Don’t Base an SEO Strategy on Perceived Search Engine Weaknesses

Written by Danielle Bachini

If you think that SEO is a way to “game the system”, you’re wrong. This perception is why the SEO industry as a whole has earned a bad reputation. Looking for search engine weaknesses to capitalize on in order to gain short-term results is no longer what SEO is about. Unfortunately, too many website owners still have this mindset when it comes to SEO.

In recent post on Moz, Rand Fishkin talks about “hammering away at individual signals” and why that strategy no longer works:

Once upon a time, SEO professionals had a reasonable sense of many (or perhaps even most) of the inputs into the search engine’s ranking systems. We leveraged our knowledge of how Google interpreted various modifications to keywords, links, content, and technical aspects to hammer on the signals that produced results.

But today, there can be little argument—Google’s ranking algorithm has become so incredibly complex, nuanced, powerful, and full-featured, that modern SEOs have all but given up on hammering away at individual signals. Instead, we’re becoming more complete marketers, with greater influence on all of the elements of our organizations’ online presence.

An example that Fishkin gives in the article is time spent on a web page as a signal of quality. One website owner chooses to capitalize on this by “using some clever hacks to keep visitors on the page longer and to make clicking the back button more difficult”. A second website owner pays no attention to that signal and instead opts to make the web page as user friendly as possible, so that the website visitor can quickly find the information they are looking for. The time-on-site metric may have hurt them initially, but as Google’s algorithm catches up with what human visitors want on a website, it begins to “reward sites that successfully deliver great experiences more quickly”.

I think this is summed up best by Fishkin’s following statement:

Playing the “where’s Google weak?” game rather than the “where’s Google going?” game, you’ve ultimately lost.

Fishkin may be talking about Google specifically, but this really applies to all of the search engines that are continually improving their algorithms that are constantly tweaked to mimic what searchers want.

The key takeaway here is that you can no longer create an SEO strategy based on search engine “loopholes”. If you’re looking for a search engine weakness, you can guarantee that it won’t be a weakness for long. Never underestimate the search engine algorithms that continue to become more advanced. You’ll eventually be caught and lose any organic traffic that you gained. Instead, focus on an SEO campaign that caters to target audience members. This is what the search engine algorithms are striving to do; create the best possible user experience. By taking this approach, you’ll beat the algorithm there and reap the benefits once it arrives.

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