The "Is SEO Overrated Or Rocket Science" debate continues. Sigh. OK, I give up. I guess we have to have this every two or three years. All the arguments I’m reading, I’ve read (or made before). But maybe that’s healthy in an industry where you always have new people coming in. I’ll give you the rundown on the latest leaders that are weighing in. And yes, it will be a kick-butt debate I’m also going to do for our first Search Marketing Expo this June. Kevin, Todd, Greg, Mike, Jeremy: I’ll be coming for you and others! For now, let’s see what they and others have been saying.
Yes Virginia, SEO Is Rocket Science – Defending Search Engine Optimization Once Again was my rundown from last month on how the current debate got started, along with many too long arguments from myself on the issue. Well, sometimes I like to rant.
SEM and SEO: Rocket Science or Just Plain Science? Part2 at ClickZ from Kevin was that second part that came out last week, the one with the numbers. The numbers didn’t do that much for me. A higher percentage of people plan to outsource "more than half" PPC spending compared to "the majority" of organic spending. Already, we’re picking and choosing different numbers to compare, which concerns me. But I won’t drill down into them more now, since relatively few were cited. Instead, I’ll make time later to dig into some of these figures myself.
SEO: Art, Science, Bollocks Or What? at ClickZ from Mike Grehan has an organic guy next weighing in — and weighing in as Mike has done before that "textbook SEO" is dead. Mike and I have done this go around before. Textbook SEO is not useless when you consider how much traffic it can drive in tail terms. I’ve already covered how my site here doesn’t have the reputation to pull in for top terms. But I’ve also covered how "tail terms" – generated off textbook SEO — sent another 3,000 visits that I didn’t have to pay for.
I also keep coming back to the fact that what’s "textbook" or what’s simple seems textbook or simple to people WHO ALREADY KNOW! That’s a big chunk of my "Yes Virginia" article mentioned above, and Todd Friesen’s article that I’ll mention below goes even further.
The Bigger Question of SEO at came out this at SearchDay with John Tawadros of iPropsect — which does a big amount of organic work along with paid search — adding his voice. He’s mainly pointing out that a search marketing agency does a lot more than tweak a bunch of meta tags.
The SEO Debate Continues from Gord Hotckiss comes in on the side that SEO is going to get harder, less textbook, as personalized results arrive. Yes, I agree. I’ve written about it for years, with probably the most recent look the one I did on My Yahoo and trust networks here. Part of what I wrote:
We’ve had a generation of search engines that depended on on-the-page factors such as word location and frequency. We’ve had a current second generation that tapped into link analysis, looking at how people are linking and what they say in links.
Personal search is that third generational jump, and Yahoo’s flavor of personal search is a social network one that it hopes will improve relevancy in web wide results in the way that link analysis helped drive back spam and improve relevancy years ago.
And from my 2004 article on search personalization:
The data is irresistible because as I explained in my Eurekster Launches Personalized Social Search article, it opens hundreds if not millions of fronts in the search engine war against spam. It’s hard to spam a search engine when the relevancy may be different for each individual person.
And even from 2001 about Google:
It’s possible that Google could examine this datastream in the future, in order to further refine results en masse for all users, via Outride’s technology, or to deliver more personalized results to users who desire such customization.
Of course, Google does have personalized results now, if you enroll in them. And they can change the results people see, making the idea of a across the board SEO impact slightly harder. But by and large, people are still seeing pretty much the same stuff. After years of waiting for this to change, I think it’s still not going to make a radical change for at least a year or two.
Let’s say that does alter, however. SEO hardly dies. We’ve got local SEO, mobile SEO, video SEO — you name the vertical, search is spreading everywhere. But hey, it’s not rocket science to figure out all these places and determine how they gather and rank content. Just a few hours reading and you’re set :)
OnPage SEO Is Garbage Clarification On Rockstars from Jeremy Schoemaker over at Shoemoney has him getting in on the debate action, seemingly to take the "it’s bull" view at first but really diving into the reputation problem:
I just feel like whitehat SEO’s are like 21st century car salesmen. Lets cut the bullshit for a minute. I find it funny when a whitehat seo tries to engage me in a debate about seo morals…If blackhat seo is trying to alter the search engines ranking of your website from what would naturally be then your spammy ass urls are definatly not whitehat. Now I am not saying this is wrong but I am saying in my opinion its suspect gray area.
Anyway if you want a real SEO ask them how many blackhat forums or sites they read. If they tell you none then move on. They at least need to be educated in the dark arts even if not practicing.
People are so scared to talk about this in the open for fear they will be associated with “black hats