SEO Maxim: Educate the ignorant

What we don’t know scares us. The dark. The bottom of the ocean. The future. SEO.

Part of the reason SEO has a poor reputation is from the prevalence of low-quality providers parading around like experts. But I think the biggest reason for our reputation issues is a lot less complex: people don’t understand SEO.

We don’t trust car mechanics because we don’t understand what they are working on. We’re not sure how time-consuming it is to rebuild a brake line or know how much a new brake rotor should cost.

We don’t trust financial advisors because retirement plans can be insanely complex and we don’t know how to tell if Stock A is more valuable over the long-term than Stock B.

People don’t trust SEOs because they don’t understand how Google works. They aren’t sure what ranking on page 1 means and have no idea about canonical domains, exact match anchor text or link networks.

Until people better grasp how search works, every SEO should also view themselves as an educator and teach people about the importance of search, data-driven marketing and attributable results. The more people understand about SEO, the more valuable we become.

You might have signed up to just “do” SEO but you also need to be a teacher to the less informed.

SEO Maxim: Content is your greatest asset

Your most valuable online asset is your website’s content. Links will get taken down, followers will unfollow and design will go out of fashion…but your content has staying power. Content is what actually gets people to convert into customers once they arrive on your site. Content is the engine that drives traffic, links and shares. Content is what defines you and your brand online.

Don’t take shortcuts or neglect your content. It’s easy to get caught up in other metrics and marketing efforts, but nothing can rival the long term value of your content.

SEO Maxim: Don’t believe everything you read

Every single day, there are 1000s of new pages written about SEO. People reveal hidden strategies guaranteed to get you to the top of the SERPs. Matt Cutts will tell you how to do well in Google. Anonymous tipsters will reveal their best link tactics. Industry leaders will push their content marketing agendas.

The challenge for SEOs isn’t finding content to read…it’s deciding what to believe.

True SEOs don’t rely on the written word of anybody, however. Just because a case study says that Google +1’s helped a site drastically increase search traffic doesn’t mean it is universally true and doesn’t mean it will work for your website. Just because a popular post suggests creating a certain type of content doesn’t mean you’ll see spectacular results following that same strategy.

Most content written by SEOs has an agenda. They want to attract links. They want you to subscribe to their newsletter. They want you to buy their software.

It’s important for SEOs to keep up with what people are sharing in the industry so you can use it to create new hypotheses that you can test for yourself.

Don’t mistake the value of one case study or one man’s opinion for hard data or experience.