Is SEO Best Practice the Enemy of Success?

Is SEO Best Practice the Enemy of Success?
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In an business that abounds in folklore and movie star influencers, is SEO “best practice” the key to mastering the SERPs or a shallow objective that results in missed alternatives?

What is “best practice,” who defines it, and why is it so broadly adopted?

What Is ‘Best Practice’?

“Best practice” tends to discuss with a technique of working that has been usually accepted as higher than others at reaching a consequence.

When we discuss SEO “best practice” it conjures photos of web page title lengths, word-counts, and Domain Authority thresholds.

It suggests that there’s an accepted methodology of optimizing web sites to make them extra interesting to the serps.

The Benefits of Best Practice

There are positives to be discovered from having a broadly agreed set of practices. There is a reassurance that may be felt by each practitioners and their shoppers.

Security for Practitioners

SEO is an business that also has so many unknowns.

When you first begin out on this business rating a webpage can really feel like a mixture of science and magic.

Best follow offers us the safety that we’re working in a manner that will generate outcomes. It offers consolation and a transparent path to comply with to those that haven’t any expertise.

Security for Clients

Best follow additionally offers shoppers and stakeholders a sense of safety.

If they’re acquainted with some elements of SEO, realizing that their appointed specialists look like following these tips assures them of their legitimacy and potential success.

The Issues with Best Practice

There are, nevertheless, downsides to accepting a set of practices that you haven’t examined your self.

Deciding on ‘Best Practice’

“Best practice” is a noble objective, it suggests there’s a proper and improper manner of performing and that may clearly be outlined.

One drawback with it inside the SEO business is that even the extra frequent tenants are disputed amongst professionals.

Without affirmation from the serps, arguments abound.

As seen in current Twitter conversations following Moz’s Britney Muller’s discovery of a contentious assertion in a Google doc, we will’t even agree on whether or not click-through price is a Google rating issue.

If seasoned professionals are not sure of what constitutes a rating issue, the broadly believed “best practice” for this business could possibly be main us all astray.


“Best practice” additionally suggests there is just one path to success. In SEO nevertheless, there are various aspects to rising visitors.

Back in 2017 Google’s Gary Illyes acknowledged in relation to a query about prime rating elements that “it very much depends on the query and the results which signals count more.”

How then can we advise that there’s a “best” approach to optimize a web page if the alerts that decide its rating are weighted otherwise for every search question?

Ammunition for the Competition

The touting of finest follow is commonly the opening gambit of SEO businesses attempting to get a foot in the door with a brand new enterprise.

Often the lack of an H1 on a phrases and circumstances web page, or a lacking robots.txt is listed as a basic flaw in the optimization of a web site bringing doubt over shoppers’ minds of the efficacy of their incumbent supplier.

In actuality, nevertheless, such a small element is unlikely to convey the web site to its knees as the try-hard company would possibly allude.


The different concern with finest follow is that ticking all of these containers will be expensive.

If the solely objective of together with a robots.txt file is to have one then this won’t be an excellent use of an SEO or a developer’s time.

The useful resource and monetary implications of following finest follow may end up in extra necessary duties which have the propensity to maneuver the needle being relegated on account of time and useful resource restraints.

How Was SEO ‘Best Practice’ Formed?

Determining if SEO finest follow is a assist or a hindrance actually hinges on the way it has shaped and is adopted.

It could possibly be argued that finest follow inside the business doesn’t actually exist.

With so many strategies shared and taught, nevertheless, there may be positively a set of traditions that people both belief or have actively rejected.


There are many detailed and worthwhile guides to SEO for novices.

They assist to signpost the manner ahead for many who have by no means optimized for serps earlier than.

They shine a lightweight on the manner serps work, what they favor, and the way web sites can capitalize on that.

The actual concern with these mediums shouldn’t be the sources themselves, however how SEO professionals method them.

They ought to be handled like a automobile handbook, telling you all you have to find out about how the automobile works, what the warning lights appear like, and methods to repair the engine if it goes improper.

Armed with this information we will really feel assured to drive off into unchartered territory and discover.

Instead, some have fallen into the entice of approaching these guides like a sat-nav, totally anticipating them to information us to our desired vacation spot of Position 1.

