means optimizing for the search engines. But, again, it might just be the differences in our interpretations of English (He’s in Bangladesh, I’m a transplanted Texan in Palm Springs, CA).

My main opposition to his statement that onsite optimization will be history is based on something more, well, practical – what are the search engines going to use to determine content, relevancy, theme, etc. if they are paying no attention to what is on the page? Even if they do come up with OCR, image, Visual Algorithm Update or whatever as he mentions, there’s still got to be content, regardless of development language, for the engines to read, thus, optimizing it in some way will always, always, always be needed.

Content is what the web is about and I don’t see the search engines ever ignoring good onsite optimization, no matter how much artificial intelligence they develop. To continue in their quest for good, quality search results, they just can’t.

So, no offense, Asif, but I think you lead off your article with the one prediction that I simple don’t ever see coming true.

Richard V. Burckhardt, also known as The Web Optimist, is an SEO trainer based in Palm Springs, CA with over 10 years experience in search engine optimization, web development and marketing.

Richard Burckhardt
Richard V. Burckhardt, also known as The Web Optimist, is an SEO trainer based in Palm Springs, CA with over 10 years experience in search engine optimization, web development and marketing.
Get the latest news from Search Engine Journal!
We value your privacy! See our policy here.
  • http://www.blogercise.com jim

    At the end of the day, search engines want to report good relavent results. Isn’t his point that search engines will just be a lot better at doing this by improved AI and language understanding rather than at the moment where optimisation means following some arbitary rules that don’t necessarily make your page more relavent in real terms?

    ie right now it is possible to have a really user useful page that isnt “optimised” that doesnt show up in a search engine but a less good one that has been “optimised” ranks higher. Doesn’t seem fair?

    If I were Google Id be working hard to ensure that it was purely the content that determined the rank. Not the webmasters knowledge of optimisation techniques.

    That’s my interpretation anyway! And yay for English English – no Zs in optimise here ;)!!

  • http://marketinggossip.blogspot.com Asif Anwar

    Thanks Richard for criticizing my first prophecy in my SEM Article in Marketing Pilgrim. This prophecy is not about the text-based web we know today. That’s why I totally agree with you if we stay in the text-based contents.

    But, the definition of web content started to change. Images, audios, flash slides, and videos are also referred as web content. When people will not prefer videos than text-based contents , marketers will forget how to do it anyway.

    My vision behind this is, search engines will eventually get more advanced to give websites the more chance by eliminating barrier for making the site search engine friendly. Rather than forcing the websites to become search engine friendly, the search engines will prefer to be more inter-technology friendly. And they will not degrade any site if it is developed in as Java, PHP, Flash, HTML, or Web 2.0 site.

    No offense please 🙂

  • http://www.weboptimist.com/absolute-urls-absolutely/2008/01/17/ Richard Burckhardt

    No offense taken! Happy for the discussion.

    My point is simply that if there is content involved, there will always be some optimization considerations. I don’t care how smart the search engines get or what the technology, what is on the page will always influence how the page is seen by them.

  • Damon Abramson

    I think neither of you are allotting for the growth of the semantic web and RDF.

    THe resource description framework, the xml language that’s the key to the semantic web, is built in such a way as to create findability within the very code of each page. The triples framework will allow for the exact description of the most pertinent pieces of information contained on each page. Given this, keyword-based algorithms and matching will wane as this technology ramps up.

    S0 the future of SEO, in my mind, will be those of us SEO’s that learn RDF and can insure that your coding for each page is optimal. Thats about all we’ll be able to do once this really hits.

    Just my two cents..

  • http://socialalerter.com/ Pierre Far

    When keyword research for content writing, when links no long hold weight in the SEs or for traffic, and when search engines can index anything anywhere without having to follow links to get to it, only then will on-site SEO die.

    To rephrase: never.

  • http://www.weboptimist.com/absolute-urls-absolutely/2008/01/17/ Richard Burckhardt

    So, in RDF the coding on the page is what the search engines will read? Sounds like onsite optimization to me!


  • Damon Abramson

    Yes, it will be, but not as we know it now. And Pierre, I concur with your point regarding SEO writing content and links. On-page won’t necessarily die; it will morph significantly.

  • http://www.zoobie.tv Zoobie Joy

    Nice post..^^ I agree also that SEO won’t be history..it will always be here..as long as there are search engines and sites..^^

  • http://www.DinkumInteractive.com RickDink

    As long as there is some database, computer, machine determining relevancy and as long as “people” are determining how they search and what is relevant – there will always be a need for SEO.
    Will it change – when has it stopped changing.
    As I tell those at my seminars – it is still the wild wild west and perhaps that is not so bad – just relax – enjoy the ride, just figure out along the way where your horse is going. As we all know on the Internet the users are in charge and we will continue to try and make our “stuff” relevant at the point of search.

  • Damon Abramson


    I think that’s correct, but there lies a fundamental difference between current coding languages and subsequent SEO techniques and what the semantic web will engender.

    Up until now, the web has focused on presenting information to be processed by Humans (reading/interacting, etc.). The big change with RDF and the semantic web is that now web pages will be coded to allow for information processing by both Humans and Machines/computers. This is the great leap forward that this represents.

    So now a computer can quite literally “Read” a web page, get information from it and react to it. Natural language questions that we ask each other all the time become enabled by the CPU’s capability to process all the “responses” it gets back from all the pages in its database. You may get answers back that string quotes from 10 different websites together to exactly match your question, including the intent in which you asked the question.

    Try using simple keyword-based SEO for that! 🙂

  • http://seoblog.intrapromote.com/ Erik Dafforn

    The major, MAJOR flaw in this post is the use of “Colonel Harry Potter.” It was Sherman Potter, played by Harry Morgan. 😉

  • http://www.DinkumInteractive.com RickDink


    The other flaw is you over estimate the ability of the searchers. The technology is already hitting up against an issue where what the Internet “can” do versus how it is being used by “most” humans is somewhat complex.
    I do presentations to colleges – both undergraduate and graduate and it is amazing to me that outside the tech group that most others do not have a basic understanding of how to use the current search engines and I think it will be sometime before us humans all catch up to the technology. Don’t want to sound like like an old fuddy duddy (odd word – where did that come from) but the technology and the human use of it needs to coincide and I contend it is happening slower than technology allows – for the majority of users.

  • http://www.weboptimist.com/absolute-urls-absolutely/2008/01/17/ Richard Burckhardt

    Oops! You’re right. It WAS Sherman Potter. Senior moment, folks! My bad!

  • http://directoryone.com/blog Henry Adaso

    I have to agree with Richard, onsite SEO is not going anywhere.

  • http://www.propdata.co.za/ Robert

    I have to agree that Onsite SEO isn’t going anywhere. Agreed however that the form may change, it might not be as we know it. But the same rules will pretty much always apply, just the medium may change.