Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) has for many years been perceived as a dark art and shrouded in secrecy. Forgive me when I quote Erasmas “In the kingdom of the blind the one-eyed man is king”!
To a point this is true, let me try and explain why this sector has developed its reputation and why it will continue to do so.
As the human race has developed we have been amazed and fascinated by things that we either cannot understand or illusions that simply leave us baffled. Historically we have treated such things as miracles and even attributed God-like status to those responsible for thunder and even wine ‘Dionysus’!
Getting back on track, from the time that Babbage created the calculating machine nobody could have imagined the development of computers, internet, search engines, email and the amazing rainbow of industries that have been born out of the creation of the internet.
The same as when cars were introduced, it didn’t take long before rules had to be put in place and ways of managing the growing traffic needed to be found. The internet has developed and grown at such a rate, that it became necessary to manage the vast amount of content.
Search engines have been developed to enable users to find relevant results for specific search terms. Like everything development has not always been smooth and some of the older engines have fallen by the wayside. It is not the engines that we are concerned with, we have become obsessed with the results pages and who is on page one.
It stands to reason that not every website can be number one on page one of Google, in the same way that not every F1 car can take first place in the same race, this is how the specialists have developed and become the people that magically and mysteriously promote your website into poll position.
There are those who can remember the badly conceived SEO campaigns that left some very respectable company’s high and dry when Google changed its algorithms, websites that have been blacklisted and the constant attempts to promote porn in underhand ways. These have all been undermined by the way in which search engines are constantly working on their search results and ways in which to improve the results of specific searches.
Black Hat, White Hat
You may have heard phrases like ‘Black Hat’, White Hat’ and ‘Organic Positions’, don’t get wrapped-up in the buzz words. In very simple terms the organic position of a website is the rightful place for the site based on its qualities and merits attributed to it by the search engines. White Hat techniques are deemed to be optimisation that is carried out on the site to improve the ranking position within the guidelines of the search engines. Black Hat is a term given to those who use techniques that are intended to fool the search engines in less scrupulous ways.
In actual fact there is a grey area between Black Hat and White Hat techniques and I have heard many arguments that say if you make any improvements that improve on the organic position then you have fallen into the dark side. I take the view that the darker you go; the more risks you are taking on behalf of your client. If you find a chink in a search engines armour, you will have to calculate how long it will take for the chink to be fixed and what penalties may be imposed on your website.
On a personal note I do not get involved with aggressive Search Engine campaigns, as there are those folks out there who can commit more time and have far greater experience than myself; who can provide those services for those that want them. Like many things in life though, the higher the risk, the higher the price!
If we go back to this idea of smoke & mirrors and the reputation that SEO specialists have been given, do not forget that the skills required for doing this work have been honed over a period of time. It is not just about changing a bit of text or adding another page. Search engine optimisation is more complex than that, it involves content and many other factors and for some businesses even a fulltime specialist.
A large proportion of SEO work involves research and a long time analysing data, keyword research and the effects of content, the quality of links both internally and most importantly; outbound and reciprocal links.
In essence you can sum-up search engine optimisation in no better way than that of Matt Cutts of Google. “If a Google search is the question, then your website should be the answer to that question!”
I have never seen a Search Engine Specialist turn-up for work looking like Merlin but I have seen them produce miraculous results or is it all an illusion?