It seems that a debate has emerged about the importance of "the small stuff" in SEO. Over at Search Engine Land, Jill Whalen wrote a column, Don't Sweat the Small SEO Stuff, advising SEOs not to let worries over minor on-page details distract you from more important issues, or prevent you from doing anything at all.
Meanwhile, over at the Bruce Clay Blog, Lisa Barone has a differing opinion on the importance of the so-called minor details, in Sweat The Small Stuff: Search Engine Optimization Is In The Details.
Whalen says that small stuff can be a waste of time, if you're ignoring the big stuff, or letting worries over the small stuff paralyze you:
It's critical to look at the big picture for your SEO campaign, as opposed to sweating the small SEO stuff.
The important things I'm talking about are stuff like the age, popularity, and authority of your site, as well as its usability and overall appeal to its target audience.
By the small stuff, I mean the picky details that paralyze people. Things like how many words or characters should be in a title tag. Or in what order those words should be placed. Or how many times a keyword phrase should be in the copy. Or how many keyword phrases any page can be optimized for. Or should commas be used in the Meta keyword tag. Or should file names have hyphens in them. Or should headlines use H1 tags (or H2 tags, or whatever).
Guess what? None of that stuff matters!
Whalen is not suggesting those small things should be ignored, but she is stressing the importance of addressing larger issues first, and then returning to the "small stuff" later on, if you choose to.
Barone agrees that the small stuff is not going to make or break a campaign, but she insists they are too important to forget about:
The details are important. If they play any part in the search engine's algorithm, they should be part of your search engine optimization campaign. Why? Because if you're ignoring them and your competition isn't, it puts you at a disadvantage. You can't afford that.
I'm going to say it again, mostly because I can: The details are important. The details are what give you that final push to overtake your competitors.
Barone subscribes to the school of thought that "anything worth doing is worth doing right," and points out that skipping the details leaves you with a good site, at best.
Obviously, both Whalen and Barone make good points, and they're not really disagreeing on all that much. They agree that things like age, popularity, and authority are more important to search engine rankings, and that fretting over the "small stuff" is not a productive way to spend your time.
The main difference in opinion comes down to whether the small stuff should be skipped over, or done with care while understanding they are not the most important things that need to be done.
I'm of the opinion that every incremental thing you can do to improve your site is worthwhile, even if it helps in a very small way. The important thing is to keep the effort required to do the small things in line with the potential return, and to prioritize your time to make sure the big stuff gets done first.
Should we, or shouldn't we, sweat the small stuff? Share your thoughts in the SEW Forums.