7 Things Most SEOs Wish They Knew Better
Search marketers, myself included, sometimes believe themselves to be veritable magicians. Step into a new role, or with a new client, and in a matter of weeks or months, with a few solid strategies, we can take a business to new heights of visibility in Google’s SERPs. Of course, the technical complexity behind these options ranges from simple (such as “writing good content”) to ridiculous (such as “determining potential link building sources”), and most of us know the basics like the back of our hand.
However, as with many subjects and disciplines, there’s always room to learn more. What might seem simple on the surface is actually ripe with sophistication, and though we might know the basics of a complex topic, we’re hard-pressed to describe it in terms others can understand.
For the most part, SEOs wish they knew these seven things better:
1. Google’s ranking algorithm.
We’d all love to know more about Google’s ranking algorithm. As a community, we have a pretty good idea what things Google likes to see—Google engineers have even told us a few things directly. But for the most part, we’re left in the dark. Google considers its algorithm proprietary, and therefore doesn’t publish it in part or in whole to anybody. It also fears the possibilities of webmasters specifically manipulating their sites to rank higher rather than focusing on building great sites (and I can’t particularly blame them for that one). Still, with so much confusion and conflicting data over even basic concepts—like whether or not CTRs have an influence on ranking—it would be nice to learn just a little more about how that ranking algorithm works. Unfortunately, this is not something you can learn directly (unless Google decides one day to publish that algorithm).
2. UI/UX design.
Design does have an indirect influence on search ranks, but it’s more important for retaining the people who come in from the search engines. As search optimizers, most of our responsibility stems from getting people to the website, but if they don’t stay on the website, all that traffic could potentially account for nothing. If we knew more about UI/UX design, we’d be able to work better with designers to coordinate and test changes to the site, and establish a mutually beneficial network to improve both sides of the equation.
You don’t have to know a lot about coding to become a successful SEO, but you do need to know the basics of HTML at the very least. Such knowledge will help immensely when it comes to making the code of your site cleaner, identifying potential issues in the crawlability of your site, checking out the title tags and descriptions of your individual pages, and hundreds of other small onsite issues. Most SEOs only know the basics of these coding skills, enough to identify potential problems at a glance, but not enough to dig deep into truly killer problems.
I almost wrote WordPress here because of its popularity, but that fact presents another problem. WordPress is by far the most popular and useful CMS for SEO, and most of us in the SEO community know it pretty well. We know how it works, what it’s good for, and what it’s bad for, but there’s still a lot we could stand to learn—especially when it comes to individual plugins. In the case of SEOs working for multiple clients, most of us wish we also knew other CMS platforms (like Drupal) better. After dealing with WordPress exclusively for so long, these other platforms can seem almost foreign.
5. Reader interests.
Content is still one of the most important pillars of SEO, and its success is entirely dependent on whether consumers are actually interested in reading it. As such, every search marketer wishes they knew their readers just a little bit better. You might know your target demographics pretty well in terms of their makeup, basic needs, and historical actions, but how do you know—for sure—that they’ll respond to your latest post in the way you intended? What if they, instead of enjoying your sarcastic tone, reject it? We can all stand to know our demographics a little better.
6. Cost to value ratios.
ROI is easy to estimate, but very difficult to prove in an SEO campaign. You can estimate about how much it cost to produce a new article—but does that include brainstorming time? The time it took to post it onsite? A thousand little variables can get in the way of your estimated costs for almost every step in SEO, and the end results are difficult to substantively measure. You may have gotten 1,000 organic visitors last month, but how much of that traffic would have clicked on you no matter where you ranked? How many of them actually converted? How much is a conversion worth, really?
7. The future.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: SEO changes quickly. Google pumps out new algorithm changes. Technology evolves in leaps and bounds. Consumers have new needs and new demands. Some of us like to make bold predictions about how everything will turn out, but the future has traditionally turned out to surprise us.
Fortunately, the SEO community is a respectful, helpful, guiding one. If you have a question or concern, most professionals—including those of us at AudienceBloom would be happy to help clarify what they can and research what they can’t. The more you commit yourself to the community and the deeper you press into your target subjects, the more knowledge you’ll have in your arsenal to make meaningful progress in your own campaigns.
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