Guest Post by Jonathan
Every kid should drop everything to hunt down the end of a rainbow at least once to look for a pot of gold. There’s nothing more exciting than believing in a “too-good to be true” fantasy and dropping everything to chase after it. As a kid, I remember doing this and following the rainbow to the parking lot of a local liquor store. After thoroughly looking through all the places where the creepy little leprechauns might have hidden it, I finally came to the sobering realization that: if there was a pot of gold at the end of every rainbow, everybody would be rich; and if I really wanted a pot of gold, I’d probably have to work hard at it like everybody else.
Those two lessons have never been more appropriate than the totally irrational need for me as a blogger to chase down the pot of gold at the end of the SEO rainbow.
When SEO matters (and doesn’t).
As a professional corporate blogger, SEO may actually be the purpose of the blog, not just a means to getting the blog more readers. In that case, efforts to optimize the blog like any other page on a corporate site are not only appropriate, but should be the focus of all the things related to the blog; the post topics, the headlines, the links and words used, etc. In those cases, the number of readers might actually be secondary. In this case, the quality of the content itself may even be secondary. If that’s your situation, more power to you. This also goes true for blogs monetize eyeballs with ads.
But on a blog that’s focused on helping a growing community of readers (like mine), SEO is not helping and more importantly, it’s a noticeable distraction that takes away from the quality of my reader’s experience. Of all the activities I do to make my blog better, SEO is the only thing that isn’t adding any value to my community of readers AND won’t play a significant factor in building that community in the near term. Ironically, it’s also the only activity that could compromise the reader’s experience by requiring me to tweak the content, layout, or headlines.
SEO requires inhuman acts.
SEO requires me to do things that I’ve described to other people as “inhuman acts”. If a little severe, that’s actually the way I feel about doing it. And that’s important in and of itself. I may feel a little challenged by asking people to guest post or share my content through their network, but ultimately I’m confident enough in what I’m writing that this seems like a natural extension of creating something. SEO requires a bunch of activities that have no redeeming value as far as improving the reading experience of my blog or building my social network among other blog authors or publishers. Does that make it wrong? Not necessarily, but it does make it the first thing I should cut if I’m trying to get more enjoyment out of blogging.
It’s also worth mentioning that the best practitioners of SEO aren’t really in the “creating valuable content” or even the “creating valuable communities” business. They’re mostly in the “creating valuable web real estate” business. While this alone doesn’t mean SEO holds no promise for me, it does speak to the fact that we’re not birds of a feather. SEO at its best is practiced by skilled web hackers whose wins or losses are determined by ranking and search traffic. I get no fulfillment from any of that. I’d rather have one person tell me they found value in reading what I wrote than twenty people come to my site and leave without finding what they’re looking for.
SEO is not the best way to get readers for a new blog. Not even close.
What’s perhaps more significant is that SEO holds very limited value for someone who just launched a blog. Three years ago? Different story. You could still compete for long tail keywords that made a difference to your traffic. Now that ranking is a hyper-competitive science? Good luck. As sites get smarter about optimizing Google gets even more suspicious of new content. A significant piece of your search ranking is your site’s history, or its “long tail” presence. In other words, optimizing your site will drive some traffic, but probably not for a while and even then it will be a fraction of what you’ll be getting from comparable efforts at publishing your work through social networks such as LinkedIn or blog exchanges, or other blogs in your space looking for guest bloggers.
SEO traffic is not as valuable to me as social traffic.
There’s also a very legitimate question of whether I’m really looking for readers who come from search engines. If someone clicks on one of my headlines through a social network or because they were referred through a retweet, they’ve already been identified as someone who’s relevant by association. A reader coming from search? I may have inadvertently just hoodwinked them into coming to my site when they were looking for something totally different, but with the same keywords. I’ve found in corporate lead generation efforts that SEO visitors are by far my least qualified visitors. A few lines in Google just aren’t enough for them to qualify whether your post is what they’re looking for. A trusted tweet from someone in your network or a headline in a blog you’ve already subscribed to? That person ranks much higher on the relevance scale and is more likely to subscribe or add value to my community by interacting.
There is no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, but there is definitely a pot of gold.
There might be a pot of gold at the end of the SEO rainbow, but it’s not the pot of gold I’m looking for. There is no rainbow to get to the pot of gold I’m looking for. The way I achieve my goal of building a community of readers that finds consistent value in the content I publish and the discussion around it is to earn their trust by delivering solid work and asking them to share that experience with others. As relevant as SEO may be to the goals of someone else’s blog, it’s just not relevant to mine.
Prolific247 has been building and managing business blogs since 2007. Building a Blog Machine is a collection of best practices and current information for corporate blogging. If you’d like to learn more, please find us at http://www.prolific247.com.