He walked down the quiet street, a leopard in the concrete jungle. Eyes down, but watching the angles. Hands in his coat pocket concealing but preoccupied. It was then from the shadows a figure emerged, unwanted but unrelenting.
"Hey buddy, you lookin'?", poured forth with a cloud of smoke.
"Naw, I don't do that crap." he blew back. "Don't ya know that stuff will get you messed up? Just look, right up there" as he pointed to the surveillance camera across the way. "Google sees everything."
The fedora topped stranger faded further into the darkness. "These are some awesome high PageRank links though. Cheap. And you just know the other guys are using." ... How this ends, you tell me?
OK, enough with the silliness. But it brings to mind a few things that are actually worth discussing. Let's explore a few concepts.
Google Isn't Out to Get You
Now, this one seems to be one of the largest heads on the many headed hydra of SEO paranoia. Time and time again we see those that truly are out-thinking themselves.
Yes, it is duly noted that Google (and other IR systems) have an entire wing of the AIR command dedicated to dealing with those that might seek to manipulate their creations. There are even more than a few IR lectures on video where those pesky programmers seem almost psychotic when discussing such matters.
But it's still just not as prevalent as some passionate pros seem to envision. That's the tricky thing with search engines. The programmer types don't always get what they want.
Certainly, Matt Cutts would just love to increase his budget and sway. But these aren't always the realities.
When folks talk about IR patents and papers, it's always best to keep that in mind. Things don't always work out in the wash.
I think first we should start adding a bunch of videos, images and ecommerce into the SERPs. Then we put out some monthly algo updates - that will really mess them up.
Hey, has anyone considered sending out a whole bunch of webmaster notifications for unnatural links - just for fun ya know? Another sting I was considering was maybe saving all that analytics data and pay-per-click data to start ranking things. totally lean things in the favor of the big brands.
I also think that giving them keyword data sucks. So we will use the whole "privacy thing" as an excuse to take a bunch of that stuff away from them. I mean really, once we deal with the SEO menace, we shall finally sit in our place as rulers of the known universe.
You're Not That Special
Then of course there is the whole problem of the SEO inferiority complex; the need to be special. Maybe it's because we have been marketing whipping posts. Could have been an accident when it was a child. I'm unsure. I do know that each time Google shuffles to scratch its backside my brethren far and wide start to pronounce how it was somehow just to combat, mislead or piss them off.
Sure, some things might be related to adversarial IR, but ya know... just once in a while, it might be about something else - search quality, better spelling, personalization, sentiment, semantic markup, or even pressure from privacy concerns. Not every change is about us.
I'll venture that SEOs don't actually come up in conversation nearly as much as some would have us believe.
Google Is Out To Get You
Ya know what? Maybe you're right. They do have all those nasty link spam assassins, Matt's Minions. Just sitting there in that massive hanger with the entire might of Google's collective AIR power. Surely they are spending that time thinking of new ways to screw you over, right? There is no shortage of information which, on the surface, would support that.
One could look at it and realize at the end of the day, any of us could be caught in the jaws of the great white that is Google. These aren't laws. They are algorithmically and manually policing of their data.
What might be acceptable today, may not be so a year out. Nothing is immune.
You must always future proof. It is wise to understand that there is always the chance that Mr. Murphy and his own formidable staff are lurking at all times.
The Sky Isn't Falling
Properly shaken but not stirred now? Great. It was kinda the point of the ride. The point where madness and wild hypothesis takes over from tempered curiosity seems well at hand. We've even now had clients coming to us stitching theories some friend heard from a friend's uncle's dog.
Were you around when I was on about traffic loss and penalties? Most times there are simpler explanations that a calm mind and steady hand will find in short order.
You can certainly say that if you're straying too close to the edge, through negligence or ignorance, Darwin has already laid out your evolutionary path.
This thing of ours is not simply about optimizing websites, code, pages. We're (supposed to be?) about more than link whores and hype mongering. There is a part of SEO that is to know where that bears den is and keep our clients protected.
We don't need to be running around after every (monthly) algo update post, every webmaster notification, word from a Googler's lips, screaming to the world that something is amiss and how they're out to persecute so-and-so. Get a grip. Get over it. Stop scaring the noobs and clients.