Wednesday, 22 September 2010

My compliments to the cook: SEO vs. SEM

    When I was a small child I attended a primary school in an English village. Summers were long and hot, there were jumpers for goalposts and our school meals were awful. They were the creations of the school cook, a rather nice lady whose culinary output was probably stunted by a poor budget and the dead hand of Ministry of Education dieticians. It was with great surprise then when I moved to secondary school that I found the meals were rather good, worth looking forward to in fact, for they were assembled not by a cook, but a chef. With a white hat and all, very impressive.
    My profession is usually referred to as search engine optimisation, often represented by the initialism SEO. You will rarely see either in my personal lexicon, instead I prefer search engine marketing.
    My reasons for this are twofold: to give a sense of the wider task involved in helping a web site to increase its visibility in the search engines through legitimate means and to differentiate myself from the work of the blackhats in the gutter of my industry. A few years ago while contracting as a quality rater for the large search engine you probably use daily I spent a lot of time following up keyword stuffed link farms, valueless spam blogs and hidden or misleading rubbish from people who definitely refer to themselves as being in the SEO business, so for me the distinction is an important one. I'm lucky enough now to work in-house at a large publishing business and need never ply my trade further afield, so I see no reason to associate myself with the term SEO.
    Looking at a Google Insights search comparing the two terms I find I'm at least not entirely alone. Search engine marketing is used about half as much as search engine optimisation(or optimization for a US search) but it's still a significant enough term for me to be able to describe myself thus without blank looks. Because as with the school catering staff of 1980s Oxfordshire, I'd rather be a chef than a cook.

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