The Art and Science of SEO
There’s no denying that SEO is an exact science. Each search engine has its own algorithm to sort the various webpages that are scraped from the World Wide Web on a daily basis. The algorithms have been created by humans and have a finite number of factors that determine what the outcome of what a search query will be. Therefore if you knew the algorithm and applied a little trial and error you would be able to create the ‘perfect’ website or webpage for your selected search queries. Thus search engine optimisation (SEO) is strictly science.
However this is not something that to the best of my knowledge is achievable and due to this many individuals approach SEO from a more free flowing and artistic stand point. First of all no search engine is going to reveal its algorithm, well except Blekko. This is the formula that their business is built upon and revealing this would open the gates to those interested in manipulating the search engines… SEOs!
If you consider that Google claims to have over 200 factors that affect its ranking algorithm, check out this Webmaster World thread to see how far the community have come to identifying these, then you can see what a challenge it would be to make a site to meet all of these requirements. Of course even knowing all of these factors wouldn’t ensure you of top positions as the algorithms have many more facets than this. Consider the complicated weighting of each factor, along with conflicting factors, thresholds and the fact that Google rolls out changes on a daily basis.
So why is SEO an art and not a science? Simply because the algorithms used by search engines are far too complicated to deconstruct to such a granular level. Instead of trying to determine each variable that gets put in at the start of the algorithm it has proved far more fruitful to determine the result the search engines are trying to achieve. For example instead of focusing on the keyword density of your copy, not that it would help, instead most of today’s top SEOs take a more holistic approach and focus on creating content of a high quality.
SEO is always going to be part art part science. An article without your keyword or phrase in it is unlikely to rank for the phrase easily however a keyword stuffed article is going to be of little use to end users. At the end of the day SEO is a means to an end and not an end in itself; if the result is more traffic to your site resulting in greater revenue and ultimately an improved ROI then you are successfully optimising your site for the search engines.