Few of us could have anticipated how valuable search engines would eventually become back when they were first invented. Thomas Stern at Search Engine Land stressed as much while describing the evolution of search engine optimization (SEO) over the past quarter-century. “Chances are, as the first signs of SEO emerged alongside the dawn of the internet,” Stern wrote. “Few would have predicted the vast impact it would have on daily life such a short time later.” Flash-forward to the present, and Google has made search engines a recognizable household name. Almost everyone relies on Google, Bing, or some other equivalent, for a litany of tasks from the mundane to the complicated.
Appreciating SEO and its ubiquity is also imperative for business success. Forbes contributor Kelly Shelton declared SEO a small business necessity nearly a year ago. Some business owners might see the activity as an unnecessary expense, but Kelly suggested that they reconsider. According to him, “SEO is constantly growing in importance and expanding into new areas.” That means remaining competitive requires more than cursory efforts and fleeting emphasis from leadership. Startups and small businesses have to invest serious resources if they expect to reap the rewards from SEO.
Fortunately, SEO has come quite a long way since its inception, and many of its most cumbersome elements now benefit from automation. For instance, Vikas Agrawal at Search Engine Journal highlighted four ways automation could help small businesses best advance their goals. “Automation may not propel your website straight to the top,” Vikas cautioned. “But at the very least, you can speed up your results and dedicate more resources to other areas of growth.” Vikas recommended automating everything from SEO analysis and influencer research to social sharing and keyword/backlink monitoring — all of which can be extremely time-consuming even for seasoned veterans.
Many of the automation tools available to businesses depend on computer robots or “bots” to do the dirty work formerly done by their human counterparts. Website crawlers are a prime example. They effectively visit every single page on a given site and catalog the relevant data for further analysis. The key takeaway is relevant data because many websites contain a surfeit of information. Ensuring that bots only capture essential data demands implementing appropriate robots.txt protocols, which are explained by authors at Moz.
The consequences of inadequately using bots for SEO aren’t necessarily catastrophic, but that doesn’t make them any less undesirable. Time wasted is money lost. Startups and small businesses can rarely afford either, which is precisely why some of them tap into specialized services. Doing so can be especially advantageous for external validation purposes (e.g., robots.txt tester, etc.). Conducting sufficient due diligence is critical in those scenarios. Otherwise, business owners run the risk of following false guidance.
Setting up an SEO plan has plenty of other preventable pitfalls, too. Clutch contributor Harsha Annadurai publicized four of the worst SEO strategies to avoid at all costs. “Understanding which SEO efforts can harm your search rankings helps you design an effective strategy,” Annadurai revealed. Keyword stuffing, creating multiple domains, and refusing to optimize images for SEO were all highly discouraged behaviors. Harsha also tried to dissuade readers from ignoring Google’s Possum update, which has major implications for businesses when it comes to local listings. While his advice certainly isn’t exhaustive, it’s a reasonable place to start the learning process.
Suffice it to say that SEO is much more complex than most of us are willing to admit. Consumers can get away with ignorant bliss, but competitive businesses cannot. The global marketplace is far too unforgiving to neglect SEO forever.