free html hit counter Battle of the SEOs - John Battelle's Search Blog

Battle of the SEOs

By - January 16, 2004

“SEO” stands for “search engine optimizers,” an oft-maligned class of businesses who specialize in helping companies rank better in organic – aka “pure” – listings. In other words, these are the folks who will help your site get in the first page of results in Google, as Google is (for now) the only game in town when it comes to pure results. And as we all know, getting on the first page of Google results can mean a massive amount of traffic and business to your site. Plus, you can avoid having to spring for paid listings.

Now, SEOs have a long and rather mottled history, and it’s not my goal in this post to revisit it. Suffice to say that many SEOs use tactics which fail the integrity sniff test, and most observers of this space would agree that the overzealous use of search-engine optimization has created a massive spam problem for Google – crap results which clog up otherwise relevant SERPs (search engine results pages). In fact, it’s not at all uncommon to call the dance between SEOs and Google’s programmers an “arms race” – wherein Google will shift its algorithms to thwart obvious SEO deviousness, and the SEO community will respond with new and ever more crafty techniques to foil Google’s algorithms.

But many SEOs perform a honest and valuable service – they play by the rules, and they help sites organize themselves so they rank just about where they reasonably ought to. Optimizing for Google is not a new idea – nearly every good site does it, from CNet to Amazon. The SEO industry recently took a major step toward becoming an industry with standards and practices when it self-organized SEMPO, the Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization (though I can’t yet find the equivalent of SEMPO Member Guidelines, which I imagine is still a pretty hot potato within that nascent community).

All of this came to mind when I saw this link via Google Blogoscoped: The Google SERPs SEO Competition. Far as I can tell this is an open call for entries for SEOs to prove they can push a particular page (in this case, the #1 SERP for the term “SERPs”) to the top of the heap in Google. No rules, winner takes all (which I think in this case means basically bragging rights). I’m pretty sure this contest will be less than warmly received over at Google, but I wonder what SEMPO thinks? I’ll send a note and be back when I have an answer….

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2 thoughts on “Battle of the SEOs

  1. John,

    Thanks for the link to the SERPs competition — though just for pointing it out, not that I intend to enter!

    I’m not surprised — there’s definitely a certain amount of oneupmanship among SEOs, which I suppose is understandable, given that it’s all about beating the competition.

    However, I’m glad you pointed out that not all SEO is bad. As an internet consultant, I consider search engine optimisation an integral part of the service I offer when designing sites and creating web marketing strategies for clients.

    What’s the point, after all, of meticulously planning, building a site if nobody can find it once it’s launched?

    However, it’s important that SEOs use what are known as “whitehat” tactics — i.e. that they play within the rules, as outlined by Google:

    — Michael

  2. A very good article John.

    Although this (the article) is roughly two years old the content has still the same significance today. Things really haven’t changed much when it comes to numerous webmasters and SEO companies trying to find out what the best way to “fool” Google is, before Google try to respond by changing their algorithims.

    Whilst there are more and more SEO companies that promote “White Hat” (Ethical) optimization campaigns, I still feel that there is too much hyped-up offerings. By this I mean that SEO companies will offer to submit sites to Search Engines. Surely they all know that search engines are there to find and index a site. A handful of links pointing to a website will achieve this.

    It’s those companies that try to impress prospective clients that there is a benefit to submitting to 40, 400, or 4 million websites. Of course they know that only Google, Yahoo, and, MSN actually matter when it comes to search engine traffic.