We haven't talked about SEO in a while.
Let's debunk some myths.
SEO Myth #1. Everyone should “do” SEO.
Well, first, you can't really “do” SEO. It's not a verb.
“What are you doing later, James?”
“Well, I'm going to SEO for a bit, then maybe drink a bottle of vermouth at the park with the kids.”
Notice how you've never heard that sentence.
Some companies should put a significant portion of their marketing resources into optimizing for search engines. Others shouldn't. As an ittybiz owner, you probably want to be careful when putting a significant portion of your marketing resources into anything, given that the available resources are puny. Where to put your time and money is a big decision, and even more so when money is scarce and time is a joke.
Hypothetical scenario: There's only one of you. You write novels about bees. By all means, spend a couple days getting some SEO basics in place and learning a best practice or two, but if you happen to have a “significant portion” to throw around, maybe you should be throwing it at writing more novels about bees.
SEO Myth #2. SEO “works”.
When I was a kid, my father used to have me write out, every morning, a document titled, “What Constitutes Success”. (I can't get my kid to brush his teeth twice in the same day and my father had me doing that? Clearly there is much that can be learned here.)
If you're going to engage in an activity and hypothesize about whether or not something will “work”, you need to have a definition of success. What are we trying to do here? When our favorite bee writer up there says she wants to “do” SEO to get “more traffic”, my questions are:
- Define “more”.
- Traffic to what?
If she's trying to get more book sales (more on that in a moment), yes, more search engine traffic could help with that.
In a vacuum.
If her books are good.
And if people are searching for whatever she's optimizing for.
That's a lot of ifs, coulds, and kind ofs. If you want your optimization efforts to “work”, you need to know what you're trying to do and honestly and rationally assess if your efforts in that direction are the best way of attaining that success.
Most people skip that step, and it shows.
SEO Myth #3. More search traffic equals more sales.
People who are not making sales tend to think they have a traffic problem. If these people are joiner types, they think they need more traffic from social media. If they're analytical, they think they need more traffic from search.
This is normal, natural, and nothing more than the online equivalent of the salesmen in Glengarry Glen Ross insisting that in order to succeed, they needed the Glengarry leads.
Remember the scene? The suave and debonair Alec Baldwin says, “These are the new leads. These are the Glengarry leads. And to you they're gold, and you don't get them. Why? Because to give them to you would be throwing them away. They're for closers.”
If you are already getting sales from search traffic, it is reasonable to assume that more of the same search traffic will lead to more sales.
If you are not already getting sales from search traffic, there is no reason whatsoever to believe that search traffic will lead to any sales at all.
Let's get hypothetical.
Let's say that I'm getting 1000 visitors a month from the search term “SEO myths” and I know – absolutely, for a fact – that 5% of THOSE people go on to buy my ebook SEO is Cool, Yo!. In that case, yes. We can safely say that increasing search traffic for that search term by 50% will probably lead to 25 more sales a month.
This is where we all have to ask ourselves the same question. Am I making good enough sales with the traffic I already have?
SEO is good. It's a worthy pursuit.
There's nothing inherently wrong with optimizing for search engines. But everyone's situation is different, and what should be a high priority for one company is not what should be a high priority for everyone.
Think about SEO like you think about pushups. They're not good and they're not bad.
Maybe you should do them. Maybe you shouldn't.
Maybe they will be transformative for you. Maybe they'll hurt you.
Maybe you should do a lot. Maybe you should do a few.
You probably shouldn't give up the next eight months of your life to do them and only them, to the exclusion of all else.
If you are going to do them, you should probably pay someone to learn how to do them properly.
You should probably commit to doing them for the long haul.
And don't expect them to do anything for your gut.
(Come to think of it, that applies to SEO as well. When it comes to your gut, you're on your own.)