The historian Eric Hobsbawm died recently. Hobsbawm was one of the last, if not the last, great Marxist historians of the twentieth century.
Even after the collapse of communism and the publication of information outlining the atrocities carried out in its name behind the Iron Curtain, Hobsbawm remained committed to his view.
He published some great historical works; sweeping accounts of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
As a committed Marxist he obviously saw things through the prism of the class struggle; the proletariat against the bourgeoisie, et al. He made his arguments and stuck by his theories. He thought and believed his version of history was correct.
All very interesting I’m sure you’ll agree, but you might also be thinking – what does Hobsbawm, Marxism and the class struggle have to do with search engine optimisation and online marketing?
Well, I personally think parallels can be made. There are many theories as to how to best to go about search engine optimisation. We have the white, grey and black hat techniques, afterall, and, dare I say it fifty shades of grey in-between.
The problem with theories is that they often lead to stubbornly set ways of doing and looking at things that can sometimes take a long time to change.
So now think about any organisations, search agencies or individual SEOs that you know. There must be at least one, probably five or six, that you can think of who are still dogmatically attached to certain ways of working and managing their SEO that is now well out of date; those still committed to using link-networks, article directories and offshoring content production to countries with no native language writers, for example.
Or possibly even worse, those that are blinkered to the avalanche of evidence about social media and its continued influence on SERPS.
You are always going to have differences in an industry that changes as quickly as search does; every good, professional practitioner will have their preferred way of doing things that generates the necessary results. That’s to be expected and is good for the industry - it’s called innovation.
But there is something slowly coming to a head in the search industry; the diverging view points of traditional tech SEOs and the new breed of content SEO marketer. This is happening with both in-house and agency SEOs, big and small.
Tech SEOs are used to stats and often have a computer science background; they are used to managing computer code issues; identifying problems and fixing them, sitting back to enjoy the fruits of their labour.
They also like automated problem solving programs - networks and devices that do a lot of the work for them with a few clicks.
They view online as a place of technology and gizmos, not an environment where real people interact. They come to search engine optimisation with the same view as a search engine spider.
This was great when the search engine spider acted like the automated piece of script that it was originally - designed to rank websites by particular factors; it easily fitted in with the traditional seo’s problem solving way of doing things.
Today Google and other search engines are spending an increasingly large amount of time trying to tweak their algorithms to act more and more like normal web users - albeit on steroids with a sophisticated algorithms behind them.
Athough still important, search engines are looking for more than just inbound links; they are looking for things like Facebook likes; time spent onsite; Twitter shares; Google+ likes; social bookmarks; frequency of website updating and an entire cacophony of other different factors.
It is far harder to hit on one overriding theory and to gather the necessary data that is responsible for success, which is exactly what Google wants. They don’t want anyone with a computer science degree and a guidebook on how search engines work to be able to rank number one for any keyword.
To succeed online these days it is far more about creating value in your brand through the publication of content that your target readers will like; then amplifying the content as much as possible by sharing it on social networks and guest blogging to relevant blogs.
There is no automation for success. Like the Marxist historians before them it is something many traditional SEOs are finding hard to come to terms with.
Content SEO marketers however, often coming to search with a background in journalism, marketing or social media - they know all about engagement, building an audience and telling brand stories.
The sooner the SEO industry as a whole comes to grips with this fact, the better it will be for everyone, brands, online marketers and, ultimately, the end user of search engines.