I had the pleasure of taking in Eli Schwartz’s presentation at Engage last week. As I handle enterprise SEO clients at Anvil I was thinking I would hear about insights on enterprise SEO strategy, how it is different from smaller scale SEO, how to scale experimentation up or down, or how to look at data differently. To his credit, Eli presented on basically none of those ideas – with the exception of strategy.
Enterprise SEO: A Runaway Bandwagon
But what happens if you throw out most of what you have taken as fact about SEO?
Eli made some excellent points aimed more at shaking up the mindset that SEOs can fall into and less at in-depth strategy about getting particular pages to rank or how to use Google’s tools to create full funnel, multi-touch attribution report, or any of the hundred (valid) ideas on how to capture data from the hundreds and thousands of daily or monthly visitors to the site. There are many, many tactics and strategies that are constantly used with enterprise clients. There are bandwagons full of SEOs that follow these tactics somewhat blindly.
We read an article and we accept a change in the algorithm and we make sure that our websites follow these new, sometimes arbitrary, rules that are coming from someone else’s observations and sometimes from Google itself. I don’t know the last time I heard someone mention the idea of paying for backlinks – outside of a dark alleyway – but Eli suggested that maybe buying a ton of backlinks isn’t something that will get your site penalized.
Enterprise SEO and a Different Approach
Instead of accepting all of these rules and laws that, to a large extent, are self-imposed, why not throw out many of the rules that are said to govern SEO and play around with your traffic. No one wants to see their site blacklisted by Google, but does Google even blacklist sites anymore, or are we beyond that now?
A couple of the theories that Eli suggested playing around with included supposedly hard and fast rules that are sure to increase traffic, or decrease traffic if used incorrectly.
One theory he tested was whether or not site-wide footer links matter. John Mueller even said that SEO should include “nofollow” tags in their footer links way back in 2014. So this is not even a belief, but a rule passed down by Google to SEOs. But do they matter, does it make a difference if footer links are “follow” or “nofollow?”
It turns out that Eli is not alone in this test and almost everyone who has run the test has found their rankings increasing when they make their footer links “follow” links.
SEO is not Scientific
SEO is reactionary, pure and simple. We can only make observations based on correlation and not causation. We can only make our footer links “follow” and then observe what happens; we can’t directly affect Google’s algorithm. Therefore, SEO is essentially not scientific.
Because of that we should never stop experimenting, testing, and trying to break things on our websites in order to find out what actually works. Maybe page speed is a huge ranking factor, but maybe it isn’t? The only way to find out is not by running Page Speed Insights over and over, but by slowing down a page and seeing what happens.
Maybe Eli’s presentation piqued my curious, rebellious side, but I think it was simply refreshing to listen to a presentation at a conference aimed at making us all better at our jobs and hearing a host of ideas that I believed would lose me my job if I attempted them. Not only did ELi do a wonderful job at refreshing enterprise SEO, but he made an effort to make SEO a community effort again:
Write down your hypothesis
Test your hypothesis and use KPIs that matter
Share your knowledge
Show your value
Contact us today to talk about your enterprise SEO strategy!