I have removed a link to that website because it has a high spam score.
That is a reply we recently got while submitting a guest post to a huge site in the eCommerce niche. It reactivated a recurring itch that I had to scratch by writing this post.
Let’s get one thing clear. I do not have a problem with someone refusing to link to a spammy website. It’s a practice everyone should follow.
My beef is with marketers, writers, editors, and business owners that discard common sense in favor of out-of-context numbers and recommendations given by a random tool. It is a perfect example of why you shouldn’t blindly trust marketing tools and metrics.
The context that was sorely missed
Let me paint the picture that the editor missed.
The link they removed pointed to a blog post on a website with a Domain Rating of 77, which attracts over 500,000 monthly readers through organic search alone. It features in-depth reviews of website builders, hosting solutions, and other online platforms and tools. We are talking about 5k+ word posts that include charts, comparison tables, videos, etc. Does that sound like a spammy website?
Of course not. Those posts required immense effort, and they actually give real value to the reader.
Now, if you run the website through the MOZ Link Explorer, it will indeed show a high Spam Score of 69. But that doesn’t mean it is actually a spammy website. Even MOZ says so on their blog:
If the editor had taken a couple of minutes to explore, they would have realized that it is a perfectly legitimate website. Instead, they took the easy way out and rashly reacted to a metric without having full context.
There is a lesson to be learned here. When you make decisions based on tool metrics, you need to know how the metric is calculated and what the numbers actually mean.
Data without context is misleading
Having a lot of data is great. However, numbers without the bigger picture may or may not tell the story you think they are telling. Projecting context onto your numbers is what transforms data into useful information.
You see this in everyday work.
You run a few email marketing campaigns with an average CTR of 1%. Is that good or bad? You can’t answer that question without context. For example:
- Email open and click-through rates vary by industry. One percent is an above-average performance for retail, while it sucks if you are in the Media, Entertainment & Publishing space.
- Are you sending newsletters, or are you running a highly promotional campaign designed to sell a product or service? The more promotional something is, the harder it is to earn those clicks.
- How much money did you spend on those campaigns? Maybe your campaigns were a side project of a new marketing hire with little to no experience in email marketing. Or maybe you outsourced everything to an expensive digital marketing agency. The ROI will be vastly different.
Making hasty decisions without full context can lead to very expensive mistakes, especially when running larger marketing campaigns. It can be a difference between trying to optimize the emails for higher open rates or abandoning the channel altogether.
Those two decisions will lead to very different outcomes.
Algorithms are not infallible
Another reason why you shouldn’t blindly follow recommendations from marketing tools is because they also make mistakes.
Here is a basic example where Grammarly suggests a plainly wrong correction. We need a verb here, Grammarly, not a noun!
If that is not enough to make you think, consider the following: most marketing tools give you an approximation of the truth, not the absolute truth.
Have you ever taken any of Ahrefs certification courses? In their educational videos, you’ll often hear that the numbers they show are just estimations based on the available data. They themselves recommend that you take certain metrics with a grain of salt and apply common sense when making important decisions.
Return to your common sense
Knowing why something underperformed (or overdelivered) requires an ability to drill down into your data, as well as understand the surrounding context. Unfortunately, we often have to make decisions based on imperfect data and limited information.
In times of uncertainty, I wish more marketers would default to the trait that helped us survive and thrive as a species — good old common sense.
We believe it is so important that you can find it in our brand book. Here is a screenshot for non-believers.
Every so often, clients will ask an SEO-related question that doesn’t have a clear answer. We do not know exactly how the ranking algorithms work. But guess what? We do have some experience, and we can always apply common sense.
In this case, common sense means putting ourselves in Google’s shoes. If we ran such a company, what kind of metrics and practices would we punish and promote?
Similarly, let’s say you’ve finished editing a post. All messages are clear, the post reads well, and has a nice flow. Does it matter that the Yoast plugin or the Hemingway App say that you can improve readability? It doesn’t. Those are helpful tools, but they shouldn’t have executive power over your actions.
This is not a perfect system, but it helps you take ownership and accountability for your actions. As a bonus, if you follow the common sense principle, you and I can be good friends. And nobody is crazy enough to pass on that opportunity.