Open Google, type in the words “SEO hacks”, and you’ll quickly find a never-ending list of blog posts and videos full of tips and tricks for anyone who’s looking to optimize their digital presence.
The world of SEO was, indeed, born with countless hacks and shortcuts that an ever-growing number of people want to learn about.
As this world grew and evolved, three main schools of thought emerged - black-hat SEO, white-hat SEO, and grey-hat SEO - and there’s a lot to be said about each one of them.
However, in today’s article, what I want to focus on isn’t necessarily a specific school of thought of SEO.
Instead, I’m going to talk about how regardless of which end of the SEO spectrum we’re considering, SEO at its core isn’t about hacks, shortcuts, or unknown optimization methods.
In reality, it is all about resource allocation.
Throughout my career, I’ve worked on many different SEO campaigns.
When I first started out, just like most people, I thought it didn’t matter which company I worked with. As long as I knew all the most recent tips and tricks on SEO, I’d be able to create simple systems and strategies and, just like that, get them to rank high on the SERPs.
As my years of consulting and working in SEO went by, I learned that that’s not the case.
Of course, your SEO decisions will depend on the customer you’re working with and, as SEO’s, we have the ability to optimize any website, and do a great job at it.
However, when it came down to the nitty-gritty, it became evident that using the same strategies over and over again, no matter which client it was, didn’t always lead to optimal results.
Being familiar with the hacks wasn’t enough but rather, it was necessary to study each client and work around their needs, goals, and, as you’ll see next, resources.
If you’ve read some of my articles before, you probably already know this, but as a quick refresher, there are three pillars of SEO and every single SEO strategy out there revolves around them:
When working with businesses, I often see that they have a limited budget and, on top of that, many times, they have an even more limited budget for SEO.
This means that trying every hack out there and doing every campaign I can think of simply isn’t feasible.
Instead, I need to be methodical and choose the strategies that I believe will provide the best results for that company.
In other words, what every SEO team and company are often challenged with are the limitations in terms of resources versus operations, and the big question to be answered is, what mix of SEO pillars are we able to take on that will give us a good shot at ranking high on the SERPs and beating our competitors?
To exemplify, if you wanted to create a thousand posts for your blog, I could tell you:
“Considering that the average person can write one blog post per week, you could get four a month. That equals 48 posts in one year, but let’s just say 50. This means that it would take you around 20 years to have a thousand blog posts. That’s way too long, right?”
And following that rationale, you could say:
“Well, the average blog writer who creates 500-word pieces at a good clip charges $75, but let’s round it up for easy math, and say $100 multiplied by a thousand. That’s way too much money to be spending on content creation alone.”
What you could do instead, is take that money and spend it wisely on different strategies.
So, SEO is truly about resource allocation and about finding out which areas we can optimize considering the current resources that we have in hands.
Reading articles about SEO and learning about successful case studies is an excellent idea, but there’s one mistake that many businesses fall into.
They try to copy the exact same strategy that another company developed and used.
The problem is that the article or case study they read most likely describes a strategy that is best optimized for a different type of business, for different goals, target audiences, and needs.
Undoubtedly, in some cases, copying what other brands do is a smart move.
However, when it comes to SEO, borrowing ideas, and using the ones that fit your inherent strengths is what will lead you to success.
For that, of course, you need to know what these strong points are, and the following three are some of the most common ones:
Some of my clients don’t have the marketing resources to invest in hiring writers or creating a content development team.
Yet what they do have is the ability to go out and start conversations.
They’ve built a huge network over the years and so, instead of focusing their efforts on content development, they take a different approach and develop a strong backlinking strategy.
Instead of trying to constantly feed their blog, we go out there and double down on their network. We pitch them for guest speakership and we build thought leadership by writing on other people’s blogs and directing links to their website.
And that’s where most of their resources are allocated.
