How does the industry perceive what is Search Engine Optimization, and how this perception ultimately hinders their strategic approach to SEO.
For around 5 years now, I’ve been an assiduous observer of the Search Engine Optimization community. Since my early days at Google, I follow and read many resources. Every day, I “swim” across my oversubscribed feed reader, looking for news about the tech and search world. And, eventually, end up reading something really smart.
In most cases, I tend to skip about 90% of the stuff that is published. I read the titles and three or four sentences from random paragraphs. Mostly because it’s always the same old thing… A push-pull of the same subjects we all heard over and over again. But I don’t want to divert to off-topic subjects. And this is not what I intend to write about in this post. Instead, I’d like to write about the meaning of SEO. What it really is, or at least what it should really be… It’s okay! I’m doing this exercise mostly for myself, I’m not in any way trying to impose this to anyone… It just makes sense to me, so… On we go!
I’m sick tired of reading — and hearing — statements like: “Oh, SEO is this thing where you put sites ranking in 1st place” or “SEO is to fix what Google is ranking in the wrong place”, or even “SEO is all about reverse engineering algorithms, and finding the loopholes in Google and leverage them so you improve your rankings…”.
I mean, Seriously? Is this what you think SEO is all about? Do you really think that to optimize something is to leverage loopholes in order to get the upper hand?
Let’s start with the basics… By taking a look at the definition of Optimization in Wikipedia:
…is the process of modifying a software system to make some aspect of it work more efficiently or use fewer resources. In general, a computer program may be optimized so that it executes more rapidly…
Or even the definition of Search Engine Optimization:
…Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of improving the volume or quality of traffic to a web site from search engines via natural (or un-paid) organic/algorithmic search results as opposed to search engine marketing (SEM) which deals with paid inclusion…
And now look at the definition of Cheat:
…Cheating is an act of lying, deception, fraud, trickery, imposture, or imposition. Cheating characteristically is employed to create an unfair advantage, usually in one’s own interest, and often at the expense of others…
Let me emphasize the beginning of that second sentence: “Cheating characteristically is employed to create an unfair advantage […]”.
Objectively, do you see any kind of relation between that last sentence and the statements about what is SEO quoted above? What do these definitions really tell us? What can we really extract from here?
Well, for one, they refer to Optimization with words like “improving”, “best”, “quality”, etc. And to Cheating with words like “deception”, “unfair advantage” and “own interest”… Do you see the pattern? Well, I do… And I also see that, Search Engine Optimisation is not synonym of “putting sites ranking in 1st place”. SEO is not reverse engineering, SPAM is!
To rank in 1st place, is a bonus that comes after the optimisation of a good service or product. It’s synonym of a great experience and user engagement, in an accessible and well structured site. If you have a great story to tell, you can write a book, make really nice graphics, sell it and become famous. But if you don’t have a great story, doesn’t matter how fancy your graphics are. Or how well you promote it… It will be much harder to become famous, if at all.
So, in other words, to have a good optimisation you must always have good content. And the quality of your content is what will differentiate you from your competition, and complement your optimisation efforts. Otherwise, you will always be in a weak position.
Optimize well and live longer!