Why SEO “sticking plasters” aren’t the enemy, perfection is

Sometimes, SEO is nothing more than getting the job done.

It has taken me nearly six years to confidently be able to write the first sentence. Does that seem weird to you? It certainly does to me.

I don’t mean that I’ve spent the last nearly six years of my life not getting things to work – far from it – but striving for “best practice” keeping up with all the latest blogs & finding that perfect implementation.

This pursuit however, formed the startling realisation (which hit me about 3/4 years back), “perfection” doesn’t mean “ranking well” or “client retention”. I’m sure many reading this will be thinking of course it doesn’t, it took you that long to realise it?

In a way, yes it did – but that was years of fighting for the best fix, fixing elements which wouldn’t help or letting certain roadblocks halt progress in entire campaigns. I can sleep at night now, knowing that many others share this problem. Oh, and I’m better at working around this now.

A lot of what we do is startlingly simple, it’s just the implementation which falls down. Whether it’s budget, internal politics, client expectation or other reasons, getting simple-yet-effective things done can take far too long.

SEO “Sticking Plasters”

Earlier in the year I was reading the Facebook comments on Sam Nemzer’s Moz blog on SEO changes via GTM, and one in particular one stood out as odd.

 

I won’t call out the commenter by name, nor quote direct, but essentially they were slamming Sam’s work as “a sticking plaster” which, is a waste of time as it’s not a “good fix”. This commenter was right in a way – if you’re forced to implement SEO changes via Meta-CMS or a Tag Management system, something has gone wrong.

Writing it off altogether is daft though. A number of others have joined in, and I’ve heard similar voiced about other comparable methods. Don’t do it because it’s not the best way to implement SEO changes…

Except when it is.

Would you let perfection stop you from considering a less-than-ideal option because you didn’t like it?

A Word for Perfection

One of my favourite marketing talks delivered by Ian Laurie at SearchLove in 2015. It was titled “Distance from Perfect: Marketing with the Human Algorithm” – here are the slides, go have a look – Ian delivered a series of simple-yet-firm points emphasising the point of striving for perfection, because:

So if you want a successful marketing campaign, you need to ensure you’re as close to perfection as possible. Who could argue with that, really?

This pursuit can be, at best distracting or at worst damaging if not followed logically. I’ve seen it happen. Adding alt text to every image on the site is closer to perfect… has adding alt text to social media icons ever helped a marketing campaign though?

Ian wasn’t arguing for this, however, or at least I don’t think he was. For further clarity, he links perfection with deliberate action, but also with reducing friction.

More importantly, this is framed as an iterative process – prioritise, execute, measure, inspect, repeat.

When I take pot shots at perfection, I’m not knocking Ian’s stance here – it’s clearly very important – just exclaiming that perfection is a spectrum, it’s not a binary.

But surely being imperfect isn’t that hard?

So true. I’ve audited many sites which haven’t struggled to be imperfect. I’ve also worked with developers, designers, content writers & sales teams who have had little patience for the type of perfection I wanted to bring to the table. What’s the point?

Codeless SEO

In my experience there are two types of client who I’ve struggled with to make technical SEO changes on.

  • Small businesses running old websites on terrible servers
  • Enterprise clients with a small development team & a creaking infrastructure.

Whilst these two clients are poles apart, their main similarity is that getting technical changes in place can be next-to-impossible.

When a technical fix is impossible because of the budget/resources I’ll take any work-around to get the job done. Which is where Codeless SEO comes into it.

Technically-speaking codeless SEO isn’t codeless, but how you implement the fix itself doesn’t take place on the client’s site/servers. Aside from installing a code snippet (like GTM and similar), there’s no more development needed.

Examples of codeless SEO methods commonly available:

  • Tag manager-based fixes (Like Sam’s)
  • Meta-CMS – something that functions above your current CMS

One of the more recent examples of an advocate of the GTM method is Sébastien Monnier, you can to his most recent Brighton SEO session below here.

Meta CMS

Until the last few weeks, I hadn’t had any experience with the Meta-CMS method – Distilled’s ODN does interest me greatly. Although having seen The Web Shed’s own offering, it struck me that I would have given my left arm for a tool like this on certain clients in my years in SEO.

Full disclosure, Kieran Headley, who runs TWS is a friend, but I wasn’t aware of this offer prior to a few weeks ago & I’m not affiliated with the business in any way.

The theory is simple, install the tracking code & the chrome widget – when you visit the site itself, the widget enables you to change various elements without touching the CMS or codebase itself.

To show you what this can look like, when it loads over slow connections, you can see the injected changes render after the content.

What is really crucial here, is that you can make changes to the site on the fly, no developers, no waiting, no excuses.

Can Javascript-based SEO Really work?

This isn’t the utopia it might seem, there are a few caveats with using Javascript-based (like those mentioned above) efforts for SEO:

But coming back to Ian’s distance from perfection – the process is iterative.

Even with the above pitfalls in mind, how far away from perfect is not writing unique page titles because you’re not able to? Are pages of your website getting indexed because you can’t control meta robots?

Yes, you should build it right in the first place, you shouldn’t have to use sticking plasters. But make the best change possible, see the results & put in the case to produce a better fix then.

The next time you write off the sticking plaster option ask yourself, does passing up on it get you any closer to perfection today/tomorrow or next week even?

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Chris Green

About Chris Green

Chris Green is Head of Marketing at StrategiQ, a full-service marketing agency based in the East of England.