It seems like yesterday when I first
started with SEO but actually I already made a whole decade in it. A
decade is a pretty long period of time and even though things change,
there are some lessons I've learned that pass the test of time. Here
are some of these lessons – some of them were learned the hard way
(which probably makes them even more valuable), while others are just
positive experiences that have helped me become a better SEO expert.
1 There is NO Guarantee
This wasn't the first thing I learned
but it is certainly one of the most important. In SEO, like in many
other areas of life, there is no guarantee – ever. No matter what
miracles you do, you can't guarantee top positions, especially not
over time. The reasons are complex – such as algorithms change,
competitors attack, or simply your content gets old but the
consequences are always the same – you can never guarantee your
2 You Need Lots of Patience to Achieve Results
The second most important lesson is
that SEO is definitely not a get-rich-quick scheme. In order to see
results, in addition to skills, you need a lot of hard work and
patience (and lots of time, too) and yet results might never come.
3 There Are Clients You'd Better Not Work with
It isn't only SEO where you can find
toxic clients but in SEO with its unpredictable nature such clients
are even a bigger nightmare. Clients who are not familiar with the
specifics of SEO and who want impossible things, like guaranteed
rankings, are a poison and it's best if you part ways as soon as
4 Take Link Building Slow
Backlinks might be the backbone of SEO
success and you might want to rush backlink building but this doesn't
help. As I mentioned, you need lots of patience and time. This
applies to link building as well. You build them slow, even better at
a constant pace rather than in a rush over the weekend.
5 One Quality Backlink Is Worth More than 100 Crappy Ones
This is another valuable lesson – a
single quality backlink from a reputable, relevant, high-ranking site
does more than hundreds of crappy links. This was so even before the
update but after it crappy links not only lost value completely,
they became toxic.
6 You Can't Get Good Rankings for a Product/Service that Is Not Good
SEO isn't witchcraft and even with
black hat techniques (that are to be avoided for sure), you can't
push a product/service that is not good - or at least these good
rankings won't last. Even if you manage to get traffic and some
conversions, imagine the negative publicity
angry users will give you over the Internet. So, if you or your
clients want to do SEO for a crappy product, just say no.
7 Content Is King
This is repeated all the time because
it is so true. If you don't have good content, you are just wasting
your time and money. Period.
8 Meta Tags Don't Hurt
When I started with SEO a decade ago,
meta tags were much more important than they are today. However, they
are still not totally deprecated, especially the <title> tag,
so you could fill them – just in case.
9 Keyword Research Is Make or Break
SEO hasn't changed that much in a
decade – it's all about keywords, or more precisely, about the
wrong and right keywords. This is why keyword research is very, very
important. If you do it wrong, all your subsequent efforts are
doomed. You need to identify the right keywords and optimize for
them, not for some keywords that sound great but have no conversions.
10 You Go Nowhere without the Right SEO Tools
SEO is all about the tools – without
them you are stuck in the middle of nowhere. If you don't have the
right tools, you get wrong feedback and this is tragic. Here at
Webconfs we have gathered lots of useful tools most of which we use
almost daily, so check them.
11 Niche Sites Are Champions
Long gone are the days when you could
launch a 20 page niche site and make hundreds of dollars a month from
it but still niche sites do much better than general interest sites.
So, if you have 10 niches you want to cover, start 10 separate sites
instead of throwing all the content in one single site.
12 Be Fast or Be Dead
SEO is very dynamic. You need to be
fast, or you are dead. This is especially true when major algorithm
changes kick in because if you don't act quickly, you see how your
rankings drop in a blink of an eye.
13 You Can't Rely on SEO Alone
SEO is very powerful for driving
traffic, yet you can't rely on it alone – you need PPC,
social promotions, etc. as well. It's this combination that can help
you achieve real success and make the most money
from your site.
14 Old Domains and Keywords in Them Can't Save You
Old domain names with keywords in them
or in the URL do help but they can't save you, when you don't have
good content and quality backlinks.
15 Always Monitor and Measure
When you don't know how you are
performing, everything you do is a shot in the dark. This is why you
always need to monitor your performance, measure the results, and get
rid of sites/projects/keywords that underperform too much.
16 Do Worry about High Bounce Rates
Bounce rates are not directly related
to SEO but when users leave your site shortly after they have landed,
this is a symptom they don't find what they want. These are lost
sales and they are costing you money, so try to improve your bounce
rates before you do any other changes to your site and SEO strategy.
17 You Can Achieve More with Long Tail Keywords
Long tail keywords are sweet because
there is substantially less competition for them and higher rankings
are easier to achieve. Maybe you won't get that much traffic with
long tail keywords but in terms of ROI they beat popular keywords
that are so hard to rank well for.
