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August 25, 2009

When to Push and When to Flow in SEO

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There are two seemingly contradictory approaches to life success. Okay, there are more like four billion approaches and possibly even more contradictions, but follow along with me anyway.

The one school of thought says that those who find the most success in life are those who push their way up the mountains of adversity. They’re the fighters. The never give-uppers. The try-try-againers. We’ll call these the type As.

Alternately, you’ll find those who argue that success comes to those who go with the flow of the current. They’re the adapters. The que-sera-seras. The feel-it-outers. These will be our type Bs.

Of course, as we all know, it really takes both. And in the business world, as in life, SEOs are best positioned for success if they consider when to forge the path ahead and when to ride the wave.

But before I continue, please know what I’m not talking about. Pushing your way toward success isn’t about being inflexible or exhausting. And going with the flow isn’t about giving up or not trying. Oh, I guess that is what I’m talking about. Success in life and business isn’t rooted in extremism. It’s about fitting the approach to the situation. Too simple? Well what about in the following sticky situations of search engine optimization?

In Online Marketing

When Twitter came around in 2006, who knew it would explode into the booming utility it is today? But today we can see the gap between the early adapters, like Dell and Zappos, and those who joined the party late. It’s worth noting that it’s never too late to jump in.

But it gets tricky when the type As are fighting against the current. Social media isn’t going anywhere. The Rupert Murdochs of the world — those who are desperate to fit the new media peg into the old media hole — are likely going to do their business a disservice.

On the other side of the coin we see businesses so quick to jump on the bandwagon and engage the audience that they start their efforts before doing their homework. They may not realize that there’s a back-and-forth element required of social media, or that you don’t have to throw your hands up when faced with a reputation nightmare sparked by an angry and chatty customer.

In Customer Relationships

All SEOs realize that they’re doing double duty when optimizing a site. They’re working to appease two audiences of the site — the search engine and the human user. Pleasing the search engine is certainly rewarding, but a spider isn’t going to convert. The customer is the key.

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So it’s almost unimaginable that sometimes we get blinders on and fall into the trap of type A SEO extremism. Optimizing only for search doesn’t account for the many other resources available to improve and develop online marketing efforts aimed at people. Analytics data acts as valuable Web intelligence that can inform the way you speak to customers. And usability should be a consideration since it’s people, after all, that must comfortably navigate the site at the end of the day.

Our type Bs, meanwhile, might succumb to data overload. Someone can sift through analytics ’til the sun sets, but action and implementation has to happen before anything faces the customer. Getting wrapped up on the findings revealed from customer data is tempting, but a push has to be made to act on it.

In Working with Other Departments

SEO relies on the cooperation of many other departments — IT, marketing, branding, PR, the list goes on. And buy-in at the highest levels is required before fruitful relationships are formed and search engine optimization becomes a true consideration of the business.

It’s long been said at search conferences, that SEO should be involved from the very beginning of any online project because the cost of retrofitting a site for SEO is much higher than if it’s built in from the beginning. But care should be taken when pushing the search engine optimization agenda without any give and take. It’s a fast way to alienate team members, whose cooperation and SEO relies on.

At the other extreme, a type B is going to run into trouble when it comes to SEO evangelism. Not all businesses have bought in to why search engine optimization could work for them. In that case, it takes persistence and a passion to educate before the bonds of understanding are made.

As with all things, there’s a time and a place to push hard for search engine optimization interests and there’s a time to follow the current to the next tactic or approach. Don’t be so hard-headed that you miss the next big thing. Don’t be so malleable that you never commit to anything. And don’t be afraid to swim upstream or float downstream when the situation calls for it.





One response to “When to Push and When to Flow in SEO”

  1. mandy writes:

    An interesting post. I suppose its all to do with balance at the end of the day, you need the drive and ambition to push ahead, but also the ability to evaluate and see what is happening around you – and the same could be true for your SEO!



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