Doing SEO? Do It Gently

Filed in SEO by Matt McGee on April 6, 2012 11 Comments

paintbrushesThis is a great article by Adam Audette, one that I have to share now rather than just wait for the link roundup at the end of the month:

SEO Should Be Invisible.

If you’re doing SEO in 2012, you have to do it gently … quietly … invisibly.

Less is more.

I actually told a client within the past 2-3 weeks, “Stop worrying so much about SEO.” It was a situation where I felt the focus needed to be on the user, not the search engine. I think with an established website that’s what SEO has become — more about the user and user signals than about the search engine and (traditional) search engine signals.

So much SEO is ugly because the person doing it is using a hammer, when the better tool is a paintbrush.

The hammer just pounds the hell out of a web page. BAM! Title tag. BAM! Keywords. BAM! Anchor text. BAM! More keywords. BAM! Optimize that image alt text. BAM! BAM! BAM!

SEO is important. It’s a must for any business that’s serious about long-term online success. But it can be way overdone. As I said many years ago, in one of the first posts on this blog, moderation in all things — it’s one of my mom’s favorite sayings.

Or, as Adam Audette put it in that great article this week:

SEO should be unseen, when it’s done well, and only noticeable to other SEOs. It should not be overt. It should not take precedence over more important aspects of a site, like the site’s brand message, its purpose, its user experience, and its value proposition.

Amen. Put away the hammer. Be gentle.

(Stock image via Used under license.)

Comments (11)

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  1. Chris Shaffer says:

    Interesting take, Matt. If you are going to be honest with yourself thought, even this article is SEO. Blogs are designed to help you gain traffic AND to boost your SERP ranking for long tail terms. While on-page SEO is often over done (in an insane way), it is important to keep in mind that many of the tactics that are now part of every good marketing strategy really play a key role in helping with off-site SEO.

  2. Yeah good article Matt I agree with the theory and in ideal world it would be great if we didn’t have to worry about it but the reality is we do. I agree with Chris to an extent also. I guess it’s about finding the balance of good on site SEO disguised in excellent engaging content. A balance which is all too often very difficult to find!! (Myself included!!)

  3. As a working SEO, I spend more time these days creating and sharing content socially than optimizing content. It’s the times we live in with social signals being so important these days.

  4. Sid says:

    Do you mean Google+? @David Wallace

  5. Simon says:

    Loving it”you have to do it gently … quietly … invisibly.”. I’m no old-school/new-school SEO-expert but it’s actually pretty easy to seo-optimize through applying common sense. you just ask, to yourself, “what might be some other words a person searching for x word uses?”; also, most of the time, if you’re really addressing issues relevant to those people, you’re probably using the right words NATURALLY.

  6. Alex says:

    So is the message to take a writing class, take a UX class, enhance your web experience with new languages class, and less boring SEO skills?

  7. Vanessa says:

    Great post – you are right on with this one. After working in SEO for a little while now and developing a critical eye for “over-optimized” sites, or as you said it, those that are using a hammer for SEO, it’s easy to see how many people/businesses completely disregard their users and readers. Optimizing for the bots AND for people is hard to do, but it’s so so so important. “Gently..quietly..invisibly” – couldn’t agree more!

  8. Russ Schon says:

    Thanks, Matt. This is great insight into a subject that many SEO professionals are aware of but have a hard time time relaying to their clients … steady SEO can be more effective than the BAM … do it now SEO process.

    Your theory has be substantiated by Google recently as the right way to go.

  9. Chris T says:

    I have noticed this too. I actually tried doing a normal, just well built site with normal title, keywords, description etc and tried not to concentrate too much on blasting the heck out of the on page SEO.

    This site is now doing good and well, much better than the sites I used to do with really overdoing SEO on it.

    Good to see others are starting to see this too.

  10. Rick says:

    Yes maybe it’s a bit exaggerated opinion with this gentleness but I think some SEO things like researching the keywords and improving the content should be done. Improving the content in some clever ways won’t bring an over optimization. I track my SEO by keywords and I compare my sites with competitors. All by keywords so I can have a full starting point to improve the content comparing with the competition content. I use Colibri Tool for this because there I have the complex view on my site’s SEO and competitors. I can manage everything in one place.

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