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Seo: Art, Science, b****cks Or What?


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#1 swainzy

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Posted 08 January 2007 - 07:56 PM

There has been some debate (The debate-SEO: Rocket science or not?)going on out there for a couple of weeks involving Dave Pasternack and Danny Sullivan and some others. Here, Mike Grehan writes about it.

From a purely pragmatic point of view, I can tell you: SEO is not rocket science. Not even remotely. Regular readers of this column will know I've been hauled over the coals a few times by the SEO community for daring to suggest that it's becoming a dying art. And that classic SEO, or textbook SEO, as I refer to it, doesn't really cut it any more when it comes to achieving those top ten hits.


Truth is, I could probably train a monkey to do "textbook SEO" in an afternoon. What seems to have gone without any mention at all in the ongoing debate, however, is the real science behind search. And that, believe me, is very much akin to rocket science.



#2 bwelford

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Posted 08 January 2007 - 08:53 PM

I was pleased to see the bottom line on all this seemed to be that we've all got to become 'marketers'. Dat's ma man. :spambuster:

#3 Evmikna

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Posted 08 January 2007 - 09:38 PM

Mike Grehan has not only discredited his industry, he has insulted those who are the true geniuses in our trade. Oh well, we know who has THE conference.

Grehan's article is incoherent. Further, he does not make any conclusions. However, from the overall gist, I know of no serious marketer (isn't that what we are involved in?) that dismisses the science behind it. He is not considering the overwhelming scientific data available to him from other disciplines.

IMHO, he lost the argument. If he made one :-)

Edited by Evmikna, 08 January 2007 - 09:50 PM.


#4 cre8pc

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Posted 08 January 2007 - 09:48 PM

I wouldn't know where to dip my toe into this pool, other than to say that in Mike's case, he has always had a keen interest in the science, R & D side of search. His grasp of it, and his research into it, made him famous.

My gut tells me the questions are wrong. Search technology IS science, math, and tech stuff for brainiacs and forward thinkers. The interaction with it, where we as users and marketers come in, is methodology, skill, manipulation and/or usage of data, etc. Those can be taught to the masses.

The "art", for myself, comes in the creativity of application.

#5 A.N.Onym

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Posted 08 January 2007 - 09:59 PM

Unfortunately, Mike doesn't make the process fo transition from textbook SEO to marketing at all. He says "Textbook SEO is dead" and then "SEOs will be marketers or die". Yet he doesn't say how they should do it.

I know Mike Grehan is a respected figure, but generally this kind of response is like firing an empty shot in the air - just the noise, no effect.

#6 bragadocchio

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Posted 08 January 2007 - 10:10 PM

Glad to see that book recommendation from Mike.

Looking forward to getting a copy.

To a carpenter, every problem one might face could be related to building a house, to a surgeon a scapel is often the preferred tool. How complex is SEO? Probably more than some are giving it credit, and I'm not talking the textbook SEO that Mike disdains.

I'm happy to see that his article is mostly an attempt to get people to look more at some of the science behind search, and the marketing behind being found on the web.

#7 swainzy

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Posted 08 January 2007 - 10:13 PM

I'm happy to see that his article is mostly an attempt to get people to look more at some of the science behind search, and the marketing behind being found on the web.


Yes, Bill, that was the redeeming point in his article for me also.

#8 projectphp

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Posted 08 January 2007 - 10:29 PM

Love it! This very thread proves why Mike rocks: he has y'all talking and reading his stuff. Check that: he has y'all talking about him. :applause: Say what you will about specifics, but he is a great markerter, no doubt, and we could all learn a thing or fifty from the man.

IMHO, he is almost 100% right (see below for the tiny caveat). SEO is a simple, three part process:
1. Build a site SE spiders can crawl, that uses straight <a href=""> links.
2. Write lots of content that uses terms people search for as relevant.
3. Get links from other sites.

That is it, the whole ball and dice. Now, sure, it gets complicated on occasion, but that is usually as a result of people getting those three points wrong, and needing to fix them, not because the concepts are terrible challenging.

IMHO, if SEO is rocket science, then fly me to the moon, Chimpanzees, cause you ave the brain power.

