Focus on Your Readers and Relationships, Not Search Engine OptimizationA few weekends ago, I had the pleasure of meeting up with old friends at Fincon, a fantastic personal finance blogger convention put on my buddy Phil Taylor of PTMoney. I contributed to two panels and the one that I wanted to talk about today was titled “Panda, Penguin, and the Future of SEO.”
I had the pleasure of sharing the stage with Viet Do of Dealzon (who set the whole thing up), Greg Go of Wisebread, and Ryan Guina of The Military Wallet and each one of them has had far more experience battling the animal spirits of Google than me, though I’d like to think that I held my own with my general knowledge of SEO.
While we went through some site reviews (I’m sorry if I was a little brutal in my honesty), I wanted attendees to take home just one idea from everything I said:
Focus on your site’s usability and on connecting with readers,
don’t worry about search engine optimization.
Don’t Worry About SEO
Bloggers shouldn’t worry about SEO because it’s an issue of resource allocation. You only have so much time and energy, it’s better to spend it on things with an immediate impact than things that might help you later on. Answering an email, replying to a comment, writing posts, being active on social media, and many of those “blocking and tackling” types of activities have an immediate impact.
Not so much with SEO.
SEO can be broken up into two major areas – on-page and off-page. WordPress and a variety of plugins solve 95% of the on-page issues regarding SEO. Off-page factors, which you can improve primarily through linkbuilding, is a time intensive process with practically no immediate impact.
Your resources are better spent in other activities.
Do Worry About Your Readers
Fortunately, there are so many things you can do to your site that improve usability and can also improve your SEO. These are the things you should focus on.
One such example from the panel was concept of tag clouds. A Tag cloud is simply a wall of text that links to archive pages for posts that have a specific tag. The size of the tag is bigger based on how many posts use that tag.
Tag clouds look messy and very few people use them, so why not remove it? (I asked the crowd of maybe a hundred attendees, there was one hand that went up — most people don’t use them)
I think that hand was @MeganTwoCents – thank you for being honest and brave enough to share you clicked on a tag cloud 🙂 – nothing wrong with that at all!
Site speed is another great example. Google uses site speed as a (small) ranking factor and readers use site speed as a measure of credibility. The faster a site is, the better it is for users and the better Google feels about sending people there.
In Matt Cutts’ words: “…if you’re the outlier. If you’re at the very bottom end because your site is really, really slow, then yes, it might be the case that your site will rank lower because of its page speed.”
SEO Is a Passenger, Not the Driver
Years ago, Google loved blogs and you could pump out almost anything and get it to rank. That’s why I wrote three posts a day and it’s why content farms got popular and went public. SEO became the driver.
Today, you need great content and a connection with readers. SEO can be incredible if you manage to rank highly for some terms. Bargaineering was built on strong rankings and efficient monetization. That was before all the algorithm changes, that was before Google started emphasizing bigger brands, and that was after I had the resources to put towards it. SEO shouldn’t be driving anymore, great content should be the driver.
SEO Isn’t a Panacea
There is an entire industry built upon the fears and uncertainty surrounding SEO, Google, and ranking. Don’t buy into it. Everyone who ever learned about SEO learned it on the job. There’s an existing body of knowledge but it’s not something you can’t learn in a short period of time – it’s not like becoming a doctor or a lawyer or even an accountant.
As an aside, I think SEO can sometimes be a little ridiculous. Check out this Matt Cutts video where he says there is no SEO impact between using the bold tag vs. the strong tag. It’s dated October 21, 2013!
SEO is important but this borders on ridiculous in terms of minutiae.
Write great content, interact with your readers and fellow bloggers, and enjoy the process of creating and connecting.
Focus on readers & relationships, not on SEO! — Click to Tweet
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