I just had a phone call with a friend that also works in SEO. She was trying to understand what a colleague of hers was proposing in a technical meeting. The exact details of the conversation aren't necessary to explain, but the main argument was something like this:
"Look, on this website, they used this approach, and it seems to be working fine for them. We should do the same"
(In this case, the main point was that content over a thousand words would rank even without external links).
That is an excellent example of cognitive bias and, therefore, thinking wrong. I want to explain why.
Survivor Bias, in short, (in this case, an SEO statement) is the (natural) inclination only to consider the "survivors" when analyzing a situation because we took (without knowing) the "non-survivors" out of the picture. Since you focus only on a few winners, you lose sight of the many losers that may offer critical insight.
In the example mentioned before, having one example of a website that gets organic traffic doing something doesn't consider the possibility of other websites that are doing the same but getting less or no traffic.
Also, unless you have done much homework, you cannot know if that specific tactic has passed other essential SEO requirements:
- Is this generating a positive growth trend, or is it just a snapshot that you find interesting?
- If you have confirmed that the example website is growing, are there any other elements that can also be a factor in that growth, but you are not considering?
- Are there counterexamples of websites that are using the same tactic but not growing or even decaying?
- Is the example website similar to ours? The competition, technology, and type of website are alike? (In other words, are we comparing oranges with apples?)
- Can we apply this tactic with the same level of efficiency as the example website?
- If everything listed before checks out, isn't there any other thing that we can do to improve our organic traffic that represents a better opportunity cost?
Besides these basic questions, I think several SEO tools can provide the information you need before making a decision. Please remember that no software/SaaS will provide you with correct answers but data to help you understand the landscape where you are*.
I certainly do not expect anybody to do a thorough analysis of every little decision or suggestion. I recommend working on fundamentals and having a good thought before starting a complete strategy based on a single example of a website you saw.
*That is another frequent thinking error in SEO: doing things because the tool says so. SEO isn't moving the "SEO Score" of the tool from whatever percentage to close to 100%.