The SEO Myth
It is difficult to believe that endless dollars are being made from articles, books, and classes on a myth.
Even more so when it’s not even a sexy Roman or tragic Greek sort.
Unfortunately the myth I’m tackling in today’s post is neither steamy or poetic. It’s a dry, digital marketing based, code dependant, and arbitrarily abstract kind.
Before I spill the tea, we first need to understand the origin story. And after we do some mythbusting, I’m going to offer you a simple recipe for shooting your site to the top of the ranks, and some tips I have found invaluable in helping keep it there.
Where Legends & Myths Are Born
In order to understand the why, we need to understand where the myth originates; blogging.
And like social media, blogging had become bit of a beast of consumerism, commercialism, and misinformation.
In a nutshell, the commercialization of blogging caught up with itself, and blogging is currently going through what I am terming a “rebirth.” This is a really good thing for the medium, readers, original content bloggers, and indie sites.
However, many sites that relied on affiliate content are shuttering, and others are in the process of shifting how they monetize.
On the other side of the interwebs universe, social media is imploding in its own version of greed, inspiring readers to rediscover the value that original content blogs and indie sites offer.
As original content blogs are rising again, they do not offer many avenues for profitability, so affiliate and sponsored bloggers are seeking opportunity to replace lost earnings from sponsored posts and affiliate content.
So what are they turning to now?
Classes and self help on content creation, how to be web famous, finding your inner brand, and often … SEO.
Cottage Industries & Legends
There absolutely are things internet marketers have been able to manipulate in the back end of websites to bluff their way into search rankings. However, think of SEO tricks from the days of yore as parlor tricks.
The point of ranking high in search results is not just so folks find you, it is also a measure of how your brand is embraced. Parlor tricks can mask deficiencies causing you to think things are going much better than they are, when in fact, you’re missing out on important cues to improve your content, profitability, and long term health of your brand.
Professionals of the interwebs thought SEO conversations were put to bed years ago when Google had made significant changes to their algorithm. The changes to Google search rankings foiled many of these parlor tricks, ultimately ending any inklings of significance SEO strategy may have had.
However, the SEO term is bubbling up again as two industries of the interwebs collide through online classes.
Nestled in the syllabus of oh so many of these classes is a section on SEO, so I’m going to spill the tea for free, to save you both time and money.
So let’s keep it simple and direct.
Search Engine Optimization is not a thing.
Best practices are.
SEO is a term used in marketing-ease to engage students and earn businesses money by perpetuating the tale. Some folks use SEO as a term to mean “search result ranking strategy.” In all the semantics, regardless of how it is used, SEO as a “tool” is a red herring.
Best practices should be an inherent part of any online strategy, and time or money spent on myths are misallocated resources.
The good news in all this mythbusting, is that landing a site high in search results is candidly really flipping straightforward.
Everything is More Fun to Understand When It’s a Cupcake
Think of your site (blog, shop, etc) as a cupcake.
The two ingredients for this cupcake’s success are regularly posting great content, and getting regular traffic to your site.
Although the ingredients are simple, the directions are more nuanced
There is no 45 minute course, 9 easy steps, or an Unlocking Influencer Potential Guide that will bake your cupcake.
The two simple ingredients require baking directions which include; strategy, branding, execution, and time.
Messy meta tags, unorganized links, repeated words, and every other purported “mistake” that is ruining SEO, are inconsequential to the cupcake. SEO buzzwords and practices are actually tiny sprinkles on the big flipping dessert.
The sprinkles make it look pretty, but they are not an essential part of success.
Proof in the Recipe
Design Seeds is going to be my cupcake example, as with a ten year breadth, there is enough proof to show that it’s all about the ingredients. Even when there wasn’t a single sprinkle to be seen, the site has been top of all search results.
I launched Design Seeds on Blogger, with the worst URL imaginable (seeddesignconsultany.blogspot.com), and not a single SEO tool implemented or adhered to.
Every post on the current Design Seeds site “fails” SEO. Out of the dozens of pages, maybe one or two get a green light on SEO readability.
Since SEO is really not a thing, I am a-o-k failing the myth of arbitrary measures, and do not extend unnecessary time or resource.
I can confidently do this because Design Seeds has owned top ranking since the blog launched.
The Not Secret Recipe
As an avid home cook, my recipe box is one of my most valued items. So through adapting my approach to documenting my own at-home-recipes, I’m going to share with you the success recipe and notes, so you too can bake a gorgeous online cupcake.
regularly posting great content Plan, create, and schedule your content. I have been posting 365, going on 10 years now. Never missed a day.
regular traffic Traffic to your site is what gets you ranked high in search results. It’s that easy. Traffic = where you rank in results.
strategy The following notes will show how I applied the directions to Design Seeds. In strategizing and leveraging my color passion & expertise, I created the concept and palette format for Design Seeds as no one was color blogging back in 2009. I built the inspiration site I dreamt of , and have not missed a day of posting since. My strategy also considers building community, outlinking from social, adapting to social platform changes, not being dependant on any particular network, and focusing on all content being owned on the site.
execution The concept for Design Seeds palette was to keep it contained and concise to highlight the inspiration as well as my colorwork. My intent was to create shareable content (Tumblr was king in 2009, and my idea was to make my work inspiring and easily shareable to Tumblr from my site). I wanted to offer expanded features on the site to give folks a reason to visit. This is why hex codes exist solely on the Design Seeds site, as well as the expanded search features. My palettes’ concept and design may seem innocuous now as the concept has been copied so (SO) many times … but tapping into my expertise in color and the originality of the palettes are what allowed it to go viral. Investing and owning the content on my site is what keeps it sustained.
time I was “upside down” in Design Seeds having not monetized, nor having attempted to, for the first two years. My sole goal was to build and nurture the passion project because I was in for the long game. The biggest mistake most folks make, especially in blogging and social media, is trying to instantly monetize something. There are no shortcuts in baking your cupcake, and if you skimp on time, you’re going to have a half-baked mess.
Tips for Bumping Your Site Up The Ranks
if owning the top of any search results a priority, choose a unique name, or an uncommon combo (for example, a decade ago, design and seeds were two unexpected words to combine and my site showed up easily in rankings as the only seeds online were the sort for growing flowers and vegetables)
think about the shareability of your visual content, is it original?
does your visual content offer benefit, inspiration, or information?
simply put, does it look cool?
is your content easy to share?
does it have diverse appeal to folks outside your core audience who will also want to share your content or post?
how are you outlinking to your site from social?
do you have a compelling landing page when folks click over from social profile links?
do you only share links (and not photos) on Facebook?
clean up titles for pages and all images on your site … whether on Squarespace or Wordpress, take the time to fill in a proper title name, keywords, and include your business or brand … this little effort makes a huge difference
don’t share all your crayons … you want folks to share your content on social as it is essential in getting traffic to your site, but protect your work on your own Terms so others don’t leverage it to promote their own product
be choosy about you collaborations (as in giveaways, promotions, contents, or challenges) … anyone who uses your brand name is diverting traffic to their site from your’s … this is sometimes advantageous to growing your audience (interviews rock for this), but can also be detrimental (for example, I prohibit folks from running challenges from using my brand name in their contest title ~ this protects search results and false association as I have nothing to do with judging or promoting the challenge)
require “clean linking” when folks share your work … this means folks can share your work via social share buttons, or require them to link back to your site (or agreed upon profile) with proper attribution when posting
It took me years to understand and live by all I mention above. That is why it is important to be patient with yourself, define your brand, and know your goals. When you allow yourself time to do so, then you can tweak your own recipe notes for your personal success.