A question I’ve been asked a lot recently is “Can SEO be automated? Can I just get some software or hardware that’ll do the job automatically and get my site ranked at the top of the SERPs for my keywords?”
No, you can’t automate it.
First of all, search engine optimization’s foundation and core are about building links. Take the example of Google-bombing, where many people link to a certain webpage with the same anchor text, in a concerted attempt to have that page rank for the words in the anchor text, even though that page is not trying to rank for those keywords. This technique was successfully used on several occasions and serves to demonstrate the power of link-building.
Now consider how you go about building those links. You contact webmasters and other people with websites and ask them to link to you. It helps a lot to be friendly and give them feedback on their own site, mentioning broken links or forms and other things that could be improved. And to a large extent, you want to go on to develop and maintain relationships with as many of those webmasters as you can, because that’ll get you other links in addition to that first one. Just consider what Marketing Sherpa’s Wisdom 2007 publication quoted me on (look at #27). You need to network to build links.
No matter how advanced spam-email software gets, it won’t network with other webmasters for you. It might let you include the URL of the webmaster‘s site in your email, but you’re still not getting a link. First of all, because these things show you don’t care about the webmaster you want a favor from. So why should they care about you? The reaction goes something like: “Generic spam email? Delete. ”
So that’s why you’re never getting anything to automate link-building. Right there, you’ve just lost your chance at ranking for anything mildly competitive.
The second reason SEO can’t be automated is because the software that’s around is just plain garbage. I tried using one of these things just to do a site analysis of my own blog. I figured it couldn’t go wrong just reading code and telling me what was done well and what was done wrong. But this totally inept piece of software came back to me and told me it couldn’t find my keywords once on the page (I wish I remembered the name to help you steer clear but this was a looooong time ago – probably a year or more. Edit: I just saw more people asking this question on a forum I read. The software I tried was WebCEO.) . This was on my Montreal SEO blog, which, wouldn’t you know it, ranks for Montreal SEO!
Well, what about keyword research, you say? Keyword research is perhaps a minor exception to the rule here. You’ve got tools that will help you discover new keywords to try and rank for. But these are mostly for preliminary keyword research aimed at search engine marketing or SEM. The distinction is important because if you just try and rank for the highest (or lowest) volume keyword in your niche, without having run an SEM campaign beforehand, you might end up the ranking and wasting your bandwidth on unproductive traffic.
Imagine getting 10,000 visitors a day to your sports equipment website from people who are lazy and hate sports. Not only did you waste your time, effort and money achieving that ranking, but you’ve actually got hosting costs accumulating on top of it all!
Bottom line: SEO can’t be automated.