For the past two weeks our industry has been debating the need for standards, many of the regular blogs have weighed in as have most of the major players in our space. The discussion has been heated at times and while the idea has gotten the attention there definitely has not been any accord.
At the end of February, Chris Boggs and I started an exchange on the topic. We had suggested prior to this that there was a need for standard definitions of the various measurement terms and while this may be a peripheral part of the discussion is could have been a good starting point.
In the past week Jill Whalen of High Rankings outlined why we should not or cannot standardize search marketing, stating "Industry market forces and the search engines themselves will eventually dictate what best practices are and are not."
Jill I have to disagree with the statement - never let the fox guard the hen house. The search engines should not dictate our standards - they set their rules and we work with and around them. We work for the client not the engines. You mention that but use it to say no standards... that last point supports not letting the engines set them more than there is no need.
Lisa Barone of Bruce Clay makes the argument that there is a "need to outline what SEO is and what it means to optimize a Web site. We need to establish best practices, what the risk is for abandoning them, and what all these different terms that we throw around actually mean."
From these two articles we have seen many people weigh in with some interesting comments.
Kalena Jordan, a fellow Aussie and founder of Search Engine College, has been very vocal recently on anything about standards. Her blog Ask Kalena came out against the recently launched SEMCompare that gathers user reviews of search firms - "trouble with a capital T" - but she does offer an alternative. "Creating standards is not going to get rid of shoddy SEOs or make them switch hats. Education and publicity has always been the solution".
Kalena while I agree that education is important for maturing our industry, I think your response encompasses where we are right now. We see the issue differently. There are really many parallel areas and some of the discussion has been about definitions which do need to be standardized and then behaviors which may not need a standard given the creativity of our industry.
The ever controversial Michael Martinez of SEO Theory suggests we need to drop the term search engine optimization altogether. Come on Mike we know we are not optimizing search engines but rather the sites the engines rank and include in their databases.
But I do agree with your opinion that "skepticism is important while laying the groundwork for further study by all."
Kim Krause of Cre8asite Forum brings up an interesting question for the topic. "Just out of curiosity, who would enforce standards? How would they be enforced? Are they intended to be?"
Kim I don't think there is a need to police standards, more to outline them so customers can have an idea of what to look for as well as new people in our space have an idea of where to start.
Okay I left many comments and commentators out but hopefully this brings the major views together. Without some guidelines we leave our industry in the "Wild Web" stage that has been there from the beginning when porn and spam was the major effective marketing areas.
We have come a long way... in my opinion it is time to become more structured and accessible.