Is Search Engine Optimization Ruining Search?

In a presentation titled “The Internet’s Environmental Crisis”, Jason Calicanis argues that search engine optimization has polluted the internet and is ruining search.

“Search is an amazing technology and it has been incredible for all of us to be able to find what we want but these marketers have come in and said what is more important that what you want to find is what I want to interrupt you with. Anybody who has done any kind of search for anything important in their lives, a product, health, education will find that a majority of search results they look at are not excellent. They’re not even good or great anymore. The fact is the first 10 results should be great. There are 10 great sites out there for almost every result. You’re not getting to them anymore. These SEO slimebuckets…and I know that there are good SEO people…this whole concept of I have to rank higher than I deserve to has destroyed search. ”

While Jason does make an interesting argument, I disagree that the “SEO slimebuckets” have destroyed search and that artificially improving a search ranking of a site is inherently wrong. Firstly, I don’t think search is ruined because it is still very effective 90% of the time at finding the information you are looking for. You do get bad sites every now and then, but Google’s algorithm is constantly evolving to punish the cheaters. I believe Google’s algorithm changed about 360 times in 2007. Google is based on legitimate links to your site, and you are unlikely to get legitimate links if you produce bad web pages. Therefore, SEO has improved search because it encourages people to write good informative content and regularly update their pages. Part of marketing is helping people who have a need to find you so that you can solve their need. So I don’t think it is wrong for a person with a service to put keywords in their site title, and in the first few sentences of their content so that they can be found more easily.

Image Source: Brian Solis