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Why Oversimplifying SEO Is Dangerous – Here’s Why #130


Google gets more complex and sophisticated with each passing year, and yet many still want to believe that there are “magic bullet” hacks or tricks that are simple ways to get higher search rankings.
In this episode of our Here’s Why digital marketing video series, Perficient Digital’s Eric Enge tells you why!

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Mark: Okay, Eric, so I have to ask this. Back in episode 84, you told us that most of SEO could be simplified down to just two things, relevant links, and great useful content. Now, in a Search Engine Land column, you said, “It’s not good to oversimplify SEO.” So, which is it?
Eric: Both.
Mark: Both? How can both be true?
Eric: Because at the most fundamental level, it is true that earning good links and creating the right content are far and above the most important things you can do to improve your SEO. Google has clearly stated that, and the best studies and tests continue to confirm it to be true. Despite that, people still seek after hacks and magic formulas that they think will allow them to bypass having to do those two things.
[Tweet “People over-complicate #SEO by seeking after hacks and tricks trying to bypass the real work. More at”]
Mark: Can you give us an example of that?
Eric: Sure. Probably the most popular of these magic hacks right now is the idea that click-through rate, or CTR, in search results is a direct ranking factor. The belief here is that if a result lower down on page one of Google starts getting better CTR, Google will raise its ranking because of that.
Mark: And you have a problem with that idea?
Eric: I have two problems, actually. First, this would be far too easy to game, and Google knows that. If it really worked, it wouldn’t be hard to generate enough legitimate looking clicks to drive up ranking, and anyone who tested this carefully and found it to work would be doing it all the time.
However, while some black hat SEO and agencies sell click-generating services based on the idea that the higher CTR raises ranking, no credible test has ever demonstrated this works. Now, yes, I know Rand Fishkin and some others were able to get results occasionally doing that in some tests, but these were mostly very local search results, though. And the effect was short-lived and has become impossible to reproduce since.
Mark: What’s the other problem with the idea that click rate of search results drives ranking?
Eric: The amount of clicks on a search result has nothing to do with the quality of the page the result leads to, and that is Google’s main concern. Clicks can go up because the title tag and meta description is attractive, or more relevant. But neither of those guarantees the quality of the content on the page, once the person has clicked through.
Once again, this is something that Google knows very well. So it just doesn’t make sense that they would make CTR a simple direct ranking factor.
Mark: That makes sense. And, you know, increasing CTR is going to be a good thing, so it doesn’t hurt, we just can’t be sure that it increases ranking.
Eric: No, I agree with you on that point. It is something that you should try to do, and there are reasons to tune your title tags and meta descriptions to do that. It’s very smart to do.
Mark: Let’s get back to the whole idea of magic bullets and amazing super hacks and things like that in SEO.
Eric: Well, I mean, another clue that it’s dangerous to try to find these kinds of magic bullets is found in statements and answers to questions from Google search representatives. An example of that happened in a recent Webmaster Central office hours hangout with Google’s John Mueller.
Mark: I think I know the one you’re talking about. A webmaster whose site had been hit by a penalty was working through the site, improving content category by category, and he wanted to know if he should expect to see improvements in search for each category as it was fixed, even though the whole site wasn’t yet up to snuff.
Eric: Yes, that’s the one. John Mueller’s answer was kind of surprising, certainly not what the webmaster hoped or expected to hear, anyway. He said that Google indeed was getting better at being able to evaluate a site section by section. And so, it was possible he would see some incremental improvements over time.
That site had been in trouble for a number of years. It was very possible that there were a lot of different signals that might be telling them, Google, I mean, that this was not such a great site.
Mark: So what different signals might show that?
Eric: Well, that’s the problem. We really don’t know. It could be, for example, that there are so many bad links to his site that just improving the content isn’t gonna get him out of jail. But at the end of the day, he doesn’t really know what John was referring to.
Mark: So is there anything useful we can learn from all of that?
Eric: I think there is. And it’s this, don’t ever assume that you found that one thing, the magic bullet, that will either cure your site’s problems or just make you even more successful. It’s never going to be that simple. And believing in a magic bullet can hurt you, because it can cause you to ignore other things that you really should be looking at.
[Tweet “Don’t ever be fooled into thinking there is one Magic Bullet to improve your #SEO. More at”]
Mark: And what can we do with that lesson? I mean, how can we apply it in a way that helps us to do better SEO?
Eric: Well, instead of chasing after magic hacks or tricks, I think it’s better to try to think at a higher level. Think from Google’s perspective, try to figure out the main things that Google wants to see from sites and pages in order for its users to have the best quality experience. And, work hard at making your site a champion of those things. Practically, that means we should make our site experience and content as outstanding as we possibly can.
Second, start preparing for the world of voice search and personal assistants and things like that. Google is, so you should be too.
Third, stay on top of new technologies and channel opportunities, and plugins are the most promising ones, as quickly as possible. And finally, do the real work of a great marketer and get better at promoting your products and services.
Mark: Thanks for those insights, Eric.

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Thoughts on “Why Oversimplifying SEO Is Dangerous – Here’s Why #130”

  1. Everyone try to find the shorter way of success but you give them best massage that no one become successful without giving 100%. Love from my side, Both of you are Best teachers for better SEO. Thanks

  2. Anytime people are trying to sell their products there’s always a hunt for that magic bullet to increase traffic and sales. It’s great to see articles that are grounded in reality and facts. Thanks for sharing guys

  3. Thanks for sharing an awesome content guys! Keep up this great work!
    Actually, we have run a local(non-English) CTR test on positions and it seemed to be true that there is a slight increase possibility. Unfortunately, or luckily, positions went back after a while, so CTR cannot be be considered a ranking factor.
    What we know for sure – low bounce rate keeps you in the game 🙂

  4. Ranking up will never be easy as long as your website touches popular topics and trends. For that kind of websites you need to build authority which is not only the SEO issues. I mean real social communications, natural traffic caused by events in real (offline) world, good opinions and many more. SEO needs work in every element: links, technical issues, website’s speed, usability and user experience…and unfortunately for those who believe – as you said – in a “magic bullet” – fast and simple methods just don’t exist. Of course, you can try some of those black hat tricks, but what’s the final result? In most cases, your website will be banned – if not in forthcoming weeks, then in the next algorithm’s update. It is simple as that.

  5. Very interesting workaround to make archive pages readable. I will definitely give it a try in one of my websites. Thanks a lot for the post.

  6. Ha! In the opening paragraph, you guys literally read my mind 🙂
    When I saw the headline on Twitter, I thought exactly the same: “Wait, but you said it’s just about quality content and links!”
    Thanks for this post. I always learn something new from your articles. You are my most trustworthy source on everything SEO!
    *thumbs up*

  7. Ranjit Venugopal

    Thanks for the post! Yes, you are right SEO is neither simple or complicated process, its a process of continuous website improvement.

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Eric Enge

Eric Enge is part of the Digital Marketing practice at Perficient. He designs studies and produces industry-related research to help prove, debunk, or evolve assumptions about digital marketing practices and their value. Eric is a writer, blogger, researcher, teacher, and keynote speaker and panelist at major industry conferences. Partnering with several other experts, Eric served as the lead author of The Art of SEO.

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