Harry Potter and the Order of Search Results

A tongue in cheek look at the magical world of SEO…

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Here in the UK, it is almost impossible to avoid the hype surrounding the latest Harry Potter film.

‘Pottermania’ is sweeping the nation yet again! As the first snow of the winter batters against the window in true magical fashion, I find myself thinking of the many parallels between Harry Potter’s world and that of the search engine marketer…

Firstly, let us consider some of the terminology used in our industry. Granted, all industries seem swamped with jargon, but it strikes me that the language of search engine marketing has a more sinister / magical aura. A few examples:

1) Black Hat / White Hat / Grey Hat : Perhaps the most immediate parallel with the world of witches and wizards. Ignoring the image of a witches and wizards convention, the way in which a black hat seo practioner will try to exploit weaknesses for the own benefit, through trickery / deception, is sinister and akin to the ‘dark side’ of Lord Voldemort and his followers. Of course, good always overcomes evil, and it should be pointed out that Browser Media is firmly in the white hat camp, but the temptation of the dark side is strong.

Perhaps there should be an SEO sorting hat?

2) Cloaking : yet another direct reference to the attire of the magical underworld. Is this just a coincidence?

3) Blacklisted : perhaps the greatest fear for anyone involved with search engine marketing, having your site banned from any search engine index has serious implications. But why ‘blacklisted’, with all its connotations? Why not just ‘banned’, ‘removed’ or ‘deleted’? The plot thickens!

4) Algorithm : an object of great mystery and secrecy and surrounded by myth and conjecture, the search engines’ algorithm is like a secret potion / charm. Perhaps it is just me, but the word ‘algorithm’ is so much more suggestive than ‘formula’…

5) ‘Natural’ results : a little tenuous perhaps, but where did the concept of natural results (organic results) come from? What is the alternative – unnatural?

6) Google : it would be impossible to ignore the might of Google in any piece on search engine marketing. In this case, Google is magic. Offering powers beyond comprehension once mastered, Google is a mystical force that pours out from Googleplex, the ministry of magic of the search engine world. To master Google is to master search engine marketing. Just in case you aren’t convinced, here is evidence (or propaganda?) from the ministry itself:

Google Magic

Of course, this entire article is a bit of light hearted Friday fun, and apologies must go out to those who either hate Harry Potter or who have never read the books, but there is a more serious point and one which I am sure most search engine marketing agencies / consultants will sympathise with.

The expectations of some clients can be fantastic, in the true sense of the word. Having compared SEO to magic, it is now time to face the reality. It is not possible to wave a magic wand and appear at the top of each and every search result for any term that you wish.

Search engine marketing is not magic, it is a fascinating and very powerful form of marketing. As with any form of marketing, it requires considered planning and careful execution. Whilst the rewards can be magical, they can only be achieved through hard work and dedication.

It is the role of the professional search engine marketer to demystify search engine marketing and to set realistic expectations of what can be achieved within what timescales. This will help cement search as a core part of any marketing activity and demonstrate its credibility. The ‘magician approach’ of promising the impossible can only hamper this objective.

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