I don’t really do New Year’s resolutions. I believe that when you want to make a positive change in your life, you should not wait for an arbitrary date with some fleeting cosmic significance to make that change. Life is not a series of end destinations – it’s a continuous journey, and one day is just as meaningful and profound as the next.
Yet I am keenly aware that New Year’s resolutions are potent cultural phenomena, so I will seize the opportunity to plant some seeds in the minds of you, my cherished SEO community, in the hope that perchance, someday, some of you might begin heeding these words and acting accordingly.
So if you are intent on starting 2014 with a bag full of good intentions, here are a few SEO-specific New Year’s resolutions for you to consider:
1. Focus on the Client
If there’s one golden rule of SEO, it’s this: add value to your client’s business. That should be the be-all, end-all of your SEO activities. Whether you are a freelancer or agency bod, or whether your ‘clients’ are in-house stakeholders, your duty as a SEO is to make them look good.
Often SEOs can easily get distracted by sideshows like Google penalty FUD, endless debates over H1 vs <span>, the ethical quandaries of linkbuilding, or any other hot button topic of the moment. And those sideshows can be fun and highly educational, but they should never distract us from our core purpose: to make our clients’ websites more successful. Everything we do – everything – should be in service of that overarching goal.
2. Adopt a Sceptical Mindset
For the past few years Google has shown it’s a very capable purveyor of propaganda, disinformation, and outright lies, in service of its ultimate goal of long term profit maximisation. If you want to be an effective SEO in this day and age, it pays to have a big bag of salt to hand whenever you read what Google says you should do.
Everything from the disavow tool – Google’s master-stroke in crowdsourcing spam link discovery – to the advice given in Matt Cutts’ webmaster videos, never just uncritically accept what Google states is good SEO. I’ll grant that the overlap between Google’s guidelines and what actually works is substantial, but far from a 100% match.
Instead you are best served by conducting your own experiments, sharing experiences with fellow SEOs, and use your critical thinking skills to determine for yourself what works best in which circumstance.
3. Do Things That Excite You
Within the boundaries afforded by the first resolution, you still have a lot of freedom to perform SEO activities that add value. It’s an easy trap to fall in to a routine of content writing and outreach emails, without ever stopping to consider whether what you’re doing is fun.
The best SEO emerges from things that excite you. Things that make you giddy and hyper and have you grinning from ear to ear. Not everything in SEO can be fun, but a lot of it should be. So you should resolve yourself to inject excitement and passion in to what you do. Go wild with your content ideas, grab that pint with your favourite blogger, or dig in to that challenging technical SEO conundrum. Get excited.
4. Don’t be a Snitch
The practice of outing SEO practices you don’t agree with is as rife as ever, and over time my perspective on ratting out black hat SEOs has shifted from ‘good riddance’ to ‘live and let live’ – especially as Google has proven to possess a petty and vindictive streak when it comes to SEO in general and black hat tactics specifically.
Personally I find a huge company with multi-billion dollar profits wanting to ‘break the spirit‘ of small (often sole proprietor) businesses to be thoroughly despicable and morally bankrupt, so I am in no way inclined to help Google with their struggles against search engine spam. My job, as per the first resolution, is to add value to my clients. Cleaning up the SERPs is in no way part of that remit – that’s Google’s job, and I am sure not being paid to do that for them.
So please, I urge you, don’t be Google’s tool. You might think you’re doing a good thing when you out black hats, but in the end you’ll be harming yourself as much as you think you’re harming the spammers.
5. Write Quality SEO Stuff
When it comes to blogging for SEO purposes, it’s often hard to find a good topic to write about. It seems everything that can be said about SEO has already been said at some stage. That is why whenever Google farts so many SEO blogs are dedicating thousands of words to analysing it – better to write about something new, even if it stinks, rather than tread familiar ground for the nth time.
But not everything you write needs to be about something new and exciting. Often the best posts are those that collate and clarify established information, especially if it’s complemented with a case study or a new data set from actual client sites.
So whenever you start writing a blog post about SEO, take a moment to contemplate it first. Think of your target audience, and ask yourself if the post adds value for them. Does it collate existing best practices and/or provide an update to existing knowledge? Will it feature a fresh case study or data point? If you can honestly answer one of those in the affirmative, by all means go ahead and write it.
If you can’t, you should ask why you’re writing it in the first place. If it’s just to fulfil a blogging obligation, you’re not doing anyone a service – least of all the blog you’re writing for.
So here’s to a great 2014. Be sure to add value to your clients, do things that excite you, be sceptical of Google’s advice, don’t rat out other SEOs, and write SEO blogs you can be proud of. May this year bring you plenty of joy, happiness, and SEO success.