“Classic” SEO?

I recently saw a TV ad that was pitching a new line of vintage shoes from Pat Benatar’s heyday. No, the original “Heartbreaker” wasn’t wearing the colorful slippers of her youth. It was a black-and-white video of a live performance, during which Benatar’s joined on stage by a spry, hologramesque blonde guitar player, ripping riffs in her new, yet vintage, shoes.

It’s that particular juxtaposition — that oxymoron — that made me pause. What does it takes to be categorized as “vintage” nowadays?

In winemaking, the bottle’s vintage is determined by the season’s yield of wine from a vineyard. When “vintage” is used to describe a cigar, it usually refers to the year the tobacco was harvested, not the year the cigar was made. At clothing stores, “vintage” usually means someone else wore the apparel for an extended time before it appeared in the store.

If new shoes can be called vintage out of the box, can certain SEO (define) tactics be considered vintage, too? I’ve heard the word “classic” applied to fundamental SEO elements before, usually bantered about the Web in one forum or another.

This is why I paused and pondered: As search marketers, are we in such a rush to establish the credibility of the industry we can only do so by fiddling with time?

Consider This

An antique is quantitatively defined as any object over 100 years old. Usually, old things deserve deference and respect. But let’s face it. Nothing served up on the Web can legitimately be labeled an antique, unless we account for Internet time.

Generally speaking, a classic is anything over 25 years old. But the term is generally applied to cars made 25 to 50 years ago, or songs sung on oldies radio stations, or something you order at a Wendy’s drive-up window.

I guess this means personal computers can justifiably be called “classic.” IBM made history on August 12, 1981 with the introduction of its first personal computer, the IBM 5150. Now that plastic-encased behemoth, once referred to as the first portable computer, is a bona fide classic of personal computing.

So when I hear people talk about or offering classic SEO services or putting forth the argument that classic SEO is dead, I scratch my head and wonder: How this is possible? When did search optimization become a classic?

The first Web site was created in 1991. Back then, the first person to optimize the site must have been Tim Berners-Lee. Granted, we’re definitely talking about content optimization of on-page elements, such as headings, body copy, and linked anchor text. Yet 15 years does not a classic make.

Established Oddities

People in the SEM (define) industry get a little funny sometimes. If you’ve ever attended an SEM conference, you know some personalities in the industry far surpass eccentric. They can be considered downright peculiar.

Search marketers tend to be sensitive to vernacular subtleties. This lingua franca tendency is the result of scrolling through sprawling spreadsheets of keywords, day after day.

Strictly speaking, there may not be a truly classic SEO marketer in existence today. However, if we consider the definition of “classic” to be an adherence to established standards and principles, then there are lots of classically oriented optimization experts in the field. Some of us could even be considered on the cusp of being a certain vintage.

Appropriately, our collective experiences do no work to legitimize SEO — results do. It’s the consequences of our collective actions and advice that have worked to establish search optimization as a nearly legitimate industry.

Our collective abilities to analyze cause and effect have gained respect over time because, generally speaking, we produce positive results that continue to affect the bottom line of businesses large and small, long after our work is done.

It’s our results that have taken root in the business psyche to make SEO less a point of contention and more a fundamental business practice. But we’re not a classic yet.

In Closing

The search market remains youthful, and optimal performance requires the ability to hit moving targets in Google, Yahoo, and MSN. So long as the vehicles of our industry continue to evolve over time, so too will search marketers change, both with their strategies and the tactics employed to produce substantive and demonstrative results.

SEO isn’t yet a business fundamental. But we’re well on our way to establishing performance standards for the SEM industry that will make search optimization a classic, circa 2021.

Want more search information? ClickZ SEM Archives contain all our search columns, organized by topic.

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