Why you shouldn’t do things for the sake of SEO

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Ok, this might sound a little bit weird coming from an SEO specialist, but I think we should stop doing certain things for the sake of SEO. Say what now?

Liever luisteren?

Doing things for the sake of SEO

I’ve been in the industry for 13 years and for 13 years I’ve seen companies doing things with the goal of ranking higher in SEO. They create content for SEO, do keyword research and publish ‘something’ about the search terms they find. Because they want to rank higher, they start link building. The thought is still that the more links, the better.

These are exactly the kind of activities that I mean by doing things for SEO. I believe that you should not (anymore) do these things for SEO because you want to rank high.

How I did things for SEO for years

It’s not strange to do things for SEO, I did it for years too. When I started with SEO at a travel company, I created content for SEO. I wrote about holidays in Chersonissos, holidays to Chersonissos and summer holidays in Chersonissos. A separate page for each search term. But the biggest joke was maybe: I had never been to Chersonissos before. I only knew Chersonissos from the reality show ‘Oh Oh Cherso’.

The result was that I searched online for what others were writing about Chersonissos and wrote it down in my own words. Quite strange, isn’t it? Do we then assume that no one really wants to read about what it’s like in Chersonissos? Why did I write “poor” content for SEO instead of something good enough for the user? To be honest, I had never thought about it. I had to make sure we ranked high on Google, so I did what I was told to do: create SEO content.

However, it is still exactly what I see many companies doing. We create content for SEO and calculate the ROI.

As far as I’m concerned, that’s really not a good motivator in 2023. Especially since Google no longer wants us to create that content. So, to be successful in SEO, we can afford to stop doing things for SEO.

4 factors that dramatically change SEO

Circumstance 1: SEO has changed (and is changing) from a channel that could bring in a huge amount of free traffic to a channel where you can only be visible if you have quality content and authority. Even if Google isn’t currently great at it, that’s where Google wants to go. See the update I’ve listed at the bottom of this article.

Circumstance 2: In addition, I think that with the enormous number of SERP features, we will never again receive the same amount of free traffic as we did in the past. There are so many alternatives above you. SEO still brings in a lot of traffic, but less and less.

Circumstance 3: SEO has not been as easy as it used to be for years: the competition is cutthroat, so the bar is set high. Higher than just creating content for SEO, that alone is not enough.

Circumstance 4: Google can no longer simply index everything we create. The bar is higher in this regard as well.

If you want to succeed in SEO, in my opinion, there must be a different motivation than simply creating something for SEO, which I will come back to shortly. First, let’s define some things more clearly.

What you can do for SEO

There are, of course, certain things you should do for SEO. Think of having your technical issues in order (can Google read and index your content), have you resolved duplicate content issues properly with, for example, canonical tags, and using structured data. These are all examples of optimizations that you should do for SEO.

Below, you can see that by adding certain structured data to your page, you can receive additional information in the search results such as frequently asked questions (FAQs) in your snippet or reviews, prices, and inventory status.

Veelgestelde vraag - FAQ snippet- bij SEO resultaat in Google
Prijs, beoordelingen en voorraad status in SEO resultaat door structured data

Additionally, you can also look at technical optimizations that Google categorizes under the CWV update. This is the Core Web Vitals Update. With this, Google looks at criteria on the border between UX and SEO: page speed, load time and speed, shifting content, etc.

What's the difference?

Additionally, you can also look at technical optimizations that Google categorizes under the CWV update. This is the Core Web Vitals Update. With this, Google looks at criteria on the border between UX and SEO: page speed, load time and speed, shifting content, etc.

What’s the difference? The difference is that some things are related to content, while others are hygiene factors or an opportunity. For example, structured data is an opportunity to get more information in your snippet in SEO, as you can see above. You should definitely take advantage of this. If Google can’t read your content due to incorrect use of Javascript, that’s a fundamental problem. If you don’t solve this, you won’t be able to achieve much success in SEO.

But when it comes to content and links, it’s about the substance: what you have to offer. You shouldn’t do or fake that for SEO. You should do it because you want to help your customer, share your knowledge, and because it aligns with what your company stands for. There must be a different motivation than just ranking higher in SEO.

In the above tweet, you can see that someone asks John Mueller from Google if it would be a problem if he uses ChatGPT or another AI tool to create content in English for his law firm, then translates it to Farsi and edits it.

This is exactly what happens when we do things for SEO. Isn’t it bizarre that SEO is the motivation for creating content and not the customer who has a legal problem? Don’t you want to showcase your knowledge, show that you understand the customer and leave a good impression? Since when has SEO become a more important criterion than this?

Wait, what?! Don't create content for SEO?

Yes, you read that right. I believe that we should not create content with the goal of ranking higher in SEO. Isn’t it strange that the most important criterion (and goal!) for creating content is usually findability? And that we often don’t even want to make a real effort: quickly write something with ChatGPT or throw it over the fence to copywriters. Are you making a website for SEO or for your customer?

Wouldn’t you want to publish something on your website that adds value, contributes, that you want to share with your customer, that you think your customer should know, etc.?

The O in SEO stands for optimizing: making a good foundation better. Instead, SEO seems to have become the starting point and I am looked at strangely when I say that I want to create content that the visitor wants to read (from qualitative research, not quantitative research).

