One of the biggest misconceptions about Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is that if you don’t do it, your content will go to waste. That’s not true.

Is worrying about SEO keeping you from publishing regularly?

Is tracking SEO eating up time you could be using elsewhere in your business?

Are you “optimising” your pages yet seeing no difference in rank?

Good news. You can build an amazing, successful business and get to the SEO stuff later. True story.

Content Marketing is About the Consumer First

A common mistake I see people make is to try “content marketing” with some partial tactics but no foundation. Creating content has to be about making useful, entertaining, or otherwise valuable content for the reader, listener, or viewer. You have to think about your content marketing funnel. Take people on a ‘journey’ which still continues even after they buy or work with you. It’s not about finding the best keywords. Keywords are just a tiny piece of a much bigger puzzle that is ALL about your client or consumer.

Starting with SEO is a bit like stressing about paint colours when you don’t have a room to paint. Or worse yet, don’t even know if you’re building a barn or building a hotel. Although it makes sense to think about what topics you want to rank for, search engines are becoming so sophisticated that you will naturally bring up keywords in your copy simply by focusing on a topic.

Most of us don’t need to think about aggressive ranking tactics. What we need to do instead is truly help our customers and clients. At the end of the day it doesn’t matter if you’re on Page #1 if the person – the human being – reading your content doesn’t get anything out of it or doesn’t take the right action after reading it.

A Search Engine is Never Going to Buy From You

Write and produce content that will help your customer or client – then “optimise” it afterwards. For your reader. Do what you need to do to make it easier to read and more helpful to human beings. Forget the search engines until you’re done.

When you try too hard to rank for something, you lose focus on the reader. When you set out to be helpful, you’ll make something else entirely.

Ultimately, search engines want to show stuff that people want to read, watch, and listen to. Unless they do this, people won’t use that search engine. So, fancy algorithms are simply trying to emulate humans, eliminate spam, and make sure everything is relevant. And they are getting smarter every day. So if you spam the same keyword phrase or use old-school tactics like bolding the keywords, you actually HURT your ranking.

Even when you do it well, Search Engine Optimisation is NOT a quick trick to bring in streams of clients or customers. Your website’s user experience is much more important when you’re starting out.

Start with Your Reader First

Unless you’re deliberately targeting keywords to outrank competitors or are trying to rank on page 1 for competitive short search terms like “London hotel” or “marathon”, you don’t have to worry that much about SEO at the start. Scrap the jargon involved and just focus on the experience.

If you struggle to create optimised content readers can probably tell. What’s the point in ranking well if someone clicks and then doesn’t like the content? And if someone clicks the top result and quickly leaves the site? Guess what. Google knows. And punishes your ranking for it. So you’re back to Step One!

Your Website’s User Experience Matters Most

People visit your site and get an immediate impression of you and your business just by the way your website makes them feel.

To improve the experience, ask questions like:

  • Does your website load quickly?
  • Is it easy to use?
  • Can people find the content you’ve created?
  • Are the layouts pretty and consistent?
  • Is the copy on brand and well written?
  • Are images and videos high enough quality?
  • Is the content helpful and trustworthy?

And, you guessed it, search engines care about the user experience too and reward you for getting it right. Here are five things, other than tweaking your content, that affect your search engine ranking:

  1. Backlinks – Getting your site linked to from other sites. Guest posting is awesome and shows people you can be trusted – which is why search engines care!
  2. Site speed – How quickly your site loads. Make sure to use optimised images. People hate sites that take too long to load.
  3. A mobile-friendly site – Responsive layouts are so important and are thankfully pretty much standard across WordPress, Squarespace, and other major site platforms. Embrace mobile.
  4. Outbound links – Link to other people’s websites. Show people you’re part of the interNET, not just an echochamber. Plus, it’s a great opportunity to make relationships. (See #1.)
  5. Fresh content – New and regularly updated content shows you’re still relevant and timely. People don’t want to waste time on something that is too old to be relevant, or worse could be misleading.

Isn’t it funny how search engines and human needs seem to overlap? There’s definitely a clear trend here.

Do the Work, So There’s Something to Optimise

Don’t let “optimising” ruin your content mojo, suck up your time, or distract you from the real money-making activities. It’s worth repeating: SEO is a long-term game.

If you already have a profitable business, a regular blog, loads of amazing products, or want to build up a business on affiliate income alone, then SEO should be a priority for you. If you’re a brick and mortar business and need to rank locally, go for it! Here’s what search engine optimisation for small businesses involves.

For most businesses making money online, optimising for search engines isn’t going to be a major part of your initial strategy. And a good content marketing agency will be able to help you create content that is optimised, by default.

You can ALWAYS optimise for search engines later. It’s a lot harder to optimise for the human beings that visited once and were left unsatisfied.

Get out there and do some marketing. Your social media marketing and content marketing will have a bigger impact first. So focus on those. SEO can’t be your excuse.

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Anna Simmonds
Anna Simmonds

Anna, Head of Social, knows her beans when it comes to social media. She keeps her finger on the social pulse, funnelling her knowledge and experience into creating engaging social media campaigns. She’s also pretty decent with a camera and Photoshop.