Does it bother you as much as it bothers me? Surely you’ve seen it. Perhaps you know someone who’s done it in the past (or good grief, is still doing it!). I can’t imagine anyone who reads Search Engine Land on a regular basis would do it, but then again, many things in life surprise me.
I’m talking about losing track of what’s truly important in an SEO campaign. Getting lost in the woods, and not seeing the forest for the trees.
There are those who have learned a tiny modicum of knowledge about SEO; perhaps they picked it up years ago and decided they had figured it all out. But now they focus all of their time and energy chasing after the wrong things.
Most of us have had clients or worked for IT managers who only care about certain “aspects” or key performance indicators (KPIs) within an SEO campaign. They ask us as SEOs to give them regular updates on how the campaign is performing in pursuit of certain (read misguided) goals that they feel are most important for SEO.
Heck, sometimes even a few SEOs can lose sight of important priorities and fall prey to the easy temptation of obsessing over what’s not important. They lose sight of the real goals of SEO by chasing meaningless indicators or pointless statistics. Allow me to provide just a few examples:
1. Klout Scores
Is there any serious SEO out there who thinks this matters one hoot? Yes, I too have heard the tales of ad agencies asking prospective employee candidates about their Klout scores, using their knowledge of it (or worse yet, the actual score) as an evaluation criteria for hiring.If only the score had any legitimate value.
The specific Facebook activity that has earned him so much “klout” is his participation in a Facebook game, where he interacts with other online players, who “Like” his gameplay and his collection of meaningless, digital doo-dads.
The vast majority of the Likes associated with his Facebook account come from this gameplay, and he’s definitely noticed a positive correlation between his accumulation of these game-based Facebook Likes and his growing Klout score. Talk about gaming the system!
This same SEO also is a big user of HootSuite. He has set up HootSuite to automatically tweet any update received from a dozen different feeds, all related to SEO. He actually rarely goes into HootSuite anymore, and even more rarely manually retweets any particular message he receives. It’s all automatically managed now, and since setting this up, his Klout score has gotten another significant shot in the arm.
So does any of this activity increase his genuine expertise in SEO? The Klout algorithm seems to think so, which is just another reason why I think Klout is more of a meaningless game than anything else. Make no mistake, I respect the hell out of this person’s mad Web design and deep SEO skills. But Klout’s measurement of this kind of industry activity is fundamentally flawed, which makes all Klout scores a joke.
2. Google Toolbar PageRank Score
When was the last time you heard an SEO not brag about being involved with a site whose PR score is 7 or better? Perhaps it was about their own site or a long-term client site – it doesn’t matter to them. No one cares about or bothers to mention PR when their site score is between a 0-3, but when the score goes past 5, all of a sudden they become true believers – and braggers!
“Hey look at me! My site is now a PR 7!” Yeah, well my dad can bowl better than your dad. And I drive a BMW. So nyah.
Even Google’s Matt Cutts has suggested we all worry too much about a generic PageRank score and should focus our concerns and efforts elsewhere (such as content). A PageRank score from the Google Toolbar really only has relative value, not specific value. It’s pretty safe to assume a PR2 site will not outrank a PR7 site within the same industry niche for the same keyword query.
But start taking away some of those qualifying caveats, and the whole ballgame changes. Then add to the mix that we all get personalized SERPs these days, in addition to the SERP enhancements associated with Google Authorship Markup, and a top SERP placement is no longer actually all that meaningful – except for bragging rights.
3. Google SERP Rank
Speaking of bragging rights, this is a good follow-on to the previous bullet item. Some folks absolutely cling to the belief that the whole damn enterprise hangs on whether or not their SEO can get them a Number 1 SERP rank. Right. Nothing is more important than that. And Superman was based on a true life story.
As I just said, personalized SERPs mean that what’s Number 1 for you may not be Number 1 for me, nor Number 1 for folks in other geographic areas or demographic groups. And even if you get that Number 1 rank, was it for the keyword you really wanted, or just any old keyword, a funky long-tail special that gets little to no traffic, or is so tangentially related to what you have to sell that it doesn’t convert at all?
Furthermore, as mentioned above, if you are Number 1 but your SERP listing is basic, and the next two SERP links beneath yours employ microformats for an enhanced SERP page, or they use authorship markup to show the author’s photo and his or her name linked to their other related published content, are you sure that coveted Number 1 link is really going to produce for you?
To make matters even worse, there are also local search results, branded results with sitelinks, blended SERP results for videos and images, and much more that can distract, if not ruin the desired effect of your long-sought Number 1 rank.
4. Link Exchanges & Paid Links
Can you actually believe in these days of Penguin that people still seek out reciprocal links or, worse yet, still want to buy paid links via junk directories or fake blog networks? Yeah, and while you’re at it, you might want to try stuffing that <meta> keyword tag, too. I hear that also really works well. I recently got the following email (names have been changed to protect the foolish):
“Dear Sir / Madam
“I am currently in the process of building links for <Company URL>. As you probably know the link exchange between two websites helps both your site and mine to rank highly in search engines such as Google, Yahoo and MSN.
“If you are interested in the link exchange please choose any category you like: <URL on his site> and let me know. I will add your link within a jiffy.
“If you are not interested in reciprocal links I can also offer 3 way links…”
The email goes on with markup code samples. I especially love how it ended:
“ps. If you are not the person dealing with link exchange please pass on this email to your link manager or webmaster”
Yeah, I’ll get right on that – with my webmaster (me).
So What Should We Do Instead?
Dogmatically pursuing any and all of the above is largely a waste of time and energy, especially when the obsession blinds you to what should be the primary efforts of your activity as an SEO.
So what should we as SEOs be chasing instead? Hmmm. Let’s think about this for a moment. What’s more important than the pursuit of illegitimate or irrelevant scores, meaningless KPIs, or boneheaded, self-destructive SEO strategies? I propose the following for starters:
- Customer contacts
- Improved business reputation
So much of SEO has become an obsession with winning the game, but with so much new minutiae to learn and master on a daily basis, we often lose sight of why we play this game in the first place.
We shouldn’t really care about moving the needle on scores. Instead, we want to move the needle on business revenues. We should strive to earn higher conversions, optimize conversion funnels, and generate more Web-originated revenues.
We want better customer engagement – but not simply for the sake of chatting with customers. We want to actively build customer and brand loyalty, improve (or defend) business, brand and product reputations, define creative new thinking regarding our products and services, and of course, expand our markets to new people and opportunities.
These are all truly meaningful business goals related to search engine marketing. Don’t get lost in the woods. Chase what matters. Find your customers, help them understand your products, facilitate their purchase process, and ensure they are happy. There’s a thousand and one things you can do to make this come together, but obsessing on meaningless activities will not help you meet your real business goals.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.