Is Search Engine Optimization a Science? Yes. Here's Proof that SEO is a Science, Not a Dark Art

Periodic Table of SEO Ranking FactorsIs Search Engine Optimization (SEO) an art or a science? Or is it neither? Although it’s as old as the Internet itself, SEO is still misunderstood by many folks, even those who know a lot about the Internet and Online Communications. […]

One reason for the confusion is that people knowledgeable about SEO are often reluctant to share their secrets. If SEOs, as search engine optimization experts are called, were more transparent with what they do, it would be much easier for non-SEO experts to decide whether optimization techniques are a set of standardized, rational practices or something that a few people are just naturally good at because they have a “feel” for it – or, much worse, just a bunch of smoke and mirrors.

Today Danny Sullivan at Search Engine Land took a great step towards transparency by publishing a Periodic Table of SEO Ranking Factors. The table is an awesome piece of work. And there’s much more to it than the  infographic alone. There is a complete discussion of each SEO ranking factor.

If we can generalize about something like SEO and codify it in a meaningful and useful way, like Sullivan has done with the ranking factor table, then we have clear evidence for it being a science versus just an art or smoke and mirrors.

Comments: 2

2 comments

There are plenty of examples of search optimization as a legitimate enterprise that uses a rational, standardized set of techniques that anyone can use. Here’s one Google announced yesterday: authorship markup. The purpose of authorship markup, as Google explicitly puts it , is to give web publishers a way to “help [Google] highlight authors and rank search results”.

In order to stay in business, Google must continue to provide highly relevant search results. Even if online content is well-written and extremely useful, Google has a hard time ranking it relative to other content if it’s not optimized, at least in very basic ways, for search engines. So Google makes a consistent effort to provide clear guidelines and techniques for search engine optimization. (See “Best Search Engine Optimization Resources for Beginners” for the canonical Google SEO resource example.)

Google has to walk a fine line between transparency and secrecy because giving out too many details about how its search algorithm works makes it easier for underhanded search optimizers to exploit the algorithm and figure out ways to make pages that are not relevant (according to Google) show up higher in search results than pages that are relevant. Ultimately, the algorithm is intended to express the desires of real people who are doing a search. The better it does that, the happier those people are with the search results.

All in all, Google has done an amazing job. Remember, when it comes to optimizing online content so that it shows up high in search results, (1) quality really matters, and (2) Google really wants your help.

“Google has to walk a fine line between transparency and secrecy … Ultimately, the algorithm is intended to express the desires of real people who are doing a search. The better it does that, the happier those people are with the search results. ”

Summed it up – really cool post / link anyway – periodic table of SEO – forwarded this to bunch of people. Can’t see video SEO on there which is what my company specialises in – still nice layout etc. SEO is certainly a complicated beast – and I love anything that tries to simplify it or sciencei-fy it!

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