Our team’s Yammer was heating up a few days ago with a discussion about “link sniping.” This practice, along with others endlessly debated by dozens of SEOs of varying shades of hat (think cloaking, PageRank sculpting, siloing, etc.), is a niche practice known only to people who are competitive within the world of search engine optimization.
But what is the competition all about?
I have been on what you might call all four sides of the search equation: designing the search engine and functionality itself and making decisions about the relative importance of various components of the algorithm, providing content of my own that search engines inevitably crawl, and consulting with content providers to help them achieve greater prominence for their content within search engines. And of course, I’m a search consumer.
It’s this latter role that many SEOs seem to forget about when they get caught up in the merits or drawbacks of arcane practices meant to influence Google’s ranking of a certain site or page. Your content may or may not be the content the consumer wants.
Don’t get me wrong. I think there are SEO practices that can be extremely rewarding. These typically entail going back to the business strategy and making sure it traces down appropriately through marketing strategy to content strategy and keyword strategy. Too much strategy? What I’m talking about need not be 10 page documents each, footnoted and cross-referenced. They may be as simple as scrawlings on the back of a napkin or even verbally articulated thoughts, at least at first. But the point is, there’d better be something bigger informing all this detailed technical activity, or else it’s pointless.
The bigger question, rather than how to fine tune link structures and such, is relevance. If you don’t know your audience, where they hang out, and what they need to hear from you for your message to resonate, then THAT’s what needs attention and fine tuning.
Moreover, once you go through all the trouble of getting visitors to your site, if you’re not paying attention to serving them up a relevant and engaging experience, you might as well not have bothered inviting them to the party. It’s not just about design and copy, either; it’s about thinking of your online presence in a layered, multi-faceted way that goes well beyond home page and navigation and into slices of content and experience that can make or break the relationship with your visitors.
We can help, by the way. Our interpretation of SEO is not search engine optimization, but rather search experience optimization. That’s what we practice, and it works, no matter what side of the equation you’re on.