The SEO Standards Debate

by Gary on March 31, 2008 · 7 comments

in General,SEO

Last month’s SMX West Search Insights track topic “Is it time for Search Marketing Standards?” sparked a debate not just on SEM standards but also SEO standards. On one side we have Jill Whalen of Search Engine Land telling us that we DO NOT need SEO standards. On the other hand we have Lisa Barone of Bruce Barclay asserting that we DO need SEO standards after all.

Jill’s points:

  • There are too many ways of skinning the SEO cat.
  • We can’t even agree on the definition of search engine optimization.
  • There are already laws to protect people from SEO scam.
  • There’s no such thing as “cheating” in SEO.

Lisa’s points:

  • We need basic guidelines for the search engine optimization process and to document what it is we actually do.
  • It’s something we need for training, for protection and for credibility.
  • We need to educate people [SEO clients] so that they are aware of when they’re being scammed.
  • For search engine optimization to become a legitimate industry, we need to start treating ourselves as one.
  • For us to grow, we have to adopt the official standards that are going to give us the credibility and protection that this industry needs.

While I do agree will Jill that people wouldn’t be using shady SEO techniques if it didn’t work (though watching America’s Dumbest Criminals last night made me wonder if this is really true) and that search engines have a responsibility to enforce their own guidelines, I am more inclined to agree with Lisa that the growth of the SEO industry calls for us to have some sort of official standards. I too would rather have us make our own standards than have some other governing body (that know nothing about SEO) someday decide that the SEO industry does need some standards and then make the rules up themselves.

Where do you stand?

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SEO Ranter April 1, 2008 at 10:05 am

Let’s face it, people are going to get scammed regardless of the presence of standards, in any industry. As someone who takes a formal and justified approach to SEO, the fewer people onboard with good techniques, the less competition there is – so I’m fully against the standard!

seo pixy April 1, 2008 at 10:35 am

I agree with Lisa that there have to be some basic guidelines for the SEO process and they have to be made by people who are in this industry!

An Ecommerce Learner April 1, 2008 at 3:40 pm

I would say that there is no need to make a set of guidelines for a number of reasons. First, it would not help; people that wanted to use black hat SEO would still be able to use it. Second, it might make people be less alert when they think that people are following a certain standard. This would make it easier for black hatters to fool people. Finally, Google and the other search engines are constantly updating their algorithims and making it more and more difficult to do black hat SEO. For these reasons, I would say it is not a good idea to make SEO guidelines. It would not help.

An Ecommerce Learner April 1, 2008 at 3:43 pm

I would say that SEO standards are not needed and would not help. Black hatters would not stop.

Greg April 1, 2008 at 10:36 pm

SEO standards could not hurt the industry if properly written and has accepted consensus of the SEO community. However, who is to enforce the standards and who is going to censor/punish/fine those who do not want to agree to the standards?

Sounds like a long trail of work, research, etc. of other professional organizations to gain models, knowledge, outcomes, etc.

Matan Media April 2, 2008 at 6:37 am

When there is money to be made, people will always come out with a scam. No standards within the industry will halt that.

For me SEO is as much about creativity as it is following all the regular ‘white hat standards’ that pretty much already exist. These standards do exist and most of us already follow them, they just aren’t laid out as ‘Industry Standards’ – you have to read up, play about etc… but all in all we are all following some sort of standard… Keyword Research, On-site Optimization, Organic Link Building… the list goes on but I’m sure you get what I mean.

Yes we all use different tools (although many the same I’m sure) and yes we all have different ideas and methods for each of the ‘standards’ I mentioned above, but that is the same in any industry. It is called ‘competition’ – finding that edge that makes you better than the next guy.

We also have different methods of reporting to clients, and this is fair game too. Reporting is just as important as the success you get for your clients in the SERPs and probably makes a huge difference to the companies that truly succeed in this industry and those that don’t.