SEO 101: Jurassic Park and SEO: Keeping Your Site from Going the Way of the Dinosaurs

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SEO 101: Jurassic Park and SEO: Keeping Your Site from Going the Way of the Dinosaurs

With all the Google algorithm updates recently, it’s easy to feel like it’s only a matter of time before Google finds your site and annihilates it. However, you don’t have to live in fear. By learning how SEO works, you can keep your site functioning way into the next generation of algorithms. Here are a few tips and examples from Jurassic Park to help you understand SEO and how it can benefit your site.

Don’t Overcomplicate Your Site

Jurassic Park’s mathematician and chaos theorist Ian Malcolm only wears black or gray clothing, because he finds fashion trivial. He doesn’t want to waste his time thinking about clothing, so he’s created this simple solution, freeing his mind to think about more important subjects.

Adopt Malcolm’s attitude for your site. There are a lot of aspects to your site you can spend time on. Some are less important than others. Obviously, you want a visually-appealing site, but don’t overcomplicate the visuals.

Ogden Dinosaur Park

Here’s a screenshot of a pretty basic home page for a dinosaur museum. The theme is consistent, but not over-powering, and the text is easy to read. The page itself is very user-friendly, making it simple to navigate to different parts of the site. It’s even mobile-friendly.

By contrast, here’s a different dinosaur museum home page:

Cabazon Dinosaurs

Parts of the home page are well-organized, but the vast majority of it is a messy hodge-podge of pictures and text that don’t mesh well with the color scheme. Simply put, there is too much going on.

When it comes to building a home page, less is more, and that’s a mantra you should take to all levels of your site. Don’t create a complicated design that will send your human traffic running through the interwebs.

Google is getting better and better at knowing when a site is built for humans or spiders, and the ones with the quality content, graphics, and appearance that humans appreciate are the sites that benefit. Stay simple—it’ll help your SEO.

Understand the Modifications You Make

At different points in both the Jurassic Park book and movie, paleobotanist Ellie Sattler comments on the plants around the visitor’s center. These plants are poisonous, but they’ve been placed in areas highly accessible by guests who may not know to stay away from them. When Sattler questions the choices, she is told the plants were chosen because they’re visually-appealing. The park’s officials hadn’t even realized the plants are poisonous.

Much like with the Jurassic Park vegetation, SEO is complicated. While you’ll want to implement all the modifications you can to help your site, make sure that you fully understand the implications of those changes before you make them. Know why you should do them, and what they will do.

For example, meta descriptions are a very basic type of SEO. Although they don’t affect the rankings themselves, they can still impact whether or not a person visits your site from the SERP’s. That description is the first thing people read about your site in the results, and you want to make sure it sums up your site correctly, in a way real people understand.

At the same time, you want to keep it short, because it’ll get truncated if it’s longer than about 160 characters. You don’t want to go through the trouble of writing a meta description to get people to go to your site, only to have it shortened. Here are two meta descriptions, one that works and one that doesn’t. Which site which you be more likely to go to?

dinosaurs search results - bad meta

dinosaurs search results - good meta

Based solely off the meta descriptions, anyone wanting to learn more about dinosaurs would choose PBS Kids, even though Enchanted Learning is higher in the results.

Each modification you make has the potential to work hand-in-hand with all the others, and when you understand them, you can hone in on that potential. You’ll also be far less likely to make any mistakes that will damage your site’s SEO.

Know the Consequences

In the book, Ian Malcolm says that most of the park’s officials have what he calls “thintelligence,” meaning that they are narrow thinkers who can’t see the big picture, but believe they are simply being focused. This is a problem because that narrow thinking prevents them from knowing the consequences of their actions, which leads them in to trouble. According to Malcolm, in order to be truly intelligent, you have to be able to see your surroundings and have at least a basic understanding of the possible outcomes.

Just like understanding what you’re doing is important, so is knowing the consequences and seeing the bigger picture. The two go hand-in-hand. You should know how your SEO will be affected by something before you do it.

People who practice white hat SEO understand these things, and they act transparently to achieve the best result. Those who practice black hat SEO fall more into Malcolm’s “thintelligence” category. They become so focused on the rankings that they lose sight of the bigger picture, and eventually, their site ends up taking a hit for that short-sighted vision.

Sometimes it takes a while for Google to find the rule breakers, but just how Jurassic Park eventually fell apart and those in charge realized their error, so will those who practice black hat SEO. Thintelligence isn’t for the intelligent.

Ask the Right Question

While in Jurassic Park, paleontologist Alan Grant finds some raptor egg shells that lead him to ask some important questions. While Grant and Malcolm are still on the tour, they radio Ray Arnold, the chief engineer of the park, who is at the visitor’s center. They ask him to run some tests on the dinosaur count in the park.

The computers in the park were set up to count up to a certain number of dinosaurs, rather than all the dinosaurs in the park. By adjusting the number the computer is looking for, they discover that the dinosaurs are breeding and there are almost 60 more dinosaurs than they thought.

Similarly, SEO is all about asking the right questions. What keyword should you optimize for? What sites should you link to? If you don’t ask the right questions, you won’t find the information you need. Instead of asking if there are 238 dinosaurs in the park, ask how many dinosaurs are in the park.

