I used to be a strong proponent of common-sense SEO and a detractor from optimization by algorithm chasing. While I still believe strongly in common-sense SEO (now more than ever) my views on algorithm chasing have evolved a certain degree. Many SEOs believe that the two are mutually exclusive, meaning you can’t optimize in a common sense manner if you are going to optimize specifically for a search engine algorithm. There is some truth to this; I think that those that are proponents of either one method or the other are missing the big picture.
I still don’t believe in algorithm chasing in the way that most who practice this technique do because it tends to be very shortsighted and too narrowly focused in the approach. This is the main argument for the proponents of common-sense SEO, and in that they are correct. Algorithm chasers tend to focus on a very narrow set of elements in an attempt to “beat” the search engine at it’s own game. Often times, these algo chasers are effective, but only for a single search engine, and only until the search engine algorithm changes in ways that do not favor their techniques. This leaves them looking for the next set of elements in which to manipulate, and in doing so, rankings for their clients drop significantly while they attempt to figure out what “works” now.
The basic problem here is that the search engine algorithms analyze a very broad range of factors (more than most SEOs are aware of) and are very dynamic. Algorithm chasers are all about finding what works and trying to make that work for everyone. In the past, this type of SEO was very effective, but today’s search engine algorithms are not only broad in their range of analyzed elements; they are extremely dynamic in how those elements are analyzed. This means that using a mathematical formula to create an effective title tag or body copy is not longer effective from one site to the next. Optimizing from one site to the next requires a whole different set of “formulas” in order to be effective.
Today’s search engine algorithms favor “common-sense” SEO now more than ever. Search engines have gone beyond analyzing the mathematical elements of keyword usage on the page and are striving to analyze normal human behavior. All things being equal, if you write keywords into text so they sound natural, you should rank better than those who are simply trying to get the right number of keywords on the page.
But it goes far beyond that. Search engines are no longer just looking for keywords on the page; they are looking for other related words that should be on the page as well. Such words would be stemmed variations, natural alternatives and similarly related words. Again, there is no magical mathematic formula, which is why common-sense often works well.
This is also where most common-sense SEO proponents go wrong. They simply don’t believe they need to know or understand search engine algorithms. As long as its common sense then no additional knowledge or skills are required. This, too, is shortsighted and narrowly focused.
The biggest problem with common-sense SEO is that it relies only on what is commonly known. What is in the search engine algorithms is NOT commonly known but those who seek to understand how and why search engine algorithms do as they do will end up knowing far more than that which is common and are therefore more apt to succeed against those that rely only on what is common.
Common-Sense Algorithm Chasing:
The best SEOs are those that utilize what I will call common-sense algorithm chasing. They have a thorough knowledge of SEO that will make sense to the visitor as well as knowing and understanding where search engine algorithms are and where they are headed as well.
In any industry, you can hire an expert that knows you need the very best products, services, techniques etc. for the job to be done right. But if said expert doesn’t know which of these are best for different types of jobs, you won’t end up with the very best result for YOUR particular needs. You can also hire an expert that knows one particular product, service or technique very well, but if the expert isn’t aware that there are other product, services or techniques better suited for your particular job you’re going to find that the effectiveness of the work is limited.
SEO works in the same way. You need an SEO that understands search engine algorithms, how they function, their goals in producing quality results, while not focusing too narrowly on a few analyzed elements. Anything less than that and you’ll find that optimization will only end up being moderately successful. Common-Sense Algorithm Chasing is essential for any successful optimization campaign. If your SEO cannot provide that, its time to consider one that can.