Over the years, I've talked to (or wrote to) many people who said this-or-that was "easy". Generally, these people fall into 2 groups:
- People talking about something that is they feel is easy, but looks hard. (experts)
- People talking about something they know very little about, or haven't actually done. (novices)
Although these people are saying the same thing, it's often for very different reasons.
An expert who says something is easy is generally knowledgeable about the topic. Often, they are so knowledgeable that they just "get it". I can look at a webpage (even in code view) and it's links and usually visualize how a search engine spider will see it and often how it will rank it.
"At first its just a bunch of numbers....now I see blonde, brunette, redhead..."
-Cypher (The Matrix)
To me, it's easy. But it wasn't like that at first. At first, SEO was very confusing. There was no real pattern, just a bunch of seemingly random "rules' and theories and so forth. Then, at some point, I "got it", and then suddenly SEO was "easy".
Of course it's not really easy even now, because of other people competing against me, and I'll get into that in a bit.
But understanding search is easy for me now. However, when I try to teach it to others in SEO 101 course, they are still stuck in trying to memorize rules and theories. At first this was frustrating, but then I realized that in order to understand something (connecting the dots), you need to have enough information (the dots) to do so. Not enough dots to connect, and you run the risk of it all being complete gibberish, or connecting the dots in the wrong way. The more dots you have, the easier it is to understand the pattern.
When an expert thinks of something as easy, it's usually from the position of a significant amount of knowledge and experience. I don't necessarily mean an expert in the professional sense, either. You can be an expert in a computer game, or organizing documents, or navigating streets in your hometown. For these people, the task is "easy", because they have the experience and practice that makes it easy.
This is a big issue with programmers, who are pretty much the worse people you could choose to test an interface or program. they are great when debugging code, but once that code is working as expected, their knowledge of how things were programmed to work will often override their ability to actually see how it works to non-programmers. Web designers creating navigation structures are also often guilty of this.
Novices, on the other hand, sometimes think that if they understand some basics, (a few dots), that they understand the whole picture.
"Hey, rocket science is easy - you just stick some fuel in a rocket, ignite it,
and off you go! Just like fireworks - any idiot could do it."
Uhh...ok.... The problem here is not enough dots, coupled with a lack of experience, which is what helps you connect the dots.
Let's talk about experience.
I think that this is actually the crux of it issue. Most of the "it's easy" statements come from either a lot of experience or a lack of experience.
I like to use chess as an analogy here.
Chess is easy.
There are only a few possible moves that any piece can make at any one time, and there are a limited number of pieces and places to move them during the game. The rules are known. I taught my 8 year old how to play.
And yet, no matter how easy this game is, someone almost always loses. How can you lose something easy? If it's easy, shouldn't you win all the time? Come on - I mean, I taught it to an 8 year old - it's not rocket science!
It's way easier than SEO, I think. At least rules-wise.
Why the heck are there chess tournaments for something so easy? Why do people challenge computers to games (and lose!). Why has this game been around for centuries?
Because although the "rules" are easy, the "play" is not. Any idiot can do SEO on paper, or write an article about it. Many idiots do, IMO.
What's hard is when your opponents also know these "easy" rules. And they don't want to lose rankings to you. That's what's hard. When you say SEO is easy in practice, you are effectively saying that the other people doing SEO are stupid - or at least easily beaten. And that's just not true.
There is a difference between knowing the rules and successfully playing by those rules against someone else who also knows the rules and doesn't want you to win.
A big difference. That's actually the basis for almost all games and contests. The rules of Olympic running are easy - run fast and cross the finish line first. That doesn't make everyone an Olympic track champion.
You know what, if a professional runner just saw my description of what they do, they would probably cringe. The point is, that as a non-runner, I have no idea why that's oversimplified - I don't have enough dots to work with. They might acknowledge that I have the gist of it, but that doesn't mean I understand all the nuances. And it certainly doesn't mean I could beat any of them in a race.
Sure, SEO is easy - as long as you don't have any competition or experience. The same with chess. But if you think just knowing the rules makes something easy, then it's clear you've never actually played the game.