Written By: Adam Dince
Over the past few years, I’ve heard several pitches from SEO automation companies who swear that their product is the ultimate solution. And while some are very impressive and provide decent intelligence, there ain’t all that much difference between em’. I’ve also had the opportunity to use a few of the top SEO automation tools in practice, and while somewhat helpful, I wouldn’t rely on them, on their own, to get me through a client engagement (Wow… what a run-on sentence!).
Then came an article last week on AdAge.com titled “As Growth of Search Marketing Slows, Agencies Change Tack”. One of the most bothersome statements in the article was,
“Pure search agencies are up against a wider swath of agencies that can buy technology to set up shop. Even some clients are licensing that technology themselves to handle search in-house.”
Anyone can train a monkey to use the various automated SEO software tools out there, but you can’t train them to think critically. If all you plan on doing is following recommendations from an automated tool, I’ll take you on any day! As I’ve said and written many times before (as have many others), SEO is both an art and a science. You can’t automate that! Think about it, ultimately, if everyone uses the same tools and follows the same cookie cutter recommendations from automated reports, who wins? I’ll tell you who wins, the brands and agencies that use people like me. I’m not saying that these automated tools can’t be helpful. With some of the good tools, you can quickly identify (not an exhaustive list):
- Keywords that have significant upward and downward movement
- Meta-data that are too long or don’t contain keywords
- Duplicated meta-data
- Some high-level technical obstacles possibly preventing search engines from accessing your Website or pages
- How competitors are doing in comparison to you and very high-level tactics to help gain ground on them
Using SEO automation tools as a reference is ideal and is smart. What’s not wise is leaning solely on these tools as the answer to being competitive in organic search. These tools cannot help you:
- Intimately understand a Website from a search perspective
- Identify usability issues
- Identify areas for information architecture improvements
- Articulate different strategies depending on technology and enterprise constraints
- Thoroughly use social media to boost organic search visibility, performance and CRM
- Develop important relationships with bloggers, writers, publishers and key influencers
- Explain many of the slick SEO strategies your competitors employ
- When you’re meeting with stakeholders who are asking questions that a standard report can’t answer (which is more often the case than not)
Last year, Google changed their algorithm over 500 times and sometimes twice a day. http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2011/08/another-look-under-hood-of-search.html. As Rand Fishkin stated in one of his great Google Panda posts,
“Virtually everything you do on the Internet with your website can impact SEO today. That is especially true following Panda. The things that they are measuring is not, oh, these sites have better links than these sites. Some of these sites, in fact, have much better links than these sites. Some of these sites have what you and I might regard, as SEOs, as better content, more unique, robust, quality content, and yet, people, quality raters in particular, like them less or the things, the signals that predict that quality raters like those sites less are present in those types of sites.”
One last note about Rand and SEOmoz. Most of the automated SEO tools out there use SEOmoz data to power their results. I highly highly recommend using SEOmoz as a solution for automation. It’s affordable, smart, and in the right hands can provide awesome intelligence.
But I digress… Real SEO is not a commodity as some in the digital space have suggested as of late. Real SEO is not something that can be replicated by automation. Real SEO is not just thinking about keywords and meta-data. Much like doctors studying medicine to help patients… Real SEO is what’s practiced by experts who have dedicated their careers to understand code, content, brands, search engine algorithms and user preference.
One of my math professors in college used to say to us,
“If you’re going to use a calculator, you better be prepared to explain to me how you would solve for the problem without it. That’s the only way to truly understand mathematics. If you’re given a word problem, a calculator isn’t going to help unless you truly understand the question.”
In conclusion… use tools… use as many of them as you can afford. But it’s not wise to think that these tools can replace someone who truly understands search. The Force without a Jedi Knight is just a BSO… bright shiny object.