Everything seems to be going well in your search engine optimization (SEO) campaign. You’ve had a few hiccups, sure, but overall, you’re on a solid growth trajectory, and things are only going to get better from here. You even have reports that can back you up.
But here’s the thing: your perception may not reflect the objective truth of the health of your SEO campaign. As with many things, when it comes to SEO, we tend to fall victim to one or more of a number of cognitive biases.
Cognitive biases are natural byproducts of the way our brains work, and they exist in nearly everybody as subtle factors that distort the way we think. These are just some of the ones that could impact your perceptions of your campaign:
- Confirmation bias. Confirmation bias makes you disproportionately favor evidence that supports your underlying assumptions, and dismiss or devalue evidence that serves to contradict it. In practice, let’s say you start evaluating your monthly performance with the assumption that you’ve been doing better than you did last month. You might point out key metrics that have improved, while ignoring metrics that have declined, or coming up with excuses for why they’ve declined.
- Anchoring. Anchoring is a complex phenomenon that makes you rely too heavily on the first piece of information you see. In the context of an SEO campaign, you might hear that your department is looking for 1,000 monthly organic visitors, and use that as the basis of your comparison with the actual metrics. If you get 1,100 visitors, you’ll consider your campaign a success—even if you could have gotten 1,600 visitors with a better strategy in place.
- Salience. Salience bias makes you disproportionately favor pieces of information that are prominent over ones that are less noticeable. For example, if there’s one black sheep in a herd of 100 white sheep, your attention will naturally be drawn to it. Chances are, you’ll zoom into the most noticeable metrics, graphs, and charts in your report, potentially undermining less noticeable figures. Combined with confirmation bias and/or a bit of optimism, you’ll be less likely to notice metrics that work against you.
- The bandwagon effect. We’re social creatures, and we often tend to do things just because other people are doing them. If your team leader or department head believes that your SEO campaign is getting results, it’s easy to be lulled into that state of thinking.
Complacency and Stagnation
You might also be deceiving yourself about your campaign’s health and progress because you’re complacent with any positive news. For example, let’s say you take over a campaign that’s been running for a year, and each month, you see an increase of 50 monthly organic visitors, on average.
Depending on what you’re investing, this might represent a positive ROI, so you’ll likely think that what you’re doing is working, and you’ll keep doing it.
The problem with this is that it ignores your potential gains, and potential growth. What if you could spend the same amount of money and see increases of 200 monthly visitors per month? Or 300? What if 50 is well below the average for your industry?
Resistance to Change
Some search optimizers also believe their work is good enough because they don’t want to do anything different, or don’t know how to change their tactics up in a significant way.
They’re used to one set of strategies, and one approach; to admit that the campaign isn’t working is to welcome a massive strategic and procedural change, which is an unpleasant idea for pretty much anybody.
Strategies to Improve
Here’s the good news. Just because you’ve fallen victim to these traps in the past doesn’t mean you have to fall victim to them in the future.
These are just some strategies you can use to improve:
- Prove yourself wrong. The scientific method works because it forces people to put their beliefs and assumptions to the test. Work against your cognitive biases by intentionally trying to prove yourself wrong. Look for evidence that specifically contradicts your position, and metrics that show a lack of growth. If you can’t find any after an exhaustive search, you can probably rest comfortably knowing your campaign is healthy.
- Keep changing things. Experimentation is a good thing for SEO. Try out new strategies, new approaches, and new ways of doing things. You never know what a simple change can do for your campaign, and if you switch things up consistently, you’ll never become complacent.
- Look for flaws and fault points. Dig into your flaws. Even if you don’t think there’s anything inherently “wrong” with your campaign, look for something that can be improved. There’s always room for growth and refinement.
- Get multiple different opinions. Who are you usually talking to about the nature of your campaign? Talking to a more diverse pool of experts can expose you to different perspectives you may not have considered. And looking for advice and pointers outside your team might free you from the bandwagon effect, especially if everyone internally is on board with the idea that your campaign is perfect the way it is.
SEO is a complex strategy, with hundreds of interdependent variables to measure and a constant need to challenge your assumptions.
Trusting your instincts and first impressions isn’t good enough if you want an accurate view of the health of your campaign; you’ll have to dig deeper to find a truly objective, unbiased look at your progress.[“Source-forbes”]