How SEO is like a 401k Portfolio

By BKV in Analytics & Information on July 11th, 2011

The days of SEO being branded...

as “magic” or “trickery” are not gone but its reputation as a legitimate tactic to gain additional online leads and conversions is unquestioned at this point. Within the last few years strong experts have emerged and analogies have been developed to translate SEO terms from being techie-based into common business lingo.

SEO doesn’t need to be complex, in fact, it is very simple. All you need to do is “connect the dots.”

  • You have a keyword; you map that keyword to a particular page on a website.
  • You optimize that page as best you can, without being spammy.
  • You conduct an external linking strategy using the chosen keywords as hyperlinks to the mapped URL

Three steps, seems simple right? In a way it is. Where people and companies often go wrong is not having the ability to complete the above, in particular steps one and two.

Think of SEO as a balance between onsite and offsite work. The more work you can achieve onsite, the less work you need to do offsite. The same opposite is true as well. Except in this case it can have some very negative outcomes.

For example, do too much work offsite and you’ll potentially land your company in the press like JC Penny and did earlier in 2011. Both were examples of companies that couldn’t get it done onsite and when the pressure to continue to perform came, they decided to cut some corners. They got sloppy with their SEO and got caught.

Ironically they didn’t get caught by Google’s algorithm, but that’s a story for another day.

“SEO is Like Investing” -- Think of a 401k:

Odd analogy, but I’ve been using it for years. You want your SEO strategy to resemble your 401k. Meaning you want it to resemble an investment portfolio. You don’t want to focus too heavily in any one area. This is particularly true with offsite link building.


You need to consider how diversified you are because SEO standards are constantly changing. Focusing too hard in one area can raise red flags that can penalize you anywhere from several positions on a particular keyword, to not being found at all as an extreme.

What should you do? If you are responsible for implementing a link building strategy, then you’ll want to diversify. Just like an investment portfolio should have large cap, small cap, index funds, bonds and cash on hand, you’re link building strategy should encompass multiple diversified sources. Linking is much more than online articles and press releases. In fact,  getting results from these tactics has become increasingly difficult as more SEOs have entered the space and search engines have tightened their algorithms.

To stay ahead and keep consistent SEO gains you’ll need to think both wider and more focused. You’ll need to get more skilled. While the “secret sauce” is something that I cannot fully announce, I can attest that revisiting past traditional techniques such as RSS feeds and timely blog comments has come back into favor. Other techniques such as portals and emerging blog and social media techniques are also gaining steam. Experiment on 1-2 keyword phrases. You’d be surprised what can work. The cliché “content is king” applies more than ever, except it should be modified to say “unique content is king.”

Competitive Research & Diversifying SEO Strategy:

Consider this, what works with one client and one client’s industry, won’t necessary work for another equally. This is because each industry has a different competitive makeup. Think of this makeup as a different economic market condition. Your 401k strategy in one market will work differently than another. This is why you must constantly diversify and change things up. The search engines don’t like being embarrassed. Keeps things diversified and looking natural, focus on quality and avoid spam.


Remember the analogy, “SEO is like investing,” if something seems too good to be true, or is too quick, it probably is. If you cut corners, you put yourself at risk to have some major explaining to do if/when your rankings go belly up.

Diversify. Diversify. Diversify.