Many of us don’t take the time to surprise although, how is it that webpages with skinny content material, non-existent backlink profiles or poor meta-tag utilization are rating larger than our personal, finely optimized websites?

Unfortunately, the reply would look like that typically the serps don’t behave in the manner we count on them to.

When we attempt to comply with finest follow, we’re actually attempting to abide by a set of guidelines that the likes of Google haven’t backed.

It is like solely ever filling your automobile up with a sure model of gas as a result of your native automobile house owners’ discussion board tells you it’s the finest one.

It would possibly truly be the costliest and except you experiment with different sorts of gas, or the producer confirms the engine was constructed to carry out finest with it, why would you’re taking that suggestion as gospel?

Unless there may be proof to again up this declare it might be silly to imagine it’s right.

Search engines are sophisticated, and the reality is, the algorithms aren’t identified outdoors of the group that developed them.

Any try to categorically state that they work in a specific manner, except confirmed by the firm themselves, is naïve.

Instead, we should always use the guides and checklists as our jumping-off level. They ought to type the begin of our testing, holding our palms as we enter the murky world of SEO.


The phrase “influencer” might conjure up photos of make-up experts, closely filtered photos and unique backdrops, all hoping to steer you to purchase a product in order that they get a reduce of the sale.

Apart from the odd entrepreneur who’s attempting to flog their newest on-line course, the SEO neighborhood collaborating in social media and boards is essentially attempting to disseminate data and assist others of their quest to enhance.

These could also be for purely altruistic causes. It may be to extend their very own profile. The result’s the identical; there are loads of “experts” on this house touting their view on how SEO works.

There is nothing improper with professionals who’ve gained expertise and want to share it with others, it actually is a selfless act.

The drawback once more is how we method the insights given by these specialists.

The barrier to changing into an SEO influencer is low. How do you resolve who’s a reputable particular person to concentrate to?

There is the further drawback of differing opinions. There are many well-respected SEO professionals who take the time to actually have interaction with their following.

These folks give recommendation primarily based on their years of expertise. There are others with as massive a following and spectacular a profession historical past who completely disagree with the recommendation they offer.

So who is true?

Whenever I hear SEO finest follow mentioned, a tweet is commonly used as the proof to substantiate it; “I saw [SEO influencer] say on Twitter that click-through rates are a ranking factor”.

Before we all know it, this turns into lore.

Agencies maintain conferences to replace their groups, weblog posts are written and methods are altered to accommodate this new perception.

The concern with the blind following of others’ recommendation is that it won’t be proper.

It could possibly be right for what that SEO has seen on their very own web site, or inside that individual vertical, however how can it’s assured that will probably be the case for our personal?

Best follow appears to go down the lineage of SEOs via phrase of mouth. Juniors belief that what their seniors say is right.

If these seniors are trusting what they see on Twitter with out testing and questioning then the business turns into rife with data that’s inaccurate.

At finest, the data being unfold kinds one other guidelines.

Examples of Damaging ‘Best Practice’ Myths

There are many finest follow guidelines that may be questioned. Below are a number of persistent ones which can be usually championed with out query.

Meta Title Character Limits

Sixty characters most or your rankings will endure. That’s a fantasy that appears to boost its head ever so usually and notably amongst newer SEO practitioners.

Although truncation does happen on each cellular and desktop SERPs, this differs between gadgets and serps.

This picture is an instance of a web page’s title truncated in the desktop search outcomes.

Example of a truncated page title on a desktop SERP

This picture reveals the identical web page’s title truncated in the cellular SERPs

Example of a truncated page title on a mobile SERP

Google’s personal tips on writing web page titles counsel we “avoid unnecessarily long or verbose titles, which are likely to get truncated when they show up in the search results.”

There is not any most character restrict acknowledged, nevertheless.

In reality, as mentioned by Moz, “there’s no exact character limit, because characters can vary in width and Google’s display titles max out (currently) at 600 pixels.”

Imagine an “I” in comparison with a “W”, these take up a differing quantity of pixels. Sixty large characters would possibly take up greater than 600 pixels, whereas 60 thinner characters might depart house for extra letters.

My company, Avenue Digital, just lately ran an experiment to see if Google reads and indexes key phrases previous the truncation level.

