SEO strategy should be designed to provide optimal return within a given risk tolerance. If you can also plan for future changes while still having a good ROI in the current market, then it makes sense to do so. But you can’t always predict how search will change. When the Google Florida update occurred at the end of 2003, there were about a half dozen theories on what happened in the marketplace—semantics, stemming, Hilltop, LocalRank, SEO filters, and Topic Sensitive PageRank, to name a few. We are not 100% what happened after the fact, so predicting the future is hard.
When you are new to SEO, seeing your rankings improve is an exciting process. But new sites without a stable footing tend to bounce around until they age and satisfy many different trust criteria. This ranking bounce can make it easy for a new webmaster to assume false relationships between activity and result. You could build a bunch of low quality links and see your rankings go up, then build a few high quality ones and see them go down. And it is possible that the ranking shifts in both directions may not even factor in those links if they have not been indexed.
Beware of stale SEO advice…
Some people spend 8 hours a day chatting in forums. Sure, many forum participants just enjoy helping people, but how much can they be working on marketing their sites if they spend 8 hours a day on forums? Some forum posters also write in code to obfuscate what they are talking about or pass out misinformation to keep their good tricks to themselves. There are some well known “universal truths” about SEO that are simply not true.
Some sites might rank primarily based on domain age, or based on obtaining editorial links promoting content that was once remarkable but now considered of average quality, but they still end up ranking due to the rich get richer effect of link building.
People who created useful sites a decade ago but limit their work to those sites might be able to rank for just about every search query relevant to their sites. They can add a new page or tweak a page title and see the rankings in a matter of days. But the tips, techniques, and tactics they suggest might not work well to market a new site, which has not yet proven itself to the search engines.
…and likewise, new SEO tips
It is easy for a well-known blogger to tell you to just bolt a blog on to your site, but if you do not enjoy blogging then his blogging advice is no better than the guy who only works on old websites.
While some people offer great advice about social media marketing, not every webmaster has the time to build up social media accounts. Plus, if you are a local plumber, does it help you make any sales to talk about that one clogged toilet that took 6 hours to fix, flooded the house, and has reached legendary status amongst your peers?
Watch for subtle hints from search engines
Search engines may give many warnings before finally clamping down on a specific technique or business model they do not like.
Andrew Goodman pointed out in a recent Search Engine Land column that you can look at paid and organic search to see where the other is headed. In some cases, business models can be banned.
Experience gives you perspective
Many webmasters only work on one site, which gives them few points to triangulate against to understand how search engines change. I have old sites, new sites, small sites, large sites, clean sites, and a few spammy sites. Tracking how they perform gives me a better idea of what works than the perspective I could get from just one site.
With new verticals mixing into organic search results, there is still a lot of opportunity if you are willing to be creative and take risks. You don’t have to win on every front. Just try a few techniques and stick with the ones that work for you. And, going forward, your experience is going to be more valid than what you read elsewhere because you know the data intimately well.
Competition for attention in saturated markets is forcing people to give away better content to compete. Even if you feel you work too much on your company site, it is still worth the effort to set up a personal site on the side so you can track how and why ideas spread in that marketplace.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.