If a tree falls in the woods and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?
I hated this “philosophical” question when I first heard it, but philosophy is not found in the quick logic that suggest “yes, it will make a sound.” For those that endeavor to understand philosophy, the question itself should cause us to reach into the creative cognitive reasoning part of our brain, to ask the question, to understand the possibilities, and to draw a conclusion based on our core beliefs. Therein lies the philosophical part. To stretch one’s mind a bit to the possible answers and the reasoning behind those answers. Truthfully I don’t like to argue every insignificant point, detail, or question. One could easily get lost in the philosophies of men. Following down paths of obscure logic to pointless directionless locations is most often a waste of time. So why then even begin such banter? Because if we have not traveled into the darkness from time to time then we have not explored new possibilities to find better roads. But it’s a delicate balance between wasting all our time in the darkness and vigorously pursuing known paths to new heights.
What is philosophy?
(I almost feel like I should stop right there, but being encouraged by Alan’s recent post The Psychology of SEO I will do my best to complete my thought.)
Take your pick of definitions… Eny–Meany–Miny–Moo… I pick number 7 to go.
7. A set of ideas or beliefs relating to a particular field or activity; an underlying theory: http://www.thefreedictionary.com/philosophy
How I see a philosophy; a core set of beliefs based on an entity’s principles, logic, and reasoning. Yes, both reasoning and logic. Although some would argue that philosophy is “a search for a general understanding of values and reality by chiefly speculative rather than observational means.” I feel that humans have the ability to reason for a purpose and that reasoning, speculation, and observation can lead us to a greater understanding. If logic is the study of arguments, and reasoning is the drawing of conclusions then both are good ingredients when developing a philosophy.
Why develop a philosophy for SEO?
There are many that believe that SEO is constantly changing. SEO today isn’t what it was 10 years ago, 5 years ago, or even 5 months ago. Even those that pronounce SEO dead. Those that chase after the blowing sands of SEO could find themselves in quick sand or buried in the next desert sand storm. How do we then avoid the pitfalls of the changing winds? We develop a deeper understanding of how the winds change, why the winds change, and the pressures that affect those changes. We seek to understand the winds. Once we understand the wind, it’s patterns, it’s reasons, it’s methodology, we can then apply that understanding to our values and/or test it against our interests.
There must come a point when researching and reasoning develop into a core belief. An entity must take a philosophical approach bridging the gaps between the anecdotal information, the statistical analysis, and the written declarations. Can one simply believe and accept that the search engine wants to provide its users with the best results when they are for profit organizations? Should we argue points on why a search engine wants irrelevant and spammy results showing up? The end in any of these questions should be what beliefs will we subscribe to. How will those beliefs affect our SEO? If we make such beliefs and draw conclusion then we can develop our SEO philosophy. The reason for doing so is that a core philosophy in SEO will allow you to move beyond the newest trendiest SEO topics. It will help anchor us in the shifting sands. It will provide a foundation to build on instead of leaving us running to and fro with shifting winds looking for better ground. Your SEO philosophy should be well founded so that you don’t loose site of your SEO architecture and strategy.
Here are a few SEO philosophy that have developed with or without the practitioners awareness:
The Mad Black Hatter
“I believe that the search engine wants to mandate it’s laws and rules but doesn’t wish to hire the police officers to enforce the law.” (Paraphrasing a conversation I had with a very effective SEO veteran.)
This particular mad hatter makes a lot of money bending the rules and in turn actually makes the search engine money. It would seem that his logic is that money rules the roost for both himself and the search engine. It even appears to be a win-win for both! Other black hatters complain that “the search engines use automation so why can’t I?” They argue that they are simply following the examples of the search engines and the fact that their tactics work are proof that they are giving the search engines what they want.
The Gray Matter
If it’s not written then it is free game. But don’t break the speed limit any more than the guy next you. Doesn’t everyone know that you won’t get pulled over at 10 mph over the speed limit?
The White Washed Hatter
The search engines are clear in their terms of service. They provide ample resources for webmasters to use so that webmasters can do it the right way. Their intent in providing so much for free is so that we can trust them. Site structure alone is sufficient to get sites ranked. If you build it well enough then you will get found and people will link to you and return. Natural and organic growth is the best way to do it. Search engines have and do remove websites from their index. The search engines do set up algorithms to beat out scammers and spammers and they continue to develop their software to be more accurate. The more rules the search engines create the better we can follow and the better the system will work.
Developing your SEO philosophy
Read. Contemplate. Watch. Listen. Learn. Move beyond pure numbers. Move beyond speculation alone. Use both reason and logic to understand the search engines, the variety of search engines, and their core values. Then evaluate your business model and what values your business carries. Align your goals and values with the goals and values of the search engines, as you perceive them, and you have a SEO philosophy. Ground your efforts in that core philosophy.
One of my personal philosophies is to try and live by the spirit of the law and the letter of the law. But if push comes to shove, the spirit of the law usually trumps the letter of the law. So I am sorry, but if my load speed on a site is a little slow due to more graphics and/or higher quality graphics and the search engine wants to ding me, I must subscribe to what my visitors want.
I know for a pest control guy that usually cracks jokes this post is going to be out of my genre, but I am not a static character.
“Relationships are not defined by a single moment but are a summation of all moments spent together.”
Philosophy Two, I love my job by choice. =)