“Predictable SEO” – Why This Phrase Fires Me Up

There are a lot of things that fire me up. People leaving their shopping carts in the middle of a parking lot. Drivers not using their blinker. Bright phone screens in a dark movie theatre (I miss those days!). People telling me I look like the mom from Home Alone (true story).

Add something else now to the list.

I got an email yesterday that fired me up.

It was from an SEO software company, and it said this: 

“SEO and marketing are NOT about guesswork. They are all about analytical data, correlations, predefined actions, A/B tests, and effective content that works. Want to make your SEO predictive and controllable?”


This messaging made me outraged but also made me laugh. SEO is about the LEAST predictable channel out there. Believe me, I’ve thought about Googling “how can I transition to a predictable job” as SEO makes you want to beat your head against a wall sometimes. Although I’m fairly confident “predictable career” is an oxymoron itself.

 I’m not denying the effectiveness of tools, analytics, A/B tests, etc. And I’m not saying making SEO more predictable isn’t the dream. I’m just saying that it all starts with guesswork. Educated, informed guesswork is what it’s all about. 

Sure, predictable SEO used to exist. But that was in the dark days of SEO 10+ years ago when spammy tactics ruled the game as did formulas like keyword density and working your keyword in exactly xx amount of times.

What Do SEOs Talk About Behind Closed Doors? (Hint: it’s NOT “Predictable SEO”)

When I get together with SEO colleagues, we share war stories and show our battle scars of being in the trenches. We eagerly listen to ideas that work, and if lucky, we share learning lessons from initiatives and tests that didn’t work.

What we do NOT do, is sit around sharing “insider secrets” and “predictable strategies.” As much as I wish there were secrets, there aren’t. Sure, there are best practices and non-negotiable elements. But what works for one website and one organization is in NO way guaranteed to work for another. This is because of the different critical factors around:

  • Your target market; who you’re trying to attract, and how they respond. Also, how urgent their need is to address a pain point. How interactive and engaging they are with your brand.
  • The level of competition around your keywords and the savviness of your competitors
  • The elements that Google decides to display in the SERPS that compete for your audience’s attention and where they click. Your keywords may be dominated by YouTube videos or local map packs, for example, while another industry’s set of keywords may present 10 glorious little blue organic links. 
  • Technical capabilities and CMS functionalities. What one organization may be able to do accomplish quickly because of a good CMS, another may have to wait 6 months for as their SEO requests get put into a queue.

Expert SEOs Have This One Trait: They Guess Better and Faster

What is true, is the longer you do SEO, the better you get at guessing. And the quicker you can rebound if something doesn’t work. The quicker you can research and get the answer you need. The quicker you are at execution, and the quicker you are at identifying what’s repeatable and knowing what is not. 

As someone who is constantly encouraging others to get into SEO action, I find the comment that “SEO isn’t guesswork” insulting. SEO is all about making your best-educated guess with the data points you’ve got. And then adjusting and enhancing as you go.

I get that this company is hawking their wares, but to say that SEO and marketing are not about guesswork seems crazy. What do you think? 

Agree? Disagree? 

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Jenny Munn

Jenny is an independent Digital Marketer and SEO Consultant with more than 10 years of experience helping companies and content creators generate brand awareness, traffic, and conversions with SEO. She is a frequent speaker and is on the faculty for the AMA (American Marketing Association) and has taught SEO to thousands of marketers over the past 10 years.

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