Humans will do anything to look smart and competent. Comedians like Jimmy Kimmel feed off of this propensity for hubris. And then we all benefit from it. Try it for yourself sometime. Go up to a random stranger and ask, “Do you think Bill Clinton gets enough credit for ending the Korean War?” (HINT: He wasn’t old enough to be President of the United States during the Korean War.)
Ironically, this behavior often exposes our ineptitude.
SEOs and bloggers are no different. We want to look like experts so bad we bullshit our way into corners all the time
Here are a few ways SEOs B.S. themselves all the time and really make themselves look like idiots.
1. Do What These Massive Brands Are Doing
When I was a kid, I played the game Lemmings. Often, I’d get bored with a particularly difficult level and just set up traps for my lemmings rather than rescue them. I’d watch them all follow the digger to hell and then hit the nuke button.
The fact a lemming is bigger and healthier looking than the other lemmings doesn’t change the fact it’s a lemming. That lemming still might be heading for a cliff.
Big brands aren’t always wise sages, especially when it comes to SEO. Think of it this way: a bigger brand has a much wider margin of error than you do. If they make a mistake, they can bounce back when you might splat at the bottom.
You’re also assuming their HR department knows what they’re doing when they hire SEOs and web designers. Often the philosophy of “throw money at it to make it grow” doesn’t work. And that’s exactly how some big brands function once they get the big cash.
Don’t be a lemming, seek real advice.
2. SEO is Snake Oil
Ok, SEOs typically don’t say this. They wouldn’t make any money this way.
But I’ve heard it from Google employees, bloggers, and anyone who just doesn’t want to do the work of ranking well. I even had a friend from YouTube tell me this, backpedal, and then say, “well, it’s just that the target is constantly shifting.”
There’s a lot of surface-level SEO information out there. And while it’s not exactly snake oil, it’s often not enough to have any real impact on your SERPs.
SEO is like psychology. It’s a soft science.
We can’t peak into the box and know what’s going on but we can observe the effects. Sometimes Google will give us a heads-up, but often we’re scrambling to patch holes after the fact.
This can make it seem like SEOs are behind the curve, but they’re more in the know than anyone else. It’s not an exact science, but it’s not snake oil either.
3. Worry About Keyword Stuffing
Seriously? What year is this? 2012?
Can we be done with the keyword stuffing thing yet? No? Well, I guess we gotta slay this beast while we’re here.
Sure, keywords still matter a *little* bit. But here’s the bite: they gotta be so natural, even you don’t see them as keywords.
Google’s RankBrain is now all about user intent. It’s so important to give users what they’re looking for that keywords almost don’t matter anymore.
Where Then Are Keywords Relevant?
Until our language goes fully pictographic, search engines will continue to take keywords into account. And you should definitely research a keyword to put in your title tag.
Otherwise, just be natural (grammatically correct, and concise, and…well, content is king, right?).
4. Content is King
Aw, what? Didn’t I just say content is king? Yeah, yeah, I know, plot-holes, right?
But this myth is just like the “write what you know” rule in writing. People take it, run with it and have no clue what the hell they’re even doing. And then they end up writing boring crap because their life is so boring.
Novice bloggers do the same thing with content. If you write it, they will come, right?
Wrong. You need more than just content (even great content) to make the SEO wheels turn. We’re looking at links, tags, design, usability, speed…
Yeah, content is just an important piece of the puzzle, one you can’t do without. But it’s not the end-all of SEO.
5. Links Are a Dead Horse
I’ve said this before, but the internet is — drumroll please — a network! Without links, you are just a powerless tool in a sea of well-connected and well-dressed geniuses.
It’s just that, like keywords, and content, links are only one step in many to get you to the SERP prize. No, don’t put a billion links in, but don’t ignore them either.
Don’t go buying links for cheap either. Negotiate for access to high ranking sites instead. And again, be natural.
6. Google is Penalizing You
I only cried once in Hockey. I’d just come back after time off from a broken ankle and I was reckless on the ice. I almost whacked someone in the throat with my stick. I ended up in the penalty box a teenage mess because I had lost skill.
Google’s algorithms aren’t referees. They’re a content elevator. When one site drops in the rankings, it’s because of a change in the algorithm they weren’t ready for. It also means another site was ready (knowingly or not).
There is no Google algo penalty box. There are referees at Google, but Google actually notifies you on the Google Search Console when you’ve violated their Webmaster Guidelines.
Talking about SERP rank changes like hockey penalties only serves to malign Google and cause confusion.
Don’t Be an Idiot
Humility is an underrated quality in our society. I’ve found that when you admit ignorance, you’re rewarded with knowledge.
Only idiots pretend to know eveything. If you’re on the SEO struggle bus, seek help. Your SERPs will thank you.