If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it

I have always hated this phrase. It always sounded to me like “be quiet, don’t do anything stupid, don’t try anything new, don’t look for the unknown”. Which, in other words, means

Stay safe in your comfort zone

How does it relate to marketing and SEO in particular? Basically the same way it relates to any other thing, but with more dangerous implications because of the marked volatility of SEO rules and practices. If you settle for getting things done and never update your work, you’ll be lost very soon in a sea of smart and hungry sharks. I’ve seen the direct consequences of this behavior: believe me, it can be destructive.

That’s why I want to share five typical situations in which laziness and immobilism could lead to very bad news for your business in the near future.

1. Don’t touch those links

I want to start from the one that hurt me most. Few years ago, manual link-related Google penalties were becoming a widespread topic, affecting many SEOs around the world. I knew that some of the websites I was working with did black-hat stuff in the past, so I warned people around me — including the SEO agency we were paying at the time — that something bad would have happened if we had not removed a large amount of suspicious backlinks.

Leave them alive, we’re doing good right now

That’s the answer I received. I may have lacked persuasiveness, but that’s it. Guess what happened few months later? I think you can easily imagine the rest of the story.

2. We’re better than our competitors

This is a dangerous one. Being aware of your strength is fine, but remember that web marketing is an ever-changing environment: you have to evolve together with your ecosystem if you want stay on the top of the food chain.

You might be the king now, but what about the future? Innovation is the key to preserve your status and maintain your hard-earned primacy over time. You can’t just sit down and peacefully contemplate your creation. It’s a very plain concept, often dismissed for a detrimental sense of superiority.

You don’t have to fear your competitors: surely, though, you have to secretly spy on them, monitoring all their moves — even the ones that now may seem dumb to you — because sometimes they simply could have more foresight than you.

Why are they building links in that niche area? Why are they developing fresh content on that new topic? Why are they abandoning that specific SEO technique they had been following for years?

Watch out: growing is hard but falling is so damn easy.

3. Mobile version? No thanks

Thankfully today everyone is overcoming this, but it has been a main topic of my career. Once, developing the mobile version of a website seemed unnecessary, a luxury you couldn’t afford or even a mere waste of time.

Chances are that many of you — SEOs, developers, marketers — in the past few years had to struggle to convince someone higher than you of the (future) advantages of the “mobile shift”. However, today we have a lot of data supporting us: I’ll report here only one very meaningful picture about that.

Total digital media time spent by platform
Image from comscore.com

Regarding SEO, the point of no return was reached in April 2015, when Google started to show the “Mobile friendly” tag in SERPs next to the pages that were optimized for mobile devices. I think this is only the first big step for mobile SEO, but on its own a very strong statement indeed:

Isn’t your site mobile friendly? Then I will (implicitly) discourage users from visiting it.

You can easily understand that those who began optimizing for mobile years ago have now a strong competitive advantage, thanks to the experience they have gained in an area that is rapidly becoming the main battleground for marketing people.

4. Our website doesn’t need a restyle

I strongly believe that doing SEO without a good product is as difficult (and useless) as doing it without a solid user experience and an attractive website. It’s really funny to see how many people still don’t understand that SEO is not like cheating the search engine and handling a free and easy traffic source, but rather it’s a complex and critical process that in order to succeed must be deeply involved and blended in the whole marketing strategy.

There are many ways in which user experience can affect SEO. UX concerns the complete path users go through while using a service or visiting a site, and this is also a matter of design. That’s why having a site that looks like an ugly bunch of text, links and impersonal graphics nowadays is like taking part in a formal meeting with a nerdy t-shirt hoping that people will be willing to listen to you.

Basically, my personal view of how today’s SEO merges with user experience and web design is based on these two beliefs:

  • Google is getting better and better at understanding the real meaning of a query, and its capability to algorithmically perceive quality signals (that often depend on graphics and design too) in order to satisfy the user’s intent is increasing;
  • human quality raters have been taking a very important role in recent years and their way of judging a page/site/resource is obviously influenced by user experience as a whole.

5. We’ve always done it this way

Simply one of the most dangerous thing one could ever say about his job. It’s the opposite of the idea of evolution and it doesn’t relate only to marketing or SEO of course. The peculiarities of our job, though, require the special skill of getting things done quickly (and updating them frequently), so this tribute to immobilism surely doesn’t fit the needs of those who found their success on the constant development and improvement of their product.

The inventor of the phrase “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” would be proud of this way of thinking, and it speaks for itself so much I won’t add anything else. Just don’t enter that state of mind, please.