Is Online Audience Optimization (OAO) Really the New SEO?

Tad Chef
Tad Chef writes for SEO blogs from all over the world including his own one called SEO 2.0. He helps people with blogs, social media and search, both in German and English. You can follow Tad on Twitter @onreact_com to get his latest insights daily.

    In one of the numerous “SEO is dead” posts another new acronym popped up suggesting that it will replace SEO. The article was pretty successful so let’s take a look why.

    Will “OAO” replace SEO


    Audience building is already part of modern SEO. This post could end here.

    I found it ironic though that the author of this OAO article failed at their own new discipline.

    You see, in SEO optimization for the audience or rather different audiences is just one ingredient but still it seems that my audience is not 10, not 100 but more than 200 times bigger than that of the writer who came up with the acronym.

    Plus as a proof of concept I’d like to rank #1 for the term Online Audience Optimization and ideally the acronym OAO with this article so that people do not get misguided by that nonsense. Support this article with your share or vote to help me achieve that!

    Gatekeeper Google


    Why did yet another repetition of the 15 — year old “SEO is dead” meme gain significant attention in 2013? By now nobody from the SEO industry cares anymore. One or two years ago people still got angry and tried to explain things to Internet novices but these days nobody cares anymore.

    In case you are not willing to learn about SEO another explanation won’t help either.

    I didn’t care either but as I looked up my rankings for my “seo is dead” optimized article —  I’m in the top 30 now with Ahrefs — I noticed the OAO post.

    At first I thought it must be a joke but it wasn’t. I looked up who shared it on Twitter and was surprised to find still some Internet-savvy individuals among them. Almost none of my thousands of online friends did share it this time so I found out about it like a month after publication.

    In a separate world of SEO incompetency this OAO article has become popular without me noticing.

    There is a reason why these otherwise perfectly sane people want to pronounce SEO dead over and over. Nobody wants to optimize for Google anymore. Webmasters are tired of all the random updates, penalties and corporate speak Google unleashes on them. They do not want to write for Google. They want to write directly for their audiences.

    I perfectly understand the need to cater to audiences directly and indeed I practice it myself as a proof of concept.

    I ban Google search on my SEO 2.0 blog and get my visitors directly, from third party sites or not yet corrupted search engines. Sadly most people are not able to ban Google search. They are even unable to voice their gut feeling of “something is not right” so like the anti-Semites in the middle ages they are looking for a scapegoat. Someone must be guilty of their misery! Ah! It’s the SEOs who poison the well. So “death to SEO!” they shout.

    Audience building

    Around 2005, when the social news site Digg has become the poster child of the early Web 2.0 most progressive SEO practicioners attempted to link bait the Digg audience. This was a major turning point in SEO history. From caring about technical aspects of websites to actually attracting audiences. Of course some old school SEOs just tried to game the system by connecting with other Digg users and exchanging votes etc.

    By and large the link baiters learned what the Digg audience of mostly white male teens and tweens loved most (gadgets, games, girls) and thus got tons of links from Digg throughout the years.

    It’s not 2005 anymore and link baiting is so common by now that it isn’t even referred to by name a lot anymore. Everybody assumes that when we talk about link building we are referring to earning links by wowing linkerati to link to us. You probably don’t even know the term linkerati. It’s also part of the SEO history by now.

    Modern SEO is about making different audiences happy all the time.

    • You want to provide great content for your potential clients.
    • You are after votes and shares from industry peers.
    • You try to get viral by appealing to mainstream audiences.

    etc. etc. etc.


    I have written a satirical post on how LOL could replace SEO some time ago and OAO which originally means “over and out” reminded me of that. Coming up with new acronyms to replace SEO is like fixing a hole in a pipe with a bigger hole.

    Most people in the SEO industry agree that the SEO acronym fails at conveying the message to the overall population.

    Surveys prove that more than two thirds of respondents have no clue what SEO means. Government and educational sites call the artist formerly known as SEO simply findability so that you don’t have to Google it first. So why would you want to come up with another cryptic and in this case even idiotically sounding acronym?

    Online Audience Optimization gone wrong

    The “SEO is dead” meme is really boring by now but sometimes people add something new to it. So I look it up to make sure that I don’t err. So this time I looked up who was responsible for the OAO acronym.

    I found the mastermind behind OAO: it’s Linda Ruth, formerly an author of SEO books ( I have never heard of before).

    Indeed most articles about OAO are either hers, or based on her work. So I was astounded when I looked up the Google search results for [online audience optimization (oao)] and found this (I highlighted the intriguing parts):


    Apparently you don’t need a large audience when it is very well optimized. It seems

    • family
    • friends
    • coworkers

    suffice judged from the numbers. I don’t say that quantity is more important than quality but when you coin a new discipline that allegedly has to replace an established one make sure to deliver.

    When your audience is below 50 people do not pose as an audience optimization expert please.

    My audience on Google+ is above 9k despite me being pretty outspoken about the negative aspects of Google. Also I didn’t have to artificially inflate it. These are legit followers I have there. I don’t claim that OAO is the next big thing so I don’t have show it off much either.

    BTW.: When you search for solely [oao] you won’t find anything related to audience optimization at all on the first page as of now.

    (CC BY-SA 2.0) Creative Commons image by Martin Fisch

    Tad Chef
    Tad Chef writes for SEO blogs from all over the world including his own one called SEO 2.0. He helps people with blogs, social media and search, both in German and English. You can follow Tad on Twitter @onreact_com to get his latest insights daily.

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    • drew leahy

      Extremely off-putting post. You may actually have a good argument, but I will never know, because I couldn’t get past your sardonic tone . You completely undermine your entire point with gloating self-admiration. I never thought I’d see the day when someone tried to establish authority (on his own behalf nonetheless) by bashing someones Google + following in light of his own. Show a little respect and professionalism. Had you listened in your persuasive rhetoric class, that “above 9K” Google plus community of yours may have been double that by now.

    • Spook SEO

      Ted, I don’t know how much this OAO have on the optimization but I think SEO is always a changing technique and nothing is perfect in it and if you are applying some strategies in your optimization it might not be the best in the future. Now a day’s SEO is more related to be social and more realistic if you have the best quality of the brand with the best relevant content that the users require you will get the best results. We always focus on our audience and always optimize for the audience that are our niche.

    • Harold

      I did a video on my thoughts as I felt the article was more about the
      author and less about the audience it was supposed to have been written

      The video is here Online Audience Optimization (OAO) vs An SEO

    • warner444

      Creating the term Online Audience Optimization (OAO) is a very clever sales method. Ruth is now the number one expert on a field she can get people to wonder what it means. Gotta give her that much.