I just read a very insightful article by Kristine Schachinger on how the way that SEO Folk and Google get along is changing. Here’s my histrionic (and historical!) take on it:

The Significance of the SEO Industry in Google’s Growth

For a while, Google was the US government circa 1870. It had a great product that was incomplete on its own. It needed help to expand. It recruited the likes of SEO Folk to temper the wily processes of Google’s search algorithms so that ranking loving publishers could could safely land their blogs, personal websites, and online stores near the top of Google’s search results pages for a given term.

In plainer speech: Google needed SEO Folk to make sure non-SEO Folk could efficiently create and rank their sites. SEO people needed to communicate with Google in order to figure out the best ways to cater to Google’s constantly shifting search algorithms. As more and more non-SEO folks started establishing an online presence, more and more people needed SEO.

For a while there was a mutually-beneficial relationship between the two peoples for the previously mentioned reasons, but Google grew. Built on the back’s of hard-working SEO Folk who spent untold hours learning the ins and outs of Google so that they could make money guiding others through Google, while establishing the legitimacy of Google in the Process, Google inched its way towards not needing SEO Folk. Like a snake sloughs off its skin, so did Google SEO Folk as just another stage of growth.

Google has reached a point of self-sufficiency where now they no longer need SEO Folk, because they have robots. Yes. Robots. AI. Singularity. Bicentennial Man. Robots. Google’s algorithm is becoming self-sufficient. It no longer needs the middleman. The frontier is closing.

Intrepid Souls Wanted…Wait…Not Anymore

For a while, there was Matt Cutts and it was good. Matt Cutts oversaw Google’s web spam team. Matt Cutts made a point of maintaining open channels of communication with the SEO Folk–posting videos, hosting Q&A’s, letting the SEO Folk know what was going on, while keeping some small element of mystery. But towards the end of 2014, Matt Cutts left. Indefinitely. And in his place came relative silence from Google…and Rank Brain. A machine learning, artificial intelligence created for the express purpose of making Google the most efficient search engine out there . On its first appearance, it was responsible for processing a “very large fraction” of Google search results. It was but one of hundreds of ranking factors. Now, it’s at least in the Top 3.

To clarify, RankBrain is not Google’s Search Algorithm. That is called Hummingbird. And it has a very nice name. Rank Brain is one of the ranking factors that makeup Hummingbird, but given it’s quick rise to the top of search ranking factors, it can be safely said that RankBrain is calling a lot of the shots.

The Closing of the Frontier?

SEO is not yet dead. It’s still necessary for people to get their stuff ranking. But it is becoming less important. Just as guides, fur trappers, and cowboys did not suddenly lose their use at the official closing of the American frontier, so are SEO Folk still relevant and needed. For now.