Why is SEO actually work? – Perficient Enterprise Content Management Blog
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Why is SEO actually work?

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HTML 1.0 ManualOr maybe the complete question is:  Since lots of SEO standards match HTML 1.0-4.0 standards why does it take additional work to optimize a web page after you go through all the trouble of creating it?

When you think about it, why isn’t it already optimized?   For a large site with a few million pages this can be tons of re-work; maybe too much to even consider engaging without a compelling reason.  In today’s world where we have advanced process management like Six Sigma telling us that a managed process costs us 75% more when that process is repeated for exceptions then why don’t we do it right the first time?

To understand why things have developed this way we have to look back a few decades.

Remember back when you learned HTML?  I do.  I remember downloading HotDog from Sausage software and being very pleased that the installer finished as deafening alarms were ringing and our company was being evacuated for a bomb threat.

I spent the rest of that day building web pages on my laptop in a mall, a restaurant, and a friend’s house publishing locally to Netscape.  If you’re an old geek you remember being led around places while you were almost permanently tethered to your first laptop.  Life was simpler back then.

But why was it simpler?

Could it have been because publishing in HTML was like publishing in a modern word processor like MS Word, Word Perfect or Word Star?  When I started it was more like vi where I actually wrote source tagging.  So why do I remember that it was like using a popular document processor?  Maybe because it was so long ago, but regardless there may be more to this change in editing style.

I faintly remember that there was a time when you were compelled to adhere to HTML standards and then you suddenly did not.  I remember a page that I was working on fixing itself after I upgraded my browser.

That sounds suspicious.

What happened was that I forgot to close a table tag and the browser I upgraded from did not allow the table to render.  Curiously, once I upgraded the browser to the next available version it seemed that the sloppy tagging was no match for the browser and the table rendered as well as if there were no errors at all.

Browser wars of the early 1990's

Browser Battle of 1991

The fix was merely a by-product of the browser wars between Netscape and Microsoft who when fighting for market share appealed to webmasters by interpreting code that was falling farther and farther away from proper HTML standards.

Not only were sloppy tables rendering correctly but all sorts of things began to work by using less and less conventional coding.

It seems we have identified that the ‘natural looking’ evolution of poor HTML coding standards was not organic to technology at all.  It was driven by the browsers vying for market share.

I’m glad we’re past that. But are we?

I’m going to be 40 this fall.  Go look at your webmasters and see if they look older or younger than 40, and here is why.

How can someone that didn’t even see the evolution of the browser wars be expected to really understand HTML source code standards?  During the internet boom there was not enough time to publish everything.  So time spent publishing with good source code was considered unnecessary.  After all, since browsers didn’t care and customers didn’t care so why should editing tools or webmasters care?

Unfortunately, there was no money in good HTML source.  “Finish that page” meant “make it render and get on with the project”.  No muss – no fuss and none of that extra stuff you don’t see anyway.

Well guess what?  The unfortunate reality is that companies are only now compelled to repeat the process and it is costing more to do it now than the first time.  Six Sigma belts would call poor coding standards the exception to building web pages.  I call it the phenomenon of convention.  Regardless of what you name it the fact is that implementing good HTML coding standards today is re-work.  I guess when we thought there was no money in good HTML source we were wrong.

Who do we have to thank for this?  For me, I have to say thanks to the competition in the early 90’s for browser market share.  If you are responsible for managing a multi-million page commerce site you should probably schedule to thank your SEO team before your competition has time to thanks theirs for implementing an effective SEO strategy.

3 thoughts on “Why is SEO actually work?

  1. Pingback: Why is SEO actually work Part 2 | Enterprise Content Management Blog

  2. Good article, however I dont think it now really applies to SEO…I agree that historically this is all true, however now, when you put together a website it should be W3C compliant and ofcourse cater for disabled users. If you do this, then your HTML standards and code is more than fine…Search Engines have come a long way, and now days they index and show results purely on algorithms relating to relevant content (no standards needed there really)

    SEO today is nothing to do with browsers or good or bad HTML, it is purely about content, relevant content to users, links between relevant sites and communities and ofcourse, your social media presence.

    For right or wrong, SEO is marketing, communications and public relations, it has next to nothing to do with IT or website standards anymore

    This is something I have spoken about a number of times, my recent post of which is http://andrewonedegree.wordpress.com/2010/05/27/don%e2%80%99t-use-it-to-provide-seo-and-smo/

    1. John Sisler Post author

      I agree wholeheartedly Andrew but the point I am going to try and deliver in my next post is that for a handmade or hand-templated website you have as many options as you can think of to comply with W3C however there are a lot of very large Content Management solutions that are not as accommodating.

      On one hand if you have a few hundred items in inventory you are probably not in the market for an enterprise solution but (unfortunately) I see a lot of websites with muti-million product inventories that are not being indexed.

      Probably the thing I appreciate most about what you said is that content relevance which we hope is driven by a marketing strategy. You are also correct that search engines have come a long way related to indexing capabilities however I still see people struggling to get indexed for fear of voiding services for some very expensive ECM packages.

      The ECM vendors are not really to blame either since their role is providing a sound framework and how can they predict how a customer wants to populate a title tag? Defaulted schemas are not as valuable as a version that is focused and compelling so the gap lies between some of the larger vendors and the clients understanding…. which was a discussion brought to me that inspired this post ;).

      Based on the examples brought to me I think that there is still opportunities to help people get to the W3C compliance by virtue of a scalable and easily customizable system.

      So yes, SEO IS marketing but sometimes we need to help some folks get indexed before its worth customizing the messages.

      Thanks very much for the comment though, I think my scope was more narrow than the post introduced.

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