Search engine optimization (SEO) helps businesses, individuals, and any group to be found on the Internet. As long as people search for a product, technology, or solution without knowing a name, SEO is an important part of the marketing mix.
However, this is slowly and steadily changing. Today 60 to 80 percent of so-called educated purchase decisions are based on recommendations.
Recommendations are made by trusted groups or individuals who have no significant interest in the sale but have used or know the product or service in need. The number of recommendation-based purchases is growing; I'm sure it will hit the 80-90 percent range in the next five to 10 years.
People today do background checks, seek out user reports, and more. The website with the actual offer or e-commerce shop is the last step in a product or service evaluation process.
What does that mean to SEO? Why should a business invest in it if most purchase decisions are based on recommendations? Wouldn't it be smarter to invest in the "recommendation chain" instead of SEO? Wouldn't it be more effective and successful to make sure people recommend a product than hope to come up higher in the list of search results?
Well, today not every consumer is looking for recommendations, experience, or some other indicator of which product or service they should buy. But in 10 years, most decision-makers won't buy a product based on its showing up on the first page of a search. If they had to decide to put $1,000 in relationship improvement versus SEO, guess where they will spend their money.
It will go something like this: You type something into the search field to get some idea what product, service, or technology may come up. The highly optimized site may show up on the top. Then what? Purchase right away? Never. The next step is checking all the results. And here comes the key: user-based feedback from blogs, communities, groups, Q&A sites, and more.
What the searching user gets is now a good picture and quickly realizes that this first item on the search engine may not be the best. Often it is rejected because it shows up first, which makes many buyers suspicious.
As we have tens of thousands SEO consultants fighting for their profession, there will be people who buy it—just as people who advertise in the Yellow Pages still believe it makes sense. The same people will pay for SEO in 30 years, but the primary SEO business will be gone within 10 years.
Axel Schultze is CEO of XeeMe and chairman at Social Media Academy. A version of this article originally appeared on the Social Media Academy blog.