I recently wrote an article titled “Why Modern SEO Requires Almost No Technical Expertise,” and the response has been enormous. My intention with the article was to explain to new entrepreneurs (or those unfamiliar with SEO) that they shouldn’t be intimidated by SEO—instead, they should embrace it, even if they have limited familiarity with the technical components of a broader SEO strategy. Critics of the article pointed out that, contrary to the title, modern SEO does require technical expertise—and that expertise is actually more important than ever.
I wholeheartedly agree with this idea when it comes to solving complex problems or scaling up an already established operation. For example, if you find that one or more of your pages isn’t turning up in Google, or if you have some scheduled downtime and you don’t want Google to index your site as a massive 404 error, you need the technical expertise to audit your site’s index status or set up redirects to prevent or solve those problems. However, when it comes to new and small businesses, most entrepreneurs can get by with the basics – they shouldn’t let their ignorance of SEO (or their lack of a relationship with a savvy SEO professional) stop them from building their business online.
In this article, I want to speak to the advantages of a “minimalistic” SEO strategy that focuses primarily on the basic elements of a campaign. This is not to say that the more advanced elements aren’t useful or are not important, nor is it to say that you won’t need to pull some advanced tactics with an SEO professional when something goes wrong. Instead, treat this as a temporary experiment to help reset your expectations, get you “back to basics” in terms of SEO, and maybe help you get better organic search visibility in the process.
The Minimalistic Approach
The number of ranking factors that ultimately culminate in your Google search rank is enormous. This list numbers them at 205, but I’ve seen others that elaborate even further. It’s no wonder why most large companies need a team of full-time people to execute advanced campaigns.
The minimalistic approach isn’t about ignoring these factors or pretending they don’t exist. You’ll have to pay attention to them in the event of outliers or compromising situations—for example, if a bad link results in a manual action that starts dragging your site down, you’ll need to hunt it down and remove or disavow it, or if you migrate your domain, you’ll need to take the precautions necessary to avoid destroying your organic search rankings. Instead, it’s about prioritizing the most important elements of SEO:
- Diverse, original, well-researched and value-adding content. Written articles, whitepapers, infographics, videos, and interviews are just the beginning. Your content needs to be highly targeted, well-researched, and unlike anything else on the market. Speak to details and help your readers accomplish their goals. Listen to feedback and undergo a constant process of revision to make sure your topics are helpful and valuable to your audience.
- Relationship building. Building relationships with off-site authorities is the next most important step in your campaign. This means getting material published on external sites, through guest posting or becoming a columnist with publications in your industry, and connecting with social influencers who will share your material and help establish your brand as a major player. The more links and mentions you earn, the better.
- Social syndication and engagement. To fuel your content marketing campaign, you’ll also need to syndicate your content and material through various social media platforms (especially those that your target audience favors). The more visibility and relationships you can build, the better.
- Ongoing user experience improvement. Last but not least, you need to prioritize updates on your site that improve user experience, such as navigation changes, site speed improvements, and mobile-friendly design. The lower your bounce rates and the happier your users, in general, the better your organic search visibility will be.
Again, these four elements don’t represent the entirety of SEO, but they are four of the most important elements that exist. Spending the majority of your effort on these strategies, rather than focusing on the minutiae, can help bring new focus to your campaign.
Advantages of Minimalism
Whether you’re starting a campaign with this bare-bones approach, or you’re just getting back to basics, the minimalistic approach has a few distinct advantages:
- It prioritizes your time. Again, these “core” SEO factors don’t represent the entirety of a successful long-term campaign, but they are some of the most important and most impactful components. This minimalistic strategy forces your approach to favor these most valuable players.
- It makes you a specialist. By spending more of your time developing these particular skills, you’ll naturally become more adept at them. Even if you only practice this strategy for a month, you can improve your skills in these areas and become better at execution in the future.
- It cuts out the white noise. With so many ranking factors, it’s easy to get confused about what tweaks and changes are responsible for what changes in your rankings. Stripping away some of the extraneous factors will likely help you realize which changes in the main pillars are causing the changes you see in Analytics.
- It stimulates growth. Pouring more effort into these landmark strategies should have a positive effect on your rankings.
Give the minimalistic approach a try, even if you’re used to a much more complicated system. You certainly won’t compromise your results or your position, and if nothing else, you’ll at least experience a nice change of pace. With a fresh perspective and a revised list of priorities, you should have no problem jump-starting your program