Right now, you might be thinking, “Well, that’s great if you’ve built that kind of exposure, but not all of us are lucky enough to have such a strong network”.
I hear you!
Every large corporation has been where you are.
In cases like yours, where clients don’t feel like they have enough brand equity and exposure to pursue guest appearances or contributorships, I choose to invest a lot more on content and/or technical SEO.
If the client has the sweat equity and they have a startup or small business team ready to put their head down and work hard, then we focus on producing large amounts of content.
The primary goal is to build a content library that is thorough and expansive, and that provides more opportunities for keyword rankings, while also reinforcing the relevance of the website for those same keywords.
Going for the content route doesn’t work for everyone.
Whether your business doesn’t have any of the two strengths above or you simply don’t have time or passion for writing or networking, there’s a third trick you can pull off your sleeve, as long as you have strong technical skills.
Going technical will help you build a high-quality website in no time and that brings us to the third pillar of SEO: technical SEO.
This approach is ideal for teams with the know-how to quickly create large websites, databases, and user experiences, and it is commonly used by tech startups that are trying to create an application that provides user value.
As mentioned, winning at technical SEO requires strong technical skills in order for your firm to build the necessary web assets, but that’s not all. You also need to be able to double down and manage large scale websites in the Google ecosystem.
For instance, if you have a website with over 100,000 pages and decide to launch an entire new component to it, how can you guarantee that Google is able to properly index these new pages?
Moreover, how can you make sure that each individual page is optimized for the right keywords?
It becomes a large, complex operation. However, when done correctly, it can lead your SEO to grow by sheer size, with the hopes that there are keywords that will naturally start ranking for your business.
Yes, there are some traditional hacks and optimization methods out there.
Having said that, SEO has become an extremely competitive field and, because of this, many of those hacks don’t work anymore. They’ve become nothing but the baseline of SEO, if not lower than that.
Everybody uses them, so they’re not going to work anymore. They won’t make your business stand out.
Just think about the common “Let’s just put keywords everywhere” method.
It might seem like it makes sense at first and it probably worked at one point, but not anymore.
What I’m trying to say, and the whole point of this article is that as you’re planning your SEO strategy, it’s good to let go of these hacks a bit and try to focus more on strategy and resources. Learn about your competitors, your resources, and the strong points you can double down on, and that will put you in a position of competitive advantage.
When it comes to search engine optimization, honoring your strengths and being okay with not trying to go after every single strategy is the way to go.
You can just focus on what you’re good at - and isn’t that a valuable motto for business management overall?
By allocating your resources on the pillar of SEO that makes sense for your company (or a combination of them), you’re more likely to succeed in the long run. You’ll be able to develop a long-term, highly-organized, resource-allocated SEO strategy that will not only help you achieve your near and not-so-near future goals but will eventually turn into a self-sustaining campaign that will continually grow and grow.
Before you know it, it will be an organic part of your marketing plan!
SEO is a complex topic, especially for small businesses that don’t have gigantic budgets, but hopefully, this article will help you think about which approach you want to take with your optimization efforts.
I believe getting these insights and reflecting on how you can apply them in your own case is always a good thinking exercise, as it can lead you to think twice the next time you want to take a shortcut.
I know when that many people can get frustrated when they don’t get simple answers to their challenges, and I’ve seen a lot of people let that frustration win and try some SEO hacks for a couple of weeks, only to realize that that wasn’t the right direction to take.
Now you know why and how you can avoid making that mistake. If you have any questions about this or any other SEO-related topic, feel free to send me a message!
Jason started freelancing in SEO back in college, sold his first agency, and now is founder of Zupo, which is an Orange County based SEO consulting agency helping construct powerful long term SEO strategies for our clients. Jason also enjoys multiple cups of tea a day, hiding away on weekends, catching up on reading, and rewatching The Simpsons for the 20th time.
Content marketing guru at MailMunch. I’m passionate about writing content that resonates with people. Live simply, give generously, stay happy.