One Size Fits All SEO Doesn't Work
Mercy Janaki joins the podcast to share some hard truths about the SEO industry:
Why you should take SEO articles & social media posts with a grain of salt
Why you should not overly rely on SEO checklists
Why SEO tools & data can be misleading and even unhelpful if not used correctly
SEO is hard and it's easy to rely on clear-cut techniques and strategies. Yet, like everything else in life, there is no one size fits all solution. While you may see someone share an implementation that drove all sorts of traffic to their site it doesn't mean that you should do the same for your site.
In this episode, we get into some hard truths for doing SEO the right way, not the easy way.
Here's a summary of what we discussed...
There's No One-Size-Fits-All Solution In SEO
SEO is hard. It's complicated and can take a long time to really grasp its underlying concepts. It's easy to see the attraction of falling back on cliches and one size fits all solutions. Diving in and diagnosing specific problems on specific pages in the context of the larger site is not simple. As Google gets more complex the job of the SEO is only getting harder and the urge to rely on a rigid set of practices is that much stronger.
However, no matter how easy it would be to fall back on cookie-cutter SEO techniques you shouldn't as your long-term goals will suffer.
Let's dive into some of the "SEO pitfalls" you should avoid.
The Problem with Taking Advice From SEO Articles & Social Media
One of the great things about the SEO industry is the knowledge sharing that takes place. Whether it's articles or on social media, there is a lot of knowledge around SEO being disseminated. People are constantly posting things on social media, writing blog posts, etc. There's a plethora of information coming at you every single day.
However, while knowledge sharing is wonderful it can lead to junior SEOs thinking that there is a cookie-cutter solution to SEO problems and strategies. Just because one strategy worked in one situation doesn't mean it is the right fit for your situation. If you read an SEO article that shows how implementing X brought about results it doesn't mean it works for you. Even if it would work for you, it doesn't mean you should implement the same on your own sites. Each site has its own context and larger goals.
Moreover, when you read about someone's success in an article you don't have a full picture of that site. You don't know whether the success was meaningful or not. Sure, the article shows a huge boost in traffic but what kind of traffic? Is it traffic that is relevant to the site or vanity traffic? You have no idea just by reading the article. It pays to critically think before you adopt something you read about in an SEO article.
The same applies to social media.
Just because someone shared a screenshot of some traffic growth on Twitter or LinkedIn doesn't a) indicate that it's the right move for you to make on your sites b) mean that the traffic growth shown is real, substantial, meaningful, or effective across the board.
As you grow, SEO only gets more difficult. As you try to create authoritative content and position yourself as a go-to site for Google, SEO gets harder. Falling back on cookie-cutter SEO techniques can hold you back as you move ahead in your SEO journey.
The Problem with SEO Checklists
The same goes for checklists. An SEO checklist might take care of the basics you have to work on but they often don't help as you get into the nitty-gritty of things. Moreover, each CMS is very different and it's nearly impossible to apply one SEO checklist to all CMSes. The point, again, creating some sort of SEO mold doesn't serve you well in the long run.
Checklists can be great at making sure the foundational aspects of SEO are covered. They aren't great at making sure the specific needs of a specific site in a specific situation are addressed. SEOs often default to checklists without ever thinking about their site in a critical manner. As a result, the real needs of the site go unaddressed.
The SEO Tools Can't Replace Real Analysis
There's a schism between real-world SEO and the data found within SEO tools. Often, the information inside the tools, while valuable, is hard to translate into real-world applications. It's easy, however, to get lost in that data and lose focus on what actually matters.
Ranking is the perfect example of this. There are some great reports and tools around rank tracking. However, without understanding the full context of your rankings the data can lend itself to becoming a vanity metric. SEOs will often look at the data from a rank tracker as being the gospel without realizing it's an average representation of your rankings across multiple locations (or other constructs depending on the rank tracker). That is, your "rankings" are not how you actually rank at any given time, in any given location, and for any given user.
Further, the SEO tools often come with a slew of recommendations. While in a vacuum these recommendations might make sense they might not actually be valuable to your specific situation. It's important to consider the fact that no tool knows your site as you do. Think before acting. Make sure the recommendations you see in a tool are appropriate for doing SEO on the site you are working on.
You Can't Remove Critical Thinking From SEO
The struggle is real. Cracking the code and figuring out "SEO" by moving beyond cliches and overused techniques can be hard. It's like Robert Tepper said in that song from Rocky IV, "There's no easy way out, there's no shortcut home."
Trying to remove critical thinking from SEO is simply absurd. There's no way around trying to analyze the unique circumstances of a specific site. While it's tempting to replicate whatever strategy you've seen in an article or on social media having a discerning eye will go a long way for your success.
For more of the SEO Rant Podcast check out our previous episode on making SEO affordable.