How to Waste Time on SEO Activities

As a general rule, search engine optimization consultants are activity-focused. They typically suggest a huge laundry list of various activities to perform. Perhaps the list is prioritized, but nonetheless it is frequently chock full of action items. Unfortunately, many of these activities won’t really move the SEO needle that much. Consequently, you end up spending your time ticking the low-value activities off the list they provided.

If you’re expending effort on action items that don’t have significant return on investment — like writing meta tags and tweaking keyword density and building out a comprehensive robots.txt file — you’re leaving a lot of money on the table. Moreover, there are complete myths surrounding SEO that do nothing for your organic search rankings. I’ve addressed these elsewhere, in “36 SEO Myths That Won’t Die But Need To.” They include:

  • XML sitemaps help Google rankings. Simply not true.
  • Exchanging links boosts rankings. Also not true.
  • Home page content must be updated daily. Again, not true.

Focus on the Outcome

The secret to success is to become outcome-focused. Identify your ultimate outcome or goal, then concentrate on that outcome with laser-like focus. Once you achieve it, you set a new goal rather than resort to working down the list of lower return activities. Outcome focused goals could include, for example:

  1. Increase Google-delivered organic traffic by 200 percent over the next three months.
  2. Decrease the cost-per-lead from $50 to $20 in the second quarter.
  3. Improve return-on-investment on SEO from 5:1 to 10:1 over the next three months.

SEO Arrows

Think about SEO activities as arrows in your quiver to reach your outcome. You may only need to use a few of those arrows. When you’ve reached your target, stop using those arrows. Instead, come up with a new outcome — an even more audacious goal — and see if you can hit that one, too.

So you may never get around to those XML Sitemaps tweaks, but that’s okay. The world won’t end because of it. And you’ll be building the value of your online business.

Which leads me to one more point of critical importance. A business owner should always be working on building the asset value of his or her business. By doing so, you are executing on your exit strategy.

If you don’t have an exit strategy, you have a very expensive job — meaning it’s a job you can never quit, one with terrible hours, full of stress, with rare or nonexistent vacations, and paychecks that may or may not come depending on the cash flow of the business (you pay yourself last, right?). I heard this from business and life coach Tony Robbins at one of his events recently, and — in my case — it’s so true.


Most ecommerce businesses rely on traffic from search engines. It’s easy, therefore, to fall prey to search consultants who suggest a myriad of activities to grow that traffic. But many of these tactics — in my experience — are simply a waste of time. By focusing on tangible outcomes, you can grow your revenues and stay focused on what’s important.

Stephan Spencer
Stephan Spencer
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