It’s Not the Job of SEO to Make a Pig Fly

You can’t make a pig fly. I’ve tried it. I’ve also put lipstick on a pig, and that doesn’t make it any prettier. Of course, I’m not talking about actual pigs … I’m talking about websites.

The ugly truth is that SEO cannot do the impossible. If a site is not functioning well technically or has content that’s irrelevant, optimizing it is merely putting lipstick on a pig. That pig will never fly in search results.

Bruce Clay quote and graphic of pig with wings.

The fundamentals of SEO will always include a well-functioning website and relevant content. Both are required to create a good user experience. And as we know, Google’s primary goal is the user experience.

So as SEOs, we have a responsibility to help the sites we manage not be pigs. That means maintaining them on a technical level and keeping content up to date. These are survival tactics in today’s competitive landscape. Here’s why.

An Unmaintained Site Cannot Fly for Long

As we know, Google cares how well a webpage achieves its purpose. Page quality has a lot to do with that. In its Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines, Google makes it clear that unmaintained sites are doomed sites.

Some websites are not maintained or cared for at all by their webmaster. These “abandoned” websites will fail to achieve their purpose over time, as content becomes stale or website functionality ceases to work on new browser versions. Unmaintained websites should be rated Lowest if they fail to achieve their purpose due to the lack of maintenance.

To put this into perspective even more, a “lowest” rating is the lowest-of-the-low rating on Google’s quality scale:

Google's page quality rating scale (excerpt from Search Quality Evaluator's Guide).

For comparison, that “lowest” rating is given to sites like these:

Websites or pages without some sort of beneficial purpose, including pages that are created with no attempt to help users, or pages that potentially spread hate, cause harm, or misinform or deceive users, should receive the Lowest rating.

In a world where Page 1 of the SERP requires survival of the fittest in an ecosystem that contains more than 6 billion indexed webpages, a “lowest” rating means Google will work to weed that site out of the search results as best it can.

Will some pigs fly under the radar? Yes, but they will eventually need to deal with site quality issues. Once rankings start to fall, traffic erodes. And traffic erosion is a slow death.

SEOs should always be looking at the technical aspects of the websites we manage.

When there’s a gradual traffic decline, we always look at site maintenance issues first. Does the technology need an upgrade? Are there pages that once had high traffic but rankings have declined?

Updates to a site take time. Getting Google to crawl those new updates can take more time. So in many cases, you may continue to see gradual traffic erosion before it picks back up.

So Don’t Put Lipstick on a Pig

The best course of action is to avoid ranking and traffic problems altogether. SEOs should always be looking at the technical aspects of the websites we manage. Are they fast enough? And do they create a good user experience?

Also, creating more and more content but ignoring old content is a sure fire recipe for problems.

Every business should delegate half of its content budget to maintain existing content, not just create new pages. That goes for core webpage strategies like siloing, too.

Today, we are focused on quality, not necessarily quantity.

As an SEO, having these conversations with our clients is our duty. It not only points clients in the right direction of SEO, but it also sets expectations.

When necessary, we have to be able to say, “This website needs a redesign.” Or, “We’re not going to rank if we ignore site maintenance.”

Yes, these conversations can be difficult, and in some cases, it may impact our business. But it’s much more difficult to make a pig fly.

If you’d like an SEO expert to identify issues holding your website back, let’s talk.

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Bruce Clay is founder and president of Bruce Clay Inc., a global digital marketing firm providing search engine optimization, pay-per-click, social media marketing, SEO-friendly web architecture, and SEO tools and education. Connect with him on LinkedIn or through the website.

See Bruce's author page for links to connect on social media.

Comments (5)
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5 Replies to “It’s Not the Job of SEO to Make a Pig Fly”

Hey Bruce! This is indeed a good article. I’ve come across many clients as well who sometimes doesn’t understand much about how SEO works and demand for Rank #1 position in a month.

What you said is actually correct. Without technical SEO it is not possible to rank a website on Google no matter how much content the site has. I too strongly believe that it will be greatly beneficial to focus on update the existing content with adding more relevant information.

Great blog, I like your blog and I shared as well on my social page. And you are right we need to focus on quality rather than quantity of blogs.

Hey!, I’m so happy that I found out your blog, and your blog is the best SEO I’ve ever seen on the web. Thanks for the points shared and I look forward to knowing you better because I really need you to help. Thanks

SEO is a crucial part of any website. If you work on SEO correctly, then definitely your website will rank. But if you didn’t work in a proper manner then you are just time pass on your website.


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