I've got news for web developers and designers who are reluctant to optimize web properties. Search engine optimization is not going away anytime soon. In fact, I believe it's going to evolve, spread and grow. But before delving into the whys, allow me to give you my definition of SEO.
I see SEO as a trade that goes beyond Google and web search to include all trafficked sites that provide a way to list your organization's profile/blurb/propaganda for free; and a way for these listings to be indexed, in turn, by major search engines, possibly returning some cross-linking value to your main web properties.
Now that we've cleared that up, let's examine why PageRank does not matter.
Stanford University owns a patent to PageRank. Google extended their exclusivity period to the PageRank patent through 2011, at which point Google's license will become non-exclusive. This means that other search engines will be able to license the famous algorithm and integrate it within their products. And given how superior that model has proven to be, I expect competing search engines to do just this.
I do not, however, expect Microsoft, Yahoo and Google to stand still in the meantime. Well, actually, that's not totally correct, Yahoo is a bit of an unknown, as they have yet to properly monetize the myriad services they offer, including paid-for trusted feeds in the search arena. All they need to do to augment revenues is to properly execute, but this, again, would be news from Yahoo.
Microsoft's latest strategy to chip away at Google's market share, vertical by vertical, might increase the importance of Bing for the concerned marketers in travel and health. But Google, as they've alluded to in their last annual report, will further attempt to build their competitive advantage by:
-Drastically upgrading their search interface. Think web interface but also Earth, Google 411...
-Augmenting indexed amount of material from books through video, blogs, geography, past and present.
-Building a wider pool of ad supported cloud applications and creating an enabling platform for ecommerce with Chrome and other developer tools.
By the time that major search players can license PageRank, Google will enjoy a powerful brand following, access to a larger index datasets than anyone, and a vast number of ad-supported and integrated advanced applications. For these reasons I doubt that Microsoft will be able to mount a serious challenge to Google's domination, even with access to PageRank.
The end result is that Google will keep shaping the playing field thanks to innovation that distances it further from the commodity that PageRank has become as a base algorithm for the industry. Even if onsite and offsite optimization remains a critical part of the SEO trade, the nature of the material to consider for optimization will further expand as a result, and SEO will embed itself as measure of success for widgets and other apps.
In this arena, Google will likely find a more formidable competitor in Salesforce.com rather than Microsoft. Contrary to search engines, social networking sites are fast becoming an area where potential challenges to Google domination are mounting. Between Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, Bebo, Friendster, Hi5, Imeem, Orkut, Plaxo, traffic and associated organic marketing opportunities are available for customers to seize.
Given that practical tips will help page views for this publication -J, next week I'll be offering a quick review of what these opportunities are, starting with Twitter and LinkedIn. I'll also offer practical tips and my opinion on the most formidable but mostly overlooked organic search opportunities out there.
About the Author: Michel Leconte is the CEO of SEO Samba, a SEO Software As A Service that vertical web developers, agencies, directories, franchisors, affiliates, and marketers rely on to scale search rankings across unlimited number of websites.