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While practising for my driving test, my instructor was always spouting jewels of wisdom. He also smoked too much and once nearly drove us into a traffic light but I guess nobody’s perfect.

Anyway, one of the themes that came up again and again was 'defensive driving', which Wikipedia helpfully defines as 'driving to save lives, time, and money, in spite of the conditions around you and the actions of others'.

As a PR, I’ve spent a little time over the years considering how I’d describe my recommended approach to SEO, and I think a similarly 'defensive' approach is what works best for me.

Some of those who dole out advice around search are offering something more along the lines of a sportscar with one of those snazzy 90s devices that let you detect speed cameras and a map of shortcuts.

The thing is, those speed cameras are just automated systems set up by the real people who make the rules, the police themselves. And they won’t stop you from being pulled over and reprimanded by the real deal. The law always catches up with you.

Call me naive, but when I hear the police say they have society’s best interests at heart, I believe them. And I believe the same thing when it comes to Google. It genuinely intends to create algorithms that surface the most relevant, timely content.

So, trying to play it smart and get manipulative to beat the system playing by your own rules is, at best, a short term fix.

Instead, my advice to anyone creating content online today is that the most important thing is to have an understanding of your vehicle and make sure you don’t run into any easy mistakes.

Practice 'defensive SEO'. Knowledge will empower you more than paying some goon thousands to work their black magic behind the scenes. And with that knowledge, you can make sure you hire advisors with the same long term attitude.

Giving examples of defensive SEO becomes a little tricky, because it's largely about acting normal. Such as:

  • Don't obsess about cramming paragraphs with keywords but do consider consistency between an article's title, category and tags.
  • Don't binge across the web getting meaningless guest posts around content that effectively says nothing.
  • Write for your mate's blog because you have something on your mind or put together an article worthy of a proper publication and pitch it in to them.
  • Work on your *ideas* strategy.

I’m not saying all dedicated SEO professionals fit into one category or the other. As with PR or any other industry, they’re a mixed bunch and often it’s about finding the one with the skillset for you. And they may drive you into lamp posts sometimes like my instructor.

But ultimately, if you have the right assistance, combined with your own understanding of how to drive the thing, you should be able to pass the test.

Maximilian Tatton-Brown

Published 29 October, 2013 by Maximilian Tatton-Brown

Max Tatton-Brown is Founding Director of Augur, and writes about what's next in the world of technology, marketing and startups. He is a contributor to Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or Google Plus

17 more posts from this author

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Nick Stamoulis

It's hard to play the game when the only one with the rulebook also has the power to change those rules! But I agree with you. Trying to take shortcuts and use loopholes to your advantage might work in the short term but one day those avenues are going to be closed. Where will that leave you and your SEO?

almost 3 years ago

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Dare

Hi Maximilian Taton,

Defensive SEO is the new modern SEO. The title of your post coincides relatively well with the latest Google Hummingbird algorithm change.

My perspective and understanding on this is that defensive SEO is all about playing safe not to incur Google's wrath. It's basically embracing a white hat approach.

almost 3 years ago

Maximilian Tatton-Brown

Maximilian Tatton-Brown, Founding Director, Augur at Augur

Hi guys, glad it strikes the right note for you. It's may starting point for advice to companies, even if they have to embellish down the line.

almost 3 years ago

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Nic Cohen

Hi Maximilian

Superb read and some excellent advice!

Your title did certainly grab me, it did initially made me assume the article was going to be about a protection plan against negative SEO and or from being put under attack by a competitor... as unfortunately I have seen quite a rise in the number of companies being targeted and the problems being that these links are usually untraceable before the damage is done!

So based upon the above, any chance of another "Defensive SEO" article??

Thanks again!!

Regards,

Nic

almost 3 years ago

Maximilian Tatton-Brown

Maximilian Tatton-Brown, Founding Director, Augur at Augur

Hi Nic,

Stay tuned, there's likely more to come in this area. Being from a PR background, my attitude to SEO is always likely to be focused on fighting your way out of it with quality content and activity that Google's genuinely looking for. Not easy but often with a broad range of benefits.

almost 3 years ago

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Imtiyaz Ahmad

Hi Maximulian, I am a new reader of this blog and your blog title certainly stopped me here.

I agree with Nick It's not an easy game and there are no others' strong shortcuts or loopholes in SEO (I wish I could find it in the future).

After reading your post, I am adding your few ideas in my work(will implement in my next SEO strategy).
Great post and looking for the next one..

almost 3 years ago

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Michael Greenwood

A good article especially in Google's Hummingbird algo update. I like that 'defensive SEO'.

almost 3 years ago

Maximilian Tatton-Brown

Maximilian Tatton-Brown, Founding Director, Augur at Augur

Thanks for the comments guys -- sometimes just improving the metaphor for these things can actually help non-techies implement it more consistently.

almost 3 years ago

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