Marketing is what it is all about, and when Mike said "We become true marketers or die, that's what" he was 100%, unequivocally correct.

Story time. I had a woman harangue me about what SEO is at this industry do tother day. Turns out she was a "standards advocate". "How are they different", she kept saying, claiming that a well marked up site is what search engines like. After trying to placate her for a while with "they share a lot in common", I finally had enough and gave her a rant back.

The difference between SEO and all the coding things it is similar to, such as accessibility, standards etc is simple: the goals are different. A well marked up site is the goal of standards. Who cares if it makes money. That isn't the coders job. Who cares if it attracts search visits. That isn't the coders job. All that matters is that it comforms to certain rules.

That is why SEO exists, or at least began, to bridge the gap between code monkeys and wankers in suits that say things like "core demographic" and use tech buzzwords not out of an understanding of the technology (and its limitations), but in a vain attempt to sound knowledgable (hae a read of the boo.com fiasco, a fantastic read, for a timely reminder of why such people are so painful).

As coders get better at building SE friendly sites, and marketers begin to learn how to write SE friendly content, where will that leave SEOs? IMHO, there will always be terrible sites that need help, but these sorts of easy gigs won't last, and the best SEOs will either become, and here Mike and I agree, marketers or, and here is that tiny caveat, code monkeys who build SE friendly sites. In other words, either SEOs evolve to use search to achieve a business's higher goals, in the context of a marketing plan, or they will just build sites so that others can come in and do that themselves.

As a wrap up, I think examples can really paint a good picture. An example of what I believe is a great use of SEO as a marketing tool beyond simple, textbook SEO, read these two - articles by Ammon (aka black knight), and see how SEO can be a marketing tool, rather than just a paint by numbers exercise. I am guessing here, but I would say these are great examples of exactly the sort of thing that Mike Grehan advocates.

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Posted 08 January 2007 - 10:51 PM

I've felt lately that Mike has fallen back too frequently on this concept of "textbook SEO" - I agree that there are _aspects_ of SEO which are extremely simple; very easy; and which could be taught to a monkey...

However, the overarching nature of a competent search engine marketer goes well beyond the simplistic definition of "textbook SEO" which Mike seems to be using.

He doesn't really define the term very tightly - but the feeling I get is of rather a denigrating sort, implying that "textbook SEO" is the same SEO that Danny Sullivan is talking about when he says that it's a challenging art and science. I don't really think that they're talking about the same things, however.

#10 swainzy

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Posted 08 January 2007 - 11:00 PM

but these sorts of easy gigs won't last, and the best SEOs will either become, and here Mike and I agree, marketers or, and here is that tiny caveat, code monkeys who build SE friendly sites.


The reason I came across that topic is because I was wondering where SEO is headed and was out searching for topics. I wasn't so interested in turning the discussion towards Grehan but towards the future of SEO.

#11 Kal

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Posted 08 January 2007 - 11:02 PM

As I commented in Danny's post on this issue, it's all about perspective. SEO is rocket science to some and child's play to others. What's important is education. As long as we, as search engine marketers, continually educate our clients about the process and remove the complexity of SEO/SEM to enable them to achieve results, then who cares what anyone else thinks? All this highbrow debate about whether SEO is academic or not seems pointless to me.

#12 projectphp

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Posted 08 January 2007 - 11:07 PM

Good point Joe, but I think you are actually agreeing with Mike.

Allow me to give a definition that (I hope) Mike would like: Textbook SEO, even the excellent stuff Rand writes about, is tactical, i.e. it is all about how to do specific things.

Compare this, OYTOH, with marketing, which is all about strategy: what you do versus what do we want to achieve?

SEO, as a tactical pursuit, is trivially easy, and comes down to the three points I mentioned above. hard work and talent usually win out with these three points (i.e. better writing talent, better personality, willing to stick at it more).

But SEO as strategy, as a way of integrating Search into a business's strategic goals, that is a whole different kettle of fish.

As an example, I have a client that wants to "win" tjhe hitwise rankings for their industry. Eseentially, they want to be number one in a meaningless ranking for no real reason. Well, there is a reason, but it isn't immediately apparent nor something SEo is inherently about, i.e. there is strategic value, for the business, in winning this ranking.

