7 things Warren Buffett can teach us about SEO

I’m a big fan of Warren Buffett, I really enjoy his simple yet intelligent take on life – But what exactly does the world’s greatest investor have to do with SEO?

I was reviewing some of his quotes over the weekend and it occurred to me that he can actually teach us a great deal about SEO. Perhaps the man isn’t simply an investment god but also an SEO genius…?

#1 – Beware of the noise

“A public-opinion poll is no substitute for thought.”

Very often in the SEO industry there are forum threads, blog posts and ‘gurus’ talking up or talking down particular SEO techniques. Take the Warren Buffett approach and avoid the common consensus and actually THINK for yourself.

Translate this into day-to-day SEO and it means you should be experimenting for yourself what works – looking for opportunities and making your own mind up about things. That’s the only way you can get a real edge over competitors.

#2 -Magic systems don’t exist

“Beware of geeks bearing formulas.”

As far back as 2003, Buffett warned of a financial armageddon with complex securities at the root of it. He expressed disdain towards individuals and companies who felt they had rewritten the rule book and created systems, industries and formulas that defied the principles of the market as a whole or logic in general.

This reminded me of the ‘entrepreneurs’ peddling mass article submission software, automatic linkbuilding solutions and the like. Any silver bullet system offering massive volumes of links at the push of a button is more than likely going to bite back 1 month, 6 months or even 2 years from now.

#3 – Don’t make your own life difficult

“I don’t look to jump over 7-foot bars: I look around for 1-foot bars that I can step over.”

There’s nothing wrong with scooping up low hanging fruit initially – it just makes sense. Why look for the big hurdles right away when you can be winning the ‘mini-battles’ all the while still making progress towards the bigger challenges that a website faces.

Of course, something that’s challenging is often worth doing but if there are other things that you can do which are effective and ten times easier, do these first.

#4 – Respect your reputation

“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”

Google’s benchmark for this is whether you’d feel comfortable discussing your SEO tactics with a competitor. Whilst the lure of black hat SEO can be tempting, long term it is better to adopt a strategy that enhances your reputation and builds a solid foundation online for your business generating attention and sales for many years to come.

Short-sighted tactics may well be effective right now but at some point in the future, you could find your business exposed in the NY Times for shady SEO practices.

#5 – Mitigate risks wherever possible

“Only when the tide goes out do you discover who’s been swimming naked.”

This has to be my favourite quote from the sage of Omaha and if you were to translate this wisdom into SEO, you could say that, the tide goes out quite often so don’t be the one scrambling to cover your dignity.

Always be thinking about your audience/user/customer rather than just search engines. You never know when Google is going to shift, so be prepared.

#6 – A little knowledge can be dangerous

“Risk comes from not knowing what you’re doing.”

Seek advice from the right sources whenever possible – SEO is one of those disciplines where a little morsel of perceived knowledge can have a disastrous and often permanent impact. Like the work experience guy who buys 10,000 forum profile links…

#7 – Focus on the end result

“We enjoy the process far more than the proceeds.”

Focus on what you want ultimately to get out of SEO (more visibility, more visitors and more sales) otherwise you’ll end up on the dreaded hamster wheel of indecision.


  1. avatar
    Mike Haydon August 10, 2011 at 1:13 pm #

    Sheer genius pulling these two together James! I’m a huge fan of Buffett too, but never thought of applying his sense to my “day job”. I’ll have to think what lessons we can apply from other masters like Twain, Edison or Einstein. Thanks!

    • avatar
      James Agate August 10, 2011 at 3:56 pm #

      Thanks Mike, I’m glad you enjoyed it!

  2. avatar
    Ronnie Bailey August 11, 2011 at 6:26 pm #

    Yeah, way to pull these ideas together, we need to start thinking about how we can use information and processes from other industries to incorporate into ours.

  3. avatar
    Jerry September 7, 2011 at 7:29 pm #

    I view #5 when updates like Panda come along and hit sites that have been putting out crap content bolstered by crap links ;)

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