The common cry amongst website owners is that they want their website on the first page of Google for their ‘pet’ search terms, whilst the common cry among those true Search Engine Optimisation professionals is that it is not ‘Rocket Science’ and that if they really want their site on the first page all they have to do is to follow some simple rules and do some ‘hard’ work.

As an SEO professional I could not agree more with this comment, getting a website listed is all about hard work and the following of what after all sets of quite logical rules, but (there is always a but) Search Optimisation is also not ‘rocket science’ for another reason.

So why is SEO not like Rocket Science
Well, in my view SEO is not like Rocket Science for one principal reason, and that is that unlike rockets, which have to obey the (known) rules of the physical world, the SEO professional is dealing with a set of rules that (a) are not fully known and understood, and that (b), Google and the like can decide to change the way that any of these ‘rules’ work.

Imagine being a rocket scientist and being told that gravity might or might not be operating in its normal way the day you are planning your next moon mission? I expect that it might just cause a few sleepless nights and cause some serious rethinking about whether to put a man aboard or not…

The Data Speaks for Itself
For confirmation of this peculiar fact, you only have to look at the listings for any keyword and then do some analysis of the sites that are listed on the front page. Here, you will find some sites that ‘deserve’ to be there (they have followed all the rules etc), but you will also find some that do not. Look at these sites in detail and you will soon be scratching your head and asking the question “Why is that site listed on the front page?”
The best way of seeing this is to use one of these ‘Miracle’ SEO products that claim to be able to show you why a site is listed and yours is not. Look at the data they provide and you will see all the major indicators like ‘keyword density’, use of the header tags and use to bold, italic and lists tags, with results all over the place, often the sites with the very best match to the ‘rules’ not being in the positions they ‘should’ be.

Of Course There is a Lot More to It
Of course the data that such programs provide is only a small part of what needs to be done, and the interaction between all the rules (and the way that a site meets them) bears some resemblance to the way that weather works (and we all know how accurate weather forecasts often are), so it is not surprising when reality does not match up with what you think it should, that is a part of the challenge of SEO.

Not Rocket Science, More Like Rocket Art !!
So, in my opinion, SEO is not Rocket Science, there is also a huge pinch of ‘art’ and a bit of ‘mystery’ as, as pointed out above, we don’t know all the rules, and if we did we don’t know just how much meeting them will mean (in the goal of getting a good ranking). True, some SEO professionals know more rules than others, but no one is immune from the vagaries of the Engines in what, is in part a constant ‘war’ between the Engines and those that seek to manipulate them to get (often unworthy) sites to the top of the listings.

So give the hard working SEO professional his / her due, they are doing their best in an uncertain world (like everybody else) and cannot always guarantee the results that you as a website owner would like, the online world just does not work to the same physical rules as the rest of the universe.