Is SEO Really SEO Anymore? Index Search Down 50%, Apps and Social Search Exploding

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Recently, the game-changer to rule them all occurred; as we know, search engines have moved social.

For SEO content developers, this means we’ve got to get our content onto social networking platforms. And in order to do this, it’s got to get used, and it’s got to keep the user in mind.

But there’s another less visible game-changer on the horizon as well, and it’s one that could be every bit as consequential for the practice of SEO.

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We all know it, we’ve all used it, but so far we haven’t been talking too much about what it means for what we do.

It is the search feature in the mobile app markets.

Allow me to explain.

Sometimes, in order to determine what the future of an industry is, it helps to watch the moves of the biggest players. So when Apple makes an acquisition, I like to pay attention.

Last weekend I read an article on Tech Crunch that stated that Apple recently bought a platform called Chomp for an undisclosed amount. Chomp is a platform which allows people to organize their apps. This article states that over 25 billion apps have been downloaded since the creation of the Apple APP Store. And currently, it says, there are over 500,000 apps being offered. With an apps explosion like this occurring,

Now, as we know, search engine optimization—our industry—came to be when business owners had websites that had to be found on the SERPs. So we identified the algorithms and discovered tips and tricks that helped our clients gain visibility on search engines.

But what if someday soon, that isn’t what we do anymore? (Not all we do, anyway.)

What if we find ourselves needing to gain visibility on apps marketplace search platforms, too?

Well, I think we’re about to find out.

An earlier post of mine for SEJ stated that index search is down fifty percent. Search has moved to sites like Wikipedia and other popular content sites. Search in the app store is up. People have made a the statement that they prefer branded content form apps they trust, rather than sorting through links on a SERP.

When the term “search engine” is actually in your job title (or at least in your job description), that’s a change that demands your attention.

The question, of course, is: what are we going to do about this shift in search behavior? Will search engine optimization experts like myself continue to focus on the results listings of Google, Yahoo and Bing? Or will we adapt our talents to the changing needs of the consumers and the businesses that we represent? Where will our clients turn when they no longer need to be #1 on Google, rather, #1 on the app market.

And if we do, are we still “search engine optimization” experts? Or should we be ditching the “SE” in “SEO” and replacing it with something else?

Gabriel Gervelis
Gabriel Gervelis is the owner of Gervelis Search Marketing. You can find him on Twitter - @seo_pro,
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  • Robert

    An insightful article indeed. There is, of course, the counterargument that “Apps” are soon to be “Dead”

    • Gabriel Gervelis

      Search was around for about 10 year, then apps came along. I wouldn’t say Apps are going to be dead anytime soon – but, I would ask what is going to be the thing that takes apps down in 10 years?

  • Matt G

    Really nice insight. These kind of changes generally happen gradually, so I for one am not going to change my business model instantly, but nice point to raise none-the-less. With this shift you also have to consider the markets for which app searches are becoming more prevalent. I think this trend will, for some industries, be far less impactful than others. One of my clients, for example, is a roofer…I don’t ever see people requiring an app strictly to find the best company for their roofing needs. Then again, I could be wrong

    • Gabriel Gervelis

      Good Points Matt –

      By no means would I say that SEO is dead, or we should all run for the hills. Also, for your roofer client i’d agree by saying that the roofing company does not need an app. But, Super Pages and Angie’s list already has apps. The roofers target market might shift and start doing local search on local apps. If this happens, SEO traffic will go down in your analytics account. Google Trends will report a lower amount of searches…..then your client will start asking about Mobile app marketing.

      • Karl Thew | Static Shift

        I was going to say that I strongly agree with what Matt said, then I read your reply…sometimes we’ve got to think a bit outside of the box. I have to say that the thought of it all moving to apps & social is a bit scary for me as these areas are not my forte…but that’s exactly the reason I should really start learning the ins and outs of them. Thanks for switching on the light and giving me the kick up the bum I needed. Understanding apps & social media marketing will make me a better SEO in the meantime anyway (while it is still called SEO)

  • Dan

    Very nice post Gabriel. I think we will definitely see an evolution in what SEOs will focus their work, however, it’s hard to tell when and how drastic a change it could be. It will be interesting to see how Siri will play into this, as it is already able to provide sometimes better results from a natural voice command then a regular search engine query. I’m curious to know how it finds it data after receiving a command and how that will affect search engine usage as it becomes smarter and used more widely. I guess only time will tell.

    • Gabriel Gervelis

      Good points about Siri. What will drive that result that the program returns? For local business I have feeling it might be:

      – Geotargeting, how close is the searcher to the business around them
      – Reviews
      – Same rules sets that Google Maps follows

      I think that the timeline here is going to be slimier to that of the “Not Provided” updated that Google Made in November. We didn’t see this effect our keyword data the next day, but 4-5 months later it seems that 15% of keyword traffic is now not provided…

  • Danielle Hohmeier

    I think it comes down to just being search experts. Ditch the ‘engine’ all together. These days, you need to show up on lots of sites – not just Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc.

    For the last couple of years, haven’t we been trying to be smart about titling and tagging our videos so we show up in YouTube? Haven’t we tried to make our Facebook Page the most accurate name of our brand so we appear in searches? We add certain specialties to our Linkedin profiles so we show up for the most popular searches?

    Search has been evolving past search engines for a while now. App markets are definitely a new market.

