In the industry of search engine optimization (SEO), there is a ton of confusion. It's a newer industry and things are evolving very fast. This is the case with any new technology. If you study adoption curves related to new technologies, you already know this. The Internet as a serious commercial channel is still a relatively new phenomenon. While the Internet existed for many decades, it came into the mainstream in the mid 1990's and is now just over 10 years old. Again, I'm speaking from a commercial, or BIG BUSINESS perspective. That makes it very young in the big picture. And that's the entire Internet.
So as we focus on the sub-domain (no pun intended) of search engine optimization, an arguably newer discipline within a very young industry, no surprise people really have a hard time keeping things straight. So where did this SEO discipline come from all of a sudden? How are there all these SEO services firms everywhere? Well, in my humble opinion it came from one place: Google. With the dominance of Google in the search engine space, the discipline of search engine optimization has grown up rapidly as business owners have quickly realized that understanding how Google locates and categorizes web sites is key to positioning their site correctly. It didn't take long for the online community to realize that if you use appropriate strategies when building and promoting your web site, the search engines will bring vast amounts of traffic your way. After all, their job is to match information seekers with information providers. The seekers, or searchers, type in their key words and then the search engines have to filter through billions of individual web pages (yes, billions) in their databases and give the top 10 results.
In true free-market style, a hefty economic incentive evolved to build and promote your web site correctly so that the search engines have an easier time understanding what your site is about, establishing the appropriate themes and distilling the main topics from your site. In other words, certain guidelines have evolved out of how the search engine algorithms match your site to the search criteria of the end-user. Poof! A discipline we now call search engine optimization was born. I think it's fascinating.