With the wrong questions, you could end up optimizing your startup business site for a keyword like “paid time off.” Sure, it’s business-related, but, as a startup, you’re probably not focused on employee benefits like that yet. Optimizing for it won’t help your site, because it’s not something you offer.

Gear your site in the right direction by having focus and asking the right questions. Then you’ll know exactly what type of SEO you need.


By utilizing these tips, you’ll have almost everything you need to keep your site optimized in the best way possible, so the next Google algorithm doesn’t knock you back a page or two. You can have the rankings you deserve and show the hard work you’ve put into your site. With that, you can really guarantee that your site won’t join the dinosaurs in extinction.
Image credit: Malpass93 via Wikimedia Commons
Screenshot taken 12/23/2013 of
Screenshot taken 12/23/2013 of
Screenshot taken 12/23/2013 of search results
Image credit: Cliff via Flickr

Travis Thorpe

Travis Thorpe

Travis Thorpe is the CEO of Boostability. He enjoys writing about the ever-evolving world of SEO and helping new business owners understand the importance of... Read Full Bio
Travis Thorpe
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  • Reg Charie

    I looked for your examples in the search results.
    The “clean one” is not to be found in the top 100.

    The confusing one, is placed at about #30.

    • Vergil Iliescu

      The “clean one”,, is also a flash site, with keywords as the only meta tag, no description meta tag, and no text visible to search engines.

  • David Black

    My two daughters often tell me I’m a dinosaur, which is probably true. I have found SEO getting ever more complicated. I’m glad that its finally getting easier to get placed in the search engine results now that Google is starting to show better well written and clear posts designed for humans and not googlebots. You’re right – simple is usually much better than complicated.

  • Mike

    I agree with most of this article and certainly that simple is best. I find it interesting that the really simple sites, ie no SEO, no authorship, no best practice, no recent updates, and not much content appear to be the ones ranking at present. It’s almost like we have gone full circle.

    I have been spending 80% of my time trying to keep my sites ranked, and 20% researching and creating content. This must change in 2014.

    My only reservation with your article is the assertion that knowing SEO will somehow protect against future algorithm updates. How can anyone possibly know what Google have planned for the future?

  • Reginald

    Hey mate!

    Happy New Year and great write up. I love the part you shared about navigation. Sometime you just need to have good navigation if you are dead serioud in making your readers stay.

    Over complicated pages too will make your bounce rate hit sky high and don’t forget, Google love too.

    Thanks for writing this!

  • Kaloyan Banev

    No doubt everything should be balanced perfectly. Without seeing the full picture and having a good business model, achievable goals, etc.. SEO will simply not work.
    SEO takes time and need a lot of action. No doubt many times results never come, just because efforts are not enough.

  • Tapiwa Mapani

    Not over complicating your site is a really good point. I had to completely redo my site after I was lured by one of those fancy templates but realised hoe they’re not really logical and won’t allow visitors to naturally display content. So now my site is pretty simple yet still modern and I’ve even seen a slight bump in traffic!

  • Amaury Baot

    I like your article a lot, I still have a few comments about the complexity of a website:
    I believe a visitor will stay and come back on your website only if your design is appealling and modern. Websites that have an “ancient” look have less chances of attracting visitors. I believe that a webmaster and SEO specialist has to adapt and try to have a responsive website first of all.

    • Deepak Rawat

      Hi Amaury Baot, I agree with you but content is one of the most important part of seo. To hold a visitor on your website or webpage, your content should be interesting or informative. It also reduce your website bounce rate.

  • Tamal Krishna

    Excellent post Travis.

    I always try to give the best information available online in my blogs so that people always like it even if there is a big SEO change. Google always changes it’s algorithm and make it more complicated. But it is sure that every time it gets updated, there are some good things to be seen in terms of search results. So I am sure that if someones provides only good information in their sites, it doesn’t matter how many updates Google makes, people will always like their site.

  • Sunday

    In as much as websites should look professional, the best of websites that comes out appealing are those that offers values in an easy and simplistic manner. I identify with the ideas shared in “asking the right questions”. These can really help on to improve better SEO.

  • Evelyne

    The main thing you should take from this is that designing sites purely for the search engines is long gone. Just look at the disappearance of the (majority) 1 page Adsense sites,

    Yes, you can still try and “trick” Google but is it really worth it in the long run. Its a much better long term strategy to build a site for users and not for the search engines – this will build a successful business in the longer term.

  • Makenzie Hardy

    Loved the connection to Jurassic Park, very clever. We get clients who come in with websites that used to be at the top of their search results, but because of black hat SEO, link building schemes and other bad practices, they no longer pull for any of their key terms.

  • Peter Faulkner

    I believe that Bouce Rates are going to have an increasing influence on organic result rankings. Is there piece of software that could be plugged into sites that would offer a facility to include adwords-like “negative” keywords/phrases/tags etc. Clearly this would stop at least some of the “uninterested” traffic visiting your site and help rakings by attracting only appropriate quality vistors while enhancing consumer experience at the same time.

  • Spook SEO

    Even if Matt from Google Web Spam team release lots of updates and rule to counter the black hat methods, still there are some black hat methods that Google could never traced out. Good example of this black hat tactics is “Website Bombing”. Can anyone tell me how to overcome with that deed?