Think this article's headline title is simply the kind of click-bait-hungry churnalism that gives Paul Dacre a head rush? Then you're (slightly) mistaken. While SEO is one of the many vital strings to our digital bow, we know that the environment it dwells in is prone to pollution by twits and chancers. It's important to remember that good SEO is just the first hurdle on the steeplechase of marketing. But do you actually know why SEO is bullshit?
SEO is bullshit if it encourages Stockholm Syndrome.
Us humans have a terrifyingly inability to reconcile spending a mother-load of money with seeing real results. As if, for every pound leaking from your account to We Are SEO King's grubby palms, your strategy and goals are somehow validated. Bonded to our captors, we often fail to notice how seduced we've become by a monthly onslaught of cortex-wrangling 'visualisations' and reports which leave their author with monthly Ctrl+C Ctrl+V RSI. It might be your boss's money, it might be yours - but either way, if your supplier can't deliver meaningful results and support it with proper data, then look elsewhere.
(That is a legit set of pie charts, sent to a real life client of ours by their previous SEO agency. Totally useless - graphs and agency!)
SEO is bullshit if it's not part of the full inbound marketing package.
Like the awkward newb at a school disco, strategic SEO doesn’t benefit from sitting alone. You should have a very clear idea of how it fits in with your overall marketing plan (including offline) and your other lead generation channels and acquisition models.
Never forget, it's not just about rankings (which are skewed anyway depending on your online behaviours). It's about adding genuine value and an outstanding experience for your visitors. Your content should be insightful, audience and format-appropriate, original, authentic and, ultimately, useful. Sure, it should target key search terms, but it should also engage and inspire your readers and be something they want to tell others about (hopefully on social media). Subsequently, your link building tactics should be firmly tied to your PR strategy, with a clear focus on quality and authority. Remember, if it doesn’t feel like a natural and legitimate fit, then it probably isn't.
SEO is bullshit if your website isn't up to scratch.
If your website was built poorly then you're gonna have to bust your ass making it uber popular with real human beings. Though if you suspect that one of your main lead gen channels is naff, then perhaps it's time to tell your boss you need a new new website. Google rewards sites that are well-ordered, well marked-up and accessible for people with disabilities with higher rankings, so make sure yours is. Similarly, if your dev handed you a ropey site, you'll need to get damn busy with acquiring those authoritative links.
SEO is bullshit if you don't consider, and understand, your audience.
If you're working in search marketing but are failing to consider what people intuitively search for, what their needs are, how they speak and behave, then you need to leave now,and shut the door on your way out. Talk to your customers and community. How did they find you? Did they find what they needed right away? Anecdotal evidence like this is gold dust. Combine it with web analytics insights (both individual user journeys and aggregated) and you're flying. Keep a cautious eye on your customer journey. If they find you nice and easy from your carefully crafted keyword research, then great. If they're subsequently bouncing off into oblivion (or your competitor's website), because they feel like they're in the wrong place or your content is wrongly placed then you need to look at your paths to conversion, and possibly your overall sales strategy ASAP. Perhaps you've been patting your back over your ability to ram gazillions of keywords in your copy and metadata, but have you actually considered long-tail search queries? "Where can I get the tastiest chips in Cheshire" may well bring up some more illuminating results than "chip shop Cheshire". Once you've got these search terms sorted, you can embark on a content audit. Check every page has a clear focus and that it answers the query or problem your prospective customer is trying to resolve. Make sure your URLs reflect your search query content. How do I find out folks are searching for? Check out Google Trends.