Don’t Overdo the Tweaking

Clients can easily become obsessed with on-page SEO, constantly tweaking title tags, headings, and on-page content. While these activities are important at the right place and time, people shouldn’t get obsessed with it. Do the necessary work up front, make some decisions, and then move on.

Tweaking on-page content on existing pages quickly begins to offer you diminishing returns. In addition, you probably have limited resources for SEO. As a result, every minute you spend tweaking (and re-tweaking) on-page factors is a minute you don’t spend on promoting the Web site (collectively this includes link building, PR, and social media reference building).

Unlike on-page SEO, Web site promotion nearly always continues to offer good returns. The only exception to this is if your site is dominant in the SERPs in your space.

If your site is dominant, invest energy in staying there. Web promotion still offers the most bang for the buck. The ROI in this latter scenario comes from lowering the cost of sustaining your dominance.


To help further define this point, let’s look at some exceptions:

  1. New Page Creation: Whenever you create a new page (or set of pages), you should do the keyword research and competitive analysis for your new pages. It’s a critical activity.
  2. New Knowledge: As time goes by, you learn. You may learn that certain keywords are much higher performing than the ones that you originally targeted. This can lead to a situation where it makes sense to tweak some of your pages to target those new keywords, or create new pages.
  3. Conversion Optimization: This is the science of testing different site implementations and how they affect the site’s ability to meet its goals (does one layout of a Web page, or set of pages, convert better than another one?). You should explore this greatly underutilized area of online marketing if you aren’t already.

However, it can lead to your tweaking titles, headings, and content, and can therefore have a significant impact on SEO. This is definitely a time to analyze the SEO impact of changes recommended as a result of the conversion optimization process. You don’t want to increase your conversion by 50 percent if it cuts your traffic in half.

Add Discipline to Your Tweaking?

If you want to invest heavily in tweaking, you may want to make it a disciplined process. Do your initial keyword research, make some decisions, establish a baseline for your performance, and then let it ride for three or four months. Then try an alternative set of titles and headings and content for key pages and measure what impact this has on the results.

However, this is difficult to execute for two major reasons:

  1. This disciplined methodology assumes that you aren’t making other changes during the time period of the test. Most likely, however, you’re going to actively seek new inbound links to your site, and new inbound links are going to affect your rankings and traffic. Standing pat on your link profile is pretty much always a mistake. In addition, the disciplined methodology also assumes that your competitors aren’t making changes at the same time, an unlikely prospect.
  2. The search engine algorithms can change during that period of time, perhaps more than once. Google constantly tests different parameters that drive their algorithms on a daily basis.

Bottom line: the playing field is constantly shifting. You can’t afford to sit still and wait three months without promoting your Web site to see how your rankings and traffic respond to on-page changes. There is just too much at stake.


Don’t interpret this column as saying you shouldn’t worry about on-page factors such as titles, headings, and on-page content. It’s a critical activity. Just don’t obsess over it.

Take your on-page optimization seriously, but treat it like a project. Once the project is done, most of your focus should be on creating great content, building a great Web site experience, and promoting it.

Join us for SES Chicago on December 7-11, 2009. Now in its 11th year, the only major Search Marketing Conference and Expo in the Midwest will be packed with 70+ sessions covering PPC management, keyword research, Search Engine Optimization (SEO), social media, local, mobile, link building, duplicate content, video optimization and usability, while offering high-level strategy, keynotes, an exhibit floor, networking events and more.

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