Danny Sullivan Just Doesn’t Get SNO

Dave Bascom, of SEO.com, and also a good friend of mine, recently reminded me through a blog post of his about Danny Sullivan’s Whiteboard Daily Search Cast where he criticized Facebook ads as a “revolution”. Danny goes on to say that because search ads are being “requested” by the user, search engine advertising is much more of a revolution than that of Facebook advertising.

I respectfully disagree with Danny here. I think Danny is getting his terms confused. While SEO is the process of me getting what I have requested, search engine advertising is not that case. Advertisers on search engines do not know who I am and therefore cannot detect the best ads to send my way. Because of this, it is extremely easy for advertisers to get what I am truly looking for wrong, and especially hard to convince me that I should buy their product. Advertisers only know what I’m searching for – not who I am, not who my friends are, and therefore what search engines can deliver is extremely basic. Search Engine advertisers (note I’m not saying SEO here) are still pushing ads to me, many of which are not what I want to receive.

Facebook, on the other hand, is a search engine’s biggest competitor in the ad space. Facebook, in essence, has on top of the existing internet, created a personal internet for others to use, associate with friends, purchase from retailers, do business, you name it. People remain on Facebook (and other social networks) because it is where their friends and family are. Facebook knows these relationships, these interactions, and all about who you are and what you are looking for. Therefore, all Facebook needs to do is give a basis for businesses to do business on top of their “personal internet”, and now all users have to do is search within Facebook and they can get way better search results than a normal search engine could ever give you. Facebook has done this with their platform. They’ve done this with their “Facebook Pages”, and they’ve also done this through Beacon.

Now, add to that the ability for advertisers to convince your friends to tell you about your product. Danny, it’s not about getting into “the conversation”. Facebook isn’t just a “conversation” – I use Twitter for that. Facebook is a lifestyle – it’s a way of living. It’s not about someone, even a friend entering the conversation and saying, “hey – do you want a new iPod?” It’s about me and my friends talking about what we’re getting for Christmas, and one of my friends knows I’m looking for an iPod, and tells me about a cool deal on iPods he discovered. Facebook is not an interruption – it’s a natural evolvement of life. Well-placed ads in Facebook are those that Friends tell other friends about. They’re about me seeing what my friends are doing, and realizing – hey, my friend just shopped at Fandango (hi Phil!), maybe I should shop there too!

I am going to be blogging here really soon about a term I call Social Network Optimization (there’s also a chapter in my book), or SNO. While SEO is all about defining your place in a linked relationship between websites, SNO adds a layer to that by defining your place in a linked relationship between real people. You’ll start seeing more and more SNO as social networking becomes more and more used. Is SEO dead? I don’t think so – a good company will need to find ways to utilize both techniques to place themselves optimally on the web. SEO could eventually evolve more and more into SNO, but SEO I think will always be around in some form.

SNO and Facebook ads are the new revolution. Viral and Permissions marketing is here to stay my friends – Danny, I’m sorry, but I think you’re wrong on this one.

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