There is no rulebook when it comes to SEO.
Why would there be? It’s not like Google wants you to win.
Think about it for a second. Google makes more than 80% of its revenue through Google Ads. They want you to pay them to be number one.
Even though they release guidelines and best practices for ranking, them straight up telling you how to rank is like me telling you how to sleep with my sister.
For the record, I don’t have a sister. I’m just making a point.
Now I’ve lowered the tone here’s why we need rules. Or at the very least concepts in which things make sense. For all intents and purposes, SEO is built on the back of shit loads of data and even more testing and best guesses.
Everyone has their way of doing certain things. Like how they write alt text, or how many times a keyword should be used in a post.
That’s not what I’m going to talk about. Pretty much all of my rules are concepts more than strictly defined step by steps.
Lessons learnt from doing, failing, practising daily for over 8 years.
I’ll keep this list updated as things change and new patterns get spotted.
Rule 1. Become the Average
Yup, average. Not the best. The best is second. We need to be the average first.Ever since all keywords started to be judged on a keyword by keyword basis we cannot apply blanket statements or rules to URLs and content any more.
No more “main keyword in the H1, Title, First H2, First 200 words…..”It just doesn’t work like that any more.
So what can we do? Become the average.
Become the average of what’s already ranking. Dump that keyword into the ol’ Google machine and see what ranks. Now pull the main metrics for each of those pages. Look at the word count. How often is “main keyword” used in the title, headers, total content? Is there a table? Are they using schema? If so what type?
Once you have the data of these things you can now start writing your own with the vision to hit these averages. Because if we have the same average metrics as what is ranking, we should rank too. Right? Right.
Rule 2. Incremental Changes
You’ve hit your averages. You’re in better a position than 99% of all other posts out there to rank. You’ll also have found that you’ve probably created something pretty good, valuable to the user. I’m proud of you. Most of what’s on the internet is actual trash.
But you haven’t got your top 3 ranking yet. What do you do? We could do backlinks, we could add a few more images, make some tweaks to headers or word count.
Whatever you do – Do one at a time.
The main thinking behind this rule is – SEO takes time. Most of that time is Google crawling the site and and reindexing. So if you make a load of changes, it’s not like the site is being crawled after each change. This just doesn’t happen.
The most likely case is the site is crawled every few days. If you’ve made a load of changes in those few days, you have no idea what was the main factor in the change and as such you’re learning is muddy. And you’ve no idea what part of that work you can scale to other parts of the site.
Rule 3. Do What Makes Google Look Good
In 2017 Google added a function where you could upload a 360 photo-sphere of the interior of your business to Google My Business so customers could see the inside of the place from anywhere in the world.
Those people who added one of these VR photo-spheres found themselves ranking #1 if not, top 3 within 24 hours of doing so. All because they were providing Google with the content to showcase their new feature.
These things might seem like jumping on a trend, and I’m not about that at all. Fads with marketing come and go all the time. There are very few tactics and strategies that have survived the test of time. But making the boss look good is never going to go out of fashion.
It doesn’t have to be the “newest” thing, just something that adds a little extra. Let’s take a quick look at Instagram here, the fastest-growing pages on insta are those that keep people on the platform. It’s engaging content, it’s posting to stories often (feature-based) and using all 10 slides on carousels. Getting people to slide through and read each one.
How can we take this learning to SEO/Content? Even though it works with Google’s new features and we can jump off of new features to gain a temporary boost (Google Lens anyone? I’ve said too much), what we’re looking for is to create something of value.
At the end of the day, Google is just creating a list of best guesses whenever you search for something. If you can create something of actual value and teach to those people, given enough time, you’ll rank well.
Rule 4. Do less, but better.
There’s a fair bit of this rule which is just a part two to rule two. I just feel like it needs saying as its own rule.
Do less. Do the things that work.
If I’m being super specific about this I’m talking about how often people publish content. I’ve come across far too many sites that are publishing every 2-3 days and it’s 500-600 words, spaced out with these massive images and very little text. If you were to remove the images you’d realise this piece has only taken time from you and given you nothing in return.
Stop doing this.
In every single case, I’d prefer you to write ONE post a month, not 10, not 2 a week, not 4. ONE. Give the content time to breathe. Give yourself time to produce vale. Time to put something you’re proud of out into the world.
And make it good. If you “finish” writing the post and feel like you’ve not done the topic justice, keep writing. In this instance, do more.
“It’s a privilege to fail in public” – Jack Butcher. But let’s give ourselves the best chance at it right?
Here’s a few other example of doing less, but better.
Don’t publish a blog and immediately spam an entire email list to get links. Start with a few, test the messaging. Individually write to the sites you really want a link from. They hold a place on your dream 100, you should treat them as such.
Rule Everything you do. Don’t be an SEO only.
Welcome to the Anti Seo Seo Club.We rank things without being an SEO.
“wut?” – everyone reading this
I learnt this the hard way, and from a better understanding of every facet of digital marketing. This rule is kinda 2-fold.
Don’t do things that only an SEO would do
I read this one first in one of Matt Diggity’s courses. And the more I talk to people in this space and do work in this space the truer it becomes.
We’re not out here building PBN’s, or creating a press release for every blog post. We’re not building pages with URL slugs to specifically match every LSI of the main keyword we want to rank for. We’re not creating Google stacks or blasting forum signature links.
If what you’re about to do only an SEO would do. Think twice. Then don’t do it. We’re looking for sustainable growth, not manual penalties.
Don’t just be an SEO
Think about how what you’re doing plays into the greater picture. One of the bigger takeaway’s I learnt from just doing SEO by myself to being Head of SEO was how SEO and content play such a pivotal role in everything else when it comes to marketing. For this when I say “Don’t be an SEO only” I mean look at what else the fruits of your labour plays a part in.
Fixing site speed? Nice we rank higher, but it also reduces bounce rate due to a fast loading website. This means the ads landing page load faster resulting in more views for the ad spend.
- Creating a long-form guide to showcase expertise? This can be slightly reworded and used as a script for the accompanying video. Or the step by step part can be passed over to a graphic designer and now you have Instagram slides.
- By thinking outside of “just SEO” you’ll get a much stronger understanding of the role it plays and how you can support those in charge of the other parts of the marketing campaign.
That’s it for now. Once I’ve got one or two more I’ll be sure to update this post and let you know.
Let me know your content and SEO rules. I’d love to know the lessons people have learnt playing this game.