I’m watching an interesting SEO debate unfold in a secret SEO chat-space. There are about 80 people involved, many of them well known in the industry. They have an open channel with each other where an ongoing daily conversation has lasted several years.
Over the last hour, an intense conversation has covered the relationships between Google’s resources, page-speed, the interpretation of a href=, Caffeine, robots.txt, and, Google +.
I’m not going to mention the location of the chat-space or quote anything written within that conversation except to note it is happening, every day. It is a knowledgebase resource built on sharing experience live-time, a living encyclopedia of information on how search engines work. Many of the smartest technicians I’ve virtually met hang out in that space. It’s a safe place to talk about extremely complicated ideas.
The concept of a “secret SEO space” is not a well kept secret. They exist because professional SEOs need a place to talk about search without been monitored, quoted, or worse yet, misquoted. Along with the genial water-cooler type talk, there’s a lot of serious thought put into these conversations.
The ability good SEOs have to take the six topics mentioned above and treat them as factors in a mental calculation of search engine ranking potentiality is an awesome thing to behold. Even more awesome is the interjection of another person with something found in a patent filed by a company purchased by Google three months ago that forces everyone to quickly recalibrate their assumptions.
It’s the kind of conversation that simply couldn’t happen in an open Facebook environment or even at the more professionally focused LinkedIn. It’s the kind of conversation that has to happen because this is how good SEOs stay sharp. They learn from each other and share their own knowledge in a pay-it-forward intellectual economy.
Another reason these conversations have to happen in secret places is because of the number of people who don’t know enough to know they don’t know enough to use the knowledge they do have properly. These conversations take place on-the-fly with ideas postulated, tested, and proved or disproved over time. I would suggest that more ideas get discarded in these conversations than are accepted and adopted by other members of such groups. Given the number of under-skilled SEOs out there, the risk of writing something that is completely misunderstood or mishandled is too high.
I’d like to juxtapose the conversation about all those factors that prompted this article against an article published by ClickZ earlier this month. In it, a writer who moved out of the SEO field three years ago asks if SEO is dead. It coincided with a piece I wrote about industry responsibility published the same day.
The article annoyed me both personally and professionally. It marks the transit of a once proud brand I had once proudly allied my name with to a self-chosen exile into mass market driven ignorance. ClickZ comes from Search Engine Watch which comes from Incisive Media which purchased SEW and the Search Engine Strategies Conference series several years ago. It was the entrance to the big house Danny Sullivan built. Over the years, Search Engine Watch and the Search Engine Strategies conferences series played formative roles developing what has become our multi-billion dollar industry. It matters. Or, at least, it did. They recently rebranded before bringing in new management and editors with backgrounds in finance who don’t know the industry well enough to know not publish such drivel.
I’m being harsh, I know. The folks at ClickZ work under a financial noose strung by bean-counters and they’re likely doing the best they can. That’s the reality of big-time publishing and event coordination but it’s a dangerous one that flirts with the disingenuous. Did you ever wonder about the last thoughts of people after an errant GPS system directed them across a washed out bridge? It probably isn’t about full tongue flirtations but, if it is, that’s not a bad way to go out. ClickZ could do worse for a final memory. Unfortunately, ClickZ will leave a bad memory in the industry because their newest editors have little to no historic memory of the industry they write to.
Here’s an analogy that better illustrate the point. I grew up in Canada and because of that I understand the game of ice hockey in a way most of my American colleagues don’t. The same can be said about my American colleagues’ knowledge of NFL Football against mine. I know how the game is played but lack the immersion necessary to truly understand its many nuances. I was recording at the WebmasterRadio studios in Florida a couple winters ago and watched a local broadcast of a Florida Panthers game. The commentary was awful to the point of absurd because the announcers didn’t know the game as well as they might have known other professional sports.
The same thing happens when discussing search engine optimization and digital marketing. If you don’t have the years of knowledge immersion in the field brings, you can’t have a high-level conversation about it. Try talking about thermal dynamics with an aviation engineer for a similar experience. There’s simply too much to know before you can properly estimate the nuances. There’s a great value in knowing how complicated systems work, especially when those systems provide the vast majority of the world’s information.
Another thing about the members of such groups; they tend to take their work seriously. They understand the field and accept responsibility for it. When they talk together, as they do every day, they talk with passion and knowledge and accuracy.
During a heated part of the SEO debate I mentioned earlier, I wrote this line, “Put a lot of Google’s advantages together and you get, Google. Its resources are bigger than awesome.” I was going to add it to the conversation but if I did, I would not feel comfortable sharing it here. Someone else wrote something similar a few minutes later anyway. I sometimes wonder what they talk about at ClickZ but then I get bored and go back to watching the well educated debate.
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