Why I gave up on SEO

posted | about 3 minutes to read

tags: internet marketing search engine optimization web design natural traffic growth

When I rebuilt this site earlier this year, one of the big changes I decided to make was that I wouldn’t bother with SEO. Quite frankly, I didn’t really see the point of it; before, I was at least in part using the blog to market myself as a professional, and for the last couple of years I haven’t had any reason to do that as I’m quite happy with where I’m at. (Also, I worked doing system administration at a digital marketing firm for a good long while, and a lot of the industry philosophy around chasing site rankings and traffic, I think, rubbed off on me. It took me a while to shake off the instinct.) Giving it up, I felt, really freed me up to focus on writing what I wanted to write rather than focusing so intensely on tech blogging or worrying about keyword density (this is the dumbest, most tedious thing to have to think about when you’re trying to write about something interesting). Not caring about trying to drive traffic really increased my interest in writing in general. It’s also, I think, made the reading experience on the page a lot more pleasant! By not having a bunch of superfluous scripts and analytics and stuff like that, the pages load faster, they’re smaller, and I can focus on the parts of the site that actually matter - the blog posts and the site features surrounding them.

This also keeps my costs down. The move to serverless brought my hosting needs down from an always-on server for a minimum of $5 a month to just hosting some static files and spinning up a CI pipeline on-demand to update them when I publish a site change. (There are some other costs like the occasional Lambda execution for the contact form or the comments section, but those are negligible.) All told, my hosting for this site cost me less than thirty cents last month, and regardless of traffic fluctuations month-to-month, I haven’t seen any big jumps in that cost.

I do want to touch on a couple of things that might interest other people reading this and who might need another push into writing real, genuine content: like I said, I don’t use any tracking scripts or analytics, but AWS CloudFront naturally gives me some aggregated traffic stats, and my site’s traffic has increased - by a lot - since I made these changes. Back in the WordPress days, my biggest days were something like 30 or 40 page visits, total, outside some of the really crazy spikes. Now, after all these changes, that’s a slow day for me. I’m not sure whether it’s the more natural writing style or the change in blog focus that’s drawn people, but either way I think it’s a testament to writing from the heart rather than analyzing every word.

Also, and certainly this isn’t a perfect or particularly scientific comparison, but after publishing on the new site for about two months, I ego-searched myself on Google in an incognito window and found myself in the top spot, which is something I never achieved with the old site no matter how much I tried. Again, not optimizing for search anymore, just writing what interests me now. I think this is really telling, and something that a lot of folks should really take to heart when they think about what they want to achieve with their websites.

Think about your users’ experience when you build your site. Don’t build some script-heavy monstrosity if you don’t have a good reason to. Most of all, write genuinely and from the heart. That’s honestly what matters - and if you care about traffic, it’ll come with time.