Randy Milanovic

In SEO, the Details Matter (Except When They Don’t)

By: Randy Milanovic | October 16, 2013 | 
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SEO

By Randy Milanovic

You can always tell when a new client had SEO work done on their website in the past.

Even though it might not be evident in their actual search position, they tend to drop in, examine proposals, smile politely, and then ask when we are going to start talking about keyword density, tags, anchor text, and the other “nitty-gritty technical details” involved in their search campaigns.

More often than not, however, we don’t discuss these things with our clients at all. And, it isn’t even because we have some super-secret algorithm-buster under lock and key, or a “secret sauce” that we promise will carry them to a top SERP in virtually no time at all.

The fact of the matter is that, even though we pay attention to technical SEO details, we don’t obsess about them. This runs counter to traditional SEO philosophy, and much of the culture in our industry. So why is it that we’re still happy to gloss over the perfect length of H1 text, or avoid long, protracted discussions about page rank?

The reality is we have found, through real-world trial and error, that worrying about the details isn’t just fruitless, it gets you thinking about the wrong things at the wrong times.

If you doubt the wisdom or truth of that statement, consider these four things:

The Technical Details Involved in SEO are Variable, not Fixed

There are things you could have done just a few years ago that would likely have vaulted you to a very high ranking for a particular keyword or phrase that would likely get you blacklisted by Google today. And, even if you move toward the more subtle ends of the spectrum, things are still shifting there, too.

The best practices for things such as keyword density, link structure, and anchor text have all changed, and continue to do so. Real-time social updates are now being factored into the mix, and fresh, relevant content is being valued more heavily.

The point is that each of these trends were only starting to show themselves a few years ago, but could likely change again before too long. So, it’s not worth focusing solely on the technical side of SEO, because what you worry over today might not matter at all tomorrow.

SERP Indicators Don’t Measure What Matters Most

One of our favorite things to do is remind people that it doesn’t matter where you rank on Google, how many Twitter followers you have, or even what kinds of responses a guest post generates.

What matters is how effective your business website is at helping your actual business achieve its goals. It’s so easy to fall in love with the indicators when what you really need are new sales opportunities.

And, even though higher search ranking might help you accomplish those goals, it’s really just a means to an end. In other words, search engine optimization details need to take a back seat to actual business goals.

Keyword Placement is Important, but a Great Piece of Content Creates its Own Momentum

In this case, we are thinking less about “link-baiting,” and more along the lines of “expressing great ideas clearly so people want to talk about them and pass them on.”

In other words, if you generate a really great blog post, video, infographic, or other piece of content, it’s going to attract attention. That’s good for your search engine optimization campaign, of course, but it’s also good for your visibility and credibility as a marketer.

The bottom line is far too many companies (and marketing teams) spend time fine-tuning SEO details when they should be pouring that energy into developing stronger content.

These are Things Best Handled by Someone with Extensive SEO Knowledge

And finally, we know the difference between understanding the technical side of search and having to bury our clients in it. Although we always want to teach them about our work, so they understand the value they’re getting, going through the minutia usually isn’t worth it for either party.

Our reliance on quality content and bottom-line results over SEO trivia works in the real world, but it can almost be a hard sell to new clients who are used to hearing endless streams of buzzwords and jargon. It’s almost if, by speaking to them in plain English and emphasizing core marketing concepts that have been around for more than a century, we’re admitting that there are normal people at work when they peek behind the curtain.

Even though it might not be fashionable, though, I think focussing on the business is the only approach that actually works over time.

Do you agree? Give me your thoughts on the importance of knowing, hearing, and emphasizing the technical details of search engine optimization when you work with a digital agency.

About Randy Milanovic


Randy Milanovic is the principal of Kayak Online Marketing. He has worked with more than 400 companies in the past two and a half decades in communications and marketing roles. A stage four cancer survivor, Randy is passionate about what he does. He is the author of "Findability: Why Search Engine Optimization is Dying + 21 New Rules of Content Marketing for 2013 and Beyond."