They are the enemy
my name is Dave, and I am an algoholic
The other day someone asked me via instant messenger about some patents for an area one particular SEO was doing some research in. After suggesting a few patents and research papers and chatting, they asked, dont you get nasty emails from the search engines because you pick things apart?
Thats a pretty interesting question because much of the time search optimizers tend to see themselves as facilitators. They dont seem to understand the true nature of our relationship with search engines. We are not partners my friends, but we arent viewed as criminals either
we are in truth, the enemy. The oddity continued when 'Lisa the Outspoken' had her bubble burst to find SEOs weren't held in high regard (jeez Lis' ya coulda come to me...woulda' set ya straight). To say that we help change the search engines (in a positive way) is like saying weapons of mass destruction have evolved in a constructive manner due to the arms race.
If you believe were peas in a pod, its time for a little reality check methinks my friends
Adversarial Information Retrieval
Maybe Im jaded, but its always been my understanding that most in the IR world arent happy when people mess with their best intentions. Hell, I can even understand the lament. This is the whole point of AIR ( adversarial information retrieval ) - which is an entire school of thought for dealing with those that would manipulate the index. Its seems more than a little obvious that search engine optimizers wouldnt be having too many nights at the pub with these folks.
It does make me wonder why the hell ol Matt even bothers with us at all (keep your friends close and your enemies closer?). My dear SEO geeks and phreaks, dont get deluded and start to believe you are driving some type of positive change and that the search engines welcome you into the fraternity of search evolution.
Laying down with dogs
Now that we have that out of the way; why not some honesty? Have your SEEN some of the activities going on out there with some of those in our little SEO family? There is a TON of really crappy strategies that are polluting the net with reams of web garbage. During the course of our activities we can certainly try to do our best to minimize direct manipulation. You can work on the technical aspects (KW research, structural/technological elements) and create content/resources to give the best possible chance of truly organic success
sadly it seems the exception, not the rule.
Does Google actively devalue web sites/pages that have the footprint of an SEO behind the scenes? I highly doubt that. Does Google understand the footprint of active manipulation? Sure
and when a crappy SEO comes along and makes a fckn mess of things, that site/page most certainly is at risk. But its just like a bear chasing us through the forest; I dont have to outrun the bear, I just have to outrun you.
The fine line
Along the way Ive been privy to a wide variety of situations where sites have run afoul of the mighty G. Not sites that I have directly worked on, but have been asked to look at problems once they arise. One thing that can be said, Google will work with website owners and do not take glee in tanking sites, never mind targeting them. To those that have fashioned lovely tin foil accessories, you can be sure there is more to the story.
There really is a point where facilitating and manipulating meets and walking that tightrope is a HUGE part of being a SEO. Or at least one that doesnt get on the wrong side of the line and then complain about the search engines self-defense tactics. The last time I checked, search engines are public corporations with their own interests and free (within legal frameworks) to run their companies as they see fit (as am I).
Ive said it before
things arent always fair.
SEO = Search Engine Opportunist
And so my friends, search engines do not regard us as one would a criminal, we are adversaries. As such, you should keep your head down and seek to out run the others while not making an obvious spectacle of yourself. That is my Zen of SEO think organic and be organic never poke a sleeping dragon.
They understand that most major brands/sites are utilizing optimization techniques to some extent and arent arbitrarily targeting you. But they sure are aware of you
(cause we cant stop writing about it hee hee). There was really never any doubt that SEOs werent in the search engines good books or on the Xmas card mailing list (thats the PPC guys). So please
stop grumbling about neither Google nor any other search engine; tis a pointless endeavour IMHO.
P.S. - Lisa ( and Michael ) was upset about some odd linking practices and it is important to note what Matt said recently;
"If youre running a contest, dont make it your goal to get links. Never require that people link to you in order to possibly win the contest. Social media is about buzz, not getting links. The links are the after effect."
"The closer you get to money for links, the higher risk we consider it."
There really is an important distinction to be made here as we were reporting last week about the Greenpeace contest (which they have since changed). It is about the intent and what each search engine makes of said intent. Sure, the lines aren't always a clear as we'd like, but what in life is? ( as for the 'after effect' read; social media and link building )
P.S.S; it is worth saying that in my experiences with the search engine folks, they have been reasonable and accommodating. If the roles were reversed, Im unsure Id be so giving. The fine peeps in the information retrieval world (and AIR) are by and large some groovy geeks and my obsession gives me high regard for their efforts. Thus I may be biased for not wearing as much tin-foil as others in the game
ADDED; ...and since we're throwing it to Lisa and Michael, might as well add a late entry to Susan at BC with her take on it all...