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Inbound Marketing Blog

    Rand Fishkin on the Irrational Biases of SEO

    Posted by Jasmine Henry

    Rand Rocks: Inbound Keynote

    Playing by the rules won't always get you ahead. Rand Fishkin, leading SEO expert, implores small businesses to consider whether their biases might be irrational. Turn out, women on major Internet dating sites have a tendency to focus on men who are 5'9'' or taller, and inbound marketers also focus on some old schools of thought when it comes to optimizing their sites for search.

    Fishkin's credo in a keynote speech at Hubspot's Inbound 12 conference in Boston of Choose Short Men, is a little weird but it worked. Sometimes removing irrational biases can yield exceptional results, just Fishkin's female co-worker who ditched the bias and ultimately married her perfect match, who happened to be a man 1/2 inch shorter than her. We won't be covering all of Fishkin's 12 examples of irrational biases that can hold your company back from achieving amazing results, but we'll share a few of our favorites:

    Irrational Bias: You Need to Rank #1 

    Fishkin blew this myth out of the water. Don't worry, he never tried to argue that you should market your product on the second page of Google. Search engines need to be able to find you and 75% of searchers never click to the second page of results, but the eye isn't always drawn towards the top spot. Eye-candy and social search have changed the value of pure numerical ranking, and the number one spot might suffer if it's not the prettiest. Here's a real-life example of this irrational bias from my search of the long tail phrase "Inbound Marketing Help:"

    Inbound Marketing top search results









    In this case pictured above where I searched "Inbound Marketing Help", the second Google result is just more appealing. It's multimedia, a video from Hubspot, and the meta description is chock-full of potent words. The eye of the Google user is drawn towards the second search result because it's bigger, better and more fun-looking.

    Other factors that can play heavily in how much traffic your site is drawing are illustrated below:

    rand fishkin factors infl-uence click-through rate

    If your search results are #2, don't despair. Adding a photo and your blog URL to your Google Plus profile, enabling ratings and using multi-media content can give your search results winning appeal, even if they're #2 or #3 for a query.

    Irrational Bias: If You Don't Go Viral, It's All Over

    So, here's the thing according to Rand Fishkin: viral is kind of a mystery. Not even the experts have figured out what types of content tend to spark a hundred thousand shares on Facebook or a chain of retweets. Too often, marketers think that if their carefully-planned infographic doesn't go wild, they should hang it up and get back to the drawing board. If you earned 3 retweets the first time you distributed the content, chances are that it won't hurt to try again. An irrational bias that can prevent your company from achieving the exceptional is viewing going viral as a single-shot.

    Repacking and retweeting your evergreen content isn't redundant or pushy, it's downright smart. It's critical to be active on social media in order to get noticed at all. While the average life expectancy of each Tweet can vary significantly according to your reach, it's probably somewhere around 25 minutes. And that's if your lucky. It's a best practice for businesses to schedule Tweets hourly, 24/7 and it's not realistic to recycle a single blog post 24 consecutive times. Mix up your social media content with questions, new content and evergreen content. You could find yourself pleasantly surprised about what goes viral and when. If you're still feeling a little skeptical, check out the example below from Fishkin's own company:

    going viral isn't a single shot

    It took four re-launches of a single piece of content for SEOMoz to claim the #1 search result for "SEO Guide."

    Irrational Bias: It's Sketchy to Buy Links

    Links count for a lot - probably about 70% more than your on-page SEO strategy. Just to be clear, it's pretty sketchy to buy links if your entire goal is SEO. Forming strategic partnerships and networking is really great business, and you'll likely get some links out of it. Asking to generate a few links while sponsoring a local event you really believe in isn't a bad practice.

    sponsoring events is a non-sketchy way to build inbound links

    The above image from Fishkin's keynote presentation is a fabulous example of non-sketchy link building. For food companies, sponsoring a food blogging conference will effectively expand their networks, generate buzz and generate some inbound links that really matter.

    We're not recommending that you go out and stop pursuing a good search ranking, consider some sketchy link-building practices or keep promoting content that just hasn't gone over well with your social media profiles. Examine your rules and content through the filter of common sense, ditch your biases and continually strive for the exceptional.

    For full access to the slides from Fishkin's keynote speech at Hubspot's Inbound 12 keynote August 28th at the Hynes Convention Center in Boston, see here.

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    Topics: SEO