In today’s fast-paced SEO world, it’s important for every webmaster to deliver results expected by their client. It can take several months of search optimization before you start seeing results. By then, you and your team would have already performed thousands of tasks to get the site to its current ranking.
Search engine optimization is certainly not easy but thanks to the increasing number of SEO automation tools, webmasters are able to do their jobs more efficiently. They can automate tasks like keyword research, directory submission, link gathering, and more in just a few clicks. But even with the abundance of SEO automation tools, it doesn’t mean that you should have all tasks on autopilot. Some tasks still require human intervention otherwise all marketing efforts turn futile. If you fully automate your SEO, it could result in poor quality performance from your strategy.
This article will outline the tasks that need to be done manually and why they should be done as so. When you implement these steps, you can enjoy these benefits:
- You have full control over your SEO strategies.
- You can monitor each task and see whether each one is executed according to the plan.
- You maintain a quality off-page SEO profile because you handpick high quality backlinks yourself.
- Your ranking is truly organic because you’re not relying on automation to get traffic to your site.
- You become an authority in your niche as you consistently deliver compelling content that your audience is interested in.
- You maintain authentic relationships with your followers and other bloggers because your response is tailored according to their needs.
- Your network is filled with high-quality, relevant people.
- Your gain a reputation for being an authentic brand.
Let’s now take a look at the tasks that you should never automate when doing SEO.
Site audit recommendations
SEO automation tools allow you to identify issues with your site such as broken links, keyword density, page speed, duplicate content, and more. However, this data is useless without a human webmaster or site optimizer who can make recommendations.
If you already have data of your site’s issues, it’s recommended that you hand this information over to your SEO consultant or SEO company so they can make changes that can further improve your site.
There are certain parts of the keyword research process that can be automated. Some automation tools allow you to gather the top searches for that month or find out what popular keywords your top competitors are using.
After collecting this data, you would still need to manually select the right keywords. You don’t want to thoughtlessly sprinkle all of them throughout your pages without thinking about the user’s intent. User’s intent can be narrowed down into two types: informational and commercial. A user with informational intent is not ready to buy yet. They are not easy to convert into paying customers but they make up a huge chunk of keywords people search for. Commercial intent keywords, on the other hand, are from searchers who are ready to purchase. These keywords may not have a great search volume but they convert very easily.
This is how informational intent keywords look like:
- New York apartment prices
- Samsung Galaxy phone reviews
- Signs of dehydration
This is how commercial intent keywords look like:
- Buy outdoor furniture
- Coupons for swimwear
- Discount Apple phone
It’s important to distinguish keywords based on these intents so you can design your page accordingly. No bot would be able to do that. Only a human with years of experience in SEO can.
Let’s say you’re targeting a commercial intent keyword like “Buy outdoor furniture” for a certain page. A searcher who types in this keyword is ready to buy so you need to design your page in a way that makes it easy for them to purchase your product. Your page then should contain photos of the product, price, features, specifications, and an order button. By doing so, you are meeting the expectations of the searcher making them more likely to convert.
This is a part of the keyword research process that requires a lot of human decision-making therefore it shouldn’t be automated.
Link analysis is another SEO task that should be done manually. You can use software that will automatically gather links based on a criteria you have set but after that, it’s your job to qualify these links further. Some of the tasks you need to perform during link analysis include:
- Identify what outbound links the site points to
- Know how the site’s architecture is built
- Spot hidden outbound links or ‘nofollow’ outbound links
- Identify whether the site does reciprocal linking often
- Identify whether the site is part of a link network or link wheel
Only a human would be able to evaluate the motives behind the outbound links on other sites. The same analysis should also be applied to on-site links where each one is rated for quality. As a site owner, you want your site to only have high-quality links that serve purpose, and not just sit there as spam.
Link analysis cannot be done by a robot but only by a human who will examine the link and determine whether it’s a quality link or spammy link therefore it should not be automated.
While there are a lot of automation tools that let you find the most popular bloggers and determine their social influence, you would still need to manually write them a personalized message. This requires a lot of back and forth especially if you’re working with a very well-known blogger or publication. They probably have a VA or a team handling their admin tasks for them and because they receive so many emails every day, they will ignore those that look like spam.
You don’t want your message to be tagged as such so it is recommended that you manually perform this task. It takes a lot of human brainpower to come up with a compelling email that will make an influential blogger want to respond. Below are more manual tasks that you should be doing before you can write that email:
- Follow them on social media
- Examine their social profile and study their interests
- Get to know their brand and their blog
- Engage with their posts by commenting or liking
- Pitch a topic that would be beneficial for the both of you
Once you’re done studying your favorite blogger and making your presence known to them, it’s time to craft a personalized email. This is where you need to be strategic as not all bloggers will appreciate being pitched to the first time. Some of them require you to build a relationship with them first before they consider your idea.
For some bloggers, they prefer being asked directly in which case, you should provide a proposal that will be mutually beneficial for the both of you. Bots cannot build rapport with humans therefore blogger outreach is something that you should do yourself or better yet, hire someone who can do it for you.
Content creation can be automated by scraping content from other websites and spinning it into brand new articles to be published on one’s blog. This is called content spinning and it’s one of the oldest blackhat tricks that lazy marketers use.
Here’s an example of original human-written content taken from NY Mag.
Psychologists who study political belief and persuasion think it’s adorable how obsessed argumentative people are with those cute little things called facts. When it comes to winning arguments, truthfulness and details simply don’t matter as much as we think they do.
