SEO: The Tech Era’s Snake Oil

Posted by: Steve Brown

Remember: all I’m offering is the truth. Nothing more.

—Morpheus, The Matrix

Your smartphone is listening to your conversations. Alexa records you as you watch TV. Google tracks everywhere you’ve ever been since the day you were born (basically).

If you said any of that 25 years ago, people would have asked to see your tinfoil hat and run away from you in fear of hearing your latest UFO abduction theory. (They also would have asked you who the hell Alexa and Google were, but that’s beside the point.)

Nowadays, we take it as a given: our devices and our apps mine our data to send us advertisements so personalized they seem to read your mind.

I find it flabbergasting that business owners’ obsession with Search Engine Optimization still prevails in a world where Google knows you're pregnant before you do.

Let me ask you a question:

Do you really think you can outwit a system that complex by stuffing some extra keywords into your blog posts and adding the perfect alt text to your images?

Sure, there was a time when keyword stuffing and other nefarious SEO tricks worked (somewhat) effectively.

But those days are long gone, never to return.

And yet all around the internet you see entrepreneurs shouting:

“I need SEO!”

And marketers bellowing their response––“You’re Right!”––as they wringing their hands greedily.

In the wake of this SEO obsession you see people waste time and money on content that isn’t created to be helpful or entertaining for people. It’s created to appease algorithms, which change constantly.

The only effective SEO isn’t achieved by focusing on search engines––it’s achieved by focusing on people.

In other words, when you say you want SEO what you really mean is you want HEO: Human Experience Optimization.

Who Wants to Buy a House of Cards?

One of my clients wanted to sell her business within the next two years.

“That’s doable,” I said. She had some solid revenue to work with and a good reputation in her industry.

Once we got down into the details of her business, we found a ton of missing pieces to address:

  • Her CRM wasn’t being utilizing
  • She hadn’t automated any of her processes
  • There were way too many steps for customers to get from “I’m curious” to “I’m making a purchase”

As I looked deeper, we found even more problems. They weren’t keeping track of any sales, and her distribution process had more holes than a block of Swiss cheese.

At the end of it, I was surprised she was still in business. She was a quarter away from everything going up in flames if she didn’t make a change.

I told her as much, and do you know what she did?

She looked me square in the face, nodded very seriously, then said:

“Okay…but what about SEO?”

Face, meet desk.

But as I’ve worked with more and more people, I’ve come to discover that this mentality––SEO is our saving grace!––is more prevalent and more damaging than I realized.

Rather than focusing on the SEO shortcuts, ask yourself a difficult question:

Am I trying to use SEO to compensate for the fact that I don’t have the rest of my house in order?

How SEO Breaks Down

I want to make something clear: you can absolutely improve your SEO with certain “tricks” like creating optimized tags, using keywords, and so on. But those only work if they’re used to improve content that’s already excellent, which sells a product that is already helpful.

Otherwise, if you obsess over keywords and search rankings––like that client in the example above––you’ll have conversations with prospective investors that look like this:

Investor: How do you find your customers?

You: Well, for this keyword we’re showing up number seven on Google. Let me show you. Oh, we were showing up at number seven last time I checked. Now that I think of it, Google changed their algorithm recently––I think they call it the three-toed sloth update.

Investor: So you’re ranking somewhere with that keyword, but are you able to see how many clicks you get?

You: As you can see, we got 42 clicks last month on this keyword. Last month we had more clicks, but that damn three-toed sloth update impacted it. That’s not really in our control, but we have our SEO person on it.

Investor: Okay, then what are you doing with your existing customers?

You: We take really good care of them. We send them a thank you card after they sign up and encourage them to follow us on Facebook.

Investor: *Runs for the hills*

Compare that to a conversation that goes more like this:

Investor: How do you find your customers?

You: We have strategic campaigns designed to introduce our ideal customers to our services. For example, they may find one of our video blogs on Instagram, Facebook, or YouTube, which directs them to this landing page.

From there they can either sign up for a free trial, or schedule a meeting with our team.

Investor: How often do customers actually fill out the form or schedule a meeting?

You: As you can see on this real-time report, we’ve had 150 sign-ups so far this month, which is up 15 percent from this time last year.

Investor: What are you doing with your existing customers?

You: I’m glad you asked. As you can see, as a result of constantly running strategic campaigns, we have a 15,000-person email list. We have multiple segmented email campaigns running, each of which sends the right emails to the right list based on their interest.

We’ve found that by staying in touch, our referrals from this list close at a very high rate, and our account retention rates have improved as well.

Investor: *Grabs checkbook*

In other words: stop wasting your precious resources of time and money focusing on SEO.

We can’t predict the algorithms, beat the algorithms, or cheat the algorithms. It’s just not possible or even necessary. Instead, focus on creating great content and providing great services.

SEO Is Not Evergreen––HEO Is

While everyone else wastes money and time on SEO, you can be focused on creating a user experience for humans, not engines.

You didn’t need Google to tell you it was okay to start a business, but you did it anyway. You didn’t need SEO to change your first customer’s life, but you did it anyway. So then I ask you: why are you asking for Google’s permission now?

Google isn’t buying your products or services––people are. You could put your effort into trying to outwit Google’s complex algorithm (something that changes constantly) or you could create content that will continue to bring in more customers, regardless of SEO changes.

The only real SEO is creating helpful and entertaining content for other people. That’s it.

I get it: it’s hard to create for people. You have to sit down and figure out your customer’s fears, what they want, and how you can help them get there.

But it’s the only way to grow your business and stop wasting money on fruitless shortcuts.

At ROI Online, we know how alluring the promise of SEO can be. That’s why we help you break down your real goals and do the hard work to help you reach them.

To learn more about HEO and building a system around your content, check out The Golden Toilet, reserve your 99 cent copy today!

Buy The Golden Toilet