Science vs Reality: Do Not Obey Scientists – Practice What Works in SEO & Beyond
A few weeks ago I had a lively discussion on Twitter with two quite opinionated individuals who are quite known in the SEO industry. I won't name them here to prevent this discussion from getting personal but I want to come back to the actual topic we discussed about because it happens all the time that I have to discuss such matters: the discussion almost always boils down to science vs reality.
Science will tell one thing and the reality won't obey what scientists declare though in many cases.
The simplest example for this is the weather forecast: while the smartest and most gifted scientists using satellites and supercomputers want to tell you whether the sun is shining or not you are strongly advised to look out of the window to find out.
In many case you will notice that the weather forecast was wrong.
The so called chaos theory explains why you can't forecast weather without erring from time to time and indeed I'm glad that there is some element of chance and not everything can be predicted.
Now is science bad to put it bluntly? Do we have to believe the church and explain everything with God? Well, you ask the wrong person, I'm not particularly religious but I respect religious beliefs. Also I don't engage in futile discussions whether God exists or how man has evolved whether by way of evolution or "intelligent design". Personally I think that the Bible is partly a literary work so that it speaks in metaphors. Thus when the world was created in seven days it doesn't mean you have to take it literally.
Why do I explain this? Well, you can reconcile science and religion. Also
you don't have to denounce everything science hasn't yet proven or even discovered.
Moreover science tends to err and most of scientific dogmas break down after a while because scientists themselves discover new phenomena they have not even taken into account before.
Quantum physics is the best example: it has rendered most of prior science obsolete.
So scientific laws hold true just for a few decades usually. Nonetheless there is a tendency today to treat scientists like priests in earlier epochs: whatever scientists say you have to obey. They don't just discover and explain anymore they forbid you to do things and force their dangerous experiments on you.
Nuclear energy has been probably the worst crime against humanity committed by science, not just due the horrific effects of the atomic bomb but due to taking the wrong path when it comes to energy, one that we'll have to deal with for ten thousands of years as the toxic waste will haunt us almost forever.
So you see, scientists can seriously mess up this planet, your health and your life. That's not the end of the story, the "is SEO science or art" (or something else) debate is not far from these issues.
Let me use the example we used in the discussion with the SEO professionals on Twitter. The discussion started with the issue of potentially harmful vaccines. This is a taboo topic in some circles. People who blindly believe in science and what their doctors tell them tend to think you're insane even when you suggest that not all vaccines are needed. They are accepted out of tradition and because doctors and scientists say so or rather the pharmaceutical companies behind them.
Now I won't explain here why some vaccines are harmful, this would be offtopic. I want to dwell on the comparison of dogmatic treatment of vaccines and the one exhibited by alternative medicine, be it Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) or homeopathy. Practitioners of the latter two will tell you that vaccines can indeed be harmful and ask you to be cautious when getting vaccinated. Especially children can get harmed by vaccines.
Now the tow SEO guys were infuriated that I could even bring this issue up. Also they declared acupuncture and homeopathy to be a placebo etc.
So you see, while I am not anti-science but ask you to see its limitations and never blindly believe in science people like the two believe in science to such an extent that you are not allowed to do things that are not approved by scientists.
Either you obey science or you are a nut
is what they think. They don't even bother with conflicting scientific results or new discoveries, they protect tradition and a belief system. More than that, it's part of their identity. It's an attack on themselves when you dare to doubt scientific results from hundred years ago. Most vaccines have been created back then and people don't care that the situation is completely different now. It's like still using steam engines.
In SEO we have a similar situation: the science of SEO is nascent if it exists at all so you can't really prove everything.
You can have theories and show statistics. You will never exactly know why something worked exactly and what exact factors made it work. Especially as Google makes around 400 tweaks to its algo a year. Your SEO science is outdated the moment you have proven it or quicker, I'm with the author of SEO Theory here.
So SEO, like many things life, and even the weather is changing all the time. Even the climate is not static, it changes as well, being influenced by us. Thank you science for noticing and proving it!
Also SEO changes as we have an impact on Google and other search engines.
We create content farms, Google and Blekko react. So at the end of the day you have to take a look outside the window yourself to find out what the weather is like. It's like with climate change: while we can see and prove it we don't really know whether the ocean tides will bring us a colder period or whether the global warming will have a more direct impact by rising temperatures. We have to observe reality to find out.
So you see I'm not anti-science. I appreciate science, especially when it discovers and proves the obvious. Acupuncture works for thousands of years and I know it because it works on me as well, like homeopathy does. Still science and its methods are often not enough to prove it because science is too limited as of now. It can't quantify the data of acupuncture or find any substance in homeopathic remedies (which are based on information not substances like conventional medicine).
So I appreciate science where it makes sense but I don't let science make me ignorant enough not to try things that have worked long before science even existed. Likewise
I practice what works in SEO
and do not blindly obey scientists who tell me one day that I need PageRank sculpting just to backtrack next day after Matt Cutts' announces that it has been discontinued several months ago.
When it's science vs reality I tend to believe what I see and I expect science to explain it. Science is not an entity to force you to do something or ignore something else. Science is not the church, so stop blindly believing in it. Always take a look at reality itself and when the glaciers melt you know science is right.
BTW.: there are many new scientific studies that indeed prove that acupuncture works and also which explain other worldly phenomena many people deemed obvious long ago.