or maybe it's top 3 reasons I suck at SEO blogging... LOL
😉

I don't blog about SEO much.

Why is that? What's the block? That's what led me to write this post.

I was brainstorming topics for my periodic SEO Scoop post, and I wasn't coming up with much. I was thinking about a lot of things, and they all added up to the big problem with SEO blogging.

1. Why Give Away Your Competitive Advantage?

Hoggheff aka Hank Ashby aka Mr. Freshtags

Don't Speak. Photo by Hoggheff aka Hank Ashby aka Mr. Freshtags

People who know secret tricks don't want to reveal them because in SEO, anything that's widely known is not a competitive advantage. The only motives for revealing these are

  • Vanity ("you're the awesomest SEO expert!";"you got the most sphinns on the most SEO articles all year!") or
  • The benefits of being seen as an expert ("we want you to do our SEO/speak at our conference/make a baby with me").

I can think of two tips off the top of my head I've received in the last month that are making a big difference in our SEO results. If I tell you what they are, I'll lose an advantage. I have no incentive to do that.

2. Theories About What Works in SEO Abound, But Are They Right?

Philosophers. Photo by Helico

Philosophers. Photo by Helico

A lot of people have theories about what works based on their limited, anecdotal experience, and probably aren't thinking scientifically enough to know if they have enough data to be sure something's true. This unfortunately undermines SEOmoz's annual SEO Ranking Factors document, which is nice, but still based on opinion.

Does it matter if 50 recognized experts agree on something if they don't have enough data to know if they're right? It's better than nothing, especially for SEO noobs- it's a great educational tool. But it's also potentially misleading, despite its beautiful graphic design and list of awesome experts. 😉

I'll admit, I wish I were invited to the SRF table, but on the other hand, I was invited to contribute to David Mihm's Local Search Factors Volume 2, and I only answered the questions for which I'd done research and had data. I didn't feel comfortable spouting off theories not based on statistical analysis. If I did guess, I said I was guessing. I think it's at least as important to disclose why you think something's true, in this kind of situation.

3. Few People Have And Disclose Solid SEO Research

Photo by Erik Charlton

More Data. Photo by Erik Charlton

On the flip side of their annual opinion poll, SEOmoz released a document in June 2009 called SEO Best Practices that is based on data and statistical correlation. Thank you very much. This is a bit more reliable, no?

Data like this may reveal surprising insights like H1's not making much of a difference- and yet, keywords in H1's are the #4 onpage factor in the most recent SEOmoz Search Ranking Factors opinion poll. Who's right? The theorists, or the data analyst?

But again, for SEO blogging, this sucks. How many people have access to that much data? And of that handful, how many are releasing it often? If a research and stats basis was, as it should be, the gold standard for SEO blogging, then we would only see one or two good posts a year.

4. SEO Is Controversial, So Why Bother?

Photo by Scott McLeod

Arguing is Fun. Photo by Scott McLeod

Because of the following...

  • Google keeps the algorithm secret
  • It's possibly too complicated for any one Googler know completely
  • It's a black box
  • The weighting of factors changes
  • We don't know if or to what degree factors are weighted differently by niche
  • There's not enough good data to reverse engineer it...

Because of those things... there are a lot of SEO theories, some of which are wrong. But which ones are wrong?

Some SEO's are more argumentative or loud or have a bigger reputation than others, so they may set the tone. But arguing about SEO is like arguing philosophy- without facts, without a third party knowledge base everyone has access to go back to, there's no way to resolve disagreements. So if it turns out someone had proof that a tenet accepted by the whole community was wrong, they'd be shouted down and branded an idiot or a troll.

When I was in medicine, I read a study that showed that doctors tend to discredit studies that disagree with their beliefs. I'm sure the same thing would happen in the SEO community even if the dissenter had good research to demonstrate their point.

Once any piece of knowledge is known by all SEO's, it's much less of a competitive advantage, and it also becomes gospel. If a contradictory new ideas that worked came along, it might contradict the communal wisdom- not only do you have no incentive to reveal it, but you might not even be believed by those who practice SEO according to the communal fundamentalist approach.

Some people love controversy and attention, so the discussion goes on. I'll admit I do like attention, but I don't like arguing about things we can't go find a solid authority on to settle the debate.

Summary: Who Really Wins in SEO?

Photo by Philo Nordlund

Winners. Photo by Philo Nordlund

In short, SEO blogging sucks because it's mostly ideas, theories, rumors, and possibly even misinformation (if you knew something worked and it was a competitive advantage, would you publicly agree that it doesn't work to ensure fewer people benefited from it?).

The winners in SEO are always those who execute. But the biggest winners execute based on what really works- you only have so much time, and you need to work on the things that make the biggest difference. You find that out by either testing and having enough data, or talking to those who are doing that testing.

Thus, in SEO, both a scientific approach, and good networking make a huge the difference. If you know enough SEO's who are testing, and they trust you, then you're in an inner circle of people in the know, and that gives you a huge competitive advantage.

Don't get me wrong- practicing SEO according to the community's opinion does help, and it will get you results, but once you reach a certain level of competition, it's not enough to win.

Tips:

  1. Start testing your SEO. Approach it as experiments instead of just actions. Looks for results. Learn about statistical confidence so you know when you have enough data to know something for sure.
  2. Network with other SEO's. Best places to do that? Forums and conferences. Meet online, get to know F2F, continue forward with IM and phone.