The Uncertainty Principle and the Death of SEO?

Hi all!  I had a wonderful break and I did miss my blog. I’ve had wonderful contemplations while I was away and found it very difficult to decide if I should continue to elaborate further on Analytics, dive into AdWords or do as I am about to do and just take a little scenic side road that popped into my head while I was away.

One day I was adding air to the tires on one of my vehicles and the engineer in me started churning away in my head………”So Dwayne, I see you just used a pressure gauge on your tire to check the pressure, how sure are you of what it’s telling you?”

Well the artist in me responded….”Hey Dork, go back to sleep, 33 PSI is close enough for me and most government work!”

But that’s not where it ended. The artist started thinking about what science boy had just stated and started taking that statement into the philosophical realm of “Uncertainty Principle”. Now, before I get a bunch of emails from some other fellow Geeks telling me that the uncertainty principle that Heisenberg talked about had nothing to do with philosophy but Quantum Mechanics and the position of sub-atomic particles let me assure you THAT is NOT the principle I will play with here.

The easiest way for me to describe where my artsy side decided to dance away to, is the thought that “the mere fact of measurement will affect that which is measured”. In other words I started to envision how many atoms of air were now actually in the tire gauge and thus not part of the air in the tire anymore OR the fact that the attached tire gauge now increased the actual volume of the container (tire) of air I had hoped to measure. Because of that the pressure would actually be lower by maybe hundredths of a PSI.

Hard to understand? let me take it to a higher level then. Say you have a tire that is inflated to 40 PSI and then you take a hose from it and connect it to the valve of a PERFECT copy of it that is COMPLETELY flat. Then you open the valve sharing the air from tire 1 with tire 2. The pressure in tire 1 will now have dropped in half to 20 PSI as tire 2 just balanced the pressure in both tires. So, the tire gauge no matter how small and accurate IS taking air from the tire it is measuring changing the pressure in the tire……GET IT?

I know, I KNOW!!! silly thing to think about, but when you actually do think about it the subject actually has valid ramifications in many things we do on a daily basis………..

SEO is Dead!

That’s all I hear anymore!…..”Really!, Mobile apps have doomed it Dwayne!!” “People prefer the simplicity and elegance of dedicated native applications and won’t use the web for purchasing anymore!”

Before I get going on my responses, lets clear up a few terms so that you understand what I will be discussing:

Native App – Is an application written specifically for a mobile device of some kind. iPhone and iPad apps are written in Objective-C which won’t work on Android which are typically constructed with Java. What makes native apps attractive is that they are highly tailored to the device that is using them and provide the best user experience (when done right) as they can leverage all of the phones special built-in features like accelerometers, cameras, microphones, etc. The drawback is that they ARE highly tailored so you need to write one for Android, one for iOS (Apple) and then add special features for an HTC Android smartphone and some for Samsung Galaxy and on and on. This all adds up to $$$ and time.

Web App – Is an application that though created for a mobile device is actually written in a language that is run by a mobile device’s browser, so you first launch your web browser and then run the app within it. These can be written in HTML5 or Java etc but what makes them attractive is that you write one app and it works on all phones and you don’t have to register the apps with iTunes and Google Play store and give them money. The DRAWBACK is that they run in a browser with all its limitations and lost screen real estate and you don’t have access to all the nice features of a given mobile device. These are the easiest and least expensive apps to develop.

Hybrid App – Is an application that is written to be a web app but will also leverage some of the mobile devices features that are in common with most Smartphones. The advantage of these is that you get the universality of a web app and can still heighten the user experience more than a web app by taking advantage of some basic mobile features. The DRAWBACK of these apps is they are harder and more expensive to develop than a web app, you still have to consider multiple platforms and they still aren’t as elegant and powerful as a native app.

On with the story… why would people using apps have anything to do with SEO and other internet based marketing tools?

Answer: Apps are self-contained applications that can be run completely independent from the web. Companies love these as they can push their content directly to you. Search engines like Google can’t crawl them and can’t push stuff to them. So its easy to see if the world suddenly decided that all we need is an iPhone and the iTunes Store then the web would cease to be relevant in the commercial space as everything we need would be fed by apps provided to us by Apple or the Google Play store etc. SEO in effect would be dead in this scenario and analyzing markets, analytics and marketing in general would depend on numbers probably sold by Google or Apple. Product marketing in general would become even more dependent on affiliate channels and content publishers. Customer relationships would become imperative and social marketing would become absolutely necessary.

