Thursday, August 2, 2012

Six Reasons why SEO is irrelevant for your blog

This article explains what search engine optimization (SEO)) is and why it is sometimes not relevant for  bloggers, ie why many of us should ignore all the "essentials SEO for your blog" advice and focus on writing good-quality original posts.

It also has a simple guideline for deciding if a particular piece of SEO-advice is relevant for your blog.

What is "SEO" anyway?

Very simply, SEO is a bunch of things that you can do that make it more likely that your site will be high in the results-list and then clicked-on when someone searches for "topics like yours" on Google, Bing-etc.

There zillions of websites / books / blogs etc with the latest "amazing SEO strategies" that you "absolutely" need to implement on your blog.

But very few of them stop to ask whether SEO is relevant or not, meaning that lots of people waste time doing "enhancements" that really aren't relevant for their blog and audience.

Read on to find out whether you need to take any SEO-notice or not.

Why SEO doesn't matter for lots of bloggers

1   Your blog is just for you

Do you keep a blog to record your thoughts, photos, journeys?

If it's private, so only you can read it, then SEO is totally irrelevant for you, because search-engines cannot see your blog, much less point anyone else to it.

2   You have a restricted readership

This is very similar to point 1:  If your blog is for your friends and family, who you have personally invited, and if you have stopped all other readers (or so you think), then Google is never going to list it. And you don't even want search engines to know it exists. SEO isn't something you need to think about.

3   You get your customers through other methods

You might be sceptical about this point, but let me explain with a story.  When I started Blogger-HAT, I wasn't looking for readers. I just wanted a place to keep my own notes about how I'd fixed problems with Blogger, so that I could find the information again if I needed.  (My very first post was about how to put AdSense ads right inside posts - and it's still popular today.)

Then I noticed that in the old Blogger-help-foroum, people with a reputation for helping others were more likely to get help themselves. Answering a few questions each day seemed like a good insurance policy against the day that I got stuck.  But it was tedious typing the same answer over and over, so I started making articles about common topics, and linking to them instead.

At this stage, SEO still didn't matter: I was writing for me, and then I was writing for people who I'd identified outside of the blog, and I was not fussed about advertising revenue.  So it didn't matter that I wasn't doing key-word research or density analysis, or even writing compelling headlines or labelling pictures.  I just wrote up the solutions to problems for the people who came to my blog from the help-forum. And this was fine because I wasn't aiming for more readers or advertising revenue.

Of course times change:  the move to the groups-based Blogger-Product-Forum has seen a lot more people searching for answers instead of asking in the forum, and I've become more aware of the benefits of owning a blog with a higher page-rank.  So these days I do worry about SEO a little, because it's now relevant to me, now.

4    Your blog is for a business with a local customer base business

Moro Cafe Sign (Sherman County, Oregon scenic images) (sheDB0203)If you're a hairdresser or cafe-owner, and your business makes money by cutting hair or sellng coffee, then on-line visitors from all over the world aren't going to contribute directly to your bottom line. And if pay for file-hosting, they may cost you and give no return.

What you need are warm bodies walking through your door, and telling their local friends good things about you.   But unless there are no other cafes or hairdressers in your area, there's almost no chances that you can get a high place in the search-results for "cafes in mytown" because the directory sites and local media (who have lots more time, energy, SEO skill - and access to a wider range of business information) will beat you every time.

That's not to say you shouldn't have a website to share information about your business, and on-line tools to get customers - but focus on social networks like Facebook fans, directory listings, Twitter conversations, Pinterest-displays, forum-posting, etc instead wasting time on an "seo-quest" that you're bound to lose.

5    It's a tool for delivering an on-line newsletter

Some people use a blog purely so they can use the follow-by-email gadget as a very simple newsletter subscription management tool.   A blog is not the best tool for the job. But it is free, and it means that your previous newsletters stay on-line in case people ever need to refer to them.

Unless you want newsletter subscribers to find you by search, instead of by off-line relationships, then SEO doesn't matter for you, either.

6   You just don't want "customers" or visitors.

Or maybe you just hate the thought of being famous or mainstream!    Or whatever other reasons you have for not wanting too many people to find your blog by searching for it.  

Some people find this hard to believe, but there really are people who have their blogs open to the search engines - so that the can use search themselves - but who really aren't fussed about whether anyone else finds them.

What if none of this applies?

If these points don't apply to your blog, then probably you do care about attracting visitors from search-engines,

So you should spend some time thinking about things you can do on your blog to make it more likely that search-engines will:
  • List your your pages in the search results shown to people who are in your target audience, and
  • Do it in a way that makes it more-likely that these people will click through to your blog.

Unfortunately there are no simple answer to what you should actually do.   It all depends on your blog, how your template works, what sort of people are in your audience and what they do on-line.  So really, you need to read all the advice and weigh up:
  1. How much time/effort it would make to do what they suggest
  2. Whether the suggestions "fit" with the audience and purpose of your blog
  3. Your instincts about what changes are most likely to help your current and future readers find you more easily

You need to keep coming back to this point every time your read another expert's advice:   does this suggest helpe me achieve what I want to achieve, given what I know about them.    If any possible change doesn't get a "yes" answer, then it's a good think not to do.

Also remember that you don't have to do everything all at once:  SEO is a like delicate game of cat-and-mouse that's been going on since the internet was invented.   The only rule is that the rules changes very often.   So you will never be "finished", and a  website will never by "totally SEO'd"

That said, I am interested in hearing what changes you've made for "SEO" reasons, and how well they have worked for you.

Related Articles:

Restricting blog-readership isn't as secure as you think

Advertising and blogger, some things to consider

Follow-by-email:   turn your blog into a subscription management system

Picasa - a very basic introduction

Linking Blogger and the social networks

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  1. Please rename the title of this self indulgent want to be literary garbage to "This and All Blogs are Irrelevant..."

    Society will thank you, and please, quit tarnishing real writers and journalists...

    1. Thanks for the inspiration, John, I was tempted into another bout of self-indulgence today:

  2. Well I think it's a useful blog, but I'm still more impressed with the way the author handled the {rather unnecessarily unpleasant) criticism.

    1. Thanks. I usually just delete comments like that without publishing them, but thought I'd share this one. It takes all sorts to make up the world.