For most people, SEO still is either a complete unknown, magic or the scapegoat for almost everything that doesn’t work on the Web. In particular, bloggers seeking attention, publicity and links love to leverage all the ignorance and prejudice and launch attacks on SEO as a whole again and again.
Recently, another popular blogger, who leads one of the most important technology blogs (which uses all kinds of SEO techniques) did it again. This time it was not the average “SEO is rubbish” attack; it was a broader “search sucks” attack where of course not search engines themselves are guilty of being broken but the scapegoat: SEO.
Before we go on, let me define SEO again for all those who still don’t understand it: SEO is the craft of fixing and improving websites so that they can be found in search results, among others. Of course, good SEO is also good for the users. I know this SEO definition is still kind of abstract, so let me use a metaphor to explain it even better:
Imagine the Web as a virtual world, where search engines provide the transport infrastructure to move from A to B.
Most websites are like buildings, while some are more like cars, buses, trains or even planes. A blog like ours at SEOptimise is like a bus: it has lots of outgoing links and thus leads to lots of places many people want to go to. Whereas a site like Microsoft.com is like a huge building complex or a skyscraper. People need cars and buses, and of course they need an infrastructure to get to where they want to go. Google is like that infrastructure; it has a road, rail and airport system leading to all kinds of destinations. So people need car-like or bus-like sites to get there.
The SEO specialist is like a mechanic.
The SEO specialist doesn’t build the road system or control the airports, but he allows you to get to where you want to go by fixing your car or bus. An SEO may be an architect as well. You may ask an architect to refurbish a home or a shop, or to build one. Now imagine blaming mechanics for harassment by TSA on airports, for dilapidated public transport systems in US cities or the broken railroads in both the US/UK. Did the mechanics repair too many cars, so that the streets are jammed with traffic? Are they guilty of repairing cars? Are there too many planes in the sky because mechanics have fixed them? Are there too many buildings out there because evil architects have refurbished them?
Likewise, blaming the SEO industry for bad search results is nonsense and absurd. Let’s take a recent example from the “increasing spam by SEO means” debate: content farms. Content farms are the Walmarts of the Internet. One stop shops for everything. It may be low quality, cheap and Made in China but people flock there by the thousands. Do you hate Walmart? Why do you go there then? I have read lots of criticism of Walmart but I’ve rarely heard the idea that it’s evil architects who brought us Walmart to pollute our environment. And it’s not evil mechanics fixing your cars who have allowed the public rail or road system to deteriorate.
The only thing you can blame mechanics and architects for is that they broke cars instead of fixing them, or that they built houses that break down or shops that don’t sell.
Incidentally, Techcrunch, the tech blog which has published the nonsense article about SEO being to blame for bad search results, uses outdated SEO techniques such as PageRank sculpting (using the nofollow attribute on internal links). Effectively, they mark their own internal links as untrustworthy. They should blame their own mechanic for being bad at SEO.