People talk about automating search engine optimization at their websites. What would that look like?
Since we’re a WordPress shop, we run into this one most often. We use SEO plugins. We’ve used and tested a number of different plugins and currently use Yoast for most client sites. These plugins can be useful, but they won’t make an unoptimized page perform like an optimized one.
Plugins like Yoast assist mostly by coaching writers — they’ll tell you the reading level of your post or page, whether you’ve remembered to include the search terms you want customers to find you with, and many more helpful things that can nudge your writers toward search-friendly posts and pages.
They won’t automatically optimize your content for you.
A fast-loading website with good site architecture and clean code will perform better than a badly built website. I’ve worked with designers whose sites — with Haden Interactive’s good content — performed better and with designers whose sites performed worse. Google has also made it clear that a mobile-friendly website is going to do better in search than a comparable website that doesn’t behave well on all devices, and that SSL certificates are good for your site’s performance.
But the “set it and forget it” technical stuff is not enough. First, content and user value are always more important than technical factors. Google has said so, and there is plenty of evidence that they’re telling the truth. What’s more, it’s not only the content your website starts out with, because regular updates and fresh content are important, too.
You can find SEO tools online, both free and paid. The SEO tools we use are the kind that provide data that help us to develop and implement SEO strategy. These tools can really speed things up if you know how to use them. They don’t actually do anything at your website, though. They just provide the information you need to approach your SEO work strategically.
Tools that purport to “SEO” your website for you are something else again.
Ask yourself: are these tools providing fresh, original, high quality, useful content at your website on a regular basis? Or are they producing worthless robotic linked comments at random blogs?
Tools are great, but many so-called SEO tools are completely worthless or even harmful.
The central reasons that SEO can’t really be automated are these:
- First and foremost, SEO is mostly about human language, and at this point, machines cannot command human language the way people can. This is, as of this writing, and insurmountable obstacle to real SEO automation.
- Second but still important, search engines watch for signs of trying to game the system, and respond by making those games less useful.
- Third, creating a better experience for your human visitors is not only key to ranking well with search engines, but also the main thing you have to do to have a website that is valuable for your business. That requires customer insights, problem solving, and creative thought — human things, not machine things.
Automate what can be automated, but don’t expect to flip a switch and see great website performance.