I used to like to pretend that I was an SEO locked in an epic, Tolkien-esque battle of wills with the Search Gods. Both warriors, constantly trying to out do one another. We find a loophole, they close it. We exploit a chink in their armor, they re-enforce it. And so it continues until we reach an apocalyptic climax where Google algorithms are implanted directly into human brains and we all become giant walking computers.
Or something like that.
But now, I tend to look at the search engine/SEO relationship a bit differently. I understand more that “they” aren’t out to “get” us. In fact “they” probably pay less attention to the whole herd of us than we would like to admit. But the truth is, foiling our plans of total Web domination is actually only a small part of their agenda. Their time is spent focused on developing more efficient ways of serving users and paying stock holders. In other words, while we maintain a laser beam-like focus on them, they have bigger fish to fry.
But the more I learn about doing SEO, or I should specify, good SEO, the less I see this relationship as adversarial. If search engines are the sharks, we aren’t the shark hunters, we are the pilot fish. You know you’ve heard of them. These small fish have become semi-famous for the symbiotic relationship they have formed with sharks; they survive by feeding off the parasites and scraps that cling to the larger fish. The shark, in turn, does not eat them because they serve a greater benefit alive. Similarly, that may be the reason Google has not devoured our entire industry whole, because to imagine that they couldn’t…well let’s not be delusional.
A good SEO actually does provide a service to the spider-bots by having the same fundamental goals. Everyone is looking to bring consumers to the products, services and informational resources they desire. The way we go about it may be different and the end-game may be inevitably about profit on both sides of the fence, but we do manage to help one another. When we optimize and build marketing campaigns with the intention of bringing a truly deserving Web site to the top of the SERPs, we are doing Google and other search engines a service by helping to supplant clever crap that has slipped through the filters. Even, by exposing areas of weakness in the algorithms, we are helping to strengthen the all of the word’s Web frisking mechanisms.
I’m not making a blanket statement about SEO in its entirety, though. There are plenty of people out there who call themselves SEO’s but who aren’t doing anybody any service whatsoever. If you have a Web site that does not, and has never made any attempt to, serve a purpose beyond your own wallet-fattening agenda, that you are actively trying to get to outrank good sites with valuable content, stop it. You are a parasite.
That said, the vast majority of people I have met are genuinely trying to serve the same end as the search engines: Giving people what they want. And even though the Google chicken came before the SEO egg, the future of search engines relies on the ingenuity of good SEOs as much as SEOs rely on “Google” remaining a verb in modern vernacular. But if you don’t want to be eaten alive and you’re actually looking for longevity, you should probably ask yourself often and honestly, am I cleaning the shark?