I had a similar experience a few years ago with job sites and Red Sheriff: there was a race for number two, and number four was likely to go bust (ended up being Monster that lost).

As an SEO, my goal in both cases is to help facilitate that, and that comes down not to textbook SEO, i.e. keyword research about the business combined with an SE friendly site and linbks, but understanding what the rankings measure, and finding ways to do better in that "game", using search.

IMHO, SEOs will increasingly need to play this role, of understanding the marketing and strategic goals of businesses, not just how to achieve simnple things, like rankings, and even revenue gains, to survive.

#13 SEOigloo

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Posted 08 January 2007 - 11:15 PM

Good points, Joe. I agree.

I don't know folks. The very fact that Mike's grumbling about textbook SEO is referring to SEO and meta tags as though they relate to each other kind of confirms for me that the amount of misinformation out there is going to create work for folks like me for some time to come.

In his article defining textbook SEO, he makes the following statement:

"Is there really a case where someone was at 856 in the SERPs (define), then added a meta tag that rocketed the site to number 1? "

Perhaps he's just trying to give some kind of example here, but anyone who has studied 'textbook SEO' knows meta tags have nothing to do with search engine rankings...they have to do with making a pitch and getting click-throughs. I'm positive Mike Grehan knows this, but the very fact that he's using this as his example calls to mind the thousands of times I've seen newbies asking about meta tags and SEO.

My point...if we know meta tags have nothing to do with rankings, why are they even part of an article about SEO, and if Mike Grehan is saying things like this, wouldn't the general public still be years away from 'textbook SEO' becoming a normal skillset for every man, woman and child? Hmm...
Miriam

#14 bragadocchio

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Posted 08 January 2007 - 11:23 PM

One area of SEO that isn't "textbook SEO" but which many SEOs fail to recognize these days is the concept of how search engines are increasingly extracting information for things from definitions, to local search, to Q&A, and others.

Writing for search engines is different from writing for other visitors in that some things need to be made a lot more obvious for search engines. Some of the technical aspects of SEO have changed drastically even within the last year or two. There's a new edition of the textbook, and it hasn't shipped for many.

Sadly, many of the folks I see saying that SEO isn't rocket science are saying it for the wrong reasons. Mike's monkeys are a bad analogy, because if the textbook he's referring to is the 1998 edition, or even the 2004 edition, it's hopelessly outdated.

"Is there really a case where someone was at 856 in the SERPs (define), then added a meta tag that rocketed the site to number 1? "


How about having someone add two words to each page of a site, and increasing their traffic by an additional 40% within 3 weeks? It's sometimes possible. Been there, done that.


Yet, his example is redeemed by the mention of clickthroughs, user behavior, and other notions of what search engines are looking at these days, and an understanding of marketing is one of the best ways to get those visitor eyeballs on pages when it comes to persuading visitors to come to your pages, and to spend some time on them.

And I agree completely, Mike, on your analysis of Tactics and Strategy.

#15 bwelford

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Posted 08 January 2007 - 11:32 PM

I'm always struck by the distinction between necessary and sufficient. Some things are absolutely necessary, but they're not sufficient to enable you to achieve your goals.

So text-book SEO is necessary. If you don't follow the rules, then your web pages will languish in search-engine invisibility. It doesn't matter what else you do, you won't succeed. However that isn't enough to achieve your real goals, which presumably are to have traffic to your website, to persuade prospects to want to buy from you and to grow your sales.

To do what is sufficient to achieve your goals requires you to understand what will work for your prospects. That requires the customer-centric viewpoint, which is what marketing is all about.

#16 projectphp

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Posted 08 January 2007 - 11:34 PM

I don't really agree with that SEOigloo.

I think that basic SEO is well understood. http://www.google.co...=hotel auckland shows pretty SEOed results.

The point Mike is making is that SEO needs to be about marketing. You know, getting people that are likely to want something excited. Textbook SEO, meta tags, link building, keyword research, all of that is secondary to marketing.

As an analogy, making a better missle doesn't tell the maker when it is better to use it, or when to use diplomacy. Simialrly, SEO can be made to do may things, but who decides, and how?

