Don't Believe the Truth - Challenging SEO Beliefs

Tue 22 December 2009 15:15, Sam Murray

Don't Believe the Truth - Challenging SEO Beliefs

Sam Murray is a young SEO with not yet the many miles some others have. But you will recognize talent without years of experience when you meet it. Sam is one of those talents with a bright future. In his post "Don't Believe the Truth - Challenging SEO Beliefs" he started with a bang, making us all think.

Don't Believe the Truth - Challenging SEO Beliefs
Originally posted August 5th 2009

I have only 20 seconds to ensure I grab your attention, I know this, or think I know this, from what I have heard or been told about online user behaviour. The simple truth is, is this really a fact? If not, why don’t we question our beliefs and knowledge?

I would hesitate a guess that at least 20% of what we know stems from what other people have told us. This may have worked for them, but how long ago was that? Are we basing part of our knowledge on essentially hearsay? 

We all know search is a dynamic and vastly changing environment so why do we still hold on to beliefs and opinions that might be outdated. I think this goes for people who have 1 year experience to old pros who have 5 or 6 years within SEO. If you stand still and believe what you learnt a year ago is valid today then you are going to fail.  Part of the reason I love working within search is the fact that sometimes I happen to come across techniques and methods that I have previously had no experience with. A quick search on blogs and et voila, I can stumble upon an article surrounding a topic and learn from it. I do however, reserve some judgement until I test it myself and read other articles concerning the same topic.

I always find testing allows me to learn rather than just hearing people say it. People learn in different ways. There are 3 main types of learning:

1.    Listening learners
2.    Seeing learners
3.    Touch / experience learners

If you learn via number 3 like me then testing and experiencing not only helps you learn but allows you to build your knowledge base instead of trying to remember that time when so and so told you about how to do something.

I recently experienced this when setting up and implementing tracking on one of our clients local business listings. Given the increasingly opportunistic nature of the Local Listings to drive traffic to a website, but no easy solution from Google for distinguishing this traffic, this was a learning curve for me, even after I had read through many articles.

After speaking to various people and reading articles surrounding the topic we implemented the suggested tracking only to discover that the tracked campaign was not appearing on analytics. (Note: is anyone else experiencing problems tracking Local Business Listings via the Google analytics URL builder?) We have since implemented a successful tracking code (thank you Martijn Beijk for our discussions and priceless advice) through the use of vanity URLs combined with 301 redirects but it proves what works for some people at a certain point in time may not work for you and this could be due to various reasons. This does not just apply to our tracking experience but to the whole spectrum of SEO and further into developing campaigns for clients too.

We know the target markets for clients vary just as well as we know there are search engine algorithmic changes, adjusting the value of certain trust metrics. So we need to be constantly aware of the environment we work in and be open enough to admit that we don’t always know everything. Testing and documenting our experiences can help and this is part of what I want to bring to Search Cowboys.  I would like to share with you in the upcoming months experiences that work, some that didn’t and how best to resolve these issues, and also produce some how to guides.

David Ogilvy was considered the ‘father of advertising’ and his philosophy on how he became successful was wholly research driven. Even when he started his own company he labelled himself the research director. One of his famous quotes was:

"You don't stand a chance of producing successful advertising unless you start by doing your homework. I have always found this extremely tedious, but there is no substitute for it."

Testing and experimenting within SEO is crucial. Not only does it enable us to learn but to base future learning from it. As previous Nobel Prize winner Albert Gyorny stated:

“Research is to see what everybody else has seen, and to think what nobody else has thought”

So I ask you to challenge what you hear from now on, not physically of course, i would like to start a revolution but in the intellectually sense! Commit to undertaking your own research, test and evaluate, develop your own ideas and it will not only make you a better search professional but also help push others forward. 

Lastly but most importantly, I just want to say how excited I am to be involved with search cowboys, I consider the blog a great resource for information and discussion and am really happy to be on board. I know to some, 2 years within the industry may be fairly new, but I hope to bring a fresh perspective and a different outlook. Also, working with Lisa D Myers for two years has allowed me to learn a great deal, and not just the ability to drop SEO related jokes into conversations!

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