    – Danielle
    Online Marketing Manager @ Atomicdust

    • Julie Perry

      Agreed — a great statement by Danielle: “ditch the ‘engine’ altogther.” It could also be a subtitle for this very insightful post. Thanks, guys.


  • Alexander

    App is just an easier way to load a site on mobile. It will be dead as soon as we get better connection and more mobile optimized websites so… I don’t really belive in APP SEO but sure, it’s important to think about these things too as long as they have searches.

    • Gabriel Gervelis

      Alexander – I see your point. Strong mobile sites could replace Apps. The next five years are going to be very interesting.

  • Gabriel Gervelis


    “Search Optimization” — I like it!

  • Arsalan Tariq

    well, I don’t see any changes due to my strategies may be. But my results are not so down.
    I have been in this industry for more than 5 years and these things I get to read from the first day of my career.
    Ups and down remains in results but the proper strategy and structure would keep you top.

  • Chris Gregory

    I gave the name of my SEO business much thought and decided on “Marketing” instead of SEO for this very reason. What we are all doing is Marketing and just using the Search Engines as the channel we use to market our clients. With mobile search heating up, Siri, and God knows what else is waiting around the corner. Just wait for how disruptive Apple TV will be to the search engines.

    • Gabriel Gervelis

      I love this conversation! What Is SEO? Marketing? Developing? Strategy? – Everything is now connected and everything is changing. The only thing that is staying the same is the clients needs. They need results!

  • Jake Bosworth

    I think the companies actually making $ in eCommerce would have very different viewpoints. The ones I work with (as an “internet marketing consultant”) still see SEO as their #1 priority!

    Apps and social media aren’t going to move Grainger from a $2 billion dollar eCommerce site to a 2.5 billion site. Guess what is?

    Certainly, the game has changed (as it always does) and you can call it whatever you’d like, but it’s still S.E.O. It’s just that now you just can’t pay some guy and have him run off and “do your SEO.”

    And that’s good for most of us. Sorry out-soureced overseas “professionals!”

    • Gabriel Gervelis

      Love your view point.

      I’d say that apps and social media would take Grainger from a $2billion dollar company to a $4 Billion dollar company if done correctly. On the flip side, social media has the power to completely destroy the company..quickly. Social gives the power back to the crowd of consumers. If the crowd gets pissed off then your company is going to suffer. Social also gives you the power to influence the crowds. So if you can pin point the demographic market that Grainger needs more market share in, social ad serving is your knight is shinning armor.

      • Jake Bosworth

        A two billion dollar eCommerce “bump” – awww thanks, LinkedIn!

        Good luck selling that one, my man! You couldn’t by $2b with a $32b budget. 😉

      • Jake Bosworth

        Btw- My posts aren’t a criticism of you (the author). I just disagree w apps and social stomping search marketing/optimization.

        If it does happen, it will be because Google commits market suicide.

        Thanks, I enjoy your posts…as they generally stir stuff up.

  • Mollie Player

    Absolutely to all. The real players love a challenge.

  • Brent Carnduff

    Interesting article and great discussion. I work with small professional service firms, primarily in the Financial Services industry. I’m not sure what is in store for optimizers in the future, certainly it is becoming more social, and more local; but traditional SEO is no where near dead at the local small business level. Searchers are still using Google, Bing, Yahoo to search, and businesses still benefit from being on page one. Most sites at this level have little if any SEO going for them and we see a huge difference in traffic post SEO work.

  • Jim Amick


    Seems like you tapped a nerve in the SEO Community. Thanks for your insights.

    I’m seeing a lot of debate in various discussions between social media marketers and SEOs that are pretty harsh. It really shouldn’t be about Social Media Vs SEO and which is better. The services we provide have always revolved around understanding the hearts and minds of our client’s clients to get them connected in a win-win. I agree with Danielle. Its about evolution. SEO is nowhere near what it was in the 90s. This it what makes it fun! Give the people what they want when they want it!

    • Gabriel Gervelis

      Well Said Jim, “Give people what they want when they want it”

      Personally I think that social ad serving is the biggest link building tool an SEO guy can use. We now have the ability to serve content ads to the exact audience that we want to reach. Give em what they want and they will share it, and links will come from the share.

      SEO and Social play very nice with each other. Best part is, you can’t have one with out the other!


  • Ives Smeets

    I mostly agree with Jake. The socialisation of search holds a lot of threats for Google, certainly because their own social network Google+ isnt up to the competiton for a long while yet.
    On the other hand, SEO marketeers can’t just ignore it…

  • Ken O’Donnell

    Good write up! I was thinking about this too the other day when thinking about buying a new phone. How much memory do I need for all those apps? I came to the conclusion that I don’t need much, because apps will be out and most everything will be hosted on the cloud. There is already a blurry line between mobile friendly websites and apps. I suppose games and heavy apps will remain in an app form, but there is no reason for general websites to have an app anymore.

    As far as social vs SEO…In my opinion, social enhances SEO and SEO is here for awhile.

  • Lee

    Great post. I’ve read and heard the terms ‘app store optimization’ and ‘app search optimaztion’ recently and these terms would not be limited to a specific smartphone platform (eg iPhone ASO, Android ASO, etc…) If this is the case then I can see most companies in the near future requiring the services of an ‘ASO’ for their apps as well as a ‘SEO’ for their websites… Even though they will probably be the same person 🙂