Everyone goes after the same searches in the same way. Where is the point of difference, the differentiator that marks great products? Compare an iPod to a TV remote. One is elegant, simple to use and beautiful. The other convoluted, overly complicated and ugly. This is what makes an iPod great, and it is why ppl want them.

Where is that in SEO? With SEO, there is a sameness that is, IMHO at least, often counter productive.

I think education has gone past the point of me needing to educate my clients, in many cases. Usually, they know why what I do makes sense, and why getting found for dog busicuits when that is what they sell makes sense.

Rather, it is more likely that SEOs will need to understand, and make suggestions on, where to point the tool, i.e. what direction is best to go to utilise search to its fullest as a marketing device.

That is why I see SEOs either moving towards being brainless code monkleys, building sites that are friendly and well keyworded in a same same way, or becoming true marketers who use search to achieve more strategic goals. That is the evolution I see coming, and I think what Mike says makes sense.

#17 EGOL

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Posted 08 January 2007 - 11:50 PM

The battle is not fought in the SEO. The battle is in the content.

(this will sound contradictory... but...)

In the most highly contested SERPs... and in the least contested SERPs, on-page SEO makes or breaks you.

#18 Kal

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Posted 09 January 2007 - 12:20 AM

Rather, it is more likely that SEOs will need to understand, and make suggestions on, where to point the tool, i.e. what direction is best to go to utilise search to its fullest as a marketing device.

That is why I see SEOs either moving towards being brainless code monkleys, building sites that are friendly and well keyworded in a same same way, or becoming true marketers who use search to achieve more strategic goals. That is the evolution I see coming, and I think what Mike says makes sense.


Ah yes. There I agree. Semantics aside, guiding clients towards the smartest ways to USE search in their marketing toolkit seems to be the way the biz is going. Whether we help them integrate SEO/PPC or whatever - what we are really doing is consulting. We recently changed our company name from Web Rank to Jordan Consulting Group because it better described what we had been doing for the past 12 months. If SEOs keep moving in the direction of providing consulting advice, then they will have to become marketers, just as Mike suggests.

#19 SEOigloo

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Posted 09 January 2007 - 01:36 AM

Hi ProjectPHP,
It may be that our disagreement stems from our different client bases. Perhaps yours are more tech-oriented than ours. You'll just have to take my word for it that I find myself explaining what a header tag is on a daily basis. Our clients are generally small business owners who are just getting their feet wet in the Internet marketplace. Are yours?

I appreciate the points you've made...very sound, but at the same time, I don't think someone trying to open their first e-commerce site is past the need for basic SEO education. Make sense?
Miriam

#20 vangogh

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Posted 09 January 2007 - 02:17 AM

Miriam and think you and I share the same client base. I know I find myself teaching the basics to many of my clients, and sometimes have to explain what the letters in seo stand for.

projectphp I think your search shows that hotels in Auckland know about seo and have done seo on their sites. But what about all the sites that still use "Welcome to domain.com" as a page title or the ones that don't have a title at all.

I agree that we should all spend less time chasing algorithms and more time marketing, but that doesn't mean we should abandon text book seo. We just need the latest edition of the text book.

Egol I don't see any contradiction at all in what you said. The content may be serving different needs in the highest and least competitive SERPs, but it will still make or break your site.

#21 projectphp

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Posted 09 January 2007 - 02:36 AM

In that case, you are explaining tactics, not why you do it. I bet none of them say to you "why do we need SEO", or at least very few.

I appreciate the points you've made...very sound, but at the same time, I don't think someone trying to open their first e-commerce site is past the need for basic SEO education. Make sense

Not really. Sure, there is a need for basic SEO, and education as well, but whose responsibility is that: an SEOs, a book or as part of CMS software? All comes down to whether the SEO is a "doer", a consultant or a little of both (I do both, but prefer consulting as I think it has a better return).

Further to that, and in line with what Mike's article was all about, do many businesses need SEO in isolation, that is as a standalone thing done without regard to anything else, or do they need more general online marketing help, especailly the absolute newbie you mention? And where does the "SEO's" responsibility end?

The line between SEO and marketer is a blurry one indeed (hence why I put it in quotes above). but I bet, a lot of times, someone employed as an SEO does a lot more than just textbook SEO.

