SEO or Search Engine Optimization and its partners in crime; SEM ( Search Engine Marketing ), etc. Are those disciplines dedicated to the art of manipulating and coercing search engines to do the bidding of paying clients. SEO was more or less an outpost of traditional marketing disciplines and is typically populated and run by 'non-technical' types. SEO never really appealed much to the technical crowd, primarily because technical people are far less enthusiastic about the prospect of a search engine being a fully-qualified source of information on a topic. So somewhere between web development and marketing lies the magical land of Search Engine Optimization. If you run a website or work in the realm of Internet development you have doubtlessly run into a 'SEO professional'. They are typically very shady and unsavory characters, statistically more so than web developers!
(photo by Antonio Manfredonio)
The discipline of SEO relies on a grab-bag of tricks and techniques and is usually divided into two areas: Black Hat and White Hat. Black hat is SEO using techniques considered nefarious, obnoxious, exploitative and the like. Google doesn't take kindly to Black Hat SEO. White Hat SEO generally plays by the rules, albiet intelligently but not altogether kindly (after all marketing is a kind of war to gain relevance). Something to keep in mind is that SEO is not a difficult or complex process, and many SEO companies totally oversell their services.
I'm not going to cover various SEO techniques here, but what I am going to consider are the broad trends. Google is the #1 thing to consider in SEO as Google gets an enormous share of search engine queries. There are a variety of things to consider as Google's engine is complex and ever evolving. 'Page Rank' is Google's way of rating the quality of your site as an information source and this rank is determined by a number of factors (mainly external links to your site from other highly ranked sources). Understanding these factors, their history and their likely evolution is the job of the Linkmeister.
As the SEO services world grows, Google will become less reliable. So in a sense, Google and the SEO world have an antagonistic relationship. Google generally doesn't acknowledge the SEO world primarily because it nullifies their entire value proposition: that the search engine is a dependable and secure source of information. Most SEO people will contest that what they do is not exploitative at all- but the fact is their role in the process of web promotion is to unnaturally distort and otherwise affect how a search engine would operate naturally. Google is constantly working to stay one step ahead of this group.
Personally, I think the world of the Linkmeisters is going to turn over drastically in coming years- its seems the world is being overrun by a particular species of SEO Expert who suffers from tunnel vision and at night dreams of high Page Rank and maximum page impressions. The real numbers behind these services show high traffic but low overall sales (which is the unspoken goal here). What must be considered is the quality of the traffic. Sure you suckered the user into clicking on your site... but are they interested in what you have to offer? People are trusting the search engine less and less- and looking to alternative sources for their information- they are moving to more personal and accountable sources of information- like JoshuaZeidner.com.
Lets face it, the experience of using the web is like having your eyeballs grabbed and pulled right out of your eye sockets and nailed to the computer screen. And the SEOs are to blame, and most likely Google agrees with me. So in that sense, Google will employ a steady program of downgrading any web source that is susceptible to SEO activity. So I'm going short on the SEOs for the time being. There are some areas that do show promise however, perhaps you may catch a glimpse of these areas in coming articles. Stay tuned dear reader!