The Skill of Not Doing

It used to be that every link was a good link so “back in the day” [pre-2011], pretty much any SEO was better than no SEO.  This meant that “taking action” was the primary factor driving success.  Even just doing a bunch dumb stuff, some of it would stick long enough to make enough money to get trained to do some good stuff to stick longer to do more stuff and … ultimately … be successful.

That was then.

Today, fast forward just a bit over 2 years and not all links are good links.  In fact, links are just as likely, or maybe even more likely!, to be toxic rather than helpful.  Starting out dumb and letting search traffic pay for an education is not really a viable path any more.  The dumb stuff you do now will almost certainly not work well enough to pay for much more than a few Kindle books and (worse) it will haunt your rankings for all the days of your (site’s) life.

Massive action is no longer the path to success.

And this is not just about Google.  Every online marketing platform – Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, LinkedIn, you name it – have to combat SPAM, but the problem is especially significant for Google.  The problem for the new marketer is recognizing what is, and is not, SPAM.  For someone new, all SEO pretty much sounds alike and the continuing siren song of the “grays” and the “blacks” that easy money is just one magic software button click away, is more than most people can resist … until they get burned a couple times.

If you can make the judgment between the good stuff and the bad stuff, that makes you – more-or-less by definition – NOT a “new marketer” and this post might (but only might) not apply to you.  But returning to the new person … what is the right path?

In today’s SEO, “not doing” is a skill.

There are so many ways to “get it all wrong” compared to the very very few ways that are designed from the ground up to work into the foreseeable future, that “action” from a purely statistical perspective is more likely than not to cause harm!

The wrong links or the wrong content can be so toxic and taking no action at all might be the better choice.  It’s sad really.  One of the things we’ve for years coached out of our students is “analysis paralysis” and now we are installing precisely the behavior we previously tried to kill!

Earn while you learn is dead … you gotta learn first.

Way back in the day, pre-Internet, actually, pre-indoor-sanitation, the Masons were actual masons – brick layers.  Doesn’t seem like much today, but getting the dimensions of an arch just right so it didn’t collapse and kill people was just about as valuable and mysterious as SEO is today.  So much so, that it was the foundation of a cult where the only way to learn the esoteric practices of stonework was to apprentice.  This is a well know pattern – think Star Wars – for good or evil: “The Force” is learned by apprenticeship and (largely) oral tradition.

Here’s my point (yeah, I know, finally, right?)

SEO is so fraught with bad info, uncertainty and unquantified dangers, that it is (for now at least) an art only to be undertaken with a mentor … and I’m not just saying that because I are one.  :-)

Actually, I think DIY SEO might be dead or close to it, but that’s another post, for now …

The question is how do you learn SEO?  Well, you do have to actually do stuff, take action, because otherwise you don’t actually know if you’ve learned it.  So what should you do?  That’s the bitch of it.  For every 10 things you could read about or be sold, 9 of them are harmful and they ALL sound alike to the uninformed.  Bummer.  But there is an answer – in two parts.

1. Find a teacher with happy and successful students

2. Don’t start doing stuff until you’ve actually learned how

I wish my answer was different.  In fact, it used to be and I liked it way better.  But this really is my best answer today.  Sorry about that.  In a couple years, my answer might change again.  In the meantime, careful what action you do take, because Google has a very long memory.

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