I’ve got some gut-wrenching, heart-stopping, eye-popping, blood-curdling, nasty news for you. You know SEO? Yeah. Well you’re doing it wrong. For that matter, you could be royally screwing your entire online marketing efforts.

Not the type of information you were wanting to hear today, huh? I know that’s a punchy breaking news flash for you, but someone needed to say it.

The fact is, there’s so much useless SEO pablum floating around that not even Matt Cutts knows what he’s talking about anymore. (And if you don’t know what pablum means, look it up.) There are several common responses in a discussion about “SEO.”

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Image Source: Chris Portal

  • The Nerd. An annoying goofball. This guy pats his pocket protector, pushes up his glasses, and guffaws, “Oh, SEO. Yes, ‘Search Engine Optimization!’ What you need to do is reformat your meta titles to accommodate appropriate algorithmic optimization of crawlable metadata for enhanced indexing and evergreen approximation for ideal SERP ranking.” Tell this guy that you learned that in preschool, and that Google is now hiring, so he needs to get on the next plane to Mountain View.

  • The Know-It-All. A pessimistic doomsday prophet with salt and vinegar in his veins. “C’mon! Google Schmoogle! SEO is dead! And Google is going under next Tuesday!” This individual has no idea what he’s talking about.

  • The PPC Hero.  A prudish corporate flunky: “Ahem, SEO is an abomination. The SEO industry is nothing but scams run by conmen. We don’t do SEO.” This is equally misguided.

Each of these common viewpoints of SEO is wrong, wrong, wrong. I’m going to tell you the only news that you need to know about SEO.

Truth hurts, but this is what you really need to know about in order to succeed in the new brave world of SEO.

Your SEO Tricks Are Actually BS.

The SEO industry has long survived based on tricks and techniques. Tricks used to work. The time has come when those tricks just aren’t going to cut it anymore.

The way to SEO success isn’t really “SEO” anymore. I’ll get to that, but first, let’s eliminate some of the shady things that you need to stop doing.

I’m assuming that you know the typical no-nos about keyword stuffing, directory listing, etc. That was so three years ago.

The time has come to bid adieu to the latest SEO tricks that agencies are still relying on.

Linkbacks.

Common SEO praxis dictates that you get all kinds of juicy backlinks from big-name sites.

If you snag a link from Forbes or CNN, you’re magically propelled to the No. 1 spot on the SERPs.

Sounds cool, but it’s not quite that easy. Why?

  • Websites are cracking down, big time, on links in content. The SEO industry has been rocked by various SEO scandalous outrageous — Expedia, Buzzea, and others. Whether firing their SEO-connected guest authors or just banning all links, the process of removal has begun. It shall not be reversed.

  • Websites are wising up and slapping all links with no-follow tags. It’s far less common that you’ll be able to score a linkback with a big name publisher. Why? Because if they do link to you, they’re going to make it a no-follow link. A no-follow link does not give you any SEO value. None. Zilch.

  • In the future, linkbacks may actually be penalized somehow and someway. As a data-watcher, prognosticator, and pulse-on-the-market kind of guy, I’ve got a skin-crawling sensation that Google is getting ready to levy a few fresh penalties. I can’t explain exactly how these will look, or what it will penalize, but I feel that linkbacks are on their attack agenda. Let’s get this straight. The webspam team at Google is all about fighting. There are civilian casualties, and you might be next. The best way to stay out of the line of fire is to keep as legit as possible.

Takeaway: Don’t buy links. Bring a triple-size serving of skepticism to any SEO agency you court. There is a place for SEO agencies today, but they are far less necessary and beneficial than you might think.

Social Media “Signals”

There’s a common myth that exists in the mind of online marketers and even seasoned SEOs. They think that somehow “social signals” will juice up their website’s SEO.

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Image Source:  Mamba Media

Here was the theory: The more Facebook likes, Twitter tweets, Pinterest repins, and Google pluses you got, the better you would rank in the search results.

More signals mean incrementally more SEO value. SEO agencies morphed out new social media businesses. SEO pundits began spewing forth this talk about “social signals” as if it was the pinnacle of SEO wisdom.

Nope. Sorry. Doesn’t work that way.

.

Google knows, folks! Google knows! They not only know what color underwear you’re wearing right now, but they also know that 10% of Twitter users are fake, and 80 million Facebook users are also disembodied nobodys.

