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The View From Detroit: SEO Can Be A Hard Thing To Stop Doing

I chat quite regularly with a bunch of SEO guys from around Detroit. The vast majority of them are, more or less, like me: smart, hardworking people who have realized that they have, usually through a series of unrelated events, come into a pretty decent understanding of SEO. It’s pretty rare you see someone with a degree in SEO; most of us learned it the old-school way: jumping in and sinking until we swam.

But what I’m seeing a lot of lately is — particularly in Detroit — SEO guys who put in hours and do the work, but don’t necessarily optimize their time. Let me give you a concrete, everyday example: a blog post.

Your typical Detroit SEO guy will do some keyword research when the project starts, and when it comes time to get a blog post done, they’ll give that keyword to a content creator and have that person write 300-500 words about the subject at hand, using the keyword a few times in the process. When the content is done, the SEO guy will post it on the client’s blog, bam, done, thank you, you call me, you know where I am.

But there’s more — much more — to putting an SEO blog post up “properly”. Incomediary has a detailed list for the curious, but it essentially breaks down to:

  • Do the keyword research. (You literally can’t do SEO without this, so it’s always done.)
  • Take time crafting a killer headline. (That’s up to the content writer, so the SEO guy can’t control this.)
  • Edit the post slug to contain your keyword and only your keyword (Basically never done.)
  • Save your images with your keyword as the image name, and add the keyword to the title and alt text. (This is debatable, but it’s pretty rare to see someone do it even if they firmly believe it works.)
  • Upload a relevant video. (Almost never.)
  • Properly use the subheading tags to divide content. (I don’t even believe this is important enough to be worth a point on the list, but I want to be faithful to the list, so here it is.)
  • Link your post to two or three older posts. (This is often skipped because the SEO guy doesn’t want to edit the content creator’s document, but the content creator often doesn’t even know where his article is posted, so he can’t add such links himself.)
  • Link to at least one authoritative, relevant source. (Many of the SEO types that came from sales think of external links as a “way out” — a hole through which they can lose customers…err, readers. Yeah, readers.)
  • Edit the meta tag to include a sentence from the blog post that has the keyword in it and tells searchers what the article is about. (This is often impossible to find, so why bother looking?)
  • Tell the reader, at the end of the article, what you’d like them to do. For example, tell them to click the “like” button, or tweet your post. (Only happens if the SEO guy tells the content creator to make sure it does…so about half the time.)

I hope I’m not coming across as overly cynical here — my point isn’t to denigrate anyone in my industry, it’s only to point out that SEO is a vast and extraordinarily complex field, and that doing things the “right” way isn’t necessarily even the best way. After all, is it better to spend a few hours on every blog post you put up for what may be, as a completely haphazard guess, 8% more SEO-effective?
Wouldn’t it be better to spend your time building backlinks, researching your competition, or doing other things that will be more effective in the long run? Unfortunately, SEO can be a hard thing to stop doing, and that can ultimately lead to us, in our fervor to do it “right” for our clients, failing to do what’s best for those self-same people.

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