Yesterday we discussed this Wired article featuring well known Search spammer Greg Boser of Web Guerrilla. As a result of those discussions, and talks elsewhere, one thing has become very apparent: Search marketers are divided on how they define both what they do, and why they do it. This post will suggest that it might be time to look at redefining, or perhaps creating new terminology for the differing schools of thought.
Follow the title link for the full post.
Two Distinct Groups
There are two main schools of thought with regard to Search marketing for free listings, as opposed to paid advertising:
- Aggressive algorithm manipulation - those that use all manner of tactics to gain links, optimize pages, and even spam blog comments and similar. This type almost always falls outside of Search engines' stated guidelines and their activities are often considered high risk.
- Search friendly designers and content creators - This group generally do not break search engine guidelines and although they will, by very definition, manipulate search algorithms (even if that's only tweaking page titles), they will often seek links that are only "on theme" and concentrate their efforts mostly on content and usability.
There is also a rather weird subset of the second group that advocates doing nothing to a website that you wouldn't do if Search engines did not exist.
Although both groups call themselves Search Engine Optimizers, it's been clear for many years that neither group considers the other to be part of their own.
Explaining the Differences
To fully understand where the divide lies, let's take a look at both groups.
The first group, let's call them the algo seo's generally have a high technical capability and a high level of algorithm knowledge. This doesn't mean that they ignore content, usability or any other factors important to the marketing of a website, it just means that they tend to be more technically minded and more focused on the algorithm than the other group.
The second group, we'll call them the content SEO's, are generally less technical. Whereas members of the first group will often have programming backgrounds, the second often do not. The content SEO's, as the label implies, tend to have a strong background, and bent for content writing; for writing compelling sales copy and informational pages. They still engage in the basic SEO endeavors such as tweaking page titles, hunting links from on theme sources and creating content specifically for keywords, but they would not be pouring over search results and analysing competitors backlinks even a 10th as much as the previous group.
The Big Divide
The divide comes from the search engines' stated guidelines. The first group see them as simply that, guidelines. They see them as something to be read, but not necessarily followed, and accept the occasional banning of a website by a search engine as part of their business and often plan for just such occurances.
They also do not, again in general, see themselves as doing any harm to either search engine, or search engine user. The point often argued is that if the user finds a relevant website in the top results when entering a query, everyone is happy.
The Content Seo's tend not to agree. They see aggressive manipulation of search algorithms as damaging to search engine and user both. They often argue that the actions of Algo SEO's push down other worthy websites in search results and that this is not fair.
There are bad apples in both barrels
Both groups have thier extremists. It's frustrating to both sides of the argument when individuals use the banner of "white hat" or "black hat" as marketing tools, to deliberately start trouble in forums, or as platforms for them to preach.
One such extremist was recently banned from the SearchEngineWatch Forums for repeatedly preaching and causing trouble under the Content SEO banner - and likewise, more than a few have been similarly expuled from discussions on the Algo SEO side. Etremists are a problem that all groups in society have to deal with, and they often drag good solid arguments into the ludicrous and hinder rather than help their cause.
Those folks don't really deserve much more mention.
It's clear to me from observing and participating in many discussions that set one group against the other, that it might be time to redefine what we now think of as the large, but divided group of Search marketing professionals.
It's this quote that bothers me:
"An entire industry of search engine optimizers, called SEOs, has sprung up, many of which take advantage of loopholes in the way rankings are calculated."
Again, lumping SEO's into the "taking advantage of loopholes" category and ignoring the fact that many of us make real improvements to sites, removing technical obstacles, improving navigation, targeting in on better keywords, and actually building content worth linking to.
Oh, silly me... it's all about loopholes and buying links... I've just been doing it the hard way, I guess.
So what do you want to call yourselves?
I do like the term Content SEO, i think it describes group two very well, though im not entirely satisfied with Algo SEO - Perhaps you think both are wrong, some opinion on that would be welcome.
It's worth pointing out at this point, that the weird subset of group 2, that beleives that you should do nothing to a website that you wouldn't do if Search engines did not exist, really have no business calling themselves Search Engine Optimizers at all however.
As an aside: NFFC had suggested that Content SEO's call themselves "Professional Intuitive Site Strategies" heh...
Im aware that there are people in group two who are technically gifted, im aware that their are outstanding copywriters in group one - I have to generalize a little bit though otherwise we'd not get anywhere :)