Back in the days of web 1.0, the role of the SEO was to get the site as high up as possible on the search engines. During the days of web 2.0, the role of the SEO has changed to include social media marketing also. As the SEO professional walks towards the future, his/her role will change again and again.
The SEO does not need to be a computer programmer, a computer scientist or a mathematician to do the job right. The SEO does however need to know these things exist and extract from the mass of complex information the bits that can make his/her job more efficient. There is some confusion with some SEO’s digging into search engine patents, others (like me) finding papers full of equations to read, and others ignoring all of this completely. Are any us better than the other? The proof is in the pudding at the end of the day, but giving yourself the best chance of success is common sense.
Gardeners have the task of growing new plants and maintaining existing ones in good health. The world of the gardener is quite comparable to the one of the SEO in some ways. They are not biologists, but they know how to recognise a fungal disease on a vine for example, and they are also not chemists, but they know that you should apply a copper based fungicide to fix it and they use Sulphur where necessary. They deal with insects and pest control although they’re not entomologists. They’re not forensic soil scientists but they know about soil too.
Many sciences come into play in gardening and gardeners take from the science exactly what they need to know for what they want to do. They want to grow healthy strong plants and keep them that way, they have no interest in becoming scientists, but they take away as much as they need from the science.
Drowning in papers, extracting information that is interesting, but not very useful to the role of SEO means that perhaps a career change is in the making. Same as with the gardener who takes a strong interest in soil. Ignoring all of the science and doing the same thing day in day out is…let’s face it…boring. It also means that when there is a big change, it comes as a big surprise! Nothing comes suddenly in computing, it’s a process that develops over time, and yields things along the way. You should know that a storm is coming!
There’s the weekend gardener who wants a nice back yard, and the professional gardener who needs to take care of many gardens. If you’re planting vegetables or rare orchids, the methods are very different. The same is true of SEO. Not every site needs the same things, not every client has the same needs, and there is no real one size fits all, although the tools might be the same. Just like in gardening. Like my friend James Morris says “not everybody is going after the world record for the biggest cucumber”.
Not paying attention to any of the science is like being a weekend gardener. Being a professional gardener involves far more education in the different aspects of gardening. Professional SEO’s do need to be aware of the science, how search engines work, how ranking algorithms work, what text processing is and how it works, what a crawler is,…with this you can understand why certain methods need to be used in SEO to allow for sites to be found and consumed more easily by search engines. If I tell you that a completely new kind of ranking algorithm exists, you’ll need to know what it is to start with and how it affects your sites. The SEO is not a computer scientist, but like the gardener, needs to take away from the science the fundamentals, and the pieces of knowledge relevant to their job.
Reading the papers is useful, but not just any old papers, and not for hours if these can’t be justified. The idea is not to spend hours reading about things which are very interesting but are not going to help your gardens grow. The point of this blog, and others such as that of Bill Slawski and David Harry for example are all about that. If this blog were aimed at computer science students, there would be far more emphasis on the equations, methods and evaluations. The SEO needs to know what it means for his/her sites, so we cut to the chase. This is an effective way to work, just like for the gardener.
I’ve said before that the semantic web was going to be quite important, and I’ve shown you some of the science behind that. We’ce looked at different methods, how to build a semantic website, what it means for the existing web, how it fits into web 3.0 and much more. My feeling is that the SEO will work more closely with search engines rather than like right at the beginning when it was “search engines vs SEO”. Information needs to be presented in a way that machines can process easily. I think that SEO’s will be happy to oblige if it means their well crafted, informative and highly usable sites are found and do well. I think that the SEO is part of the move towards a better web, and they are one of the architects. Just like gardeners working with climate control scientists and environmental scientists.
It is always open for discussion, but discussion is good. The worst is uninformed discussion which is a complete waste of time. I’m not interested in growing the biggest cucumber either, but I’d love to find out how it was grown. Maybe I can use the same soil for my pumpkins