Any company with a lot of cash and not a lot of scruples can scramble together a ton of Facebook likes and retweets with a few well-placed Paypal transactions to select companies. Done.

So, Google has decided that’s just not going to work anymore.

Let me provide a few instructions on how not to react to this terrible earth-shaking news.

  • Don’t ditch your social media network. You need to hang on to your social communities. Stay active on Twitter, Pinterest, Google Plus, Tumblr, Facebook, LinkedIn, and wherever the heck you like to play. Just stay there! Social interaction is still a clutch marketing move, even if it doesn’t give you the SEO kickback you thought it once did.

  • Don’t think that social signals will give you SEO power.

  • Don’t abandon your social media building attempts. Stay in social media building mode. The fact of the matter is — every social connection you make is a possible new customer or conversion potential. Keep up with your fans, potential customers, and readers. And keep trying to build followers. Social is good. It’s just not an SEO strategy.

So, don’t give up on social spread. Keep at it. Just don’t think it’s going to boost your search engine results.

Takeaway:  Keep doing the social thing. Just don’t think you’re going to score a No. 1 position on Google because of it.

Bottom Line

Here’s the bitter-dregs bottom line:  Google knows the tricks, hates ‘em, and doesn’t care if you do ‘em or not.

So, that linkbuilding and social media empire building that you thought was so SEO savvy? It’s not doing jack for SEO.

You’re Focusing on all the Wrong SEO Things

Here’s the next round of news about SEO. You’re focusing on all the wrong things. I’m going to go through these one-by-one, and you can read ‘em and weep.

Rank

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Image Source:  Martin Mibfeldt

The biggest term in the SEO world is “rank.” Where do you rank on SEO? The iterations of this question are legion:

  • What position are you on Google?

  • How’s your No. 1 keyword ranking?

  • How many of your keywords on are page one?

All software focuses on this big question: “What’s your freaking rank?”

I have a response. It doesn’t freaking matter.

Okay, now I need to explain why. Rank is only one (of many) factor that influences how your company does in the Internet world. Top rank does not automatically translate into better traffic.

You  might have more traffic, but that doesn’t mean you have better traffic. Really good traffic is traffic that is 1) part of your focus audience, and 2) at an optimal phase in the buy cycle.

Rank matters very little when you reframe the issue like that.

The real issue you should be focusing on is not search engine optimization, but conversion optimization. Let traffic take care of itself. I’ll explain why later on in this article.

Instead, it’s important to focus on the one thing that you truly have complete control over — conversions.

Plus, different Googlers are going to get totally different results. Watch this. You’re going to be blown away by how much rank doesn’t matter.

It’s that “invisible algorithmic editing of the web” that is rewriting the rules of SEO. The game has changed. Rank is irrelevant.

Keywords are disappearing in their significance. The rules are different now.

You simply cannot focus on rank and expect to get answers and be successful.

Takeaway:  Focus on conversions, not rank.

Social Shares

Like I explained above, since Google is assigning no SEO value to your social signals, don’t rely on this as an SEO marker. However, it is a crucial signal for how nice and appealing your content is.

Stay tuned into this number, but don’t think of it as something that makes your SEO better.

Takeway:  Be happy about social shares, but don’t stake your SEO life on it.

Traffic

I alluded to this point above, but I want to reiterate it in a section all its own. Traffic is not everything. In fact, traffic matters very little in the grand scheme of things.

Let’s say you’re selling squirrel dioramas online. Let’s further conjecture that there are only 10,000 squirrel diorama enthusiasts in the world who are seeking squirrel dioramas online.

Therefore, you need to capture this audience in order to sell your product.

If your squirreldiorama.com website (domain available, if you want it) has floods of traffic — 100,000 uniques a month, it doesn’t matter.

Why? Because it’s fluff traffic. Useless junk! You don’t need 90% of that traffic.

However, if you’re only gaining 500 uniques a month, you don’t need to sink into a depression and increase your Prozac prescription.

You need to realize that such a traffic level is a sizable percentage of the squirrel diorama fans in the world today. Rejoice.

Traffic numbers are somewhat irrelevant to this whole squirrel diorama business owner conundrum. You can ignore the numbers (more or less), because there are better and more important metrics to worry about.

