SEO is a polarizing subject. Bring it up in the company of the tech set and chances are you’ll get a debate not unlike one you might get when talking about religion and politics.

A lot of the criticism of SEO is misplaced while some of it isn’t. When addressing SEO criticism, it helps to have an understanding of why critics are so skeptical. Here are top 10 reasons.

They don’t know what SEO is. While the phrase ‘search engine optimization‘ seems pretty straightforward, it’s pretty obvious that many of the most ardent SEO critics don’t really know what SEO is. Case in point: Derek Powazek’s recent attack on SEO equated botnets and hacking attempts with SEO, a clear indication that Powazek didn’t really know what he was talking about.

They had a bad experience. There’s plenty of SEO snake oil out there and a bad experience with an SEO snake oil salesman could easily lead someone to believe that SEO itself is a scam. People throw the baby out with the bath water all the time and SEO in particular is no exception.

They’re listening to the wrong people. It’s easy to form a bad opinion of just about anything if you listen to the wrong people. Just as in social media, there are plenty of people in the SEO world who promulgate myths, misstate facts and make sweeping proclamations. These things aren’t always done intentionally but the harm is done regardless. Unfortunately, the people who are most apt to do these things are often the ones who have the time to hog the spotlight and are most visible to newbies.

They’re jealous. If the competition has great SERPs thanks to its SEO efforts, and you don’t, it’s convenient to criticize the competition’s use of SEO. After all, you’re better than the competition so any competitor who appears more prominently in the SERPs must be scheming, right?

They’re lazy. SEO is hard work. From learning the basics to staying abreast of the latest trends to actually applying your knowledge in practice, SEO, like most things worthwhile, requires hard work and an investment of time. Out of all the people who criticize SEO, how many do you really think have actually made a reasonable effort to see what SEO can do for them?

They already have great SERPs. It’s completely possible to obtain great SERPs without making a dedicated SEO effort or being an expert SEO. That’s because so many of the important aspects of good SEO (content, information architecture, design) aren’t exclusive to SEO. So someone who has acquired great SERPs but who didn’t consciously focus on SEO has good reason to ask what all the SEO hoopla is about.

SEO seems too complicated. SEO is a nuanced field and in many areas, there are no black and white answers. Much is unique to individual circumstances and there’s also a lot of myth and misinformation that needs to be sifted through. This can easily deter someone.

They experienced failure. There’s no magic formula when it comes to SEO and results aren’t realized overnight. For the impatient, a lack of instant results can serve as the foundation for SEO skepticism.

They’re master link builders. What’s one of the fastest ways to acquire new backlinks? Write an inflammatory post calling SEO a scam. Oh the irony!

They’re full of nonsense. A lot of the people who criticize SEO don’t really believe what they say. Take Jason Calacanis, for instance. He’s said some pretty mean things about SEO yet his company, Mahalo, is basically an SEO play. And uses some pretty aggressive tactics at that.

Have I missed anything? What rationales have you seen behind SEO criticism?

Photo credit: Search Engine People Blog via Flickr.