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SEO is an Oligarchy, not a Monarchy

Derrick Wheeler, SR SEO Architect at Microsoft, recently announced that “structure” is the new king of SEO. ( This must be news to the recently deposed Content as king, its regent, Context and whatever was considered king before newly anointed Structure. It is great to welcome someone as influential as Derrick to the community of believers in the influence of information architecture and user experience on optimizing sites for search engine visibility.

Structure as an influence on search ranking is not new. I think that it came on the SEO scene sometime in 2006, along with many other updates made possible by a giant leap in processing capacity. It is hard to tell because those wascally wabbits at the search engine companies play their methodology very close to the vest. I address this influence in my SEO & IA: The Beginning of a Beautiful Friendship presentation to the 2007 IA Summit (

However, we must be wary of SEO monarchists that try to convince us that “anything is king” of SEO. The search engine landscape is changing so quickly that it is not possible for any one thing to an absolute monarch over optimization for search engines. And, this is how the search engine programmers and companies want it.

If anything, the influences on optimization are a fierce oligarchy between context, content, customer behavior, site interaction, page design, online social contributors and many more data points that now contribute to PageRank. The search engines want their algorithms to select the best results. They want site administrators and content creators to draft, structure and maintain their websites in a way that plays to, rather than tries to control or circumvent, the algorithms.

The best tool for SEO is a strategy. One that maps intent to technology and measures post effort success and analyzes behavior to ensure enduring optimization. The best facilitators of this type of strategy are search information architects (like moi) that labor to understand the changing nature of the governing oligarchy and bring structure, experience and behavior skills to a collaborative engagement.

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