This Is Why I Stopped Optimizing My Articles (And Why You Can Too)

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When I graduated from college with a degree in professional writing, I had no friggin clue what search engine optimization (or SEO) was. As I gathered more and more freelancing clients, it became apparent that businesses got traction when they ranked well on the SERPs, and Google didn’t just find you on its own. You had to work for it.

I did Google searches. I got Hubspot certified. I did keyword research and learned on the job. I worked and reworked my metas until I got the ever-coveted “green light” from Yoast. My articles started ranking! My work was being read and making a difference! My clients were happy with the increase in numbers!

Then nothing happened. Nothing at all.

My work was still bringing people in, but traffic doesn’t equal sales.

Optimization is a tool, not a guarantee

Let’s start with the basics. Yoast is considered the Holy Grail of SEO tools for laymen. I can’t tell you how many clients have berated me for not getting the “all-important” green light on Yoast. I can’t for the life of me understand why this is. Have you seen what the standards are?

For example:

  • Yoast gives you the green light after only 300 words. That’s it. According to a joint effort by BuzzSumo and Moz, throughout one million articles, they found a whopping 85% of those articles are less than 1,000 words. Furthermore, when Hubspot did an analysis of 6,192 of their own articles, they found that ones with 2,000+ words got more backlinks and social shares. (Source) So this begs the question…. Why would Yoast give you a green light after only 300 words?

  • Yoast doesn’t recognize long tail keywords. As we all know, Google is pretty intuitive, and long tail keywords are the best chance for a small fish in a big pond to get caught….. If you know what I’m sayin’. Yoast won’t acknowledge them though, so they’ll only notice an exact word or phrase.

  • Yoast’s inability to identify inverted word order or phrases that are relevant to each other leads it to “ping” you for using the same keyword over and over again. (When all you’re really doing is giving it something because it can’t identify what you’re truly trying to rank for.)

  • Yoast tries to identify readability, but not everyone writes for the same general audience, so that standard shouldn’t be the same across the board.

This is just an idea of what most people are utilizing to decide if they’re optimizing their articles or not, and it’s way, way, way less than ideal. Too many people fail to recognize that you shouldn’t be writing for Yoast (i.e. the search engines). You should be writer for your customer.

So if you don’t get a green light, so be it.

Bottom line? Google is pretty smart. If you’re putting value out there, the search engines will take notice.

“It’s essential, however, to remember that you’re not the only one competing for that top spot on Google. Lots of decision makers think they need to rank to get traffic, but that’s simply not true.”

Being in the top spot on a search or even on the first page should never be your goal. (It’s essentially a vanity metric.) So even if you work for the green light and rank really high, it might not be helping you reach your end goal.

It’s not where you rank, but how you convert the traffic you get that really counts.

The problem with SEO in today’s digital landscape

SEO is based on keyword research. We do a ton of digging and develop a strategy to get on Google’s radar for the keywords we feel are most relevant to our buyer and our business.

But what if they aren’t? What if a prospect clicks on your page based on the search results and doesn’t feel like it’s a good fit for their needs?

Not only does that bounce mean you’re not getting a sale, but it will affect your rankings in the future.

“To even get this far, you need time and expertise. For the majority of people who aren’t SEO gurus, that expertise comes at a price.”

Once you have all your SEO solidly in place, it’s still going to take 3-6 months minimum to see results. With all that money that you’ve invested into this particular marketing solution, there is not much in your control in regards to sales.

Yes, you could have an amazing website, and yes your CTAs (calls-to-action) could be on point, but all the research in the world won’t let you control if those keywords are attracting the right demographic.

If this is the case, what’s the point in using your resources this way? It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense for small to medium-sized businesses who are still struggling to “make it”, much less scale up.

Social referrals send the right signals

There are quite a few Google algorithms, and there are certain things that tell Google your site is valuable. For example, high-quality backlinks, proper citations, and….. Wait for it….. Social referrals.

So, if you’ve got a community around you that wants to read your articles, buy your products, and generally click around your site, those actions your customers are taking sends Google happy vibes. This helps you rank!

If you’ve ever taken some time to scour through your Analytics dashboard, you’ll notice an uptick in organic traffic when you see an uptick in social referrals. This is one big reason why I stopped optimizing my articles: I got more traction from simply having an engaged community.

It all comes down to the results.

I stopped doing SEO for my articles because, frankly, it didn’t make a difference. My time is much better spent writing about what my clients want and need—not researching keywords that might possibly by related to what they’re searching for. Maybe.

When you create a community and build your list instead of waiting around for Google to send people your way, that gets you revenue.

Now. Like right now.

If I had to think of one person or company that basically runs the world, it would be Facebook. Everyone (and their grandma) is on Facebook. Everyday. Several times a day. Why wouldn’t you try to match your value to your customer’s attention there?

We’re all on social media—LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat—but because of how Facebook easily connects us to our friends and family, it seems to be a fan favorite.

For Marketers, Facebook is even more special than your average social media platform. It allows us to hone in on our buyer persona with pinpoint accuracy. More than that…. Once someone takes action on an advertisement by “behaving” themselves into our funnel, we can go out and find a whole ton more people like that.

And in the vein of traditional “disruptive” marketing, Facebook ads allow you to get in front of the people who are most likely to be your customers, showing your authority and letting them know about a problem, possibly before they even knew they had one.

SEO simply doesn’t pack the same punch, and even if the ROI is there, it’s not generally as strong as the results you’d get from an epic Facebook campaign.

There’s a ton you could be doing to advance your brand without spending your time, energy, and precious resources on optimizing your site and your blog. When you refocus your efforts, you can stop worrying about optimization and start spending time on strategies that have immediate return on investment. This allows you to take even bigger steps toward your ultimate success.

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Meet the Author: Shauna Armitage

Shauna is a Marketing Director or Fractional CMO helping early-stage startups scale with effective strategies, creative solutions, and unparalleled integrity by making the most of small budgets for maximum impact.

As a vocal advocate for women in business, Shauna is on a mission to redefine what it looks like to be a working woman and to support other women doing the same. She spends her free time traveling with her husband and four kids while drinking Coca-Colas. Connect with her on Instagram at @shauna.armitage.

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