Takeaway:  Keep on eye on your traffic, but don’t base huge decision on that traffic number alone.

What You Need to Do Instead

Now I’ve come to the nice part of this post. I’m putting my myth-busting revolver away, and reaching for my professor’s bifocals.

What should you do now that you realize the dirty truth about SEO? Thankfully, you do possess control, and the ability to improve your business. Here’s how to do it:

It’s all about content.

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Image Source:  Social Media Today

Every time I hear this phrase, I want to throw up a little bit in my mouth: “Content is king.” I hate it, because it’s so cliche, and nobody really understands what it means.

Is it true, that content is king? Heck, yes. But is it also grossly misunderstood, seldom followed, and blindly ignored? Yes, yes, and yes.

I’m going to explain exactly what I mean by “all about content” in five cogent points.

Better Quality Content

Quality is kick-ass important in the pursuit of great content. Don’t let anyone pawn off content that violates basic grammatical rules, makes no coherent sense, and doesn’t know what a spell check is.

But quality goes beyond spelling and correctly placed commas. Quality is about giving new, reliable and interesting information to your readership.

You have a specific audience. You need to give them the kind of information that they need to hear.

Longer Content

You’ll notice that most of my posts sail beyond the 2,000-words mark. This length violates the long-argued falsehood that people don’t read content on the web, and other such garbage.

Actually, however, the statistics prove otherwise, as discovered by a content marketing organization survey. Here’s just a snippet of what they discovered:

Longer content means more social spread. In other words, real people and real readers get more excited about longer content.

Length in words

Tweets

0-399

207.08

400-699

207.43

700-999

254.90

1000-1499

295.97

1500+

312.52

I use 2,000 words or more, not because I want more shares, but because I’m dead set on top-tier content. Naturally, as I produce better content, people are going to share it. That’s not a bad side effect of curating the finest content that I’m capable of.

Don’t fear long posts as long as you write words worth reading,

Shareable Content

“Shareable” goes hand-in-hand with quality. However, “shareable” takes it a step further. You should create content that people really want to tell other people about.

You can convert readers into evangelists by creating stuff that is interesting, informative, revolutionary, insightful, sensible, trustworthy, legitimate, timely and exciting.

Again, these are audience-dependent qualities. What is “revolutionary” for a diorama collector may not be that interesting to a conversion optimization expert.

You need to get inside the head of your audience, and figure out the most shareable content possible, then unleash the power of the keyboard with a storm of share-worthy words.

Intelligent Content

Your readers aren’t stupid. They crave information that feeds their intellect. They will know when you’re simply churning out boilerplate copy for the sake of clicking “publish.”

Your goal isn’t just content. You want intelligent content.

When you write for smart people, smart people will read your content. It’s like TED talks. Why do millions upon millions of people watch (and re-watch) TED talks?

It’s because TED is publishing the intellectual cream of the crop. They are telling their audience “you’re smart, and so we’re going to give you smart content.”

Don’t be afraid of the occasional big word (or curse word) as long as it’s used appropriately, insightfully and intentionally, because your readers are intelligent.

Visual Content

The web is a visual place. You should be using graphics, infographics, videos, charts, images, diagrams, and all other variety of colorful and eye-catching content.

I’m preaching the power of “content,” but that means so much more than mere words. Why limit yourself to verbiage when you can show your audience what you mean, or drive home your point with a well-placed video.

This is not the place to spill forth all manner of statistical mind-blowing evidence about the power of graphics. I’m simply saying that good content is visual content.

Conclusion

We are in a new era of marketing. Merely saying “content is king” or tweeting “i <3 content” isn’t good enough. It’s time to readjust your marketing strategy to focus on conversions, cut the cute SEO tricks, and enter the brave new world where content takes on a whole new form:

  • More quality

  • More length

  • More shareable

  • More intelligent

  • More visual.

Regardless of the nature of your business — squirrel dioramas, tech widgets, or conversion optimization services — you owe it to your audience to give them the best content your mind can conjure up.

Yes, Google matters. Yes, the web is a matrix of individualized and personalized algorithmic filters. Yes, you want some rank and traffic. But none of these are worry worthy. You can’t control the algorithm, and you can’t fire Google.

The only thing you need to focus on beginning today is content — killer quality content that turns heads, compels clicks, and creates conversions.

Let’s make it happen.

 

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