Rehabilitating SEO

Love it or hate it, one of the most talked-about sessions at Search Engine Strategies San Jose was the SEO Rehab discussion. Studying the effects of search on society, the Web economy, and the world has been the subject of many an online and offline discussion.

Search marketers are some of the most passionate and dedicated people I’ve ever encountered. Those seeking to advance their position within search results can easily become obsessed (to the point of addiction) with checking results and positioning.

I caught up with David Naylor after the event to discuss ways of improving behavior and, in effect, rehabilitating SEO obsession. This week and next week’s edition of Searching for Meaning will highlight some of the key thoughts and takeaways from the SES session.

The New Age

In 2008, it seems there are more blogs than people. The impact of micro-blogging in places like Twitter has only exacerbated the SEO addiction concept. Instant conversations, link baiting, and the need for better positioning have never been more prevalent.

When considering how your SEO time is spent, what’s important and what isn’t so important? What kinds of things are OK to obsess over? Are there ways to improve or correct obsessive SEO behavior?

I’m sure that opinions vary when attempting to answer these questions. Time is a precious commodity in a down economy. Demand increases while staffing — and thereby intellectual capital — decreases. Search and find is a constant activity. There’s no rest for the search.

The First Step

Admit there might be a problem. This should be a no-brainer, but as Naylor points out in his description of his own working environment, even on vacation, he’s on his mobile checking e-mail and surfing for knowledge.

Naylor noted that he wasted thousands of hours checking PageRank, backlinks, and anchor text manually in the past. Naturally, with a task like this at hand, one has to think there’s a better way.

The solution is thinking forward, not backward, to help move productivity along. In order to compensate for manual processes (arguably, there are tools), Naylor now focuses on what he believes the search engines will do next, as opposed to what they’ve already done.

PageRank Obsession

If I had a nickel for every time someone called me to complain about PageRank fluctuations, I’d be a wealthy man. Google’s dominance of the search market and popularity-based ranking methodologies are at the core of many an SEO addiction.

There are several key points Naylor selects for PageRank addiction help. Because (Toolbar) PageRank is only updated (roughly) quarterly, don’t waste time checking it at a higher frequency.

One of the key points to remember here is that time spent checking PageRank won’t make you any money. Naylor advises setting up an e-mail alert for “PagRank Update” to avoid wasting more time.

Getting upset over changes in your site’s ranking may be a bit overplayed as well. Naylor notes that his site’s rank has fluctuated up and down in the last 12 months, yet his traffic has remained the same.

It’s more important to evaluate your total market presence. When your PageRank changes, Naylor notes that it’s important to evaluate competitive positioning and determine if your overall space in the market has changed before pushing the panic button.

Next week: avoiding more time wasters and tools for the trade.

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