Facebook, Google & Beyond: Rand Fishkin of SEOmoz & Ben Elowitz of Wetpaint Debate the Future of Information and Relationships

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there’s a long way to go—and wonders whether Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) got a juicy concession for its $240 million investment a few years back.

RAND FISHKIN: “Facebook has fewer searches per month than Ask.com. They drive no search volume at all, with a few exceptions. There’s people who use it and like it, but even so, I think Bing’s investment in 2007 in Facebook—I don’t know how long the agreement lasts, but I suspect they have a long agreement that Facebook can’t drive Web search directly. It could even be as long as Microsoft is a major owner inside of Facebook.

BEN ELOWITZ: “Well, minor-major owner.”

RF: “Well, I should put it: ‘We invested in you when you were $15 billion, and now you’re $60 billion or $70 billion.'”

BE: “I don’t think Facebook is going to bow to Steve Ballmer.”

RF: “Oh, I doubt they do.”

BE: “And I would even doubt that they would be willing to sign away those rights.”

RF: “But I bet they did in 2007 when they weren’t even thinking search at all.”

BE: “They’ve been very consistent about not tying their fortunes to everybody … those [Facebook] guys are very bullish on themselves, they know how much power they have, they’ve known it since day one, and they haven’t signed away very many rights.”

Elowitz said the reason users are becoming so much more engaged with Facebook, and why he thinks it has such huge potential to disrupt Google in the future, goes beyond the fact that Facebook controls so much valuable data. A huge part of the secret, he believes, is that Facebook is more personal than Google’s math-based approach, and users can sense it.

BEN ELOWITZ: “That sense of robot vs. human? I think that’s Google’s Achilles’ heel right now, is that they look at everything from a computer science algorithm standing.”

RAND FISHKIN: “Well, so does Facebook, they just use user data versus crawl data.”

BE: “I think the center of the universe at Google is the machine, and then the people are around it. The people orbit the machine. And at Facebook, it’s reversed. So you have people playing an important role in both of them, but you are at the center of Facebook’s universe, your profile page, that is the nexus.

And with Google, it’s not. It’s an empty white box that’s trying frantically to fill in as fast as you type, and it’s going only off of what you type in and as much data as they can gather around that. Facebook actually knows you, does it’s best to know you, because they don’t consider your query words to be the center of the universe.”

I pointed out that Elowitz, in a blog post late last year, declared the SEO was dead and would be replaced by social media optimization—it even included a funny tombstone graphic with “R.I.P.” drawn in blood. But Fishkin’s contention seems to be that, as Google embraces more social signals in its … Next Page »

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  • I have to admit that the idea of organising people into groups I find very compelling. Right at the moment I don’t share my facebook page with business contacts. I suspect many others have the same issues that a facebook page is about your social life and you quite possibly don’t want to mix that with your business life. I think there may be a cultural aspect to this as well. In the US I think there is less of a divide between private and business life, here in the UK I think we tend to have a firmer divide. Whether that’s a good or bad thing who’s to say but it does impact how we view applications like Facebook from a business standpoint.

    I’m going to be signing up for a Google+ account because I think this is a bold experiment from Google and I’m fascinated to see how it turns out.

    Best regards,