More or less everyone who practices SEO today used to do something else. Maybe they went from programming to SEO, design to SEO, marketing to SEO, business to SEO, or some other shift. It is simply too new of a field for someone to just start with it. It may be the previous life experience prepared, or failed to prepare, an individual for this field. It may be the previous life experience biased on individual one way or another. How you see this happening will probably mostly depend on if you view SEO as science or marketing.
Personally, my previous job was doing research in a genetic engineering lab at a university campus. I was dual majoring in computer science & genetics and got a dual-job doing research and working on a website for the lab’s genomic database. So I am very much a man of science, of critical thinking, and logical reasoning. I believe SEO is a science.
One of the problems though is that obviously many people do not feel the same way. I don’t know the background of everyone who professes to be an SEO expert, but I’m sure many moved from non-technical or unscientific fields. So, if SEO is science, then you have people untrained in scientific principles & methods making observations and reporting their conclusions as facts. Is it any wonder you get so much misinformation out there?
An easy example I want to use is one used in one of my earliest college level science classes (I do not remember which). A researcher made a study that showed a direct relationship between quality of home appliances and intelligence in children. The researched concluded that newer or more expensive home appliances must therefore have an affect on intelligence. To go back even further I recall in high school being presented with the statement “Dog eats meat, man eats meat, man must be a dog.” Both examples show how logical reasoning can break down by attributing coincidence as causation.
In the case of the appliances, the truth is wealthier families tend to both have more highly educated parents and nicer appliances. Higher educated parents also tend to have more intelligent children. That the appliances had a direct affect on intelligence was a faulty conclusion to make.
To show a more relevant example; there are those out there who believe that domain age is an important factor for SEO because they have seen a correlation showing older sites ranking well. In actuality older sites tend to have more content, more links, and if they were all that bad they wouldn’t have lasted so long. Older sites, also, tend to have more experienced webmasters, webmasters who probably know more about making a site friendly and accessible.
So you have people out there who do not have the critical thinking skills to realize that they may be attributing a coincidence as causation when they say older domains provide a direct benefit to SERPs. Not that of course that I can prove they don’t, it isn’t possible to do a proper experience showing such, but I think that if someone saying that it helps unequivocally without mention of it possibly just being a coincidence shows a lack of forethought.
Search Engine Marketing, the use of paid placement to achieve promotional goals, is certainly marketing. However, most easily defined, SEO is the reverse engineering of a computer algorithm based on intuitive observation and limited experimentation. If that isn’t science, I don’t know what is. If I had to pin it down I would say it most resembles meteorology. We don’t control the weather anymore than we control the algorithm, all we can do is study it and do some limited experimentation.
You wouldn’t ask a marketing consultant to reverse engineer a Wii, you shouldn’t ask one to do it for Google’s algorithm. I think that my background in science, and as a result my natural skepticism and love of cold hard factual data, has had a lot to do with my track record of being proved right about controversial SEO topics. Meta Tags, Outgoing Links, Special TLD Bonuses, time has shown me to be right on all of these. I think it’ll do the same for domain age and other more recent theories.
So, what do you think? Is SEO more science or marketing? And if it is one or the other, does the one it is not have any business practicing it?