Nobody ever skips brushing their teeth. It just doesn’t happen. I myself have had long journeys crossing far too many time zones, where I’ve staggered into bed without showering or even washing my face, but my teeth always get brushed. Always. It doesn’t matter how exhausted, hungover, sick, miserable or tight for time you may be; you always brush your teeth.
The reasons for doing so aren’t as obvious as they may first appear. After all when you stumble into your Shanghai hotel room at who-knows-what time in the morning, having not slept for the past 36 hours, your teeth will survive that one brief night without being brushed. They’re most likely coated with 36 hours of plaque anyway, so six more hours isn’t going to make much of a difference.
And the only person who’s going to have to deal with the odour in the morning when you wake up will be you. And let’s face it, it doesn’t matter how well you brush before collapsing onto the mattress, the wakeup experience will not be minty and refreshing.
So why do we do it? It can’t just be routine – I shower every day, but after that particular flight was too tired to care. It can’t be social pressure, because no-one else was going to cotton on to my filthy plaque-heavy secret.
We do it partly because we’re conditioned to – because every single day of our childhood and adult life begins and ends with cleaning our teeth. It’s probably also because it’s impossible to hide when you haven’t done it – if we meet at a conference you won’t be able to notice if I skipped a shower, but you’ll certainly notice if my breath smells like a dead badger.
In addition, once we lose our baby teeth, what grows in their place has to last us the rest of our lives. Fillings don’t repair teeth, they simply contain the damage. When one of our teeth cracks, breaks or dies, we replace bits of them with artificial substitutes, but the tooth itself is gone forever.
We also do it because at some point we’ve all been in the Dentist’s chair for something more than a checkup. And with the exception of my Father * no-one likes having their teeth worked on. It’s time-consuming, costly, unpleasant and invariably hurts like hell.
Each time I’ve had a filling, I’ve been particularly diligent about cleaning and flossing my teeth for weeks afterwards. After a particularly bad experience (an abscess I had springs to mind) that must-do-better factor lasted for literally months before slowly being eroded by time.
So what does this have to do with Google?
Well as a general rule, there are four types of people who devote sufficient time, energy and general resources to their SEO.
People who like SEO.
People who realise the full potential of SEO.
People paid to be responsible for SEO.
People who’ve been hit by a penalty.
The first two types probably account for less than 0.1% of all the people doing SEO, so we can safely ignore them for the inspired and genius oddballs that they are.
Of the people who are paid to handle SEO, assuming that a sufficient amount of their time is allocated (in other words it’s not just one of their 250+ “general marketing things” that they do), the person who ultimately pays them to do their job will most likely fall into the fourth and by far most popular category. Someone who has either been hit by a penalty themselves, or knows someone else who has had the pleasure.
In other words that person has had their full-blown kick-in-the-balls mother of all SEO abscesses, and they want to do all they can to make sure it never happens again.
When I first started speaking at conferences about SEO (running Office 97 on a Windows 98 laptop) I used to point out that despite people’s fears of being punished by the search engines (Google had company back then), the chance of this happening to them was incredibly small.
Today it’s a different story. Bearing in mind that we’re a very small company and we only ever take on a very small number of SEO clients, I have consulted, advised and handled twelve businesses slapped by Google since December last year.
Trust me. You do not want to be in the position of having your wrist slapped by one of Google’s updates. When it happens it can be anywhere from problematic to devastating. Every business needs to do what they can to avoid being hit by one of Google’s ferocious updates.
So what can you do about it?
In much the same way that we look after our teeth on an ongoing and regular basis, your SEO needs to be treated as a vital task, and regular time has to be set aside for it. A small investment in time each week can identify and resolve issues before Google become aware of them.
I can’t stress this strongly enough. SEO can no longer be considered an afterthought. It’s mission critical.
Not sure where to start?
An SEO overview that will take you 90 seconds.
Google Webmaster Tools can alert you to some issues before they get out of hand – site messages, HTML improvement & security issues could be a good start.
LinkResearchTools can find and deal with all sorts of problematic links. A one month subscription could be money well spent.
ScreamingFrog can crawl your website and find more on-site issues and problems than you thought existed.
Moz and RavenTools offer very reasonably-priced options, and both will provide you with a lot of direction in terms of what needs to be done.
The bottom line is that the specifics of what you do aren’t as important as doing something, on a regular basis. Anything is better than nothing.
Don’t leave SEO on your to-do list, give it the time and attention needed to make sure that the next penalty won’t decimate your website traffic.
* My Dad is the only person I know of who finds going to the dentist relaxing, to the point where he has actually fallen asleep.
Please note: This isn’t a thinly-veiled sales pitch. We’re not looking to take on any more SEO work at the present time.