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March 13th, 2011 by john andrews

SEO Innovation – To Boldly Go

I think to Boldy Go where Man Has Gone Before.. is Foolish

Even I am too young for the real original Star Trek sagas, but I do remember the daytime TV I watched as a kid, with episode after episode of Captain James T. Kirk keeping courage, trust, integrity and humanity alive in the Universe. And of course, the call to action every episode was “to boldly go where no man has gone before“. Wow… not just to go into the unknown, but to boldly go. That takes courage.

We SEO innovators put our courage to the test constantly, pushing limits and testing both Google and the marketplace. We go where no man has gone before, and often on behalf of our clients. When we boldly go, we usually go on our own, testing the waters or innovating, uncertain of the outcomes. Since in capitalist systems reward tries to flow to risk takers, we often boldly go where we believe we can successfully innovate. There is little room in the SEO research arena for timidity.

Recently I’ve witnessed a different sort of SEO effort though. I’ve seen SEO people boldly going where many people have gone before, without full awareness of the outcomes (seo history).  I think that is the definition of SEO foolish. As my favorite ADD coach says, go boldly, but not carelessly.

The other day in an initial meeting with a web team, I boldly stated that “I know that 95% of quoted statistics are nonsense, but I say 90% of SEO materials published on the web are wrong“. I offered  a money back guarantee on that claim. It’s true. The vast bulk of so-called SEO blogs, articles, and advice proffered by web vendors is misleading at best and typically incorrect (often outdated). To boldly follow such advice can be very risky.

When a webmaster believes what she reads about SEO on the web and then implements it, she either wastes time and effort (because it won’t work well) or assumes undue risk (making changes with uncertain outcomes). In search marketing, taking incorrect actions can cost you more than not having done anything at all.

Changes to public-facing signals (which by definition are search-engine-facing signals) always incur SEO risks. If something  is misinterpreted by the search engines, it can cost you. Even if nothing changes, the wasted resources bleed power from other efforts that could have increased sales or lowered costs. And if we analyze subsequent rankings changes (which may or may not have had anything to do with the “seo” efforts) from a correlational perspective, or otherwise biased cause-and-effect perspective, such efforts can gain negative momentum and cost us even more progress.

I wrote about the way the SEO marketplace skews understanding of the SEO a long time ago in a blog post about “A Market for Lemons” and SEO consulting. The marketing materials published by SEO vendors comprises a big portion of the potentially harmful SEO misinformation out there.

Following incorrect SEO advice is a mistake. Boldly following it, can be disastrous.

SEO contrarians have been more consistently correct than SEO pundits for quite some time now. Don’t let that stop innovation and experimentation, but I suggest the following approach to strong SEO today:

  • Don’t execute hard on anything you haven’t soundly tested for yourself
  • Don’t trust what you read from free or vendor-sponsored SEO publications. this is a variation on the old but very sound advice “follow the money”
  • Ask specific questions so you can estimate risk and reward, before you execute SEO tactics. If you don’t know where to safely ask such questions, you’ve just identified your first need: you need a good seo consultant (such as Audette Media)
  • Definitely go where SEOs have gone before, just don’t do so foolishly (boldly). Test and execute, and of course double down on  things that clearly work. You won’t enjoy the benefits of early execution for long, as the web is rather transparent when it comes to SEO (competitors will see you rank and figure out what you did… and copy it).
  • Learn why PPC is a valuable test tool for SEO. Join PPCBlog.com if you need cut-to-the-chase practical advice.
  • Boldly Go where No Man Has Gone Before – this is great advice. Do it on separate test sites or sites you can afford to lose, and learn learn learn. And if you find you love this aspect of SEO, welcome to my world of advanced SEO and SEO research. I hope to see you in the seobook.com private forums, or in-person at conference networking events, or involved in my future SEO newsletter WebPrescience.com.
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John Andrews is a mobile web professional and competitive search engine optimzer (SEO). He's been quietly earning top rank for websites since 1997. About John

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