Isn't it strange that we only create content if there is search volume on a keyword? And that we often don't even want to make a real effort: quickly write something with ChatGPT. Are you making a website for SEO or for your customer?

Why shouldn't I do it for SEO?

If success in SEO is the driving force for creating content, we often settle for lower quality: as long as it’s about the topic, right? Oh yes, and the most important keyword must be included in SEO elements such as title tags, meta descriptions, h1, h2, h3, etc.

While if we write the same piece to help our customer, we are often much more critical: is everything clear, are there any unanswered questions, does a layman understand this, etc. The result for content is that the quality goes up and it suddenly becomes really helpful content.

Have you ever written something for SEO yourself? How do you look back on that now? Have you looked at what your ideal customer would want to know about the topic? Have you looked at what you should mention? Or have you looked at what competitors are discussing, where there is search volume, and written about that? Even Google says it, writing from lists of keywords and search volumes leads to mediocre content.

schrijven van content rondom zoekwoorden en zoekwoordonderzoek leidt tot middelmatige content

Why should I do it then?

Creating good content should be done for one of the reasons mentioned earlier:

A nice consequence

A nice consequence is that when we don’t just write about keywords with search volume, we can suddenly become much more creative, relevant, and complete. Once we start thinking about what our customer wants to know instead of just keywords, we can also look at other questions, problems, pain points, frustrations, concerns, fears, goals, myths, fables, and misunderstandings. The scope of your content becomes much more comprehensive, allowing you to truly convey authority: whatever your question may be, you will find the answer you need with us.

A second benefit is that the content is so relevant that it can also be used on other channels. This contributes to the ROI question. You don’t have to calculate the content’s revenue in SEO, but instead, consider its contribution to complete communication. This is a completely different story.

What about link building?

If you can change your mindset, it will also affect the way you look at link building.

The result is that you will no longer be link building for SEO but to build a trail of real authority. The original idea behind links as a ranking factor was that links “prove” that someone is worth it. Sergey Brin and Larry Page had figured that if a website links to another site, it must be a very good site. Why else would you refer your traffic to another site? Little did they know.

Google is getting better and better at recognizing bought links and earned links. How do you do that? The most valuable links are not for sale. If you sell online vitamins, for example, you probably want a link or mention from/on thuisarts.nl or another medical platform. These are the best links that immediately show that the other party sees you as an expert. But unfortunately, the chances of these types of authorities selling links are minimal. So you have to look at who you want a link from and how you can achieve it.

It won’t always work, but you probably already feel that if you want links from these types of parties, you have to do something worthwhile. Share something newsworthy, create good content, develop a useful tool or wizard. Something like that. Get inspired by reading my blog article: How I got links without link building.

In the screenshot below, you can see a piece of the Search Quality Evaluators Guidelines. Point 2 is about what others say about the website in question. If you genuinely approach your content creation, marketing, and outreach well, this goes hand in hand with point 2, which often goes hand in hand with earning links.

Autoriteit: wat zeggen andere websites over de website en content creators - EEAT en de Page Quality Guidelines

Requirements for succes in SEO

Another good reason to take your content and authority building more seriously: Google is getting smarter and wants to be able to determine more accurately who the real expert is, who is seen as an authority, who has the right experience, and who is therefore reliable. These concepts are extensively discussed in the Search Quality Evaluators Guidelines.

At the moment, you can still fool Google in Dutch with bad content and buying loads of links. In the short term, you will probably notice that you will grow quickly in SEO and attract a lot of traffic. The question is how long this party will last. When will Google realize that you’ve ‘faked’ everything together?

Anyone who has followed the developments of the past few years must be able to put the puzzle pieces together:

Google: tons of SEO produce content not worth indexing - landingen SEO's maken content die de moeite van het indexeren niet waard is

All of these updates are about the quality of your content: are you adding value to the web or are you just repeating what others already said?

SEO is not a goal, SEO is a result

to create content, you’d better spend the money on good content instead of SEO content (in my opinion, we should never use this word seriously again).

If you’re going to do link building, you’d better spend the money on valuable initiatives to collect links that are truly valuable. In this article, you can read about how I work on my own SEO, hopefully it inspires you to do things because you find them important and enjoyable, not because they result in SEO success.

Because if you do it for that first reason, then it can’t help but result in SEO success as well. This is evident in this case study from Jong & Laan. SEO is not an end in itself, SEO is the result of doing the right things for the right reasons and then making sure that the optimizations are done well.

When you approach SEO in this way, you suddenly have completely different conversations internally about the ROI of SEO and particularly content and links. The question of what that content yields becomes irrelevant. The only right question should be: do we need this content to contribute to our brand and our relationship with our customer.

Let's talk about SEO

Do you want to get more out of SEO and get started with People First SEO? I am more than happy to help you with this. Together with me, you will work on creating your ideal customer profile and determine where and when you can reach your audience with the right message. Some content items are suitable for SEO, while others can be used for demand generation and building authority. All the content you create must meet the requirements of the Google Helpful Content Update and contribute to E-E-A-T.

Lees verder

With the announcement of Generative AI in Search people say: there is no more incentive to create content anymore. Well if we create content for SEO reasons only, that is definitely true. But why do we only create content if it brings us visitors from organic search? Creating content for this reason only is a flaw in our marketing strategy and by doing this we are missing the bigger value of content.