How long have you been in the search engine optimization (SEO) game? A few months? A few years?
If you’re entering the search world for the first time, you may be worried about the sheer number of strategies and tactics you have to learn. But despite the increased knowledge that experience provides, search optimizers with years of practice under their belts have an even more dangerous threat to their results — stagnation.
After a few years of experience, most search optimizers find themselves using the same techniques for themselves and for their clients, on an endlessly repeating cycle. If you want to be successful, it’s better to periodically refresh your strategy, updating it with new approaches and experimental tactics.
The Veil of Experience
It may seem like the most experienced search marketers have the least to worry about, but there are a few problems that experience provides:
· Habits. Over time, even the best optimizers fall into certain habits. As long as something isn’t “broken,” it won’t generate much attention, and the optimizers behind these tactics will keep repeating them.
· Overconfidence. The more experience you gain, the more confident you become in your abilities. During the early stages of development, this is a benefit, but over time, it can lead to arrogance, and an overvaluation of your own skills.
· Environmental shifts. Circumstances — including your competition and tools — evolve over time, so gradually, it may fall beneath your notice. Because experienced optimizers aren’t focused on learning new information, they rarely adapt swiftly.
So let’s take a look at some of the key ways a stagnant strategy can harm you — and how a refresh can help.
Part of the reason old strategies need refreshing is the fact that new developments are always emerging in the field of SEO. Google updates its search algorithm periodically with new ranking factors and new user interfaces, and consumer search habits are constantly shifting, adding or subtracting value from various keyword terms.
The fundamentals of SEO will always remain — even the famed Panda update of 2011 affected less than half of all queries — but that doesn’t mean your strategy can be repeated endlessly and still see the same value. You should at least be aware of the new considerations rolling out.
Confirmation Bias and Echo Chambers
The more time you spend following the same practices and engaging in the same communities, the deeper your assumptions and beliefs are going to become. If you believe a tactic is working, you may be prone to overvaluing data points that prove that assumption correct (and undervaluing conflicting data).
If you keep reading news and engaging with other users in the same communities, you’ll get exposed to the same beliefs and values, over and over, with no new voices or opinions.
Ruts and Plateaus
Consistency is the key to success in most fields, and it’s the default mode of practice for human beings. The more we engage in a system of tactics, the more likely we are to continue following those tactics. It’s easy to fall into a rut over time, but those ruts can lead to plateaus of results, which can cripple your long-term potential.
I also see complacency among experienced optimizers, especially if they’ve seen decent results in their careers. When you see respectable levels of traffic and conversions, you aren’t incentivized to try new things. You get comfortable with “good” results, and aren’t willing to try new things for the possibility of “great” results.
The Promise of Experimentation
SEO is a field that rewards experimentation. The idea is to try something new, see if it improves your standings, and if it does, you keep it integrated in your campaign. If it doesn’t, you toss it. This simple application of the scientific method may seem intuitive, but the micro-experiments needed to earn its benefits are often neglected by optimizers — especially if there isn’t much competition to threaten your current positions.
Simple Tips for Improvement
We know that a strategic change is important, but how can you make that change effectively, and in a way that moves you closest to your ultimate goals?
· Find new sources of information. Don’t rely on the same communities to get your information. Keep them around, but look for new sources you don’t typically consult. These can be different news sites, online communities, or even different people who occupy the same industry.
· Closely audit your tactics and results. Look closely at your results, and don’t assume that things are working. Look at individual tactics to determine their value, and don’t be afraid to cut what isn’t working.
· Try new techniques. Take some risks! Even if you aren’t convinced of a strategy’s value, give it a try by incorporating it into your campaign. Even if only 1 out of 10 techniques adds value to your strategy, those incremental shifts will yield far better results than if you picked a basic strategy and stuck to it.
With enough experimentation, and an unbiased look at your own techniques, you should be able to improve and refine your strategy enough to see incrementally better results — even after experiencing a plateau. Stay on your toes if you want to remain competitive, and never shy away from an occasional risk.
For more content like this, be sure to check out my podcast, The Entrepreneur Cast!