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Is SEO Overrated?

Great question. It was asked recently and hotly debated on SitePoint.

SEO, as you probably know, is short for Search Engine Optimization, which is the process of designing a website so that it ranks highly in the search engines when someone searches for specific phrase(s) related to the site.

This debate is timely considering that that BBC just came out with an interesting article quoting a Jupiter Media Survey that people expect to find what they’re looking for on a search engine in the first three pages. In fact, 62% of the people surveyed click on a result on the first page. 41% of users switched to another search engine if they didn’t find something to click on the first page.

A desire for instant gratification should come as no surprise. “They [users] know what they want, and they want to find it immediately, and the majority want to find it on page one,” says Robert Murray, president of iProspect.

So if your marketing plan includes clicks from search engines, SEO needs to be part of the plan.

Some comments from the thread:

As long as your website has good content and has all the requirements to make it usable and accessible to humans and SE, then you’re good. That implies a good use of the HTML tags and attributes, a good URL design and the likes, which you learn through SEO.

SEO leads to good HTML and URL design. I think that’s a great point. In my opinion the key to ranking high is about quality content. That doesn’t mean you don’t need some SEO pixie dust — it just means that you need good content for the search engine to index. Conversely, as someone on SitePoint so aptly put it, if your website sucks, all the SEO in the world isn’t going to help you. In other words,

SEO = Smart Design (Good Content, Usable, and Accessible)

what is overrated are people that call themselves SEO’s.

I have never called myself that – I’m a developer, SEO is part of developing a site properly.

A mechanic doesn’t call himself a spark-plug optimizer…


Here’s the opposing viewpoint. It made me chuckle to look at where this person is from — New York City. What were the odds?

SEO sucks…it’s crap and over rated.

SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMIZATION…what a bunch of bologna!

It should be renamed to


Really not one so-called “SEO Expert” can guarantee you results. No one knows the Google Algo and most spend way too much time in the pursuit of SEO. I bet if those wasting time on SEO would create better content they would rank better. Nitpicking your ‘keyword saturation’, in-bound links, out-bound links, keyword competition, and every other little piece of info pretty much amounts to a hill of beans.

1. Make site cross-browser compatible and validate it.
2. Create content
3. Create more content
4. Continue adding even more content

That’s really all you should be doing. Instead people are overtly concerned why they don’t rank well for a SERP. Maybe because your site isn’t relevant for the term..simply make more content…never stop.

I find myself agreeing with this with less -uh- colorful words. This doesn’t mean you should pay no attention to SEO. There are some great articles and howto’s at

I’ve been reading and enjoying Aaron Wall’s SEO Book. He’s a good guy and the book has some terrific ideas for SEO-ing your site.

And of course you can hang out at SitePoint and read some good discussions. Here’s one last thing to ponder:

Have you guys heard that Google just bought a new search algorithm for a college student? The algorithm in the most basic sense is like this… Say you search for “civil war”, it pulls up related things like “slavery” “confederates” “the union” “general grant” “general lee”… Not necessarily stuff that has “civil war” in it… I think this is when SEO will be minimized, and content will be most of all that matters.

Very interesting.

4 Responses to “Is SEO Overrated?”

  1. Andrew Johnson Says:

    Calling SEO bologna is like calling a general a con artist because he hasn’t won every battle he has fought. For the unbelievers, ask Shoemoney how much his income increased after learning SEO.

  2. Matt DeAngelis Says:


    I think the phrase >>SEO is Bologna<< is a bit off the mark. You need SEO to get people to your site. Once they get there, if your content is lousy they’re going to leave.

    I was reading Aaron Wall’s SEO Book in bed last night and it dawned on me that I was on page 50 and he hadn’t talked about SEO yet — that’s because getting your site ready for SEO is as important as SEO itself.

    There certainly are extremes of opinion on this, and I just want to add that as an Italian American I am offended at the use of ‘Bologna’ to denote negativity. (Just kidding…no emails please).

  3. Mike Levin Says:

    Yes, SEO is overrated. And long-live SEO.

    The worst thing about the field is the name SEO. I mean really. If that naming system were used for the field of public relations, it would be called media relationship optimization.

    SEO can be as simple as create content and keep adding content, so long as the basic mechanics of the site don’t make it invisible. So, if you’re using blogging software, you can just worry about your content.

    But with most long-established sites, simply getting those basic mechanics right and good design — as simple as it sounds — is a much larger challenge than many companies can handle alone. Some very competent people who totally understand the good HTML/good usability proposition still scratch their head and wonder how to get more of the un-paid hits which are their due based on (sometimes) products and websites with worldwide name recognition.

    The trick is that it takes discipline, negotiating politics, touching machinery that cannot/must not break. SEO is a graceful dance through the world of politics, technical issues, and aesthetic and usability concerns. What SEO USED to mean is overrated. What it means today is misnamed.