Knowing Why Is As Important As What

A thought occurred to me yesterday, that I just had to tweet,

“One of the biggest causes of SEO mistakes is because people know what to do but not why they need to do it”.

I had a load of great responses to this, but still felt like I needed to elaborate on it a little, so here goes.

There are so many things that I see people recommending for SEO that are not relevant for the site they have been recommended for. Robots.txt files are the example that always springs to mind, it’s not uncommon to see someone state something along the lines of “your site has not robots.txt file and one should be added”. Why? If the site doesn’t want to exclude any specific bots, or prevent any content from being indexed, why would it need the file? The only thing that is accomplished by having a site that doesn’t need one, upload a robots.txt file is wasting a developers time somewhere, probably meaning that something far more important doesn’t get implemented.

This also effects prioritisation of tasks, lets face it, most clients have a limited resource for implementation, and sometimes you have to sacrifice something that is a nice to have in favour of the must haves, but unless you understand why optimisations are required, and what they contribute to the whole, how can those decisions be made effectively? How do you know what to fight for, and what to concede?

This issue is never more keenly felt for me than when I am trying to recruit, a recent candidate told me they had set up a blog for SEO on a site, but on questioning couldn’t tell me why that would help, or what else would need doing to make that an effective strategy, they knew the what, but not the why,  so the strategy was doomed to fail, and next time someone suggests a blog to that business, they will respond that it has been tried and failed.

Understanding the whys comes back to questioning, testing and never accepting other people’s assertions blindly, for me that’s what makes the difference every time.

Thanks to


for joining in the conversation yesterday

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