SEO, in part, is theory, whether an SEO specialist will admit it or not. Matt Cutts, in an interview awhile back, commented that Google has so many algorithms out there, constantly being tested and redesigned, that they can’t possibly know what works and what doesn’t. Well, I’ll add “not exactly” to that. They know some, but refuse to give a wink and a nudge.
Like any theory, there has always been an argument between SEO specialists about what works, what doesn’t, what are “SEO best practices” and what’s black hat. However, what many laymen don’t know is that there are also arguments over whether SEO is a viable, working theory, or crap. If you use the right search terms, you’ll come across a whole bunch of “propaganda”, pushed from both sides of the fence.
For instance, early this year, a gentleman by the name of Eoghan McCabe wrote a blog entitled “SEO is Bullshit”, a short little rant about how he felt. A few weeks later, he clarified in “SEO is Still Bullshit”, suggesting that SEO is nothing but a list of “best practices” for any website design. In other words, if we all built our websites like we’re supposed to in the first place, we’d automatically rise on the search engines, so SEO isn’t needed. It took two months for the furor to die down.
So what’s the truth? IS SEO just a scam? Are we SEO specialists sitting on our butts, pushing one or two buttons and then collecting your money? Oh, contraire, Mr. McCabe.
Website design “best practices” only go so far. You take two websites, A and B, competing for a search term with the same amount of usability, clean design, etc. and add SEO “theory” to site B. Will the search engines register both? Of course, because that’s part of website design and deployment, but they won’t have the same PageRank or search engine ranking. Unless site A is just “so absolutely fabulous” that everyone decides they must link to it, site B will rank higher on the list. That’s not theory, that’s fact.
Website owners expect to be listed on the search engines; they don’t ask, “Are we on the search engines?” They’re interested in placement, so they ask, “Where are we on the search engines?”
This is where we come in and really go to work. Granted, design practices call for some of the same coding that we do. Take headers, for instance. Whether web design or SEO, it’s considered best practice to use a relevant title for the header.
However, keywords are not part of design practices. It’s strictly SEO. So is on-page optimization, link building and various other SEO methods. Sorry, Mr. McCabe, your argument doesn’t hold water.
What a true specialist will do is, points the search engines towards the page so the readers can find it, and makes the page relevant to the user so they stay. Contrary to the opinion of some, SEO does not favor search engines over users; SEO doesn’t play favorites.
We, as SEO specialists, continually walk a fine line for our clients between getting them noticed by the search engines and catch their users’ interests. And it is a fine line. Too many keywords, a missed line on coding, incorrect title tags or bad linking, and the visitor and Google both dismiss the website.
So, for those of you that lean to the dark side, where SEO is crap, keep that in mind next time you do a search. Check out the top websites’ source page and see if they have SEO. You’ll be surprised at the results, and as far as SEO specialists will be proven “helpful” once again.