“It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.” Matthew 19:24
So a while ago, someone named Derek Powazek severely criticized SEO and its practioners. He started his post by saying: “Search Engine Optimization is not a legitimate form of marketing. It should not be undertaken by people with brains or souls.”
From this very promising start, he ended up chickening out on his argument by veering away from the blatantly obvious moral and spiritual problems with SEO, talking instead about the less important secular items such as search engine algorithms and content creation. This unfortunate detour had the effect of totally vaporizing his core message put forth at the beginning of his post. Feeling righteously compelled to create the argument that this wimpy tech blogger should have written, I’m going to offer proof of concept from three different perspectives: the religious, the scientific, and the mythological.
Religious: Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6). Just like the quest for spiritual enlightenment, the quest for knowledge should be similarly unencumbered for those who believe in the supremacy of search engines to return the ultimate truth. However, when SEO’s attempt to exploit holes in the algorithm to further their greedy ends, they are messing with a profoundly sacred vehicle upon which people are basing some very important life decisions…just to earn a little cash.
Powazek should have compared SEO’s to the Moneychangers in the Temple. The citizens and merchants of the web need to avoid their unholy wares…for if they refused to purchase and partake of SEO, SEO offerings would go away and businesses could then have a direct, healthy relationship with the Google God.
Create a website that meets user needs, and the search engines will help the business prosper. Fail to meet user needs and the business will suffer against its more relevant competitors. Sin against the search engines with SEO and watch the website be damned to hell.
However, SEO’s attempted to upset the orderly process of “Online Natural Selection” through trickery, pushing undeserving content to visitors more focused on commercial gain for the SEO than user needs. Therefore, search engines had to spend lots of time and resources to fight nefarious SEO activities instead of focusing on core user experience issues like deeper and faster web crawls. As soon as Search Engines would close algorithmic loopholes, SEO’s would find new ones to exploit…all at the expense of web visitor experience. Only recently can somebody say that most search engine queries have the appearance of being relatively spam free (no thanks to the search marketing community) and that search engineers like Matt Cutts, by leading the charge to eradicate web spam, are the unsung heroes to web surfers everywhere.
Without SEO and its influence, the web results returned to searchers would have been of a much higher quality a long time ago. The best content created for end users would have risen to the top of the search results and the overall end user experience would have been much more positive.
Mythological: One can look at King Arthur’s quest for the Holy Grail as a metaphor for a person searching the web to find relevant information. Without SEO, the process is seamless…the surfer can rely upon the search engine algorithms to rank the documents in order of relevancy to that person’s query. However, SEO’s throw many obstacles in that quest for knowledge.
SEO’s are like the “Black Knights” of the web obstinately standing in the way of user intent. Looking for a hotel room and seeing a Viagra ad? Blame SEO’s. Looking for a hotel room and see ads for hotel rooms that, when clicked, have nothing to do with hotel rooms? Blame SEO’s. By making it more challenging to find relevant information, SEO’s make money on each and every misstep that innocent web surfers make in attempting to find what they are looking for.
Most normal web surfers have great problems getting through the “Black Knight” of SEO-created spam. Only through the efforts of the heroic search engineers (who would have played the roles King Arthur & Sir Lancelot in the aforementioned Arthurian Legend) can the Black Knight be slain, the Knights Who Say Ni & The Killer Rabbit be avoided, and the Bridge of Death crossed in order that the quest for the Holy Grail of knowledge and information be completed successfully.