SEO Philosophy: Naturalists vs. Eugenists

To simplify this post, let’s say there are two types of search engine optimization (SEO) professionals out there who I’m calling the Naturalists and the Eugenists.

Naturalists don’t necessarily wear Birkenstocks, smell like patchouli and eat Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, and Eugenists don’t necessarily wear white lab coats, split DNA and try and grow tomatoes that will feed a family of four for dinner.

Both the Naturalist and the Eugenist are in the business of search engine optimization, but they differ on their view of SEO.

The Naturalists view good search engine rankings as the end product of developing a Web site with good content.
They can lead a client to more effective keywords and stronger copy,
encourage them to get incoming links, but it’s a more natural approach.
If you’re not doing it for the benefit of your target audience, then
you probably shouldn’t be doing it for the search engines, goes the
philosophy.

They don’t promise a number one ranking for a specific keyword to
their clients. (Perhaps they realize that at this point in the
evolution of the Web, the sheer volume of competition makes this
unlikely or even impossible.) They espouse "slow and steady wins the
race."

The Eugenists, on the other hand, promise page one results. They
are much more aggressive in their methods, sometimes employing methods
that some people might consider deceptive. (This perspective is, of
course, up for debate.) In any case, they are more likely to try and
reverse-engineer a successful solution.

In the past, some of them have used doorway pages, hidden text, and
link farms. Some people view these techniques as legitimate, since when
first introduced there was no specific rule against them. Others see
these as unscrupulous tricks meant to undermine the purpose of the
search engines: to return relevant results to searchers.

I had been thinking about this for a while…ever since I discovered
someone doing a seven day online e-course about search engines. I had
originally checked it out because it was so close in name to my own 7 Days to Search Engine Success, I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t being plagiarized. (Wouldn’t be the first time.)

As it turned out, the only similarities were the name and the topic…the approach was completely different. Not that this person didn’t have some good points and provide some sound advice.
It was just that their methods were much more aggressive than my own.
It was much more about reverse-engineering the process, as opposed to
developing content that would attract search engines and retain
visitors, which was my mantra.

I’m not saying one approach is better than another, (although
reading over some of my word choices, perhaps I am.) Different
companies may find one approach more fits in with their business
philosophy.

I would, however, warn businesses who want an aggressive approach to
do background checks on any SEO firm they do business with. Often a
sharp, dramatic upturn in search engine traffic is followed by a
company being banned by a search engine if it feels the company has
"spammed" its way to the top. A simple Google search on an SEO firm
will usually uncover any problems previous clients had.

However, I decided to post this today after reading two articles by search engine experts I respect. First, Jill Whalen of High Rankings in her recent newsletter:

Caller: I’m willing to pay you whatever your fees are, but we just need to be #1.

Jill: Perhaps you should try PPC ads?  That’s really the only way to ensure that you always show up for the keywords of your choice.

Caller: We already do PPC and it’s killing us.  We can’t
afford it anymore, which is why we are looking at natural SEO.  We want
free search engine visitors.

Jill: Well, that’s all fine and dandy, but it’s just really
not what we do. We optimize your entire site so that it’s the best it
can be for the search engines as well as your users. We help it to be
found in the engines for tons of phrases that relate to it, but we
can’t simply *place* your site in the engines for a specific keyword,
in a certain position.

The second from Wayne Hurlbert of Blog Business World in his post SEO business: Real world marketing:

He [the prospect] said he wanted to be number one in Google for
his search term. The keyword was precisely that. One word. It was a
very, very, very uber ultra competitive keyword at that. In all honesty,
it would take a very long time to even get close to ranking well for
that term.

Of course, the word wasn’t the problem. As I
explained to him, the entire purpose of SEO as I see it, is not to rank
number one in Google for any one search term. That search placement
might be of benefit to his ego, but of little real value to his online
business.

I told him that SEO is only part of my service
package. Along with achieving higher search rankings, we also improve
the site’s content, and increase the number of conversions of that
higher visitor traffic to paying customers. It’s a holistic approach to
SEO and internet marketing.

My point isn’t which of these two experts is cribbing off each other 😉 but rather that this is the approach that I recommend.

First off, risking the long-term success of your online business
is not worth getting a temporary boost in search engine traffic or
ranking.

Secondly, driving traffic to your Web site is only half the battle…and not even the important half!
If you’re bringing in traffic, but not converting them into clients, it
doesn’t matter how much additional traffic you get…you’re still going
to be batting .000.

Rich Brooks
SEO Naturalist