Search Engine Optimization (SEO) has been around since the mid-1990s–it started when the first search engines began indexing the first websites. Some have heralded SEO techniques as the greatest benefit to gaining website top rankings, while others, such as pioneer John C. Dvorak bemoan the trend as something that’s beginning to kill the web as we know it, if it hasn’t already done so.
Lately SEO has become a pseudo-science dominated by small SEO companies who pop up, gain noteriety, then get replaced by the latest, greatest SEO company, only to be replaced again by another one in the next month or two.
SEO techniques are basically the process of using the latest and greatest tricks devoted to getting Google (and other search engines) to bring your site’s rankings up to the top of the search engine results page. Dvorak bemoans the fact that in his words, “it ruins the search experience for users and requires the search engine folks to constantly work on countermeasures to minimize the impact of SEO tecnniques.” While I have admired Mr. Dvorak for years, and have to admit that some of what he is saying is correct, I also have to state that although the techniques are indeed often used to bring “placebo” sites, such as “mini-search engine” pages to the top of the rankings (which themselves list other sites with common search terms the user has entered), these techniques are also being used by legitimate sites to bring their own valid sites to the top of the rankings as well.
Dvorak argues that “people who just have a few trusted sources that they can count on (such as PC Magazine,)” who he writes for btw, “are better off using those than doing blind searches when it comes to comparative analysis. But I can assure you that most people will use Google, Bing or Yahoo before anything else.”
I use Google each and every day for searching for things from product reviews, to software release news, to reptile products, to informational articles, to general news, to picture searches, and everything in between. Although I have a few “favorite” sites that I still visit regularly for news and articles, I primarily use Google to find what I am looking for. I use Google alerts to find specific articles about specific topics as well. And I use SEO techniques for my own sites to bring them to the top of the search engine rankings, and I try to provide the information that people are actually searching for. If folks can’t find my site by using the search engines, they will not be likely to ever visit my site, as it is an obscure, vertically marketed site targetting reptile owners. If I don’t use those SEO techniques, I lose out, and so do web users who are looking for the specific information that my site provides.
Dvorak contends that “Now every person who has ever put up a Web site is reading more and more about SEO. So just wait, and get ready.” I concur–it’s true. But it’s a double-edged sword, a blessing and a curse. To me, and other website owners who are trying to provide information, a service, or a product, it’s the only way we have to get our sites in the faces of those who are looking for our wares, be it valuable content, services or products. So yes, we have to deal with obnoxious in your face “web spam” sometimes, but like the commercials we are forced to watch on television, it’s the price we pay for an open web with more information that can ever be consumed. It’s a price I, and most people, are willing to pay.