Case: —Amazon—, why would you go on Google and type in “Canon 1D Camera” when shopping for one? you would get thousands of hits and options. You would see sites selling them, some that service them, others that provide usability and training on them etc. Say you want to buy one; then you have to choose a site that carries them, follow that link and then browse to the item. Next you add it to a Shopping Cart followed by following a Checkout link. Then you are taken to all the checkout forms where you enter your information and finally purchase the item. With the Amazon app you type in Canon 1D, you see the prices, click to buy and you’re done! it will even send you a text message telling you when the item ships.

Yes, there are inherent risks to using services like Amazon’s 1 click and having your credit card information stored online but that is not really the topic I am discussing here.

The Amazon case is just one example of a native app being far more efficient and elegant to use and when we add MOBILE to the equation, you can easily start seeing the attractiveness of this combination for consumers
Now I have set the table for THE MAIN question……………..

Is web business dying and consequently SEO and other web-based marketing techniques are walking the road of the Woolly Mammoth? Are tablets and smartphones taking over the world? are laptops going the way of the desktop?

Lets answer the latter questions first; there is no doubt that laptops are losing market share. Tablets by themselves will pass DESKTOP sales by late 2013 and this does not include people like me who now use a “Phablet” or a large smartphone like a Galaxy Note, that can be considered a large smartphone or a small tablet (including those devices, mobile has caught DESKTOPS already). Looking at the graph you can see the decline of notebooks as well and the rise of tablets….its only a matter of time before tablets and other mobile devices are the top sellers over all.

In the image above I have tried to summarize data that I have found scattered around the web describing PC sales (Personal Computing) for the last few years and then found some forecasts for the next few years as well. Unfortunately a lot of the forecasts I came upon are little more than linear extrapolations of what has happened so far. If linear forecasting was so awesome what happened to tablet sales in 2010??!!!

Linear doesn’t work. There are many factors that influence tablet sales like the state of the economy or an awaited launch (Apple stating there will be another iPad generation could kill sales until it releases the new machine). But overall, Technology advances or lack of them in the tablet world are far more volatile than they are in the other platforms as the market is still young.

I have skewed MY forecasts a bit higher than most as I am in the silicon design business and I understand what technology is coming down the pipe. With tablets moving into the sub 20nM (very small) processes its my opinion that we will see revolutionary leaps in low power cores that will move tablets into full competition for performance with notebooks. You add collapsible bluetooth keyboards that weigh ounces and fit in your pocket and suddenly carrying a laptop around is not very exciting.

So with all this bad news for those of us who depend on the web to markets our goods what do we do???…….NOTHING! we keep doing what we do now as there are many moderating factors that will keep the world wide web chugging right along for a long time to come.

Some factors:

People still don’t like to have to switch from say a CNN app to an NBCNews app to another of hundreds of possible news sources. It really is much simpler to type the URL into a browser and start creating tabs.

Top companies especially those in publishing have given up or are in the process of giving up on apps for several reasons. Chief among them is Apple’s exorbitant 30% fee for every sale of content. Then there’s the complexity  of coding in different languages for different platforms and even having to create versions for those that like to read their news in portrait mode vs landscape and on and on. The accumulation of all this cost really outweighs the elegance of a native app just ask The Financial Times!

People love choice!!!, having an app or two providing some sort of service just makes you wonder if there is a better one out there!….that leads back to……

SEARCH! …….people still want to “search”, searching is one of the things that people do the most on their devices……..RIGHT THERE!,….SEO will continue to be very important including to those that sell apps!!. So don’t worry, all our favorite little acronyms like CRO, CTR, CPC, etc will go on and on.

Back to the Uncertainty Principle; what did that have to do with anything? You start poling people on what is more important: web apps or native, tablet or notebook, self-contained environments vs. open web………..the answers you get will not only depend on the observed but will depend on the observer. How did you ask the question? did you pose a very notebooky biased question to a guy with the latest iPad under his arm? did you ask somebody with their brand new Amazon tablet and app about SEO? surely you would get an answer that does not match up with the fact that 10 minutes later he is on Google searching for the latest news on his new toy. Gathering reliable data is tricky business right now. The data you collect has found a comfy chair in the home of the Uncertainty Principle and even costly data provided by “experts” needs to be taken with a boulder of salt. Experience, creativity, innovation and most of all agility within a marketing structure will be key for quite a while.

The browser is still the most used app on any personal computing platform, mobile or not and it will continue to be that way. So keep obsessing on ways to get your results listed before your competitors and keep taking your blood pressure meds as all is well. Regardless of the hardware platform, SEO will continue to deliver.



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