SEO Science or Art?

Hi there,

I am just about to launch an E-Commerce business after 1 year of development time. I have been thinking a lot lately about how I am going to approach the SEO as it is an entirely online company. This company is in a very competitive market sector so I understand that competent SEO must be my gateway to prosperity.

I intend to spend significant time over the next months learning all about it but to date I am just a developer who is SEO-curious. I am aware of the basics so I don’t ask this question from an entirely naive point of view, I just haven’t delved deeper yet so I would appreciate input from those who have.

I would like to ask those with more experience on the forum the following:

Is SEO more of a science that you can learn and master like software engineering?
Can you literally spend the hours online and with the books and tech-talks and achieve a good guaranteed result? Or is it more of an art form where innovators must constantly turn new ticks to keep ahead? Is it brute force or something else entirely?

If this is a science, is online marketing beginning to become dominated by those same corporate forces who rule the non-cyber advertising world? Are they always going to squish smaller businesses underfoot just because they have resources and can afford to pay a team of SEO managers £25k++ a year to spend 48 hours a week working on it.

Am I at a distinct disadvantage because I have to work as a developer and do my business SEO in my spare time?

I understand that the answers here are not necessarily as straightforward as I make out but I must begin testing the water so I look forward to hearing your views

I wish there was a clear answer for that. I would have to say that science is the best description. Better yet, the science of evolution. No one has pinned it down perfectly and it continues to evolve.

Hey thanks for your response trigerphish,

Yes I am hearing that it is a bit of a mystery myself. Someone told me the other day that google themselves are yet to have a clear set of boundaries for what works best because it’s still new and the data is yet to be collated and analysed properly.

Lots of studying ahead methinks

Somewhere between ‘art’ and ‘science’ is a lot of hard work…

In theory, SEO is more of a science, because there are definitely rules – Google’s algorithm has very precise factors that index and rank pages – the problem is that no-one knows what all those rules are and how they interplay with each other.

No-one can guarantee a result, not using legitimate means. A lot of the snake oil salesman who promise a certain ranking use dodgy techniques that are outlawed by Google, and which might get you to the top for a short time but will then leave you in freefall.

It is difficult to break into a competitive sector by SEO alone. It would be a good plan to (a) set aside a budget for advertising, and use online ads to drive traffic to your business, and (b) try to find a tighter niche that is less competitive, and a USP to focus on, where you are not fighting against so many large and established sites.

Thanks for your advice, I understand what you’re saying, it’s very difficult to quantify something which isn’t public knowledge, I will take that into consideration and advertising budget is an important consideration yes but you have basically confirmed my other presumption that corporate powerhouses with huge advertising budgets are always going to come up higher than the little guy :confused: unless as you say, you’re in a niche which they are either unaware of or don’t care about.

I think that best SEO specelist are these who see SEO as Art. I mean guys with this point fo view are more created, can offer something unique and fun.
If you SEO see only like science, then is harder to stay in top, because you going to try to understand search engine formula, thats is not easy, theses furmulas are created by other scientists :slight_smile:

I think in my personal opinion the SEO is certainly an Art! not a science that is for sure… when an artist picks up a brush and paint, he has a vague idea of the painting will look like, while painting he gets better ideas and make improvements… same is with SEO!

I think SEO is Science + Art.

Rules of the science can never be changed. These are same in all over the world. And the rules of art can be changed.
That’s why I think SEO falls in both category(Science+Art).

This is a great question, and something I’ve thought about quite a lot over the years. I think the answer does lie somewhere in between. SEO is fundamentally a science, and many people who work in SEO come from mathematical or web development backgrounds. SEO can, and should, be very process driven at the base level, with clear rules outlined to ensure consistency across a campaign.

However (and here’s the art bit) there are always aspects of SEO that require some ‘outside the box’ thinking, some flair and some creativity. Creating an SEO strategy that grows with the client, pre-empts algorithm changes and does more than just follow the standard patterns requires an artistic element.

I like to think that developers make good SEOs, creative thinkers make great SEOs.

I couldn’t be sure which one it is. I could be wrong but years ago, it could have been either of these. Don’t quote me on this :

Years ago, I THINK, you could do various SEO tasks and begin to see good or bad results from what you did, so you could learn what worked and what didn’t.


SEO tasks that you perform, take a long time to filter through, so it’s a long waiting process to see what worked and even if it did the 1st time around, things change.

Nobody really knows what they are doing to be honest. Link building and content are the only real sure thing I personally think are a constant factor and it’s building lots of links and creating fresh and regular content, so that in itself is a lot of hard work.

SEO techniques and the ranking factors are a mystery to all but google and they change so much you can’t keep ahead, but you have to try and keep afloat. You could get to page 1 and be happy, but the next week drop out into non-existence.

What works. Who knows.

Directory submissions. Who knows.
Edu/Gov links. Who knows.
DoFollow/NoFollow. Who knows.
Blog Commenting. Who knows.
Link Wheels. Who knows.
Domain Age. Who knows.

The reason I say who knows is as above. It takes a while for things to filter through, so you need to do one thing at time to see what did work. A true SEO EXPERT will know from ACTUAL testing which of the above worked 100% Maybe that question should be asked. Again. It may have worked 6 months ago, but does it still work now…

I’ve gone from 500th position to 18th position in 6 months. I’ve just built, links and content. This is a for a keyword that has 44,000 exact results per month according to Adwords.

I’ve also seen sites, which in my personal opinion shouldn’t rank well.

Science or Art. A bit of both but neither of each other.

SEO is predominantly an ART, with a mixture of science. SEO is an art as it is quite dynamic as the rule of the game changes often. It is a science as it has rules. The rules are not static but dynamic. We can conclude that SEO is an ART.

For me SEO is a Science since SEO strategies requires a lot of logic for you to rank in search engines. Algorithms always changes and there is always rules. Everything can be explained.

In my opinion its a blend of art and science. Here is science as it includes more facts and figures but it also an art to attract customers and to get high pr on search engines.

It’s a science, it’s governed by an algorithm… (several actually) so if you can figure out the rules, you can use them to your advantage.

Just because Google are the only people who actually know what the rules are doesn’t make it an Art. (although you can be intuitively good at SEO, like with anything)

seo is art…only few people can do proper seo.

Science is about knowledge, and in the case of SEO that knowledge is unattainable because not only does only Google know what its
algorithms are but it is constantly changing them.
So if we think we’ve figured out what a particular rule is and then apply it and then wait for the results so that our theory can be tested,
by the time we get them the rules could have changed again so how would we know if whatever results we got were definitely because
of what we applied? There may be some apparent constants but this forum and many others are full of discussions on them so that even they are not
universally agreed on.
Art is to do with skill and imagination and I see far more of that in SEO:)

Exactly what I said. Nice to know I am not that stupid after all.

Well i think SEO is more science but Art is require to perform that science. Rules are defined but still everyone cant get same results

Wow! I never knew I could start such a thought provoking discussion, thanks so much to you all :slight_smile:

What about the other part of my question, do those of you who are experts believe that big business can always outrank the little guy with pure brute force as in (advertising budget, team of SEO staff etc)?

Has the web gone the way of the physical world where buying power is everything and allows the big players to dominate any market they decide to enter?

I find seo always creative, because if i talk being as seo person i daily do things different from my last day working. You look for new strategies, new ways of doing things, all the time there is competition to be on top, and most importantly you keep your self updated with latest trends and enhancements of seo industry. So yo have to keep learning new things all the time.