Many recent SEO concepts are, IMHO, marketing ideas. As an example, linkbait requires something beyond an SEO understanding of why it is a good idea (you'll get links) towards a marketing perspective (who will give us these links, how, why and what do we need?) One simply can not generate the SEO benefefit without marketing know how (who, what, where, when).

And that is the bit about what Mike writes that makes a lot of sense, at least to me. A lot of Rand's stuff, especially the Digg et all stuff, is marketing. A lot of the conversion and ROI stuff, that is marketing (IMHO, in site banners and calls to action are the forgotten element of online marketing). Sure, many things have, or can be made to have, huge SEO benefits, but that only comes about if the marketing of the idea, and i include the idea itself as part of the marketing, is right.

Fullcircle: is linkbait, or even link building, SEO or marketing? Do and should SEOs that focus on conversions neglect post click activity? And lastly, has the evolution Mike discusses already started?

Personally, I think SEO, as a verb, has already started changing, and to get maximum SEO benefit one needs to really understand more than just code, crawlers and content to succeed in many cases.

#22 JohnMu

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Posted 09 January 2007 - 03:05 AM

This is an interesting discussion. I think it all comes down to perspective -- it's simple to do, once you know how, and know what you want to achieve.

A comparison - to me, programming is boring. It's repetitive, it's something that a monkey could do for me (at least that's what it feels like). All I need is the idea - a theme - "what do I want it to do?" and then it's all just tapping keys on the keyboard, it's nothing special (to me), I just do it. It's like vacuming the carpet - I know what I want to do, I know how to do it, I just do it, automatically, without having to think about it. Is programming an art to me? Not really. Does that mean everyone else can do it, everyone else feels the same way about it? Not really.

Many areas of business are similar -- they require some technical knowledge on "how to do it right". Once you have that know-how and know what you want to do, it's just a matter of pushing the right buttons. If you don't know how to do it, you can get lost on details or just mess things up. Sometimes, to an untrained eye, the final results look similar -- but usually they aren't.

"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." (Arthur C. Clarke)

It looks like magic to those who don't know about the technology behind it. For those who do know, it's nothing special.

John

#23 SEOigloo

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Posted 09 January 2007 - 03:08 AM

Hi Again ProjectPHP,

Your quote,
"In that case, you are explaining tactics, not why you do it. I bet none of them say to you "why do we need SEO", or at least very few. "

I hope this isn't being rude, but I'm going to have to disagree with you again on this. Most of my clients have never heard of SEO before. It's up to us to teach them what it's about. That's why they are paying us. We firmly believe in the value of explaining not only why they need search engines, but how search engines work, how to please them and what all of their options are, as well as how this dovetails with pleasing human visitors.

In point of fact, I'd say 7 times out of 10, I have to start with the very, very basics about this stuff. Many of our clients have super experience running brick and mortar stores, but no experience with the Internet. These are smart people, but the Internet is still a strange medium to them, and saying 'SEO' to them doesn't convey anything....until we teach them about this. It sounds like VanGogh is probably in the same boat as we are, and would be making a big error if he assumed his clients know these things to begin with. I hope this explanation clarifies things, and helps folks realize that while one would increasingly expect clients who know everything about search engines to become more the norm, if at present, this is your client base, you must be working in a somewhat rarified atmopsphere.

You need go no further than a place like the discussion forums on eBay to take a cross-section of where average Joe may be with SEO. The question about how to 'submit your site to Google' and why, even though you submitted it a month ago, your website isn't showing up, is all too common.

I'd say it's likely that many people considering venturing into web business have no idea, really, what they are getting themselves into, and this is where we come in, in our professional capacity, to help them.

Miriam

#24 egain

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Posted 09 January 2007 - 05:50 AM

I have to say I have to agree with a lot of what ProjectPHP said in his post. Whilst there still is some lack of awareness of SEO, it is picking up as people get wise to the opportunities online and the potential rewards if done right, particularly those in the retail sector (which has been well documented this christmas as one of the biggest growth sectors here in the UK - Trevor McDonald slot etc).