18 Black Hat Is to Be Avoided
Do I need to say why? Google isn't
stupid and all the cheap tricks black hatters do are not hard to
catch (and punish). Don't become a SEO criminal!
19 Google Isn't the Only Search Engine
Google might have the lion's share but
some other search engines, such as Bing,
(if you target Chinese traffic) could bring the lion's share of your
traffic. The other search engines are less competitive and you can
get good rankings with them with a fraction of the effort you need to
rank well with Google.
20 Diversify Your SEO Tactics
Keywords in strategic places and
quality backlinks are the centerpiece of SEO but there are many other
tactics as well. Even if you see results from your present SEO
tactics, always try to diversify. For instance, you might want to add
social promotion to the mix.
21 Drop Losers Fast
This one was learned the hard way. Yes,
SEO success needs time and patience but when it is obvious from the
start something is not working, the best you can do is drop losers
fast. This applies to projects and clients as well. It makes no sense
to spend years on something that might work – it's either working
or not – the more you wait, the more you lose, so terminate a loser
22 Get a Good Hosting
This is another very, very, very
important lesson. Nowadays hosting is cheap, so there is no excuse to
put up with an unreliable provider. When your host is frequently
down, bots can't crawl your site, and what's worse, when users click
on your result in search rankings, they are taken nowhere. As a
result, the monetary and image losses are colossal.
23 It's Conversions (and ROI) that Matter, Not
Rankings Per Se
Good rankings might boost your ego but
this doesn't count, if you don't enjoy good conversions, and a decent
ROI. After all, it's the money we make from a site that counts,
24 You Learn As Long As You Live
This applies to many areas of life but
it is especially true with SEO where things change pretty fast. If
you want to stay afloat, you will need to always learn new and/or
better ways to do old stuff.
25 Learn Marketing, Web Design and Development
SEO is powerful but when you use it in
conjunction with marketing, Web design and Web development, this
helps you get the big picture. Nobody says you need to become a
world-famous marketer, designer, or developer but you do need to have
at least a basic understanding of these three areas.
26 SEO Is a Team Game
SEO is not a lonely wolf field. You
need to work closely with writers, designers, developers, product
managers, etc. Or you can do all this stuff on your own but it takes
so much time that you'd better hire a pro.
27 Don't Forget about Redirects and 404 Code
Redirects and 404 errors are frequently
forgotten about but they can do you a lot of harm, if misused. Take
the time to check that redirects and 404 errors are handled as they
28 Think with Your Head
You do need to learn from the best but
this doesn't mean you should follow advice from SEO gurus blindly.
Even if they are not trying to mislead you (because unfortunately
I've caught some famous SEOers trying to do it) the fact that
something works for them doesn't mean it will work for you as well.
So think on your own before you do something important.
29 Your Competition Is Your Teacher
Your competition is one of your best
teachers. Just analyze what they do and you will learn. For instance,
if you perform a backling analysis, you can quickly identify some
good sites in your niche where you could get backlinks from.
30 Don't Get Obsessed with Numbers
When I say to monitor and measure
everything, this doesn't mean you should lose your mind over metrics.
Numbers give direction but don't let them lead you through life. Page
Rank, or your other
rankings are just numbers and it makes no sense to get obsessed
with them. If you PR is good, OK but if it isn't don't become
suicidal. ROI is more important than PR, so if your ROI is still
fine, everything is fine.
31 You Can't Use the Same SEO Tactics for
Different Types of Sites
An ecommerce site is very different
from a magazine site and from a corporate site. You do need to take
all these differences in account and use different SEO strategies.
32 Everybody Can Be Big on the Web
Even if you are a small company, you
can still get better rankings than the big guys. And no, you don't
need their budget in order to outrank them – good content and SEO
skills are all it takes.
33 Your Rankings Can Never Be Too Good
No matter how good your rankings are,
there is always room for improvement. For instance, if you are
ranking well for a given keyword, you can try to achieve this for
some related keywords you currently are not very good at.
34 Don't Become a Slave to Work
SEO is addictive, especially when you
see results. However, when you become a slave to work, this is not
good. You need to get life and know when to stop. This is not only
good for your health but it will make you more productive, so always
plan days away from the computer.
35 Always Fill Your <alt> Tags
<alt> tags are sometimes
overlooked and left empty but they also count, especially for sites
with images, such as ecommerce sites or image galleries. If your
competitors have left their <alt> tags empty and you have
filled them diligently, this gives you an enormous advantage.
My first 10 years in SEO have proven
pretty successful though if I knew all the stuff I know now, it would
have been much easier. To make it easier for you, I decided to share
some of my knowledge, so that you don't make the same mistakes I