You hear it all the time; “SEO is an art”. But has anyone ever qualified that statement?  An experienced SEO of course understands what this statement means. But the client does not. That statement without any additional qualification is a platitude, or worse. It makes an SEO sound like a mystic or a charlatan. (not that there are not plenty of those around) It would benefit all SEO’s to have a story to bridge the understanding of what that statement means.

My way of explaining how SEO is an art; its the ability to have three conversations at the same time; one with the client, one with the public, and one with search engines.

Having simultaneous conversations with three people on two topics is like riding a unicycle while working on a Rubik’s Cube. Some people can actually carry on multiple simultaneous conversations. It takes practice, multitasking and a very good grasp of the language.  Another analogous profession would be that of the Translator – but another easy label does not fully illustrate the art of SEO.

First, the usual Search Engine Optimization topic of the conversation is singular, usually about a business. But the client’s language usually differs from the public. The Public tends to use slang while the client, being a professional, has learned to use official terminology or industry specific words. The professional client often has difficulty, or even an unwillingness converting their communications into “lay-terms”.

Now add to the conversation search engines. They don’t really speak the same language that people use – they perceive and treat words differently. The search engine has difficulty understanding linguistic subtleties and nuance, and in some instances, biases are built-in.

Take Cosmetic Surgery or Plastic Surgery – SEE THAT – right there are two terms meaning the exact same thing. It gets better. Its a fun (funny) topic too.

This industry calls itself Cosmetic Surgery but the public calls it Plastic Surgery. The doctor calls it “breast augmentation”, while the public searches for “b**b job”. (I have to do that or this post ends up in p*rn searches – which is not my area of expertise 😉 )

So needless to say, the doctor is reluctant to speak in lay-terms.  In person to person consultations, the doctor says “breast augmentation” and “rhinoplasty” and that adds the veneer of authority. We even think he is right to do so. But the online searcher does not take the time to spell “augmentation” or “rhino-something-I-cant-spell-that” when “nose job” and “b**b job” are so easy to type – who could misspell b**bs?

With these terms in play, the SEO needs to take great care that the search engine understands the doctor’s website is not a p*rn site while getting it into search for those huge search volume keywords. And if that is not challenging enough, he’s got to convince the doctor that this is good for business.

When the client (the doctor in this case) hears the SEO’s recommendation to use the term “b**b job” or “nose job” somewhere in the site content, he puts his face in his hands and moans, or motions to you to use the door.  This is the moment when you can say “SEO is an Art” and lose, or … you can tell this story.