Dr. House Lupus Meme
Source: Ocafe
I sometimes get asked by potential clients to only look at a specific part of their site that is not getting as much organic traffic as the client wants.  While there are all sorts of strategies you can apply to parts of a site to improve its potential for attracting more search traffic, this way of thinking ignores a fundamental part of how SEO works.

Many of my clients will tell you that I often invoke Dr. House as a metaphor for how SEO diagnoses work.  You review the patient, come up with some theories that apply to your past experience, start treatment and see how Google reacts.  When it works, all is well.  When it doesn’t, at least you’ve probably eliminated some issues as potential sources of the problem.  So it’s not Lupus.  Now you have fewer options to hone in on which makes solving the problem hopefully easier.  Rinse and repeat.

So if you find yourself walking into Dr. House’s clinic complaining about a head cold, depending on how things have been going for him in that episode, he might just give you some aspirin and kick you out.  In which case, in the next scene you’d probably be shown collapsing at your kid’s soccer game.  If House had not been distracted during your first visit, he would have done a more thorough examination and discovered you had brain cancer.  He then probably would have pulled out a cordless drill and had you fixed up in a jiffy.

What I’m getting at is, if you focus on fixing the SEO on just one part of the site, you risk missing the SEO cancer that is present on another part of the site.  With large, complex sites, this is the case almost 99% of the time.  The search engines take your entire site into account when figuring out how to rank it.  So something awry on section A could seriously hamper section B’s ability to rank.  

For a SEO consultant to agree that they’ll only work on one part of the site without at least investigating if there are technical issues throughout the site is SEO malpractice.

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9 Response Comments

  • Ethan B  October 11, 2012 at 5:11 pm

    I agree. It’s not only bad business it can also be bad FOR business. If you ignore an obvious error that comes to their attention later then your credibility as an expert is shot.

    In keeping with your metaphor, doctors don’t usually let patients diagnose themselves.

  • Miguel Salcido  October 12, 2012 at 10:49 am

    I couldn’t agree more. But the biggest issue in doing this and one that makes it difficult to do for clients is that it takes about 3-6 months to see the results of things that you are doing. So then it doesn’t work, so you employ a different strategy, and there’s another 3-6 months of the client’s budget.

    Clients HATE waiting, which is what makes SEO such a tough sell when its such a great channel. This is also why companies have taken to PPC so keenly.

    How do you deal with the time issue? We simply don’t have alot of it in SEO, and need all that we can get.

  • Andrew Shotland  October 12, 2012 at 11:49 am

    If you’re client doesn’t understand the time period required for SEO projects to pay off and you have not been able to explain that to them up front, you definitely may have some issues.

  • Phil Rozek  October 12, 2012 at 4:56 pm

    Well, obviously the only way to make sure your SEO consultant makes a thorough and correct diagnosis is to keep him stocked-up on his Vicodin.

    That’s especially true of in-House SEOs (sorry…couldn’t resist).

  • Andrew Shotland  October 12, 2012 at 4:58 pm

    Thanks for stopping by Phil! Sorry I spaced on the article. Too many patients in the waiting room 🙂

  • Silver Smith  October 12, 2012 at 8:43 pm

    Obviously, having worked with a number of patients in SEO over time — I mean CLIENTS — you and I have become similarly jaded.

    Unlike House, however, I doubt either you or I have come close to killing clients in order to fix them! At least, the clients who listen and follow advice, that is!

  • Mark Walters  November 9, 2012 at 8:32 pm

    Definitely true. How much clients are willing to pay is a big factor though. You wouldn’t expect a top private doctor to perform a thorough examination for the price of an aspirin. Still, I would at least browse the site as a whole for 5-10 minutes and make some recommendations, even if they were initially certain that they only wanted one aspect of it working on.

  • Rudy  November 27, 2012 at 9:33 am

    Well , i do not totally agree with this. This might be true for some sites but overall it depends upon the scope of work and budget. Like for sites having some 50 or more country level sub domains , consultants are often required to work for a specific region on a specific sub domain .

  • Andrew Shotland  November 27, 2012 at 9:50 am

    I see your point Rudy, but if the root has some screwed up tech issue, it could prevent your subdomain stuff from working.