New evidence that search engines are losing their importance has been published today in New Media Age. It now seems that retailers get more of their traffic from social networking sites, rather than some search engines. Even though Google dominates in terms of traffic for some retailers, other search engines have lost out to social networking sites – in particular MySpace. This is only to be expected – and the trend will hit Google. For years we have all bought things on the recommendation of our trusted contacts. For example, our friends go to see a film, tell us they liked it and we think of going. Even though we may have seen the reviews, or heard adverts on the radio for the film, it’s our friends talking about it that really triggers us to get to the cinema. Google and the other search engines are biased – they present material to us that the owners want us to see. Because so many web sites are simply “brochureware” even the natural search results (he non sponsored listings) feel like advertising. The result is, if we can find something on the web that doesn’t feel so much like we are being sold to, we will prefer it. Social networking sites are the answer (for the time being). They allow us to see what other people have bought and which we might find interesting too. Amazon has used this idea for several years to its advantage, with recommended lists and reader reviews. So, with the treand away from search engines towards social networks, what does that mean for “optimization”? Well, I suspect the days of SEO are numbered. The next trend will be “social network optimization” – enabling your stuff to be listed by respected players within the social networking sites.

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