14 SEO truths I’ve learned in 14 years

It’s amazing to think that I’m closing out my 14th year in the SEO business. That’s 98 years in dog years!


Over the last 14 years, I’ve watched the rise of Google, seen the death of Looksmart, and watched how GoTo (and PPC) changed the game. Blogging has become a mainstream marketing platform, social has taken the Internet by storm and Yahoo! has gone from a huge SEO play to…well…ignored.

It’s been a wild ride.

I’ve learned a lot of “SEO truths” over the last 14 years. Some of them the hard way. :) I’ve outlined some thoughts below – and I’d love to hear yours, too! Please include them in the comments below.

- Techniques are always changing and evolving. I’ve watched techniques like exact match domains, article marketing, the noframes tag (remember that one?) and keyphrase-stuffed content all be considered “the thing to do.” And then, Google changes something and the tried-and-true trick doesn’t work as well anymore. Stay educated and stay hungry – but know that what works really well today may not work tomorrow.

- The only thing that you can truly control is your own Website. You can’t control what Google does, what your competition launches, or whether Facebook will be around ten years from now. Spend time on your site and treat it like the asset is is.

- Gaming the system takes way more work than just following best practices and doing it right the first time.

- There is no excuse for bad content. Quality content always pays for itself. Cheap, poorly-written content will bite you in the butt later (either in terms of bad rankings, bad conversions or both.) Know the difference and give your site (and your prospects) the best content that you can produce.

- Just because someone has a successful Website doesn’t mean that they are an “SEO expert.” True experts have worked with multiple sites and have spent years honing their craft. Who you choose to work with matters. Do your homework.

- The companies that see the most SEO success dedicate a certain percentage of their day/workweek/staff to SEO tasks and faithfully complete them. That may mean 30 minutes a day or three hours. Once an SEO strategy is set, consistency is key.

- All the inbound marketing in the world won’t help you if your site copy sucks. If you want to rock your prospects’ world, you have to tell them what’s in it for them, tell your story, and help them love you.

- SEO (or SEO copywriting) isn’t an instant Website traffic generation fix. Companies that promise you “instant” results (especially for little money) are lying to you. Good SEO takes time, effort and a smart strategy.

- Have a smart SEO copywriting strategy in place? Good. Now you have to implement it. Many good campaigns have gone bad because the companies let the recommendations “sit” and didn’t take action. If that happens, don’t blame the consultant, Google or your competitors. It’s your fault – not theirs.

- Quit focusing on the latest shiny marketing technique when you don’t have a foundational strategy in place. Yes, I know that Pinterest is cool. Sure, Tumblr sounds sexy. But if you’re working with a bunch of half-assed marketing initiatives without following through, you are leaving money (and leads) on the table.

- Egos often get in the way of good SEO. Don’t insist that “you know exactly what to do” without examining all of the available data (and this goes for consultants, too.)

-Don’t insist on a certain outcome (like writing 500 product pages in six days) just because you want to hit an arbitrary timeline. Some things take more time. Some tasks move more quickly. Talk to team members/consultants before setting deadlines.

- It’s important to measure success. It’s also important to have realistic expectations. Insisting on a result that’s not possible does nothing but set your campaign up to fail.

-Some of the most awesome people in the world are in the SEO industry. I have seen the industry band together to help an individual or promote a cause. I have seen competitors help each other – even share sensitive information – so another company could succeed.  I have seen folks compete with each other during the day, and hang out together at night. We’ve gone through marriages, divorces, births and deaths together – and we’re always there for each other (especially the first generation SEOs) The SEO world is a very special place -and  I am honored to consider my “SEO friends” my extended family. It really doesn’t get any better than that.

Need an expert set of eyes to evaluate your site content and tell you how to make it even better? Check out my SEO Content Review – great for in-house teams or DIYers!