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SEO Best Practices and All That

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

In SEO `Best Practices' Are Bunk, Adam Audette rants about the supposed uselessness of these tactics, and by extension the concept of best practices in any realm. Audette writes that "`Best practice' is a stale buzzphrase that offers zero competitive practice in the enterprise? To me, that is nothing but useless marketing-speak. It doesn’t say anything about creating a competitive advantage."

The larger point of this article is spot on, namely that adherence to any set of static practices will, over time, erode the competitiveness of any enterprise. But, with no disrespect to Mr. Audette, who is a very smart guy, he sets up somewhat of a strawman definition of best practices when he writes:

By definition, a best practice:

  • is a static ruleset
  • is a standard to be followed
  • has worked in the past (read: is old)
  • has been popularized (read: is average)
  • limits judgement, evaluation, and strategy (cornerstones of quality search marketing)
That is, at best, a partial definition. First, once any practice is adopted by most of the firms in an industry, it is no longer a "best practice." Someone has already moved the needle. Second, mindful of this, great companies (and consultants) make constant tweaking and rethinking of current processes a part of their best practices.

In SEO, best practices would include but not be limited to:
  • Conducting keyword research to identify high-volume, low-competition search terms.
  • Producing clean code (e.g. CSS and HTML, minimal Flash, Javascript in separate files, descriptive navigation, minimal use of tables).
  • Optimizing title tags.
  • Crafting URLs with keywords included.
  • Including (but not over-doing) keywords in content and heading tags.
  • Incorporating keyword links in page text.
  • Basic link-building—social media sites, directories, business partners etc.
  • Advanced link-building—blogging, commenting, content marketing, guest posting, blogger outreach, interactive PR, etc.
Using all of those practices won't guarantee you a #1 rank for any term, but ignoring any of them will make achieving high rankings unnecessarily difficult. That's why virtually all successful SEO professionals use those practices, but don't constrain their activities to a static process. Search is constantly changing, and so are the techniques used to gain high ranking and organic search traffic.

In short, best practices are dynamic rather than static. In 1908, Henry Ford's assembly line (an idea inspired by the meat packing industry) established a new best practice in automotive manufacturing, but from work cells to TQM to lean manufacturing, production processes have continually evolved since then.

For the best companies, and SEO consultants, continuous innovation is the best best practice of all.


Contact Tom Pick: tomATwebmarketcentralDOTcom
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