At this point though I'm thinking SEO has gotta be dead as a startup business model. It was kind of unknown stuff in 2003 but now the cat's out of the bag. It seems like the last attempt of web 2.0 sites that aren't able to get social adoption is to start flooding the Google index with tag landing page spam or a crappy template page for every restaurant in the country.
That parallels some of my own thoughts, e.g. in observing the downward-spiral of blog-search site Technorati (it's a cautionary tale - all that sucking-up to A-listers and feeding the egos of the BigHeads, yet Google just rolls in and grabs the niche of searching blogs).
The SEO business model is a huge crapshoot. Wikipedia's success in fact relies heavily on its having hit the Google algorithm jackpot, which is a very under-remarked aspect (yes, it's obvious it ranks at the top, but the various implications don't get out into the policy world of high-status pundits writing about how wonderful it is to have all the little people working for free, and how we can build a new society on the backs of "volunteerism"). SEOishly, It's not really an encyclopedia so much as a link/traffic-factory.
But as with all lotteries, there can only be a few winners, and everyone else loses - e.g. recently, Answers.com getting Google-demoted. First you have to win, then keep the prize!
It's all definitely not something worth chasing, at least if you don't have a lot of VC money to burn.
I thought I'd missed the boat on the "statistics porn" a few days ago about the growth of blog search engine Technorati, but a related round today seems to be a good opportunity. Their traffic is supposedly booming. No reason is given, though it's possible that the increases are from Google ranking certain of their category ("tag") pages highly in search results. That's legitimate, but also fragile, since what Google giveth, it can also taketh away in the next algorithm reshuffle. The "stat-porn" matches with a rumor of Technorati trying to find a buyer while the bubbling is good.
Speak of a buyout, and Dave Sifry (their CEO) will appear in the comments, and recite the official company line (that public relations is what's called "conversation" - no offense to Dave Sifry meant, he's a very nice guy, but that's what happening). I will save him the trouble: "I can assure you that Technorati is most definitely not for sale or looking for money, and we've got a lot of really great things going on."
Now, Technorati is reported to have at least $17 million dollars ($6.5M in 2004 + $10.5M in 2006) in venture capital investment, with venture capitalists having a majority of the company as of the last round (seems reasonable). So if you believe they aren't for sale, given all that VC money and Google's competition, well, then, I have a blog search engine to sell you.
I find it all interesting for all the associated implications. It's a case study of where in a data-mining start-up, technology is not destiny and the marketing seems to be decisive (and even then it's a struggle). Companies like PubSub and Findory, were innovative, but died (it'll be worthwhile to see how tracker Megite fares).
So when people ask why if I'm so smart I'm not rich, I mean, running my own data-mining startup, the basic answer is that I'm not good at marketing. What seems to propel Technorati ahead of the pack is what I call "serving the A-list". I get it. Send attention to them, and they send attention to you. But it's not for me.