If SEO is Rocket Science, I’m a Pretzel

    March 5, 2007

Thank heavens that the SEO contest to rank #1 in Google for “Dave Pasternack” has finally revealed the truth: SEO is rocket science. It’s clearly rocket science. This frog can finally be free to express his true feelings, and boy, let me tell ya, it sure is liberating.

The contest pitted my boss, PPC guru and Did-it.com co-founder Dave Pasternack, against certain members of the SEO community. Dave had pointed to some data in a Marketing Sherpa report that suggested that SEO firms were experiencing a growth slowdown, and attributed this to marketers’ realizations that SEO was not rocket science, and in many cases could be handled internally. Up went the SEO community’s dander, and the debate escalated until Threadwatch.org created the contest.

Caught in the crossfire between these determined foes was another Dave Pasternack, a rising culinary star at the restaurant Esca in Midtown Manhattan. In a stroke of SEO genius that might even go beyond rocket science, it was actually a page about the chef Dave Pasternack that took first prize when the contest ended on March 1st

At the end of the contest, Threadwatch.org reviewed the extraordinary, brainbusting tactics that were used during the contest. The tactics they list include the following: “301 redirects, leveraging authority domains, parasitic SEO techniques, registration of exact match domain names…pushing for links on blogs and in the mainstream media, and Did-it.com restructuring its site and using the cancer card to try to rank for [Dave’s] name.” Threadwatch also notes that there was a Google algorithm shift during the contest.

Let’s review the tactics and attempt to divine the acute wizardry behind them. Keep in mind that we are mere mortals, and as such we may only be able to scratch the surface of the strategy of the SEO Olympians.

First, the 301 redirect. The idea is that, when you want to change Web addresses, you can move the data or files and tell humans and search engines where to find them. This way, you avoid losing the Page Rank that the old content had. The 301 redirect…wait for it…actually redirects human Web browsers and search engines spiders from the old link to the new link. To implement it you have to create (or use an existing) .htaccess file with the code “redirect 301 /old directory/old file http://www.newdomain.com/new directory/new file.” Now that’s clearly something right out of Dr. Werner Von Braun’s Advanced Propulsion handbook!

Next, leveraging authority domains. This is real voodoo folks, so fasten your seatbelts. When you get a highly ranked Web site to link to you, you are leveraging an authority domain. Any link, even one on a small Blog or mainstream media site, shows the search engines that you are important. Links are like votes for Page Rank, even if you campaign for them by offering to donate money to the American Cancer Society. I’ll just give you a moment to catch your breath while you take this in.

“Parasitic SEO techniques” usually imply the use of a link farm, which consist of multiple pages which lack any useful information but contain tons of hyperlinks. These are considered a form of SEO spam as they do not help searchers find the information that they are looking for, but rather fool the search engines’ ranking algorithms into thinking that a page contains relevant information. What a great technique! Thank you, SEO community, for helping to create an Internet with useful information that is easily accessible to all.

Now I may be wrong on this next one, but please forgive me and try to understand that I work for a humble PPC firm. Registering “exact match domain names” is, I believe, the act of using a domain registration service such as Register.com, and buying a domain name that contains the keywords you want to be found for. In this case, it would be “davepasternack.org, -.biz, -.info, and/or -.net.” This sure makes the moon landing look like child’s play, doesn’t it?

Finally, we at Did-it restructured our site. This means that we added links to our own page and moved certain files and directories around to make it more search engine friendly. We decided to use the abstruse, counter-intuitive HTML editing software called Dreamweaver to do this. Boy, was it tough. We had to call in MENSA specifically to help us solve this riddle. Even after we had done it, I don’t think we can do it again. Unfortunately, this kind of work is clearly not “a set it and forget it solution,” and we’ll have to restructure our site on a daily basis to really compete with the SEO Olympians.

Google may have made a tweak to its ranking algorithm during the contest. These tweaks are designed to help searchers find the most relevant information. To cope with these tweaks, the best thing a Web Site can do is be the most relevant authority for their keywords. How do you become the best at what you do? That’s an insoluble mystery to anyone, let alone this humble frog.

Could a rocket scientist do any of this? I don’t think so. They just don’t have the brainpower. After all, according to Wikipedia, being a rocket scientist requires mere mastery of “fluid mechanics, astrodynamics, mechanics, mathematics, control engineering, materials science, aeroelasticity, avionics, reliability engineering, noise control, and flight testing.” But what is all that next to a 301 redirect or link-building campaign?

Now that this contest has finally revealed the truth, I’ll wager that it’ll be easier to get a job at NASA than at any SEO firm. It’s a good thing too, because clearly our brightest minds should be sitting at their computer screens trying to demystify Google rather than involving themselves in such leisurely pursuits as space exploration and scientific discovery.

In conclusion, in case you haven’t yet had a “methinks the frog doth protest too much” moment while reading this article, feel free to have one now. And, as a brief postscript, by restructuring our site and doing a small link-building campaign, we ranked higher than all of the contest entrants, many of whom used more of the tactics described above, except for one. Not bad for a know-nothing PPC firm, eh?


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