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facebook mark zuckerbergJoe Devine is the chief executive officer of The Search Engine Guys, a full-service search engine optimization and website design firm based in Austin, Texas.

There’s a new trend in search engines: Searches tailored to the individual and his or her social network. Most recently, Bing and Facebook announced a partnership that would allow Microsoft’s search engine to return results based on the Facebook “likes” of a user’s friends.

Unsurprisingly, many in the search engine optimization (SEO) field have wondered how this will affect the industry. If search engines are returning customized results tailored to the needs of one particular person, will SEO professionals be able to ensure top placement for their websites? And the inevitable follow-up question is: Will SEO practices change in response to this development?

The answer is yes

The simple answer to this question is yes. We believe that it is imperative that SEO practitioners adapt to the changes in search engines. However, believing that this is a dramatic change to SEO is misunderstanding the industry itself.

At the end of the day, the people who program search engines and the people who optimize websites typically have the same goal — providing users with the best search returns possible. In that sense, we are all working together to ensure that people get the answers to their questions.

It is impossible to ignore the importance of social media today. Facebook has more than 500 million users. Sites like Yelp, LinkedIn, and Twitter continue to affect the way people interact with the Internet, and many SEO professionals have already begun to work social media into their arsenal of services. In this sense, the Bing-Facebook agreement is an indication of how important social media optimization should be to an overall search-engine optimization plan.

Understanding modern SEO

SEO today is about more than merely securing top-page placement for websites. It is about meeting all of a client’s online needs. It is about consulting with a client on natural search, pay-per-click search, social media strategies, video proliferation, and more.

The realities of search-engine optimization have changed dramatically over the course of its existence. Many SEO firms are now involved in all aspects of their clients’ online needs, and the services they offer have become so diverse that the name “SEO company” may no longer apply. That’s why we like to think of these firms as DMAs: Digital Media Agencies.

So what’s a Digital Media Agency?

SEO is still a major part of a modern DMA, but it is just one of many vital services a company must offer in order to succeed. Yes, a DMA’s goal is to secure top-page placement for its clients –- but that is just one of many goals. A DMA also manages a company’s online reputation, handles PR campaigns, and directs the many other aspects of their online brand. It is a full-service shop dedicated to marketing its clients on all aspects of the Web.

Will SEO professionals have to alter the way they do business in order to respond to these changes? We believe they will. But we believe the new Bing-Facebook agreement merely highlights a change that is already occurring, as some SEO firms transform into full-fledged DMAs.

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