Lee Odden

SEO: Rocket Science or Colonoscopy?

Aren’t you glad I didn’t include an image with this post? OK, so SEO isn’t rocket science, but it’s not a colonoscopy either. Well, maybe GooogIe thinks SEO is rocket science, but what do they know. 🙂

What’s with the cliche’s? Cliche’s are simply a way to hide innuendo which was the case when this Dave Pasternack -  SEO/rocket science guff all started. Some of the arguments in this debate are not entirely without merit so I’ll take a humorous and a somewhat practical approach to explaining a few.

One of the common questions that comes out of this silly debate is, “What do we get for that monthly SEO fee?”.

Upfront activity is substantially higher with SEO as it is with most marketing initiatives but SEO is much more than making the site ready and relevant for search engines. Besides the initial research, analysis, recommendations and the management of implementation, there is also the matter of ongoing content development, promotion, link acquisition and web analytics.

Depending on what the client has to work with, there can be any of a variety of link and traffic building tactics employed on an ongoing basis right along with measurement, refinement and consulting.

Add in integration with other marketing initiatives such as sharing of data and collaboration with paid search, social media marketing, interactive, viral content development, account management and online public relations and it’s pretty easy to see where the monthly fee goes.

There are pros and cons as well as right and wrong reasons for using SEO, PPC or both. They’re just marketing tools and as I’ve said before, bashing one over the other doesn’t help companies looking to improve sales in any way.

Part of the issue with the SEO industry is that there is a huge gap in skill sets and capabilities. The offering of a 1 year old, one-person shop is going to be different than a 10 year veteran agency. Each fills an appropriate need depending on the client. The other issue is that many SEO problems can be solved multiple ways – leaving presumed discrepancies in pricing between agencies.

I agree that SEO needs to do a much better job at packaging its services and by getting more intelligent dialog going, sans cliches, the better educated businesses will be when allocating online marketing dollars.

Since all this SEO vs PPC malarkey is hardly a serious look at online marketing channels and more gratuitous self promotion and contrarian link bait, I thought I’d draw attention to a rather humorous text that pokes fun at SEO, PPC and even paid inclusion by Simon Heseltine at Search Engine Tigers. Think Monty Python skit:

Praline: Hello, I wish to register a complaint… Hello? Miss?
SEM Agency: What do you mean Miss?
Praline: I’m sorry, I have a cold. I wish to make a complaint.
SEM Agency: Sorry, we’re closed for lunch.
Praline: Never mind that my lad, I wish to complain about this SEO implementation plan what I purchased not half an hour ago from this very boutique.
SEM Agency: Oh yes, the Google Blue. What’s wrong with it?
Praline: I’ll tell you what’s wrong with it. It’s not rocket science, that’s what’s wrong with it.
SEM Agency: No, no it’s complicated, look.
Praline: Look my lad, I know a simple plan when I see one and I’m looking at one right now.
SEM Agency: No, no sir, it’s not simple. It’s complicated.
Praline: Complicated?
SEM Agency: Yeah, remarkable SEO implementation plan the Google Blue, beautiful ranking, innit?
Pralie: The ranking don’t enter into it – it’s bleedin’ easy.
SEM Agency: No, no – it’s really hard.
Praline: All right then, it it’s hard let’s take a look (shouting) Title tag, meta tags, fresh content…
SEM Agency: (ruffles papers) There in the index.
Praline: What index?
SEM Agency: There that index.
Praline: That’s just some notes in pencil on the back of the last page… analytics, external linking, url structure. Now that’s more like it. Do you have an implementation plan that actually has all of this in it?
SEM Agency: Let me look… no.
Praline: Well what do you have then?
SEM Agency: Well, I have this PPC Implementation plan.
Praline: Is it geotargeted?
SEM Agency: Yes.
Praline: Where to?
SEM Agency: Norway. Tells you all about the right keywords for people pining for the fjords
Praline: Pining for the fjords, what kind of campaign is that? Look, I want something that’s complicated so I feel I’m getting my money’s worth.
SEM Agency: Well, I’d better replace it then.
Praline: (to blog) If you want to get anything done in this country you’ve got to complain until you’re blue in the mouth.
SEM Agency: Sorry gov, we’re right out of complicated SEO implementation plans.
Praline: I see, I see, I get the picture.
SEM Agency: I’ve got a paid inclusion plan.
Praline: Well, it’s scarcely a replacement then is it?
SEM Agency: Not really, no. Look, what do you want?
Praline: No I’m sorry, I’m not prepared to pursue my line of enquiry any further as I think this is getting too silly…

What’s particularly funny about this is that it hints at some of the client side reasons for more education about all aspects of search marketing.

PoorSo SoOKGoodAwesome (3 votes, average: 3.67 out of 5)

Lee Odden About Lee Odden

@LeeOdden is the CEO of TopRank Marketing and editor of Online Marketing Blog. Cited for his expertise by The Economist, Forbes and the Wall Street Journal, he's the author of the book Optimize and presents internationally on B2B marketing topics including content, search, social media and influencer marketing. When not at conferences, consulting, or working with his talented team, he's likely running, traveling or cooking up something new.


  1. Hah, I swear I did a copy/paste! Fixed.

  2. Avatar Simon Heseltine says

    Heseltine 😉

  3. Avatar Jason Jantzi says

    Talk about info-tainment. Absolutely brilliant! I wish more tech topics were delivered this well. I read your column aloud in my best Michael Palin voice. I’m fairly sure my co-workers are now utterly convinced that I’m nuts (as if they weren’t already) but it was well worth it!


  4. Avatar John Gluck says

    Sso what’s the point??? How does this article help or guide me??

  5. It’s an entertaining look at the debate about SEO and PPC. But since it wasn’t clear, I’ll direct you to the more helpful point: “There are pros and cons as well as right and wrong reasons for using SEO, PPC or both. They

  6. Yeah, I’m still lost too 🙂


  1. SEO is Not Rocket Science | says:

    […] February 13, 2007SEO is Not Rocket Science Been a while since I’ve written anything about search engine optimization, but I recently read a couple of articles ( 1, 2) a couple of weeks ago relating to the complexity of being a search engine marketer that gave me the desire to add my two cents.   […]

  2. Internet Marketing » SEO is Not Rocket Science says:

    […] SEO is Not Rocket Science February 13th, 2007 Been a while since I’ve written anything about search engine optimization, but I recently read a couple of articles ( 1, 2) a couple of weeks ago relating to the complexity of being a search engine marketer that gave me the desire to add my two cents.   […]

  3. Finding the Sweet Spot - Building Web Businesses That Profit » Top 20 things that scares the bajeezus out of Search Marketers says:

    […] Needing a nugget of information from the day you skipped Rocket Science 101. […]