The Black Magic of SEO

February 22, 2008

When I was at the University of Florida, we had a course called Computer Concepts and Applications. I learned some things about technology in that course that continue to shape my opinions today. What I learned there is a common topic on one of my favorite blogs, howtosplitanatom: how common people interact with technology… specifically the internet.

One concept discussed in that course was something called the “Oz Factor.” The oz factor is the idea that the average person simply wishes not to deal with technology except on an end-user level out of fear of the unknown. I live in the south and it is very common for me to speak to someone who says something along the lines of “I don’t mess with computers. It’s too complicated.” When any geek can tell you that technology, especially internet technology, is rarely THAT complicated. The difference is that some people just decide to figure it out, and others, since they do not understand it, refuse to.

This feeds into something I have currently been working with: SEO (or search engine optimization). For those who don’t know what I’m talking about… search engine optimization is what you do to a website to ensure that your website about dog biscuits is on the first page of a google (or whatever) search for “dog biscuits”. It is, literally, a huge industry. But SEO has become a sort of black magic. While there are books out on the subject and numerous best practices, I have started to see all sorts of consultants, amateurs, and companies claim to be SEO experts. Can they really be? When I see a junked up car driving down the road with vinyl lettering on the back window claiming that their company can take you to the top of google, my shennanigan meters go off. (I’m not making that up).

SEO is a growing industry. It is growing because search engine algorithms are intimidating to the average person. So, thanks to the oz factor, people would rather pay someone to deal with it than understand it. And thats ok, it just opens the door for many people to fake expertise in the subject. But those of us who understand it, can spot bull from a mile away.

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