I know this is a morbid example, but here it is anyway:
What causes sickness in humans?
That sounds like a nice, scientific question that should have a scientific answer. After all, we know what the system is - the human body. It's a contained unit with known chemical, physical and electrical properties.
But just try to answer that question clearly.
The number of things that can make people sick is huge, so any answer that attempts to be in the slightest bit specific is doomed, and the only answer that might fit "interference with the normal operation of the body's systems" is so vague it's useless to someone trying to put it into practice.
Heck, sometimes taking a poisonous subtance can make you healthy, if it kills off something more deadly. Excersize normally makes you healy, but it can make hurt you if you do it wrong. Too much water can ruin your kidneys, not enough can, as well. Stabbing someone with a knife can kill them, using a scaple can save them. X-Rays are bad for you, but are critical to detecting problems sometimes. The list of contradictions goes on and on.
Ask that question of a doctor and you'll get a roll of the eyes, usually. It's just not a question that can be answered that way, no matter how simple it might seem.
Ah but that's my whole POINT Michael ... IS there a "process" (and does anybody outside of Google know what it really is?)
Anyway, I am disppointed that I can't get a detailed answer to my detailed question
That's not a detailed question. It's about as vague as you can get. Sure there is a process, but since the process changes and is self-referential, there is more than one way to accomplish the goal.
How do you win a race? Do you just run faster than the next guy? That sounds good, but what if you hit a wall or take the longest path? So maybe the answer is to choose the best possible path. But what if you run out of energy and can't finish the race? Oh, so now you need endurance.
Given the limits of the human body, sometimes the winner is the first out of the gate (it's easier to maintain a lead than to take it). This means a burst of speed, which is strength.
It can go on, and on in this manner. Sure, you can hope to be "perfect" in all these areas, but frankly some of them work against each other. The muscles needed for the burst of strength at the beginning later on use up extra fuel for no good reason, hampering your endurance. Your speed will limit your ability to maneuver, and so on.
This means that someone with slower speed, but excellent endurance and good planning might be a neck and neck racer with someone with much higher speed. There must be hundreds of ways to win a race by trying to find a combination among all the possible criteria, and since some criteria interfere with other criteria, there is no possibility of saying "I just want the maximum of everything". It's not that easy.
Let's stop with the analogies and turn to a search engine. You are looking at a search engine like it's a calculator. It's not. A calculator just does math. It's input is numbers and it's output is numbers.
A search engine is much more complicated:
It's input is organic (human created webpages)
It's programming is organic (the algos are tweaked by humans to result in an answer acceptable to humans - this is NOT true with a calculator)
It's output is organically judged - a calculator gives you an answer. Whether you like that answer or not is not relevant to the calculator. Search results are judged by people based on a vague notion of "relevance" that is actually different for everyone.
Because of this, the algos are often tweaked in ways that are not mathematically logical, but result in humans being happier with the results.
Bottom line, if the search engine worked the way you hoped, the results would be controlled by spammers, not the search engine. That would be unacceptable to the users.
Frankly, you are better off thinking of a search engine as a big, stupid animal with some really good senses that make up for it's lack of intelligence. It will look at a lot of things, and then decide for itself whether it's tasty or not.
Organic beings are purely mechanical, electrical and chemical, too. Theoretically, you should be able to predict all behavior simply by understanding the stimulation's and responses. And a lot of the time, you can. That's what marketing is. But humans are obviously more difficult to understand than this.
Let's get specific to your questions. You are basically asking whether you should use keywords in the exact order, or in a more natural order.
Well, if you use them in exact order, you will probably rank higher, everything else being equal. But you are unlikely to convince anyone to trust a site that speaks like an incoherent idiot. So your conversions will likely go down.
If you write the words in a more natural style, then you may rank a little lower for the artificial term order, but convert better because your site actually answers peoples questions.
That's the extremes. The "it depends" comes from the fact that most SEO's are not willing to just walk away from the rankings, and will try to achieve both goals by blending the two methods.
How you decide to blend them will depend on the industry, terms, readers, and your own personality - none of which anyone here knows but you. Therefore we can't answer your question, because it's the wrong question being asked of the wrong person.
What you should be asking is "how do I fit the exact terms into natural text as much as possible?" this is a question of art, and 5 writers may come up with 10 different ways, so there is no template. You have to do it yourself, based on your knowledge of your industry.
Finally, if there was a simple formula, then everyone would use it, and it would be no fun anymore, and the answer to everything would be "just do what he's doing, but do more of it" - a recipe for spam if I ever heard one.
"IS there a "process"? - No, there are many. Some work better than others, and some actually seem to be opposites, but still work fine. the exact choice of process is based on your website and goals, not the search engine - that just sets some of the variables.
Edited by mcanerin, 28 July 2006 - 03:47 PM.