There are many people who really just don’t get search engine optimization (SEO). If they are not following SEO best practices on a regular basis, look it is easy for them to think that it is as easy as creating a site, doctor fill it with content, advice and then build links from as many places as possible. And in reality, that actually works – sometimes. But as a general rule, the reality is that SEO is a craft, or a unique practice. It can be very easily misunderstood and equally as difficult to hire an SEO specialist who thinks past the simplicity to the more complex issues we face.

Is SEO a Science?

There are some solid definitions of science which includes:

  • A division of study or knowledge which deals with a specified body of facts and systematically arranges them to demonstrate a certain operation of general laws (mathematical science)
  • Systematic knowledge of the material or physical world which is gained from observations and experiments
  • Any one of the many branches of physical or natural science
  • In general – systematized knowledge
  • Knowledge (based on facts or principles) which are gained through systematic study

Anyone who has been involved in a SEO company for any amount of time will be able to tell you that at any particular time they have practiced each of these definitions in dealing with SEO best practices. And on an ongoing basis, there are so many changes that occur in the industry that not only must we crowd source with peers, we have to constantly experiment to determine what is working today. The successful SEO professional has a broad range of knowledge in their field and in most respects it is very systematic and gained from observations as well as a lot of trial and error experimentation.

The Science of SEO

Google does not offer a step-by-step guidebook or instructional manual that can be read and mastered. Nor do they offer any sure method for optimizing each and every website. Each website has its own strategies that will be successful in the optimization process. Each new website the SEO professional takes on has to go through the same basic experimentation process to develop a customized strategic plan that is specific to that industry and that site. Most SEO professionals have a set of methods that they adhere to for testing, monitoring and measuring so that for the most part they already know what does and does not work.  But this does not make SEO a science. It takes an intuition to work the knowledge that has been amassed in order to develop the SEO campaign that is the perfect fit for each site. If it were only a science, there would be one clear set of diagrams and steps through which a campaign is developed.

Guidelines for SEO Professionals

Along the way, the SEO world has sort of adopted a set of guidelines that offer some help in the experimentation and development process. Google does provide a set of Webmaster Guidelines and they also have a somewhat useful SEO Starter Guide that can help the SEO professional develop in their “branch of knowledge.” The SEO Company is made up of SEO specialists who each have a set of unique experiences from which to draw. One example of how this is beneficial is that a person might go to college to get a degree in marketing. They will spend approximately 4 years reading, studying, practicing and developing marketing techniques and strategies. But they are not likely to really “get it” or be very good at it at all until they have worked out in the field for a substantial amount of time and gained some hands-on or real-world experience. SEO is the same way in that you can find lots of useful information in the biosphere to read about SEO best practices, strategies and tips. But until you roll up your sleeves and “experiment” with strategies for yourself you will not have enough “scientific evidence” to back up your claims of what works. There are no clear cut methods for developing the perfect campaign and the SEO specialist must find the right balance between art and science to become an expert in the field.