On-page search engine optimization is foundational to an online marketing strategy. But what happens when the optimizing reaches diminishing returns?
To be sure, SEO will exist as long as folks use Google or any search engine to discover web pages. Organic search is a primary driver of site traffic.
Technical SEO is ongoing, focusing on server optimization and site speed, as examples. Content marketing, which often relies on search for discovery, is also ongoing.
But this doesn’t mean that some SEO activities, including some on-page SEO tactics, won’t reach a point when the incremental value added is not worth the effort.
Suppose a business is focused only on Google search and finds itself incessantly worried about link equity (or link juice). In that case, that company may have reached just such a spot.
The idea here is not that inter-links are unimportant, but at some point, rearranging navigation to get an extra ounce of link juice is probably not worth the squeeze. There are many other things a company can do to engage its audience.
John Muller, a webmaster trends analyst at Google, made a comment a couple of years back that helped spark this sort of discussion.
He responded to a tweet that asked about site navigation and link equity.
“I want to pass link juice of my home page to my category pages. Where should I place my category pages, in the navigation menu or in the home page content?” the tweet read.
Muller’s response: “I’d forget everything you read about ‘link juice.’ It’s very likely all obsolete, wrong, and/or misleading. Instead, build a website that works well for your users.”
A few SEO practitioners, including Roger Montti and Barry Schwartz, noted that a business could improve organic search rankings with strategies other than link juice — whether a link has more juice in navigation or content.
Think of it this way: if your goal was to get 10,000 more visitors each month, how much time would you need to optimize URL structures, manipulate internal links, and fiddle with title tags, and at what cost?
Traffic and Engagement
SEO is not the only marketing discipline that can increase traffic. Other marketing tactics, sometimes complementary, can achieve the same objective.
Improve site speed. It’s likely worthwhile to focus on technical SEO rather than on-page. A faster website can result in higher rankings (site speed is now a component of Google’s algorithm) and also improve user experience.
Double down on keyword research. Develop keyword-optimized content to attract, engage, and retain the sort of customers your business needs.
Develop an email newsletter. Editorial newsletters are experiencing a renaissance. Email platforms such as Substack have built an entire business around it. At the beginning of 2022, the company reportedly had more than 500,000 customers paying to read newsletters.
It is not unreasonable to grow a newsletter list quickly. Sahil Bloom, an investor, podcaster, and newsletter author, grew his list to more than 100,000 in just a couple of years.
Create affiliate relationships. Merchants engaged in modern affiliate marketing often seek relationships with creators and influencers who produce content, have an engaged audience, and are willing to endorse products. Think about the value of an expert in your industry explaining the merits of your products.
Don’t Skip SEO
In no way am I suggesting a business should cease a robust internal linking strategy. But at a certain point, toiling over internal links won’t produce as much organic search benefit as alternative measures.