The line between the marketeer and the SEO IMO is somewhat narrowing. As more and more people get the websites "TextBook" SEO'd there is less to differentiate one site from the other, and as a result the ones that "market" their site effectively are ultimately going to break out from the masses.

"Personally, I think SEO, as a verb, has already started changing, and to get maximum SEO benefit one needs to really understand more than just code, crawlers and content to succeed in many cases." - think that is spot on, I personally have found many of my clients want to work beyond traffic generation, delving more into maximising conversions ROI and the like

#25 bwelford

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Posted 09 January 2007 - 06:31 AM

Perhaps we have to realize that the world out there has website owners with very different skill-sets. If they come to ask us for advice, we've got to listen to their question and figure out how to give them 'maximum bang for the buck'.

I've just answered someone who e-mailed me on why his website is not visible in the search engines unless you type in the name of the website. It turned out that his website was largely Flash and there was little text content. So I pointed that out to them. (i.e. SEO)

However I also pointed out that for the market place they were targeting there was a lot of competition and they really needed to figure out how they could offer a USP, i.e. a competitive advantage versus other competitors. So they needed both SEO advice and marketing.

Help is defined by the recipient. ;)

#26 sebastienbillard

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Posted 09 January 2007 - 08:48 AM

For me SEO is definitely not a science, as the results have a part of unpredictability and cannot always be reproduced (and it is not only technical). But it is an art, based on empirical experience.

Good SEO is not that easy, because you have to develop both technical, writing and marketing skills.

#27 Ruud

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Posted 09 January 2007 - 09:12 AM

Tsja.... SEM or SEO...

"Traditional" SEO techniques (and tricks) are increasingly contained by search engines. Marketing to get a natural buzz, natural links and natural conversions going on is just much "simpler" at the moment than anything else.

It becomes "rocket science" again when we see elements of those tactics captured and contained. Social network link popularity must leave a very recognisable pattern. How about capturing that and dampening the effect of links from that bubble? Then social network linking would get you instant buzz (desirable) but the links would be near worthless (undesirable).

Marketing with the use of search engines has aspects of traditional marketing. It needs to understand people and play with and on their desires. But it also contains technical aspects: those of the search engines and the way they (intend) to work. When factors in that realm change you cannot rely on marketing: you need some understanding of what a search engines might be trying to accomplish and how it might be trying to accomplish it. That, to me, is SEO too.

The study and understanding of how search engines index, arrange and rank information -- all that is, or has long become, SEO.

That Mike Grehan sees things a bit more complex as "SEO is dead" is clear:

With SEO, however, an extraordinarily rich and frequently complex mixture of scientific disciplines is hidden below the surface of the major search engines. It's this science I find is so frequently misunderstood, misrepresented, or just plain ignored by many in the SEO community. [...]

As many readers are aware, I'm noted for separating the reasonably straight-forward SEO task of eliminating crawling barriers from the far more important issue of understanding ranking mechanisms. [...]

In my experience, having a general understanding of IR techniques and how they can be applied to commercial search engines (an entirely different proposition to the homogenous collections they were originally conceived for) can save an awful lot of wasted effort and mind clutter in SEO.


Dr. Garcia's report, linked to from the article, is no longer available at that URL but can be found here (PDF).

#28 Halfdeck

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Posted 09 January 2007 - 10:25 AM

The scope of SEO, as we understood it a few years ago, is so narrow that someone selling TITLE element / META tag *optimization* won't make a whole lot of money. One reason SEOs are branching out to cover web design (ad placement for optimal CTR), marketing, copywriting, PPC, etc, is simple - more money for the SEO.

In a few years, SEO will stop being about writing great content. Companies will hire real writers and web designers who can do the job way better than any SEO can. SEO will continue to be about site crawlability, keyword research and getting the word out. Marketers will produce the message. SEOs will publicize it.

#29 rynert

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Posted 09 January 2007 - 01:03 PM

I have seen this same discussion many times and it always follows the same pattern - the reason being that some people think SEO is set 'textbook' of steps to be taken that have hardly changed for years, and some people think that SEO is actually 'textbook' SEO + [insert other items such as marketing, copywriting, design, coding etc]

I don't know whether this seperation is due to the people who do 'textbook' SEO don't have the abilities, or desire, to do the SEO + etc elements, or that the people which do all the other stuff want to make SEO sound a more indepth skill than it is.

