The early days of SEO/SEM were a much simpler time. In the beginning, meta tags ruled, and changing those metas at the right time could mean #1 rankings. As search engine algorithms evolved, SEO first became a game of content optimization, where we all learned how to go beyond the meta tag by making use of header tags, bold tags, keyword stuffing, hidden text, no frame stuffing, and many more such tactics. Some were legit, while others were search engine spam. The search engines caught on and punished those who used spammy tactics, rewarding those who used legitimate ones.
In time, it became a game of “whoever has the most links or the highest PageRank wins.” Again, the search engines made adjustments, deprecating the value of PR and thousands of low-quality or in-network links, and SEOs began to understand that both on-page optimization and off-page optimization needed to work in tandem in order to please the almighty algos. This, I believe, was the very beginning of what I call MAD SEO. MAD stands not for the emotion we may feel as we watch our rankings disappear, but for “Moderation And Diversity.”
The SEM industry has entered a new era of marketing that involves making use of many different channels. Rather than the old, one-trick SEO tasks of the past, we now find ourselves faced with the challenge of diversifying our tactics and our skill sets. A search engine marketer must now be gifted in possibly dozens of areas that extend far beyond the simple optimization of the past. This diversity merges writing skills with marketing skills, creativity with technology, and salesmanship with analytics. Search marketing firms find themselves creating new positions and new departments. One-person SEOs wonder how to manage their time to accommodate all of the new avenues they need to traverse. Despite the challenge, however, diversity is now a necessary component in search engine marketing.
Along with the need for utilizing diverse SEO tactics is the realization that some of these tactics should be used in moderation. An over-reliance on any one method of marketing could raise a red flag in an automated algorithmic system, preventing sites from achieving that well-rounded balance that the search engines are striving to find. For example, adding 100,000 pages of content or obtaining 10,000 new links overnight is very likely to make a crawler stop and take a closer look at a site, possibly resulting in a penalty or ban. Moderation should be employed whenever a search marketing strategy is being considered so that the site profile remains natural and balanced and does not raise a search engine’s “unnatural” flag.
As search engines evolve, so must search marketers. SEO/SEM methods of today are much more complex than a few years ago, requiring diversity in skills and marketing methods, as well as an awareness of the necessity of moderation when those methods are employed. Welcome to the new age of MAD SEO.