Is SEO a Science? Yes, probably; but is this the right question?

“Is SEO a Science”?

I saw this post on the E-Consultancy Blog this morning. They think the answer is YES – this got me thinking.

I have to say I do agree with most of their argument and particularly like their analogy that studying SEO is like studying Physics. They do miss one major difference though. Unlike the Google algorithms, the laws of Physics tend not to change every 6 months! I guess life would be interesting if they did though!

However I think they are missing the point slightly. It’s not about whether SEO is an art or science, it’s about whether, for your average business, devoting significant resources to SEO is the best use of those resources.

SEO from Google’s Perspective

Firstly, lets look for a moment why Google keep adapting their Algorithms.

As I understand it, its is because Google knows that when someone searches for something, they want high quality, authoritative information on that subject, so Google continually honing their systems to ensure that this is what is delivered. At the same time the want to keep low quality, irrelevant content out of the top listings.

SEO from a Marketing Perspective

We see a key element of marketing as Being Heard & Being Valued. If you ensure your website is full of content that your market will value, it is likely that it will be “high quality, authoritative, information”  and on a subject that your marketplace wants to hear about. On this basis, it is likely that other people will value that information, and hence, tweet it, link to it, share it on Facebook etc, helping the process of getting your content heard. Furthermore, Google will be working their algorithms to ensure that content like yours rises to the top of their listings.

Whether or not SEO is a science or not is irrelevant. By focusing on marketing, a by-product of this should be that you perform better on search engines (The primary objective of SEO).

SEO and Brands

There is one thing that is always true in marketing. The brand is king. If you have a strong brand, that your market puts value in, then life is MUCH easier, and profits will be higher. This is well known, and known to me personally having worked 10 years in marketing a premium brand. it is also illustrated well in this blog post.

The internet has allowed smaller businesses to build niche brands. Now a marketing benefit that used to be the domain of the corporate world is now open to all. If you have a product/service that is valued in your niche/local market, then your brand can become strong.

A recent post on the Search Engine Watch Blog derided Google for the fact that their algorithm changes favoured the brands at the expense of “the small guys, who tried to equalize the lack of brand, with SEO tricks”.

I would suggest that rather than invest in highly qualified experts to deliver the “SEO tricks” , businesses should be investing in high quality marketing experts to deliver solid marketing strategies & activities that will raise their profile, develop their brand, and thus benefit from Google’s algorithm changes rather than be penalised by them.

In Conclusion

I don’t actually disagree with anything in the e-consultancy post on SEO. Furthermore, I totally agree that where SEO is being used it should be done by people who know their stuff.

However, for smaller organisations where budgets are limited, the first priority should be investing in getting the message & marketing right, and then to use more direct methods like email, social networking, networking to get their message across. If their message is valued, it will spread, and the value of their brand and their business will grow.

A Final Word on SEO

Don’t get me wrong, I am not denying the value of search engines, or the importance of being found on them. On the contrary, when someone is looking for your website, it is vital that it can be found. So ensuring that Google knows that your site exists, and that your content is appropriately keyword rich and present in Google’s indexes is vital. Ensuring that this is the case should be part of any web marketing strategy, and considered in the design of every website (one reason we use WordPress).

What I am saying is that when budgets are limited, focus on building and implementing a  solid marketing strategy rather than focusing on hardcore SEO, which can be very expensive and not necessarily the most effective investment.

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