"Taking a look around, I think we are absolutely at the point where it's Do or Die time for SEO standards," Barone says. "We don't need the perfect search engine optimization How-To guide (though I'm sure Mahalo is working on that), but we do need to outline what SEO is and what it means to optimize a Web site. We need to establish best practices, what the risk is for abandoning them, and what all these different terms that we throw around actually mean."
Barone counters all four of Whelan's talking points, starting with the fact that no two search pros optimize a site in the same way. While she acknowledges that there are differences in strategies, Barone says that guidelines could still be useful for training, for protection and industry credibility.
And since SEO is a form of advertising, it must be regulated much like TV, radio, banners and other ad channels are. "If we don't do it, someone else is going to come in and do it for us," Barone says. "I'd rather see us create our own guidebook."