Poking the Bear – A Classic SEO Tale
If you’ve been in the SEO game long enough (and especially in an agency/client scenario), you’re familiar with the game of “poke the bear” that we all regularly play with search engines: make a change to the site, wait for the search engines to pick up the change, then monitor for positive, neutral or negative effects. If you’re lucky, you have years of experience or good tutelage, and you know that the bear really likes for you to scratch behind its left ear. Or you make site changes with wild abandon only to find that poking the bear in the eye is a guaranteed trip to the ER, and you’ll be lucky if your rankings ever recover.
But the reality of many SEOs’ experiences is somewhere in between. Once we’ve done baseline best practice optimizations, we then move into the realm of hypothesis: trying to divine what will work for our sites and niches based on our prior experience, SERP analysis, competitive analysis, and the fragments of a million SEO blog posts that are floating around in the back of our brains. Based on these hypotheses, we make incremental changes to our sites and “poke the bear.” Sometimes, the “GoogleBear” is affable and rewarding. Other times it is quite grumpy. Sometimes it’s slow to respond. Other times it reacts with lightning speed. And many times, it stares back emotionless and blinking, as if to question why we thought any of this would make a difference in the first place.