Here’s how it looks like after going through a content spinning tool:
Analysts who concentrate political conviction and influence believe it’s cute how fixated contentious individuals are with those charming seemingly insignificant details called truths. With regards to winning contentions, honesty and points of interest just don’t make a difference as much as we think they do.
Doesn’t really make much sense, does it? With the advent of Google Panda and Penguin, spun content like the one above is less likely to succeed because of the risks they carry. Google has zero tolerance for spun and copied content and if you get caught, your site could receive a harsh penalty.
Here are other reasons why content creation shouldn’t be automated:
- It only focuses on quantity over quality: an adage you don’t want associated with your brand.
- It puts you at risk for a penalty which could bring your site further down in search rankings.
- It could damage your reputation if people catch you producing poorly-written content or stealing content from other bloggers.
Make no mistake though, some marketers still do content spinning because they believe that the way to win at content marketing is to churn out as many pieces of content as possible for a cheap price. They cut down the chances of being caught by manually reviewing each content, which totally defeats the purpose of automating content creation.
Remember, you’re not only catering to search engines but also to humans who will find your site/blog in search results. If they find that your blog is filled with nonsensical fluff, they will leave and won’t ever come back. It’s better to produce real, quality content and rank slowly because at least then, you keep your visitors interested, rather than rank instantly with low-quality articles, but you turn off your visitors forever.
Not even the most sophisticated article spinners can replace a real human wordsmith who can write articles that make sense and relate to the reader. If you’re not good at writing, consider hiring a skilled copywriter who has experience writing content in your niche. It’s a worthy investment that helps you build authority in your industry.
Social media conversations
Certain social media tasks can be automated but too much of it can cause you to lose the human connection that makes these platforms truly social. You want to make real connections with your followers when they converse with you on social media. Whether it’s a positive or a negative comment, a response is always appreciated. It shows your audience that you care about what they think. It’s important especially in this age where people go to social media for customer service.
If a follower is airing out a negative experience with your brand on social media, address it right away before it gets too big. If they just left a positive remark, don’t forget to thank them!
Leaving an automated comment such as “Thank you for your feedback” will only cause your audience to lose interest in your brand or worse, it can damage your image in the eyes of that person and everyone who follows him/her on social media.
People on social media like to relate with a human, not a robot so make sure to avoid automating your social media conversations. This is a great opportunity to add a human voice to your brand that people can relate to and trust.
Following and unfollowing
Certain automation tools allow you to automate the process of following and unfollowing of people based on a criteria you have set yourself. For example, if you’re a makeup brand and you want to automatically follow influencers in your niche, you can set up the software so it only follows accounts with the following criteria:
- More than 5,000 followers
- Receives two retweets per tweet
- Uses the keyword “beauty” in their description
The problem with this type of automation is that plenty of accounts out there can easily fool your tool into thinking it meets all your qualifications. A bot won’t be able to judge whether a certain account has fake followers or pays for their engagement but a human surely will simply by examining that account.
To have full control over your network, you’re better off taking a hands-on approach when it comes to following and unfollowing people on social media. This way, you’re only connected to accounts that are worthy and you prevent spam on your feed.
Bots don’t ever get it right when it comes to blogpost commenting. The most experienced bloggers, ones you want to build links with, can detect bots from a mile away. You can’t blame them. They’ve come across automation themselves while trying to grow their brand and have yielded the same undesirable results as you will if you automate blog commenting.
If publications and bloggers see you engaging in their posts with an automated comment, they’ll only get turned off and will likely refuse to work with you seeing that you’re spamming their page.
It’s also not a good look for your business. If you want to get noticed by publications and bloggers, you’re better off writing a unique comment that contributes to the conversation.
Obviously email marketing does not have a direct impact on search engine rankings, but email campaigns can be used to drive SEO results. Email outreach is a great way to maintain brand awareness to your email list. Most SEO webmasters automate this part because it’s so easy to send out mass mail messages. Just formulate an automated email, click one button, and voila! Emails sent.
The problem with this is that it doesn’t take into account the needs of each prospect. Not all of them will appreciate a templated email. If they see that you’re sending the same message to others, they might not want to engage.
It’s always better to personalize your emails. If you don’t have the time to craft an email for each one, I recommend you create a personalized template for each target group. These individuals can be grouped according to the stage they are in the buyer’s journey. If you make your message highly relevant to that target group, you’re more likely to receive responses.
This article is not meant to discourage you from automating your SEO tasks. If anything, some of your SEO tasks should be automated because it can do wonders for your business whatever size it may be.
If you noticed, most of the tasks mentioned above require some level of automation. For example, if you’re doing competitor analysis, you can use an automation tool that gathers data of the top competitors in your niche. After that, you then need a human to understand your competitors’ strategies and make a decision on the marketing steps to take.
Some manual tasks are performed before automation (content creation > blog scheduling) while others are done after automation (link collection > link analysis). Whatever the case may be, it’s undeniable that one is not possible without the other.
Automated SEO enhances your team’s productivity and promotes a culture of innovation while manual SEO helps your brand maintain authenticity which makes it more appealing to audiences. To remain competitive, it’s best to find a mixture of both manual and automated SEO. You want to balance it and be mindful of the resources that you use for automating your tasks.
Are there other SEO tasks that you’d rather do manually than automate? Share your thoughts in the comments below.