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What You Can and Can’t Automate in an SEO Campaign

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articleimage1287 What You Can and Can't Automate in an SEO Campaign

As Google’s advancing algorithms make life more complex for search marketers, a host of free and paid “automation” tools gradually make their lives easier. Promising touch-free operations and automatic growth in ranks, many companies have flared into existence by helping exhausted or understaffed inbound marketers accomplish their goals in less time. However, SEO comprises many distinct strategies and operations, and not all of them can be automated safely. Some, by definition, can never be automated, and some can be automated (but might earn you a penalty if you do it!).

To make things simpler, I’ve compiled a list of almost every major facet of a typical SEO campaign, complete with an analysis of why it can (or can’t) be automated:

Onsite Optimization

articleimage1287 Ongoing Content Writing

Short answer: cannot automate.

Onsite optimization is mostly about writing descriptive, accurate titles and descriptions, and implementing a number of structural changes that Google likes to see (such as submitting a sitemap, listing links in the footer, and so on). Many of these changes are one-time applications—so you don’t need to worry about trying to automate them. The key potential automation here lies in the generation of title tags and meta descriptions, which some SEO apps purport to do. Avoid this; any duplication in your meta data can lead to weaker domain authority, and you can never be sure that a machine or algorithm will generate accurate information for your pages.

UI/UX Design

articleimage1287 UI UX Design

Short answer: cannot automate.

This is the process of maximizing your visitor retention through design and layout changes. Of course, this will also help your conversion rate, but the longer your visitors stay on your site and the more they engage, the higher your rank will be. There are some “best practices” you can use in this regard, but there’s no possible way to automate this process. It’s an ongoing system of feedback and revision that you’ll have to manually optimize over time.

Ongoing Content Writing

articleimage1287 Ongoing Content Writing

Short answer: cannot automate (yet).

There are a number of apps on the market today that claim to have the ability to generate mass volumes of original content based on content that already exists. Such “content spinners” usually take existing material and rewrite it in a way that looks unique. However, if you use this, Google will catch on quickly, as you’ll have clunky articles and no original material. Your best bet is to develop content on your own, with original, talented writers.

However, there are a number of sophisticated AI programs emerging in the journalism industry, capable of writing truly original content indistinguishable from those of human writers. Should these programs develop to an even greater degree, they may one day be able to automate the process of creating content.

Guest Posts and Brand Mentions

articleimage1287 Guest Posts and Brand Mentions

Short answer: cannot automate.

You might be able to come up with a regimented calendar of submissions that you can follow, or an automated way to find publishers to pitch to, but the actual process itself can’t be automated. Brand mentions need to be diverse, and for most publishers, you’ll work with human editors and owners to get your material published. They won’t respond to spam messages or spun content.

Content Syndication

Short answer: can automate.

When it comes to syndicating the links of your content to social media, this is a fully automatable process. By using a social scheduling tool, or automated apps that syndicate your content to various channels throughout the web, you can turn an otherwise arduous long-term process into a simple series of clicks. Some tools will even put your content on a cycle, so it continues to show up in newsfeeds and on content aggregators.

Social Media Marketing

Short answer: can (partially) automate.

You can automate some elements of social media marketing. For example, you can schedule your posts far in advance and create a handful of robotic processes to help you manage or build your followers. However, buying followers directly or setting your account on autopilot are bad ideas. It’s called “social” media for a reason—you need a human touch if you want to be successful.

Link Building

Short answer: cannot automate.

Automated link builders have been around since the dawn of SEO, claiming to be able to build thousands of “quality” links for a low price. These link schemers have never been effective—in fact, they seem to grow less effective by the year. Unless you’re automating your own system by way of advanced scheduling, there’s no safe, efficient way to automate your link building.

Measuring and Tracking

Short answer: can automate.

Measuring and analyzing your results are two of the most important steps of the SEO process. When it comes to tracking your traffic and reviewing the results, automation is key. In Google Analytics, you can easily set up a reliable system of reporting to occur on a regular basis. For example, you can create a traffic behavior report that gets emailed to you on a monthly basis. Once that report is in your hands, however, the automation stops, and you’ll have to manually review and analyze the results.

Automation can be efficient, and it certainly is appealing, but you’ll have to use it judiciously if you want to end up with decent ranks. Failing to automate when it’s possible might cause you to lose a few hours a month, but automating the wrong thing can get you penalized—if you’re ever uncertain about whether or not a certain type of automation is “safe,” it’s better to err on the side of caution. Still, keeping a tight balance between automated and non-automated activities is actively encouraged—and might save you tons of time while maximizing your results.

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Samuel Edwards

In his 4+ years as a digital marketing specialist, Sam has learned the ins and outs of online marketing. Additionally, he has worked with countless local businesses as well as enterprise Fortune 500 companies and organizations including: NASDAQ OMX, eBay, Duncan Hines, Drew Barrymore, Washington, DC based law firm Price Benowitz LLP, and human rights organization Amnesty International. Today he continues to work with and establish SEO, PPC and SEM campaigns.

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