Better SEO strategies for 2017

SEO strategy isn’t about choosing what to do – it’s about choosing what you can afford not to do.

Tom Cheesewright says

“Is the answer A or B?”

“Well it’s about 40% A, 25% B and have you considered C and D?”

Cheesewright gives the example of “Google X”, which seems to be shuttering one project after another: self-driving cars were abandoned in December and now Google’s delivery drones programme, Project Wing, is apparently being terminated.

According to Benedict Evans

Google knows now that machine learning is the future and so it can double down on that.

…but most tech commentators are more excited about self-driving cars and drones.

Google knows

  1. Self-driving cars and drones will be important – and financially lucrative to someone
  2. It is smart enough to make both of these projects work
  3. That may be the expense of its search business as its rivals finally make progress

How to choose an SEO strategy

SEO, more than any other channel, has a playbook.

Crawl your website with IIS SEO toolkit or with DeepCrawl – both will identify your issues, probably in their thousands, and the action required to fix them. Every single one of these actions will give you a positive outcome.

Your strategy isn’t based on what will provide the most positive outcomes – it’s based on which positives you can afford to miss out on.

…and if you choose not to do something that doesn’t mean someone else won’t make it work – it doesn’t even mean that it wouldn’t work for you. I was out of Google+ by 2014, for example, and now I’m pretty lukewarm on AMP. (Personally I don’t think AMP will last the year but I know that some people are having success with it. For me it needs more of an upside – at some point it might achieve that.)

Link building may be the right strategy. But understand

  • It’s maybe 50% link building, 25% improving your content and there are other strategies that will give you positive outcomes
  • Your “ratios” don’t stay the same forever. Build links and reassess – has a competitor vastly improved their content in that time? Maybe your strategy is still 40% link building
  • You probably have a competitor (MoneySupermarket is everyone’s competitor) who is going to do everything because they can afford to. You can’t beat MoneySupermarket doing everything MoneySupermarket does – pick your battles and do one or two things better
  • Continually reassess the market – I’ve helped challenger brands to become market leaders a number of times. “More of the same” isn’t usually the right tactic when you’re trying to put daylight between you and your next competitor – that’s when you need to look for what they’re not doing
  • Tell your client (or your boss) that there are other things to do but that you need to prioritise. A little knowledge is dangerous and someone is always going to send your client an email pointing out that they’ve got 302 redirects, or whatever you’ve neglected
  • If you genuinely have no plans to fix something (maybe you don’t believe the uplift will pay for the (wo)man hours to do it say so)
  • It’s great if you’re given the autonomy to get on with the job, without having to provide constant plans and documentation, but that doesn’t excuse you from planning. Even the most experienced consultants can fall into the trap of “random acts of SEO” and you need to have a handle on what’s the biggest priority at all times.


A couple of things I either do, have done, or plan to do.

  1. Keep the whole team updated with what’s on your radar. For 2017 I am all-in on voice search, for example. I need every strategist and account manager to know that because I need the other people who care to let me know what they’re up to when it comes to the same topics…client X did Y or one of the devs has been playing with this are things I love
  2. I try to tell my clients what I dream of doing. In a perfect world we would… I have clients I just assume won’t be able to do the things that will have the most positive outcomes but if I don’t tell them what they would have been, they’ll assume they’re doing just fine. The last thing I want is for a client to turn round and say “we’ve done everything you’ve said and we’re still not winning” – they should know why they’re not winning
  3. Having said that, there’s a great book by Chip and Dan Heath called Made to Stick (you should read it) which outlines the military concept of “commander’s intent”. If we achieve nothing else we need to achieve X. Strategies can become complicated and nowadays in SEO it’s not just nerds who have to be involved. Everyone has to understand the objective so I outline my “intent” at every opportunity.

Have any tips that help you come up with and implement your SEO strategy? Tweet me.

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