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SEO is all about the situation

I was reading some guy’s promotional material today and noted he had ‘Done SEO for some BIG corporations‘. Like that was supposed to mean something. That is certainly NOT the case. If anything it merely means they’re strong in just that area. That they may not be as effective in a smaller SMB type situation.

It does though bring up an interesting topic that I haven’t seen a lot of chatter about; SEO is situational.

One of the bigger problems in teaching/learning SEO is that what works in some situations, won’t work in others. Each and every experience is likely, to some degree, unique. Consider for a moment some potential variants we can come across when doing SEO

Site Elements;

  • Site Age
  • Size of site
  • Link profile maturity
  • Conversion goals
  • Different markets
  • Content programs? (on-site and off)

Business considerations;

  • Budgets to work with
  • In-house experience
  • Agency SEO
  • Cross promotion resources (social, PR, offline)

Get the idea here? The main point is that even when working the same query space, each business listed in the top 10 can have very different situations. Thus we as SEOs are all experiencing the world of SEO from different perspectives.

SEO Secret Agent

Passing on the Art

This is what makes SEO not only interesting, but difficult to teach. With the members of my community we like to say; We’re all teachers and we’re all students. This is meant to bring into focus this very issue. None of us know it all.. and none of us have experienced each and every possible situation.

This is what makes the professional SEO. The ability to think outside of the box to get the job done in our own unique situations. There is no book, course, forum nor community that can teach it all. And as those that are seeking to teach, this concept simply MUST be kept in mind at all times. The Art of War; SEO Style.

Advanced SEO and Secrets

I’ve had more than a few conversations about what exactly constitutes ‘advanced SEO‘. We ultimately seemed to gravitate more towards the ability to deal with specific situations, niches, budgets and the like. This also plays into the concept of situational in that you will, over the course of your career, work in many markets, different client/employer types and more. The ‘advanced‘ SEO is likely your ability to adjust tactics and methods to maximize the effort given to the site. There aren’t really a lot of advanced tactics, it is more about your ability to adapt to the situation.

This is the same for ‘secrets’ as well. There are very few concepts that I get from my private circles that aren’t already out in the public, in some form or another. It all once more falls back to being able to deal with various situations. Knowing which tactics to use, how to max the effect of the budget and more. If you’re looking for the advanced secrets of SEO, look no further. That’s not really what’s important. It is HOW you use them.

And so my friends, it is important that we all understand that SEO is situational. The advice you read may or may not apply to you. The tactics you’ve used may not work in all markets. There really is no one-size-fits-all SEO approach. This thing of ours is all about the situation.



  1. Dr. Pete February 10, 2011

    Great point. I ran into this when I was doing SEO for e-commerce sites (mostly on-page and technical) and then tried to help out some small-biz sites. For them, it wasn’t about duplicate content, tuning tags, and controlling site architecture. They needed links, and I learned that I was a pretty lousy link-builder (I’m better now, but not by much ;)).

    There isn’t One SEO that fits every situation, and you can’t get cocky.

  2. Dean Cruddace February 10, 2011

    100% agree. I have worked with 4 seperate businesses within the same industry and each and every time the tactics and focus is different, there is some crossover in parts but there is never a blueprint process.

  3. SNCadmin February 10, 2011

    @Pete – it was an interesting topic that came up with the less experienced expectations of ‘advanced’ and the old war horses that find adapting to situations is often the real skill to be learned. I hadn’t seen much written on the topic, thus figured it was worth saying (and pass link to those that ask in the future).

    Everything really is situational… just look at the resources one has in a SMB situation compared to larger Corp? Hehe.. but which is more nimble? Always elements that one has to adapt to. Anyway, just felt like getting it out there.

    @Dean – Exactly. I suppose that’s what I am getting at here LOL (this post spilled out, wasn’t thought out).

