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Taking A Lesson From Cleveland: SEO’s Top Goal for 2013 Is Variety

Cleveland is undergoing something of a metamorphosis right now. The city is working hard to expand it’s image beyond just “doctors and students” — while they are working on every campus in the city, they’re also developing a huge variety of other projects. Skate parks, casinos, rapid transit centers, recreational halls, and dozens of other plans spackle the walls of the Cleveland City Planning Commission.

So good for Cleveland, SEO types are thinking right now, what does this have to do with us?

Only that you’d do well to take a page from Cleveland’s playbook. Too many of us SEO people are obsessed with finding some sort of magical peak efficiency where you can have a single ‘best’ something — best link-building whoziwhatsit, best tag to put on your blog posts, best directory to submit your articles to, whatever it may be. The fact is that in the black-and-white (i.e. Panda and Penguin) era, you need variety.

Variety in what, exactly?

  • Anchor text: We all figured this one out back when Panda kicked our butts. If full half of your backlinks have the anchor text “Jared Pomranky: Cleveland SEO”, it might as well read “Viagra Acai Stop Smoking Penis Enlargement” for all of the credit Google will give it. And if you’re suddenly worried about the ‘best’ way to get a natural link profile, you’re already failing — the answer is there is no best way except the real way: get natural links. Speaking of which…
  • Links: Any single link-building tactic, no matter how awesome, turns into spam if you abuse it. Nothing says to Google “I’m getting all my links by the efforts of my own hand!” like when 75% of your backlinks come from, say, guest posts on other people’s blogs. Do something different every week.
  • Traffic Sources: This is going to draw some controversy, because isn’t the entire point of SEO to get traffic from a single source (Google)? Well, yes — but that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea as a business practice. It might take a lot of time and energy to spread your thinking and effort out past Google, but when something changes (say, they actually decide to implement the 7-result search pages and you lose traffic from a few dozen 8th-place listings), you’ll be happy you did. Hanging all of your hopes on a single anything will eventually lead to disaster, because everything eventually changes.

It’s kind of like the Great Recession, in a way: when huge, world-shifting things happen, it’s the people on the top and on the bottom who notice the least. The people in the middle are the ones who learn that everything they’re basing their lives on is far less dependable than they hoped. Panda and Penguin taught us that lesson on a small scale over the past couple of years, knocking around those of us depending on specific tactics to get the job done.

Let’s move beyond the specific scriptures that the black-and-white era has put upon us, and diversify our tactics, our perspectives, and our work. It’s the only way to become resilient against the kinds of shocks that Panda, Penguin, and Wall Street have inflicted on us in the last half a decade.

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