Search engine optimization (SEO) can be viewed from two major perspectives. First, there’s the tactic-level perspective, which is an analysis of the individual techniques and changes that are necessary to build domain authority and see results. Then, there’s the high-level perspective, which you can use to define your SEO philosophy, and your approach to things like targeting keywords, creating content, or working with independent contractors.
In some ways, this high-level philosophy is more important; tactics are objective and can be learned easily, but how you aggregate, employ, and adjust those tactics is what’s going to determine the life and health of your campaign.
In this article, we propose a specific philosophy: treating your SEO strategy like driving a car.
Knowing the Destination
What would you say to someone driving a car who had no idea where they were going? You’d probably question their motivations, and point out that they’re probably going to get lost and waste money on gasoline, only to end up back where they started. The same is true in an SEO campaign; without an intended destination, your campaign is going to struggle. Before you start going through your initial SEO checklist, you need to ask yourself, “What’s my main goal?” Are you trying to attract more traffic? If so, how quickly do you need to generate it, and what kind of traffic are you targeting? Set specific goals so you have something reliable to measure your efforts against.
Maintaining the Vehicle
You can’t just drive your vehicle into the ground, or you’re going to break down unexpectedly when you need your vehicle the most. You need to maintain it regularly with oil changes and checkups. Similarly, you’ll need to audit your overall SEO strategy, evaluating your old goals and adjusting them with new information and expectations, and making room for new information you’ve gathered from the SEO community. Google’s ranking standards don’t change dramatically very often, but new updates are frequent, and it pays to stay on top of the latest trends.
Obeying the Laws
While driving, your safety depends on your ability to routinely and consistently obey traffic laws; if you run through a red light, you’ll severely increase your risk of getting into an accident. In SEO, there are similar laws you’ll need to obey. Thankfully, most of them are pretty straightforward, and Google is open about its webmaster guidelines. Most of it is common sense, with an intention to maximize user experience; for example, don’t spam people, provide the best possible content you can, and don’t try to artificially boost the rankings of your pages. If you break these rules, you run the risk of getting penalized, which can ruin even the most promising campaigns.
Managing Fuel and Speed
Cars operate at peak efficiency while traveling at a constant speed of 50 to 60 miles per hour. If you increase your speed more than that, you’ll encounter significantly increased aerodynamic drag, and your fuel costs will increase accordingly. Ignoring safety concerns of high speeds for a moment, you can get to your destination faster as long as you’re willing to pay more money, and driving could become a balancing act between speed and investment.
SEO works the same way. If you invest more time and money into your campaign, you’ll be able to see results faster, at least to an extent. Accordingly, you’ll need to find a balance between how much you’re willing to spend and what kind of results you want to see.
Responding to an Accident
Of course, even the best drivers occasionally get into an accident. When it happens, you need to respond as carefully and quickly as possible, seeking medical attention, collecting evidence, exchanging information, and preventing your accident from affecting other motorists as much as possible.
In the SEO world, you can think of this as responding to an optimization crisis. For example, your rankings might mysteriously tank after you published a new piece of content, or for no reason whatsoever. When it happens, you need to avoid panicking, prevent any further losses, and start investigating to determine the root cause. The faster and calmer you are throughout this process, the better.
There are many possible philosophies that can govern a successful SEO campaign, but car driving is one of the simplest and most elegant. If you’re new to SEO, adopt these overarching mentalities, and use them to craft the campaign you need to attract more traffic to your site.