I don't think there ever will be a clear definition of what SEO is, and as such one thing is certain ; you can always stir up a good debate by claiming it is something at either end of the scale :)

#30 Pittbug

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Posted 09 January 2007 - 06:29 PM

I believe SEO falls into neither art or rocket science, but experience. A person who is purely talented in art or science does not necessarily make a good seo, but someone experienced in seo, who doesn't have a flare in either of those can be successful.

#31 vangogh

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Posted 09 January 2007 - 07:06 PM

projectphp I do agree with a lot of what you're saying. I don't see seo as simply a scientific pursuit and I agree that the line between an seo and a marketer is a fuzzy one. In many respects I think the problem is that seo suffers from a poor name that implies it's only about search engines. By it's definition I suppose it is, but we know that most SEOs are also working at strategic marketing.

Like you say link bait is probably just as much a marketing concept as it is purely about seo.

I see seo as part science, part art, part experience, part guesswork, part...

It's not really any one thing and different people will practice different aspects of it based on their skillset and the needs of their clients.

When we talk about more and more people understanding basic seo we have to remember the circles we spend time in. Most of my clients know either very little about textbook seo or know a lot of misinformation about it. I spend time at forums where much of the membership is new to seo and still asking questions about how to write meta keywords as though it's a matter of life and death.

And it's also important to consider that while we here know what seo means the majority of people on the planet would just stare at you if you mentioned the term to them. And pretending for a moment that everyone in the world did know what it meant there will still be new generations of people who need to be taught.

It's obvious that everyone here knows the alphabet. Most people do. Does that mean it doesn't need to be taught anymore? The alphabet itself isn't very useful either in isolation. You need to first form words and then sentences and eventually put it all together into more abstract concepts communicating thoughts and ideas.

It's the communication of the thoughts and ideas that's truly important, but it's the simple alphabet that makes the higher level communication possible.

#32 projectphp

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Posted 09 January 2007 - 07:43 PM

some people think SEO is set 'textbook' of steps to be taken that have hardly changed for years, and some people think that SEO is actually 'textbook' SEO + [insert other items such as marketing, copywriting, design, coding etc]

The problem with any definition of SEO that isn't textbook, i.e. doesn't relate to how to increase search related traffic/sales/rankings/KPIs, is that the term then loses its usefulness. If SEO is more than SEO (see what I mean?) then what is Search Marketing, or just plain marketing? For a term to have any use, it needs to be limitted in its scope.

I personally think that SEO has a pretty defined skillset, and none of that skillset is terribly hard. That is my view.

However, what we are seeing is people using SEO as an "in" with clients in order to do lots of other things. Improving conversion; Usability; viral mnarketing (aka linkbait); providing strategic advice. Nothing wrong with that, as all SEOs should understand that using terms ppl use is vital :) Just because most people that bill themselves as SEOs do extras still doesn't mean that those extras are SEOs. I mean, if they were, how would the "SEO +" statement in the above quote make any sense?

I certainly see this happenning, as I, for one, certainly advise on a lot more than just SEO, rarely because I am employed to offer such advice, and certainly not because such advice is SEO.

I think that is what Mike is getting to, and I think a lot of the comments directed towards him and his articles, and lets get real, it is mostly negative, are often based upon a misunderstanding of the concepts he presents, often in a defensive way when ppl feel he has challenged them personally.

IMHO, SEO, the skillset and the art/act, isn't dying. There will always be a need for basic, textbook SEO, no doubt. SEO the profession, however, is certainly changing, and understanding how and into what is something that many of us (should) have a vested interst in.

#33 AbleReach

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Posted 11 January 2007 - 11:39 AM

Good SEO is not that easy, because you have to develop both technical, writing and marketing skills.

There are more and more places to apply SEO/SEM than there were a few years ago. Creativity plus technology has given us social tagging, video blogs, smart phones, etc., and the list will grow as long as there is interest and drive behind use and development. Just remembering all that stuff requires some imagination, some "what if" thinking.

#34 Big Bill

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Posted 13 January 2007 - 07:22 PM

Mike wants to be on Madison Avenue. That's it.

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