8 Famous Philosophy Quotes That Can Teach Us How to Approach SEO

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by Duško Balenović - Analytics Team Lead

What is the difference between SEO and philosophy?

Hmmm... Everything?

At first glance, search engine optimization and philosophy may have very little in common. SEO is often seen as a very present day, hands-on, action-oriented skill, with quick and promising business results. Philosophy may evoke memories of old dusty libraries (Dark Academia, anyone?) and images of ancient hellenic busts of toga-wearing guys, who theoretically and poetically ponder about high concepts and deep thought that are far-detached from our everyday life.However, I believe they are much more closely related than you might think. To every practical ying there is an opposing but necessary theoretical yang, and only in their coalescence the full picture emerges. Such a position may be popularly called holistic, or less pretentiously - integrative or complementary stance. In this short article, we will try to contextualize (or bastardize, depending how you look at it) some of the most famous quotes from the history of philosophy and try to apply them to the modern needs of good SEO practice.One non-topic-related but good additional content writing SEO tip is not to have too much fluff text, so here are the 8 quotes from the history of philosophy which can help us approach SEO and grasp the gist of the trade, without favouring any particular strategy or promoting any trendy hacks.

 

1. “The unexamined life is not worth living” – Socrates
What can it teach us?

Always be curious and inquisitive.

This famous dictum, supposedly uttered by one of the most famous figures of our civilization at his trial, helps us understand how we should approach website management. The short answer is: question everything. Most people tend to get into SEO by starting their own website and by asking themselves after a while: what can I do to improve my visibility online? This short mantra can remind us to nurture that initial curiosity and not blindly follow advice and footsteps of other people and their websites. Always question everything you do and try to understand the mistakes you have done in the past.
 

2. “Man is the measure of all things” – Protagoras
What can it teach us?

Know thy customer and thy industry/niche.

Way too often people tend to build and optimise websites either for themselves or for search engines. However, they forget in the process that they need to offer something for the real human beings, who have come to Google with a certain desire and used it to express their intent. If this desire remains unfulfilled upon embarking on your site, the session itself will have very little value both to you and your visitor. Be sure to have a proper customer/visitor-oriented business plan and good UX to support it once the people arrive at your digital footstep. Here’s a bonus one: “Happiness is the highest good” by Aristotle. Just remember that your happiness as an SEO professional or website owner first requires that your visitors are happy.
 

3. “One cannot step twice in the same river” – Heraclitus
What can it teach us?

Everything changes...

...therefore your website, your SEO practice and your business plan have to adapt as well. This goes hand in hand with the famous reply from all SEOs about most SEO-related topics: “It depends”. All too often people are very reluctant to change something that used to work, even if it has stopped working by this point. The river is always moving, and although some external characteristics may seem completely identical to us, their elements never take the same form and position as they once used to. Similarly, people, products, and trends are changing and evolving all the time and we always have to be willing to spot changes and adapt to them. Consider past experience, but also take novelty into account.
 

4. “To be is to be perceived” (“Esse est percipi”) – Bishop George Berkeley What can it teach us?

You will have to fight for online visibility.

Much can be heard about a sad but common example of site over-optimization, where people focus heavily on search engines’ algorithms and completely neglect their product or the audience. But it’s common to see the opposite too, where business owners rely on their product and its uniqueness to overcome the barriers of online clutter and murmur, and find its way to the customers. Both SEOs and business owners should recognise that to rank high on search engines and reach a wide audience, you need to get your SEO hands dirty i.e. comply with the general rules of search engines’ guidelines and take care of the websites’ technical requirements. Berkeley's immaterialism reminds us that in the chaotic online world of digital communication, what can not be (easily) perceived almost doesn’t exist.
 

5. “He who thinks great thoughts, often makes great errors” - Martin Heidegger What can it teach us?

Be prepared to make mistakes and be prepared to own them.

This is a major one. You will unavoidably stumble upon a case study which promises not only extravagant but very quick and successful results. You will read it and it will make perfect sense. Heck, you will even go on a creative spree and further adapt it to fit your website and formulate new hypotheses and propose new solutions. Everything will be great! Except that in the end it will not work... Don’t let such a scenario get you disheartened and discouraged from going forward. SEO and website management are not something that you get right once and then continue doing it ‘till the end of times. We already know the Heraclitus quote about crossing the river. Here’s a bonus one: “No man's knowledge here can go beyond his experience” by John Locke. Be prepared to try new things, gather and consolidate the experience, and incorporate all the knowledge you acquired. Which brings us to...
 

6. “Knowledge, if it does not determine action, is dead to us” - Plotinus
What can it teach us?

Learning is good. Applying what you have learned is even better.

Believe it or not, collecting information and doing extensive research can both be signs of procrastination. Reluctance to start doing something may come as a consequence of our fear that we’re going to mess something up, and it may be masked by a need for prolonged research. If only we had one more confirmation that something will work out the way we envisioned it, if only we had one more detail to paint the full picture... For better or worse, SEO is a game of experimentation, implementation and agility. Once again, at some point you just have to get your hands dirty. Once done, clean your hands, monitor the progress and be ready to get back several more times to step one. A bonus one here would be a famous quote by Aristotle, which says: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit”.
 

7. “The owl of Minerva spreads its wings only with the falling of the dusk.” G.W.F. Hegel
What can it teach us?

The precise impact and consequences will be known only once the action that has caused them has ended.

Throughout the Western world and since the ancient times, people have always considered the owl as a symbol of knowledge and wisdom, and Minerva, the roman goddess of wisdom, justice and warfare, is here to amplify the Hegel’s symbolic message - we may only gain wisdom of what has happened through hindsight. This may come quite handy as we face uncharted waters or chaotic situations such as new Google updates. When we have tried to do our best, abiding to all the guidelines and requirements and yet we have still failed, at least we are left with the newly-gained wisdom and knowledge, which may be applied in the future. Or alternatively as Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard wrote: “Life must be understood backward. But it must be lived forward”
 

8. “There is no easy way from the earth to the stars.” Seneca
What can it teach us?

Road to success is long and arduous. Only effort and endurance may lead to triumphant achievements.

Along your way of website optimization you will encounter certain people who like to decorate themselves with vague oriental titles like “gurus”, “sensei” or “ninjas”, just to name a few. Hear them out but take what they say with a pinch of salt. Always check not only what they say but what they have done and what their SEO portfolio looks like. Bear in mind that two successful and even similar websites in similar niches may have had a very different trajectory to their success. Don’t be led astray by the temptations of quick success based on hacks and guaranteed tips. Accept and implement the ones which seem logical and well-reasoned, but stand prepared that you are embarking on a long journey with no success promised in advance, with many potential obstacles and failings ahead. If the route to SEO success was easy, everyone would succeed (and the rewards would not be as great). To end it on a slightly cornier note, as Confucius allegedly but disputedly proclaimed: “Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising every time we fall.”
 

Conclusion

A tl;drl version of this article could be compressed to an even tinier package of 8 short maximes:

Be curious. Everything Changes. Know thy Customer. Fight for Visibility. Make Mistakes. Apply What You Learn. Be Decisive. Be Patient and Modest.

There you have it, not more not less. I wholeheartedly hope they will help you along your SEO and website optimization journey.