So I wrote a blog post about SEO and bad writing a few days ago, and I was re-reading it this morning when I noticed a pattern. And it immediately occurred to me that this pattern isn’t new — it’s a known, well-defined phenomenon. Someone comes up with a clever way of gaining an SEO advantage over their competitors. Some time later, either that person brags about it, or someone doing a competitive analysis of that site finds out how it works and talks about it, and it becomes known.
When it becomes known, it explodes, and everyone starts doing it, because it works. Within a few months, an entire new subsection of the SEO industry has cropped up around it, and every SEO company is adding it to their list of services. It becomes less and less effective as more and more people do it. Eventually, you can get a freelancer from Fiverr to do it for less than the cost of lunch at Arby’s, and a few days later, Google announces that they’re penalizing the practice. (Then, the SEO community entirely overreacts and throws the baby out with the bathwater — see my last post.)
Then, everything calms down for a few weeks until the next new, effective thing is discovered, and the whole cycle starts over again. This is entirely predictable, and because it’s entirely predictable, it’s entirely sad to see people invest their life savings in the New SEO Phenomenon only to have their business utterly destroyed by a Google shift a couple of months later.
It seems to me that the ‘right’ way to do SEO is to do what no one else is doing: to be a contrarian.
Now, normally, I’m not actually that much of a contrarian. I don’t disagree with people, causes, or what-have-you because it brings me some sort of inner pride to be disagreeable. I tend, philosophically, to be more of an awesomeist.
But there are some edge cases in which being an awesomist — in other words, seeking to find and be the awesome in your life — means being a contrarian. In SEO, the ‘norm’ is the cycle above. The contrarian method of doing SEO is to ignore the cycle and focus on doing the stuff that works consistently, regardless of fad, Google penalties, or Fiverr.
So what works consistently, all the time? Well, just like with martial arts, the most effective weapons are the ones you learn first and foremost — and the most effective way to execute them is “consistently.” Keyword research, excellent writing that works those keywords naturally into the text alongside liberal doses of LSI terms, creating content that people want to read, building backlinks organically by intelligently promoting that content…these are things that you can learn about in a day of smart reading, but they’re things that search engine optimizers miss daily in their pursuit of the latest fad.
Don’t get me wrong — there is a place for huge, graceful flying-reverse-hook-kicks in martial arts, and there’s a place for interlinked circles of related webpages providing backlinks to one another while providing each other with killer content and sharing customers…but both of those are more for show than for reality. Reality asks for simple, consistent, SEO to the face…and sadly, that’s what qualifies as ‘contrarian’ in the modern market.