    People often come to me in (boards/chat/DM) looking for a blueprint. Some ‘standard’ way of doing things. Problem is, each client and situation varies. Even in the same markets as U noted. There is no real way to do this. Teaching them to adapt is the way to go. Then Deb/Ian got me thinking about ‘advanced’ and well.. seems to me that is one area that could be considered as such. Experience dealing with resources and strategy limitations.

  4. Hugo February 10, 2011

    Holy shit balls, Dave (excuse the cursing)!

    This is as brilliant as it is simple, and it’s why most large agencies suck at SEO. They strive for structure, rigidity, and normalization…which is good to a certain extent but will never lead to the out of the box thinking that’s almost always needed in order to succeed for a specific client in a specific scenario.

    And by the way, this actually applies to virtually all facets of marketing as well as general business management.

    Right on!

  5. Sarah Carling February 10, 2011

    I love this post, there have been a few things lately that got me thinking about what it mean to be an advanced, or even just a good SEO.

    What I ultimately boiled it down to in my own mind was that it’s about being able to create reasonable hypotheses based on the info to hand, and test them or knowing when you need to ask for input, what you need to ask to get the answers you need, and knowing who the best person to ask for those answers is.

    We all have so many different areas of expertise that I’ve come to think the only secret tool any SEO has is their network

  6. SNCadmin February 10, 2011

    @Hugo… hey man, good to see ya. There is an upside and a down side to all types of SEO to be honest. That’s why I linked up the ‘SEO Artof War’ bits because I’ve learned through that how one strives to understand the advantages and disadvantages of their own and competitors situation. End of the day, there is something to be said for having experience in many types of said situations.

    As for large agencies, I haven’t worked ‘for’ any other than consulting, but I am not a fan of the one-size-fits-all approach. I try to approach each site/client with a fresh perspective (which also helpe motivate the team, not as boring that way).

    @Sarah – hey stranger, hows things?

    Network. LOL. I was onced ask what were the greatest benefits I recieve from writing and being part of the industry. The people are easily #1. Nothing beats having access to people with experience in markets you may be going into. I struggle with the whole ‘advanced SEO’ stuff. To me it’s more about your strategic and original approach to the job at hand. Not tools. Not which methods.

    I don’t even count the patent-geeking. Seriously. I believe SEOs really should know how a search engine works. That’s beginner stuff in my book, not advanced.

    Oh and on tests, that highlights something else I didn’t get to; the fact that tests from other markets my not relveal the data that makes it a usable tactic in another.

    Anyway… rambling again. Thanks for stopping in!!

  7. steveplunkett February 10, 2011

    “As for large agencies, I haven’t worked ‘for’ any other than consulting, but I am not a fan of the one-size-fits-all approach.”

    a. developed a process
    b. realized each client is different
    c. added notes to process (“client may push back, if so, see item d.”)
    d. SEO is fluid, what was a good recommendation 6 months ago may not be today.
    e. there may be regulatory restrictions on what you can say in body copy, title tags or meta descriptions, (i.e. financial, SEC guidelines, SOX compliance, HIPAA)

    could go on but must do more keyword research for clients.. working outside the “process” again to serve the best needs of the client.

    maybe we don’t pull a screwdriver from our toolbox, maybe it’s wrench, a level, a stud finder, or a jack hammer.. use the right tool for the job.

  8. Outsource SEO February 14, 2011

    This is a nice article. Great insights. A good and well experienced SEO staff from a trusted business process outsourcing company will great cost-benefits in the long run as it will measure to add exposure and increased traffic hits which successively gain more revenue from your site.

  9. Eldad Sotnick-Yogev February 18, 2011

    Thanks for sharing some great insights once again.The list at the beginning is a clearly defined one of what we need to consider when doing SEO for any websites.

    I agree with the fact that advanced SEO is about knowing which tactics to use when (fluidity is a super way to put it). But more importantly it is the network one has an SEOer that can really make the difference. I can’t share enough how crucial that has been in my development and the ability to generate results for the clients we work with. Proud to be a “search geek” and SEO Dojo member.

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