The SEO industry has made a science out of analyzing search algorithms and figuring out ways to manipulate them. That is not a bad thing. It is what these firms do, and they provide a valuable service in doing it. But a case can be made for keeping search engine algorithms in their proper perspective.
As important as algorithms are, they are still products of human engineering. They cannot think on their own. They cannot learn on their own, despite so many people suggesting otherwise. Because algorithms are not human beings with brains capable of reasoning, they do not always do a good job of serving up what search engine users actually want.
Therein lies the danger of obsessing over algorithms. It is the same danger that comes built into automated SEO platforms that analyze websites only to tell their owners everything that is wrong from an SEO perspective.
SEO Platforms Are Tools
The ideal situation for a company interested in maximizing SEO would be hiring an experienced agency staffed by SEO experts. But paid SEO services can be expensive. So, it’s not unusual for small businesses to invest in automated SEO platforms. They pay a one-time fee or a low monthly subscription and essentially handle SEO themselves.
Understand that SEO platforms are tools. They are the digital equivalent of the hammer and screwdrivers in a homeowner’s toolbox. Those tools do not determine how the homeowner will use them. Rather, the homeowner makes that determination. The same goes for automated SEO platforms.
Danger, Will Robinson!
Automated SEO platforms can behave a lot like the robot on the 1960s TV show Lost in Space. If you’ve never seen the show, it’s about a space-traveling family stumbling its way through the galaxy trying to get home. The human family has a robot companion tasked with, among other things, alerting the family to danger.
A running joke from the show is the robot’s propensity to warn of danger where none exists. Every little thing seems to upset it. Strangely enough, some automated SEO platforms behave the same way. They do their analytical work only to churn out one warning after another. In many cases, the warnings are largely meaningless.
Why is this? Because automated platforms are designed to measure search engine results based on what the creators know about the algorithms. But like the algorithms themselves, the platforms cannot think or learn. They can only compare data and spit out analytical results.
The Keyword Conundrum
It is fairly easy to see the limitations of automated SEO platforms by doing your own keyword research. Good research supported by comparing the most coveted keywords against the actual terms people use to search reveals a stunning truth: seemingly important keywords don’t always return the results users want.
As powerful as keywords are in helping search engine algorithms artificially understand website content, they don’t do so well understanding user intent. This is the very reason Google has been continually updating its algorithms in recent years. They are trying to get better at understanding and predicting user intent.
Ask Me a Question
What does this mean in practical terms? Google would rather customers ask questions than simply type in one or two words. Questions offer context. Questions provide long tail keywords that search engines can utilize to better understand intent.
Have you ever wondered why Google is pushing mobile search so hard? Sure, a big part of it is the fact that more and more searches are being conducted on smartphones. But Google has learned something else: people are more likely to ask their phones questions than type in one or two keywords.
If you are looking for a place to eat, it is easier to ask your phone, “Where is the nearest Chinese restaurant?”, than bring up a virtual keyboard and type in ‘Chinese restaurants near me’.
Mobile is the perfect platform for asking questions. Google doesn’t mind because questions are easier to figure out. Questions make it easier to determine user intent more accurately.
Don’t Discount the Human Factor
If you haven’t figured out where all of this is leading, it boils down to a single phase: the human factor. Do not discount it. Automated SEO platforms can take a lot of the work out of optimizing for search, but such platforms are not human themselves nor capable of accounting for the human factor.
Automated platforms can only work within the limits of search engine algorithms. Humans can go above and beyond. So perhaps it’s better to skip the automated platform and either learn SEO yourself or hire an agency to handle it for you.
Salt Lake City’s Webtek Digital Marketing is one such full-service SEO agency. They utilize all the latest tools to achieve the best results for the customers. Still, they do not ignore the human factor.
Develop for People, Not Machines
One of the things Webtek concentrates on is developing for people rather than machines. They start by getting to know a client’s business as intimately as possible. A big part of that is getting to know the client’s customers.
Armed with that knowledge, they can employ SEO in such a way as to target those customers. They can deploy strategies that account for user intent because they are already familiar with what that intent is.
When they create content for marketing purposes, it is created for those likely to consume it. It is not created for algorithms. Once again, Google is actually okay with this. They want SEO developers and digital marketers to concentrate on consumers. That is what the whole relevance thing is about.
Search engine algorithms have their place at the table. They are programmed to analyze websites and rank them accordingly. They are programmed to respond to the keywords and phrases offered up by searchers. But they are limited in what they can do. Whether you are a website owner or SEO developer, do not obsess over the algorithms. Do what you do from the consumer’s perspective and you’ll make search engines a lot happier.