Posted October 9, 2006 9:00 am by with 15 comments

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By Nick Urbani.

This may not be what you want to hear, but your tricks, tips, and techniques do not matter. Even if you all like to sport your white hats, your ace-in-the-hole top-secret tactic is useless. Lets be honest with each other–its ok no one’s listening. Your newly discovered SEO trick isn’t really earth shattering or even ground breaking. Is there anything really new to SEO?

The long-term profitability of any individual SEO will always rely on the innovation of strategy. All of us could throw tactics and tricks at our clients, but a coherent, forward looking strategy is what it takes to win. To be the best you must have a strategy that avoids becoming obsolete by continuously creating the new.

Very rare are the “aha” moments in life which seem to create new ideas out of thin air. An SEO cannot rely on these infrequent instances in life. How do you plan for continuous innovation in the dynamic environment of digital marketing?

The irony of creating cutting edge strategies is that success depends on failure. This requires experimentation, learning from experimentation, and adapting quickly. In the science realm, scientists use the scientific method. However, not all business innovations can be tested using this method with complete clarity in a practical way. Changing search engine algorithms and user trends are the most difficult experimental environments to learn in.

In order to open the door of learning and strategic innovation in Search Engine Optimization I apply 5 changes incorporated into Theory Focused Planning.

1. Minimize Detail

Typical plans within current SEO strategy include breakdowns of link popularity, search engine ranking, keyword density, etc. This makes it easy to troubleshoot problems with the use of tactics. For example, our acme roadrunner trap landing page ranking has fallen on Yahoo! due to a competitor’s superior use of div tags and higher quality links. Again, I could fire tactics at you all day, but this troubleshooting method depends on the reliable predictability of search engine algorithms. Strategy should focus on solving critical unknowns that will make or break your campaign. How will search engines use bookmarking in their search algos? Does our target audience and environment call for the use of RSS feeds?

2. Predict Trends

Typical clients ask for a prediction of the bottom line–search engine rankings. This would make sense if search engines interpreted the sites the same every quarter. However, we are subject to the extraordinarily dynamic function of algorithms. More important than the ranking over any time period is the underlying trend over that period.

3. Focus on theory, not rankings

In most reporting documents sent to clients you will find endless numbers offering current rankings for each keyword for each search engine. But in our business, the theory used to achieve those numbers is far more important than the numbers themselves. Rankings, placement, and ROI have little utility in an ongoing SEO strategy. Rankings give little insight into SEO planning, especially in the early stages. Trends and performance related to the interdependent SEO operations: coding, copywriting, and linking will provide earlier signs that a strategy is either winning or losing.

4. Review Very Frequently

The winning SEO will not be the first to start or the one with the best initial strategy, but the one that learns the quickest. As an example, an SEO that re-evaluates its plans monthly rather than yearly has the potential to learn 12x faster than a competitor.

5. Hold Yourself Accountable for Learning, Not Results.

Clients, corporations, and SEOs themselves must understand that the plan is a hypothesis and the goal is to adapt as quickly as possible. In this type of environment SEOs will evaluate themselves on how quickly they learn and will be able to more effectively validate their thought process and utilize their ability to adapt in an experimental environment.

Some may disagree with taking Theory Focused Planning and applying it to Search Engine Optimization. To some, theory does not equal practicality. However, the tactics and techniques you use are based on some theory of what will work and what will not work in the future. Your reputation, your services, and your profitability are a bet on this theory. Therefore, a practical approach is to continually test and adapt the theory on which you place your bet.

[The above article is a submission for Marketing Pilgrim’s Search Engine Marketing Scholarship Contest. Each Monday in October, entries will be published and the most popular article of the week will qualify for the $5,000 grand prize. If you’d like to submit an entry, please view the contest entry-requirements and guidelines.]

  • Anonymous

    GREAT article!!

  • Anonymous

    Good insight!!! Good luck to you!

  • LRS

    Learn, learn and then apply :), correct, and then learn some more… Good luck to you!

  • Bryan Buljat

    Interesting read… best to you. thanks for sending, Micha.

  • Anonymous

    Very refreshing take on a often overbloated topic – we can always use the reminders to keep it simple, keep it pure and keep it RIGHT above all else.

    Nice work and good luck!

  • emilee c

    nice job nick!

  • Amber

    Well said Nick! Good luck 😛

  • Micha

    Nice Job Nick! That is the fist article I have read linking theory focused planning with SEO. Hope you win the contest.

  • Nice article Nick. I think your point about reviewing is spot on and the best way to stay on top of things.

  • Arlene

    Great article Nick.

  • Hehe, I love how you advertised for this article on the term “Aaron Wall”.

  • I believe Nick Urbani represents the first authentic connection between the new and the old SEO; his insight and perspective is aligned with truth rather than hype. Nick’s article is mantra for all of us in the professional search community; few and far between have been able to distinguish the forest through the trees as Nick has done in this excellent piece of professional SEO journalism. This is one for the record book – great job Nick! Sincerely, Paul J. Bruemmer

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