Search engine marketing is based on algorithms—those unpublished formulas by which search engines determine how to rank websites. Most search marketers spend a fair bit of time contemplating algorithms—how they work, what they're looking for, how they might change and constantly ask: Can you beat them at their own game?

Some search engine optimization (SEO) experts focus on decoding and beating these complex, ever-changing formulas. They find clever ways to capitalize on algorithm idiosyncrasies. Other search professionals prefer to concentrate on improving general website effectiveness and visibility, without necessarily trying to gain an advantage over the algorithms.

Which is the best approach?

This very issue was debated at the recent Search Engine Strategies Conference in San Jose. With friendly sparring and lively debate among panelists who hold very different opinions on this key question, a candid, insightful, and entertaining discussion ensued.

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