Paul L. Wilson

Lean SEO: A Better Way To Do SEO

To understand the context of this article, you need to know that I am an entrepreneurship professor and an SEO professional. I love what I do in both of these fields, but primarily I see SEO as a tool entrepreneurs can use to build their dreams. I never considered taking everything I’ve learned about entrepreneurship and applying it to SEO — until now.

Let me explain, a little while ago I got ill. So much so that I was out of the classroom for almost a month. My semester was a train wreck, but I was particularly worried about my SEO class.

I’ve been doing digital marketing since 1999 and SEO since 2004. Therefore, I have been deeply entrenched in the rigid and robust SEO methodology that is heavy in resources and time capital. To prove my point, here is a slide I show my SEO students during the first week of our class:

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This is me trying to simplify what our semester is going to look like. Losing a month of teaching the above SEO approach meant that there was no way I could cover everything I wanted to by the end of the semester.

This turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

While I withered away at home for that month, I had a thought. “Is it possible that there is an equivalent to Eric Ries’s ‘Lean Start-up but for SEO?” There are so many intelligent people in SEO, and I knew someone had to think of Lean SEO (which was the first time I had put those two words together).

I Googled Lean SEO, and I was right. Someone had, in fact, created a Lean SEO framework, and his name is Pat Walls. He even created a course about it (FYI, I’m not an affiliate of his).

I’ll be honest; I was a skeptic. In my 20+ years in digital marketing, I have seen my fair share of lousy SEO courses and methodologies. Yet, I was also desperate. I needed to figure out something quick.

So, I paid the $250 for the course and went through what Pat taught. He definitely wasn’t like the many proclaimed SEO gurus. In fact, I’d say he was the antithesis to the popular slick SEO-ers who feel they have all the answers to beating Google.

Pat’s approach also went against every SEO method I’ve ever come across. He didn’t believe in using SEO tools, he felt keyword research was unnecessary, and the only time he spent teaching about backlinks was to tell you that he didn’t believe in spending time on backlinks.

I was intrigued, and I wasn’t disappointed. To pass my time being sick, I implemented Pat’s approach of MVC, a parallel principle to the entrepreneurship MVP (Minimum Viable Product), but for content. I ran multiple tests and found his Lean SEO framework to be simple but very, very effective.

What I loved most about Pat’s framework was how easy it was to implement. Like the Lean Start-up, Pat concentrates on quick experiments that get you to the right data to make educated decisions.

When I came back to the classroom, I had my students do the Lean SEO framework, and they were fans. Here are some of their end-of-semester comments:

“Lean SEO!!! That totally shifted my perspective on SEO and how to test ideas. I’ll use this a lot going forward.”

“The highlight of the course was building a website and doing lean seo!”

“I was a little scared by all of the work the original course was going to demand of us, but the rebooted seemed less intense with a greater reward.”

The feedback my students offered was anonymous but telling. About 90% of the class were considered novices, and many struggled at the beginning of the semester. This isn’t unusual, and it takes almost to the end of the course before the novice students truly appreciate what they’ve been through.

In the past, I’ve always considered this part of the SEO journey—sort of paying your dues. You have to hit your head on the brick wall enough before you breakthrough and understand what it takes to be successful.

This learning curve headache isn’t required with Pat’s entrepreneurial approach to SEO. In fact, the time the students spent frustrated in trying to see the whole landscape of SEO was now spent on the data or creating more SEO experiments.

I still can’t believe I never combined entrepreneurship and SEO into a framework. It’s been right in front of me for years. It took being deathly sick for me to forgo my deeply ingrained SEO beliefs and try something new.

My purpose in writing this post is to evangelize what Pat has created. Lean SEO is a much easier way to do SEO, and in my opinion, it’s superior to everything that’s out there.

It’s also tone-deaf to the constant changing of the search engine algorithms. Those who have been doing SEO have heard this before, but it’s true. With Pat’s Lean SEO, you can quickly see your results and use the data to determine your next step.

You’re not spending hours-upon-hours of time implementing the latest and greatest SEO trick and crossing your fingers that your efforts will be worth it in the long run. Only to have all your work wrecked by the next frustrating algorithm to come along.

Instead, Lean SEO takes hours (from beginning to end) to deploy and 30 days to measure. What a stark contrast between weeks and months of time on a hope and a promise.

Does SEO still take time and energy with the Lean SEO framework? Yes, but now that time is allocated to areas that can make a bigger impact on your digital marketing efforts.

With this understanding, the Lean SEO framework has become a best practice for me and something every SEO student of mine will learn going forward. Now that I’ve seen the light for a better way to do SEO, there is just no going back.