SEO can provide amazing return.
But it can also bring about frustration.
Usually the second comes after the first and usually after a misunderstanding of what SEO is.
What Is SEO?
SEO may be misleading term depending on how you think about it.
It stands for search engine optimization.
And that is 100% true. You’re optimizing your brand and content for how people use search engines.
But the trap is thinking that you want to optimize your brand and content for the search engine and not for the people and how they use the search engines.
The search engines have the goal of providing the best results for searches. If they don’t do that they lose. Google has had this focus and continues to optimize for it and that’s why they have a near monopoly on search. At least in text search. They may lose with voice search.
SEO advice is usually wrong when it forgets the people element of search. It’s also wrong when it tries to mislead people.
Here are a few examples…
Image: Title & Alt Text
When uploading images to websites, you give the image a title and alt text. The alt text is kind of a cross between a title and a description. If you hover over an image on the Internet and text appears, that’s alt text.
Some advice I continue to see about image titles and alt text is poor SEO advice because it aims to mislead people using search engines.
For example, the wrong advice for a dentist would be to upload an image of a smiling woman while using the title “family dentist” and the alt text of “family dentistry”.
That may seem like it will help the dentist, but think about it from the searcher perspective.
A person is searching for images on Google. If they search for “family dentist” they probably aren’t expecting to see a smiling woman. Maybe a photo of a family dentist office or perhaps the logo.
But if they search for “smiling woman” and find a smiling woman, that makes sense.
Short Titles & URLs
Another bit of SEO advice I see often is that page titles and URLs should be short. Especially when it comes to blogging.
I’m a fan of short. Shorter is better, but only when short still makes sense to the searcher.
Let’s say you’re creating a blog post or video on: How To Split Firewood Using A Splitting Maul.
Great idea for a piece of helpful content.
The SEO advice to use short titles and URLs may push you to use a title like “Splitting Firewood” and a URL that ends with /splitting-firewood/.
Imagine being the searcher and seeing that title and URL. You may expect to see a new machine splitting firewood or perhaps a splitting firewood contest or maybe a compilation video of people splitting firewood.
The short title and URL aren’t descriptive enough.
You’d be better off going with the full title and URL of: How To Split Firewood Using A Splitting Maul.
That gives the searcher full context. It sets the right expectation. When they see the title and URL on Google and click they get exactly what they expect.
Short-Term vs. Long-Term
A big thing with SEO is short vs. long-term. Many people have gotten caught up in the short-term benefits of SEO over the years.
Keyword stuffing. Link schemes. All kinds of stuff.
Many of those things have worked well in the short-term, but in the long run you have to know that Google will only improve. Any misleading tactics will be punished and the best content will win out.
The final takeaway when it comes to SEO advice is to do a quick check against what is best for the people using search engines. If what the advice is suggesting is best for the searcher then the advice is good. Take it.
If the advice aims to mislead the searcher, stay away.