I often feel sorry for small businesses. I do. Too often they don’t have the funds, time, or resources to investigate things as thoroughly as they should. Unlike larger businesses with deep pockets, small business can’t hire first-rate, high-end SEOs to do all the right things for them. All too often they have to rely on the free advice on blogs, forums, and social networking sites—and then do all the worrying themselves. If they are in a slightly better position, they might be able to pawn off some of that worry to an SEO which they have not fully vetted, and who may end up taking their campaign in the wrong direction. But that leaves them with entirely new things to worry about.
Spending nights worrying about an SEO campaign can eat up a lot of energy that the small business would be better off applying to other areas. But with so much information out there, it’s hard to know what’s what. The SEO industry tends to thrive on extremes. We create lists of things that absolutely mustbe done and lists of things that absolutely must not be done. But far too often, within either of those lists are things that simply don’t matter at all. To provide a bit of middle ground to all the extremes, here are things that you simply do not need to spend more than a half a second fretting over:
10) Focusing on number one rankings
Are we still obsessed with getting #1 rankings? Number one rankings aren’t all they are made out to be. This is especially true when dealing with broad, non-targeted phrases. Listen, top search engine placement is great, but there is so much more to obsess over. How about focusing on site conversions and usability? How about branding? How about improving your web site and services so you actually deserve that #1 position?
The thing we hear most often from small businesses is that being on top is the only way to drive traffic. That is so not true anymore, especially within the context of social media. There are so many more ways to drive traffic to a web site. Yes, search engines are one of those ways, but they are not the only way. And yes, the exposure you get from a top ranking is great and all, but the fact is that unless you truly deserve to be there (and this can be determined by as much of what happens offline as on), you’re just not going to be able to displace a competitor that has been firmly established in that position, especially on competitive phrases.
So, no need to worry about that #1 ranking. Just get your site optimized and work on delivering targeted traffic to a high-converting web site. Focus on that and someday the #1 ranking may follow.
9) Obsessing over PageRank
You gotta love an industry that tells people they should ignore page rank but suddenly obsesses over it when Google does a number with their little green bar on high profile sites. But we all need to know why these things happen, right? Fair enough. It is important to know why certain things are happening so you can make sure you’re not doing anything to violate the search engine guidelines. But after that, it’s time to just let it go.
The fact is, tool bar PageRank isn’t much of an accurate measure of anything. It’s fine to consider in context, but really, does it matter if your site goes up or down a PR level? Is it worth the effort to move your site from a PR3 to a PR6? In a word: no.
PageRank is simply an effect, not a cause. Focusing on PageRank is useless. However, if you focus on creating a valuable site that others think is worth linking to and shopping at, then you’ll see your little green bar grow bit by bit. People don’t convert or not convert based on PageRank. They do based on the quality of the site.
And while we’re at it, let’s talk about “leaking” PageRank. Listen, of all things to worry about, PageRank leakage isn’t one of them. If you want to link out to sites that you feel are valuable to your visitors, then do it. If you’re linking for the sake of linking, then don’t. It’s a simple as that.
8) Worrying about who is linking to you
This one isn’t a complete throwaway, because you should pay attention to your incoming links. But for the most part, there isn’t a whole lot you can do about who does or doesn’t link to you outside of implementing a reciprocal link campaign. And for the most part, who’s linking to you is not going to hurt you. But there are some exceptions, so again, do keep an eye on these things from time to time but don’t obsess over them.
If you find sites linking to you that you don’t want to be associated with, the best you can do is to politely ask them to remove the link. If they are a spammer, chances are you’ll never get a response. But sometimes you might, and you might even succeed at getting a link you don’t like removed. But it’s rare that that happens. And search engines understand this and act accordingly.
7) Worrying about what anybody else says (including me)
SEO opinions are like elbows—everybody has at least two, and each is on the opposite side of the issue! (I refrained from using the analogy about everybody’s opinions stinking. You’re welcome.) Seriously, you can’t spend your time worrying about what SEO experts say and who contradicts them. Or about who’s right and who’s wrong. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t read any information on the various sites frequented by the SEO community. I’m just saying take it all with a grain of salt. If you find someone that you tend to agree with based on your own experience, then go ahead and put a bit more stock into what that person says. But don’t take it as gospel truth and always be open to different schools of thought.
Remember, experience is the best teacher. And I mean your experience, not only someone else’s. You can only gain knowledge from others, but you can never know what actually works or doesn’t work until you go out and do it for yourself.
6) Obsessing over Microsoft/Yahoo/Ask rankings
Before you get your panties in a bunch over this one, let me put it into context. Each engine has different algorithms and therefore each will rank a page differently for the same keywords. Is it smart to work on getting your site ranked on MSN, Yahoo, and Ask? Sure, absolutely. But never at the expense of your Google rankings. Never. While different algorithms are employed, they all tend to run off the same basic premise: a good site will rank well, regardless of the algorithm used to evaluate it.
Don’t think that you need to optimize a page for each search engine. It doesn’t work that way. Just do good optimization and all engines will rate you accordingly. Now, you should be concerned about making sure each engine finds your web site and that it is relevant for your key search phrases. But don’t make drastic changes to your pages because Ask or Microsoft has you at page 2 while Google has you at the top of page 1. Not unless you absolutely know those changes won’t cause a drop in your Google rankings. If you’re uncertain, or if you make those changes and see Ask move up and Google move down, by all means change it back. It’s just not worth it.
I’ll finish up next week (you can thank me with lavish praise and links.) We’ll keep going down the list until we hit the number one thing that a small business should absolutely never be worried about. Ever. Stay tuned.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.