If you’ve ever hired an SEO agency or tried to improve your SEO campaign, you’ve probably been surprised by how much conflict you heard.
- One article says it’s all about the number of links. Another article says it’s quality, not quantity, that matters.
- One agency says it can get you to the top of Google for $500 a month. Another agency says you may not get there at all, even at $2,000 a month.
- One study proves keywords are dwindling in importance. Another proves keywords are more important than ever.
As a business owner or leader, and not an expert on SEO, how can you make the right decisions with so much conflicting information to sort through?
In this article, let’s look at why you hear so much conflicting advice — this alone will help answer that all-important question. In an upcoming article, we’ll look more closely at how to make the right decisions for your SEO campaign.
Mystery Is Built Into SEO
Google and other search engines rank web pages based on their proprietary search algorithms, which are extremely complex formulas that evaluate the quality and relevance of content as they apply to a given search query.
Search engines shroud their algorithms in secrecy — as well they should. If people knew exactly how rankings were calculated, everyone with a website would manipulate the system to death and search engine users would wind up getting inferior results every time they conducted a search.
As a result, SEO experts must arrive at conclusions based on experience, research, experimentation, data analysis, data interpretation, theory, and at times, guesswork. Under these circumstances, it is quite possible for two smart, diligent SEO experts to arrive at different conclusions. They may have looked at much different data. They may have interpreted it differently. They may have had different experiences applying certain SEO theories in the past.
With the best intentions and in good faith, they will give you very different suggestions!
SEO Is Always Changing
Not only are search algorithms shrouded in secrecy, they also change regularly, and at times, extensively. Algorithms are changed for many reasons — preventing manipulation and adapting to new technologies (such as mobile search) are two of the main ones.
When Google changes its algorithm, best practices for SEO change with it. So, if you are reading an article about SEO written five years ago, it may offer outdated advice — SEO techniques that could hurt you rather than help you.
Theory and Practice Don’t Always Agree
SEO professionals must continually test their theories and monitor the industry. If they rely only on theory or only on data, they could easily make mistakes. We have found that what should make sense for SEO, based on what Google says publicly about its algorithm, is not always what does make sense.
For instance, Google has suggested that putting exact, specific keyword phrases in content is no longer necessary, because it can now determine the relevance of content without such precise cues. Nevertheless, our research shows that precise keyword selection continues to have a significant impact — at least for now.
Too Many Variables
What if you went to a doctor with a sore throat and the doctor said, “A sore throat? Here’s a prescription for ‘x.’ I give this to everybody with a sore throat.” No doubt this response would worry you. A sore throat could have 100 explanations, maybe 1,000. Shouldn’t the doctor examine you first, and then prescribe a treatment?
SEO is very much the same. No two companies have identical SEO symptoms. No two companies need the same SEO treatment. Massive focus on obtaining links might be just what the doctor ordered for company A, but not terribly important for company B. Company C might need a complete overhaul of its keyword targets, but company D is ready to roll with the existing ones.
With this in mind, SEO advice can be right in general, but wrong for you — especially when it comes to prioritizing campaign tasks.
So far, everything I’ve covered deals with reputable SEO professionals offering good-faith advice. But as in any industry, SEO has a few bad players. Some SEO agencies are not as interested in helping you as in helping themselves. These bad players litter the Internet with advice that may sound good — but is completely unsound. Consider the source of SEO advice. The vast majority of SEO specialists are real professionals who can be checked out on user review websites, LinkedIn and in other ways. It never hurts to check.