SEM and SEO, Rocket Science, or Just Plain Science? (Part 1) from Kevin Lee at ClickZ has Kevin jumping formally into the "SEO is easy versus SEO is rocket science debate" and digging a hole even deeper for himself, as far as I’m concerned. Sorry, Kevin.
To recap the roots of the controversy, my business partner of over 10 years, David Pasternack, touched a nerve recently when he wrote an article for his DMNews column, Troubled Times for SEO Firms, in which he stated, "SEO isn’t rocket science."
Apparently, a segment of the SEO blogosphere hopes to continue positioning SEO as just that, perhaps to justify high fees.
Sigh. No, Kevin. A segment of the SEO blogosphere dislikes the idea that real skills they have just get dismissed as if it is stuff anyone can learn by reading a few help pages at Google in a day. I already went through all this in my past post, Yes Virginia, SEO Is Rocket Science – Defending Search Engine Optimization Once Again, so I won’t belabor the point. I’ll just direct you here and here. Those are just two people having SEO issues this week. Might not be rocket science to you, but for them, it is.
I’d like Dave in particular to contact this Danish woman with the shopping site on Google that’s she’s built out of frames. Have him do that "fix it once" thing he’s talking about and make it all better and fully indexed on Google. She’s read the help pages he’s suggested:
What I am saying is that most marketers can achieve significant organic rankings without resorting to anything more mysterious than applying the basic optimization principles outlined in Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.
Yet she’s still having trouble. Of course, in your column, you recommend:
Some sites don’t get the rankings they deserve based on the quality of their content and their reputations. Their marketers should absolutely either learn SEO or hire a professional. Courses and training are widely available.
Why would she hire a professional? Why after you and Dave have suggested that it’s all about "high fees" or "paying a fortune" or that SEO isn’t an ongoing task and that the firms out there are offering "unnecessary services" since anyone can learn this stuff. And after Dave spends the week or two — at least – it will take to clean up her mess, be sure he bills at $15 per hour. We wouldn’t want her paying a fortune.
For the record, no one is saying that SEO must be outsourced, not that I’ve seen. There’s a huge, growing number of SEOers that do work in house. Some do that exclusively. Some do that with external firms, and there’s no one perfect model. But those in housers? They have value as well and in many cases have fought to show their value and wrest control of SEO away from the IT departments. Articles that suggest what they do is a "one time" thing that the IT department could do itself in a few hours doesn’t help them any more than it helps the external SEO shops.
Kevin, I’m with you that there are plenty of bad companies and bad pitches in search marketing, and that’s on both the paid and organic side. And no, it’s not true rocket science. But SEO is indeed a skill. You can pick up basic skills and might be perfectly fine. Many do. Many should, and doing it in house is fine. That’s a perfectly good message to send. But there are advanced skills as well, and they are hugely valuable.
I can respect that Dave and you felt you were doing a wake-up call for the industry, after one single survey suggested a slowdown on the SEO side. I look forward to your part two to see if there’s more survey data that those in the SEO world will want to understand. But with respect, Dave’s first article and your follow up didn’t come across as a wake up call. They come across as an attack on the side of the search marketing house you’re not part of. Perhaps that message might have been better delivered from someone actively working on the SEO side of the house. But I also believe that if it was, it might have taken a less stereotypical view of the SEO industry.