October 19, 2004

SEO versus Search Engine Friendly

Like many other Web folk, the search engine optimization industry coined its own terminology, no doubt for the dual purposes of identifying what they were talking about and to foreshorten what were sometimes already lengthy discussions. While some argued search engine optimization to be a misnomer — in that it is websites that are optimized rather than search engines — that term stuck.

Well enough, but it is difficult to explain to friends, associates and clients precisely what one does to optimize a website. Or, rather, while many SEOs are only too happy to
explain, given that few non-Web people are truly familiar either with those Web applications that we call search engines, much SEO techniques and HTML, the quick result in most cases is not enlightened clients but, rather, glazed eyeballs. This situation, I'll note, is far different from web design, where one can show illustrations to clients.

Along came a new term: search engine friendly. While this was adopted by some as a more client-friendly term than "search engine optimization", it was later co-opted (during a semi-famous online argument) to mean something along the lines of "not heavy duty SEO-on-the-dark-side we'll do anything for search engine rankings". This, of course, only muddied the definitions further. I've argued that that kind of jockeying for position by confusing industry terminology is hardly helpful, given that we need terms for both SEO and SEF. Luckily, many SEOs frequent online discussion forums, and the distinction between the terms seems to be being adopted.

Search engine friendly. The issue is that search engines have to read web page code in order to determine the page's topic and rank it according to their algorithms (ranking formulas). Where the code is botched (for example, missing </td>'s or closing table tags, or acres of JavaScript, or strings of non-binding spaces), what is the search engine to make of it? Thus, one's code needs to be such that a search engine can read it. The big tip here is that search engines are not as fancy and advanced as one would believe; what they seem to like is very, very basic HTML. Very. That means, of course, that correct and judicious use of CSS to pare down HTML can be very useful both to making websites search engine friendly and in optimizing the pages. Not to mention easier to build and edit, all things being equal.

Search engine optimization. The techniques and practice of making a website's pages rank well in search engines. (And obviously it's more difficult to get a page to rank well when the code is botched up, eh?)

Thus — you guessed it — optimization of a website must also include ensuring that it is search engine friendly. How you explain this to clients, of course, is up to you.

Speaking of misnomers, why are &nbsp;'s are called non-binding spaces when what they do is precisely to bind the space to whatever is on either side?

One Comment to "SEO versus Search Engine Friendly"

  1. Bari says:

    thanks for the help and clear ideas.
    i have a new website…so as you can relate i am searching for ideas forever to generate leads to my site.

    Bari

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