The modern SEO faces a perception of threats around every corner. The search results are being cannibalized by ads. Everything's going social. Google has it's sights set on small businesses and competitors are just waiting to gun you down with a negative SEO attack.
Sometimes these enemies are legitimate, although they are often exaggerated by a highly vocal and embittered minority that has gone through admittedly rough times. That said, the biggest threat any SEO faces today, and possibly forever, is the expectation that they set for themselves.
This could get a little touchy-feely, but bear with me, there's a payoff.
The Source of SEO's Paranoid Streak
Have you ever experienced any of these fears about your sites or your clients, later realizing they were unnecessary?
- One day all of this will stop working
- Was that fluctuation in traffic a penalty?
- I've been hit by negative SEO. I'm sure of it.
- What am I doing wrong? Every time traffic goes up it comes back down.
- It feels like Google is out to get me.
These fears are not uncommon, particularly among those who are just getting started. What is it about these fears that seems so pervasive? Why is it that attacking Google with (often legitimate) concerns about privacy and monopoly seems like such a popular pastime in the SEO community?
At the risk of coming across like a psychoanalyst, here's a possibility that's worth considering.
Your Self-Expectations Could Be Low
Hey, I warned you this could get a little touchy-feely, right?
In Empire of Conspiracy, Dr Tim Melley explores some of the reasons that conspiracy theories are so popular in America. To sum up his conclusion, people tend to believe in conspiracy theories because:
- They are highly individualistic
- They lack a sense of control
The people most likely to believe in conspiracy theories have both of these beliefs.
I'm not claiming that all (or even necessarily most) of the criticisms thrown at Google by the SEO community are illegitimate. Instead, I see parallels with conspiratorial thinking, and feelings that could be compared with paranoia.
To make it clear that I'm not judging from my soapbox, I recently complained on Google forums and various other places on the net that adding rel="author" to my site caused it to drop out of the search results for no fair reason whatsoever. A face-palm soon followed when I discovered this was the parked domain classifier and had absolutely nothing to do with me.
Time to Take Control
Most people who get involved in SEO have an entrepreneurial spirit, so being highly individualistic is almost par for the course. This means that if you're experiencing feelings of paranoia about search engine behavior, it probably has something to do with that second point, a lack of sense of control.
Want to feel in control? It's time to stop settling. These are the kinds of behaviors that will make you feel like you aren't in control of the future of your business.
- Building links just to get links
- Seeing no connection between your efforts and your outcomes
- Putting yourself completely at the mercy of changes in the algorithm
- Telling yourself "I can't use that tactic, it's out of my league"
Here is the kind of behavior that will make you feel in control again.
- Building links from authoritative sites with high standards
- Seeing traffic referrals coming directly from links you've built
- Getting traffic from as many sources as possible
- Setting high expectations and using tactics your competitors don't think they're good enough for.
When it comes right down to it, nothing will slow you down more than your own expectations. What's stopping you from trying to get links from Mashable, Cracked, or the New York Times? There's no harm in trying. Even if you fail, links from mid-list blogs will start to look like small fry afterward, and you'll feel very much in control of the future of your business.
How else can you improve feelings of confidence about your tactics and focus on doing, instead of worrying?