We discovered that Google did choose up the key phrases in the title, regardless of them being truncated.

This means that the arbitrary character restrict is pointless for rating functions and due to this fact solely must be thought of for click-through optimization.

Example of a meta title truncated where missing words were counted for ranking

The concern with preserving your web page titles to 60 characters or fewer means your objective of avoiding truncation in the SERPs won’t be achieved and you possibly can properly be lacking out on worthwhile key phrase real-estate.

As Google is choosing up phrases after the level of truncation and rating the web page primarily based on these key phrases (though to what diploma these key phrases are factored into rankings stays undetermined), then it might be silly to overlook out on this chance to incorporate key phrases that might assist your rankings.

Include a Robots.txt File

Often one on the guidelines when auditing a web site is the robots.txt. It doesn’t appear to go additional than that.

Now, what does the file include?

Is it crucial contemplating the set-up of the web site?

More usually, merely, is there one current?

The presence of a robots.txt shouldn’t be going to affect the crawling, indexation, or rating of your web site.

Therefore, when this level is raised in audits or including a robots.txt is escalated as an pressing job, it’s one other instance of finest follow being adopted blindly with out consideration for the advantages.

When a job is executed with none clear understanding of what it’s hoped to attain then the price of implementation ought to be dominated prohibitive.

Disavow All Bad Backlinks

The Google Search Console disavow software is harmful. It permits folks with little information of what they’re doing to simply decimate years of constructive outreach efforts.

One frequent assertion in the SEO business is that “bad” backlinks ought to be disavowed.

However, with current iterations of the Google algorithm, even Google spokespeople have acknowledged that for the majority of websites the disavow software shouldn’t be wanted.

Google’s personal John Mueller has declared that we shouldn’t “fret the cruft” when utilizing the disavow software.

That it’s actually designed to be used with hyperlinks that you just deliberately constructed that go towards Google’s tips, not the ones which have organically grown in your backlink profile over the years.

John Muellers Tweet about disavowing

Following the “best practice” recommendation of disavowing any “spammy” hyperlink can injury your success. It takes time and sources away from work that might truly profit your SEO rankings and visitors.

It may also result in genuinely useful backlinks being disavowed as a result of their origin is unknown or they’re misunderstood to be dangerous hyperlinks.

Copy Length

Another fantasy of the finest follow lore is that replicate must be lengthy to be able to rank.

When requested by copywriters or shoppers how lengthy a bit of copy ought to be “for SEO” we’ll usually reply “the longer the better.”

Some might even give a phrase depend minimal, akin to 800 phrases and even longer.

However, this isn’t essentially correct. It is extra right to say that replicate ought to be so long as is required to convey an ample reply to a searcher’s question.

For instance, when looking out “what is the weather like in Portugal”, the first natural itemizing in my SERPs is

The whole phrase depend for copy on this web page, discounting anchor textual content for different pages on the web site, is lower than 20.

Second place is, which has even fewer non-anchor textual content phrases.

These two pages are rating with barely any copy on them in any respect as a result of the reply to the searcher’s question will be summarized in a easy graphic exhibiting the temperature over the upcoming week.

Writing copy is a laborious job.

Writing high-quality, well-converting copy is even tougher.

Giving copywriters a minimal quantity of phrases they’ve to put in writing for acceptable content material is a distracting and pointless stipulation that may result in poor copy being churned out.

For pages the place conversion is essential having reams of textual content that doesn’t add worth to the reader will be detrimental in reaching a sale or contact.


Best follow ought to be handled like coaching wheels.


  • Helps us to really feel secure once we’re new to the street.
  • Gives us the confidence to talk to outsiders and seem educated.
  • Gives routine and concepts once we’re missing.

But like all coaching wheels, in some unspecified time in the future, they must be eliminated so you may trip over extra rocky terrain and speed up.

Following “best practice” can distract from actions that may truly profit your SEO efforts and in some instances will be dangerous.

Use it as a information in your early days however in case you have referred to as your self an SEO for greater than a yr it might be price re-evaluating what you “know” about SEO and search to show your information with outcomes.

More Resources:

Image Credits

All screenshots taken by creator, June 2019

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