SEO is simple. Stop making it complicated.

SEO is simple

So, here’s the thing. I got into this “online marketing” gig around 5 years ago, and for the last three of those I have been disappointed, time and time again by my brethren in the SEO community. We seem so intent on staying relevant, that we try to make SEO more complicated than it really is.

That’s right kids. SEO is not complicated.

Back when I was running freelance (quite some years ago), I used to pitch by telling potential clients that SEO was not as complicated as most “SEOs” made it out to be. I told people that when you boiled it right down, SEO always seems to come down to three things:

  1. Have a good, indexable site.
  2. Have good, quality content.
  3. Make sure people are promoting your stuff.

Side note: Sure, SEO is like being a chef; it’s easy to make a cake, darn hard to make one that makes you groan in pleasure… but the fact remains that the fundamentals are not complicated.

Look at the above three points again. Now equate that to terms a “Mom & Pop” store would understand:

  1. Have a quality product.
  2. Sell it well.
  3. Get people spreading the word about your product.

Now can you see why I despair sometimes? The fact is, SEO is nothing new. At its core, it’s simple marketing.

Things change. But the more they change, the more they stay the same.

Sure, things will change. Structured data and rich snippets, for example, springs to mind immediately. But you know what? That’s just a tool. It’s not a whole new discipline. Anyone can use tools.

Panda, of course, is cited as being one of the biggest changes the world of SEO has seen. But what did Panda change?

I thought it fascinating that Rand Fishkin went so far as to describe the changes in this video as:

 

As SEOs, for a long time you’ve been doing the same kind of classic things. You’ve been building good content, making it accessible to search engines, doing good keyword research, putting those keywords in there, and then trying to get some links to it.
But as SEOs, we never really had to think as much or as broadly about, “What is the experience of this website?

 

That statement boggled my mind. As SEOs, if you weren’t thinking of people’s experience on your site, you weren’t doing your job properly, in my opinion. Again, bring it back to the three principles: if people had a bad experience on your site, they would hardly want to spread the word, would they?

Each time a major release like this, or the Caffeine update was pushed out, or the rise of social factors, or Vince, people rushed again to confirm that SEO was more important than ever. And I’m not denying that it is. SEO is integral to a business’s success. But if you had been following the three principles, rather than chasing the latest random algorithm, your site would more than likely have weathered the changes just fine.

Of course there are elements of a secret sauce…

Now, don’t get me wrong; simple doesn’t mean easy. For example, “having good, quality content” will change from market to market. And “getting people to promote your stuff” isn’t going to have a set formula. Hours upon hours of research need to take place to really get to know your market, and to know your customers’ personas. That’s where good SEOs come into it. They can help you figure out just how exceptional you’ll need to be. They can get under the skin of your customer, and help you sell yourself. They’ll help you discover the trigger points that will get your customers promoting your content.

But even that “secret sauce” is still contained within the three fundamental principles.

Over the last three years, I can’t remember the last SEO blog post I read that made me sit back and go… Huh. Wow. That’s new.
And you know why? Because SEO, at its core, isn’t going to change that much. Maybe the tools will change, but ultimately it boils down to having a good quality product, selling it well, and spreading the word.

So stop making it seem complicated, guys. It’s not.

Don’t think of it as SEO. Just think of it as marketing. Suddenly, it seems a whole lot less scary, doesn’t it?

11 Comments

  1. Hi Matt, you are absolutely right about creating content that the user will want to share and providing a good experience for visitors to your site.

    If you focus on creating extremely high quality content the SE O will be a lot easier! Google is really focusing on content and social signals now. The days of blasting a crappy site with tons of backlinks and getting it ranked to the top are over I’m afraid!

  2. Hi Matt, you are absolutely right about creating content that the user will want to share and providing a good experience for visitors to your site.

    If you focus on creating extremely high quality content the SE O will be a lot easier! Google is really focusing on content and social signals now. The days of blasting a crappy site with tons of backlinks and getting it ranked to the top are over I’m afraid!

  3. Awesome post Matt! We’ve talked about this many times and I think you summed it all up really well here.
    ‘Keep it simple stupid’ and do the core principles well, is what it’s all about ;)

    • Thanks for the comment Spleeep… I think some of your stuff is a prime example of “doing the core principles well”, and success will come. Thanks again for stopping by!

  4. Hey Matt, great post. I used to work for a strictly SEO company (i.e. no UX, only focus on rankings and traffic). I worked there for a long time, and didn’t know any different and thought that was it. I’d feel frustrated getting lots of visitors to a website and #1 rankings but little conversions. Since then, I’ve started working for a more holistic company who focus on customer personas, research, user experience AND SEO… what a difference it makes, the results are a-MAZING. Everything works so much better when our web powers are combined, absolutely love it. It’s taught me to always think of the principles you’ve outlined here. I think we can get too wrapped up in strict SEO and disregard other important factors that can have just as much, if not more effect. Sorry for the novel, enjoyed your post! Subscribed :)

  5. Hey Matt, great post. I used to work for a strictly SEO company (i.e. no UX, only focus on rankings and traffic). I worked there for a long time, and didn’t know any different and thought that was it. I’d feel frustrated getting lots of visitors to a website and #1 rankings but little conversions. Since then, I’ve started working for a more holistic company who focus on customer personas, research, user experience AND SEO… what a difference it makes, the results are a-MAZING. Everything works so much better when our web powers are combined, absolutely love it. It’s taught me to always think of the principles you’ve outlined here. I think we can get too wrapped up in strict SEO and disregard other important factors that can have just as much, if not more effect. Sorry for the novel, enjoyed your post! Subscribed :)

  6. Thanks for the comment Spleeep… I think some of your stuff is a prime example of “doing the core principles well”, and success will come. Thanks again for stopping by!