When you’re considering getting into Local SEO (Search Engine Optimization) for your company and you get a phone call from a “Google analyst” that promises you a Front Page Google search result tomorrow, you’re dealing with a scammer. Many business owners get suckered into this scam by “Black Hat SEO,” or agencies that use aggressive SEO tactics that focus only on immediate payoff, and do not obey search engine guidelines. The downfall of these scams is that you actually will see instant results, but Google will catch these search engine “hacks,” and penalize you with a back page result, or none altogether. By this point, the scammers have taken your check, and ignore your calls. At some point, you, as a business owner, will receive a phone call or email by such an agency, and they will claim that they can get you Front Page results immediately.
In reality, SEO, done right, can take months. It is a process, an investment, that takes time, planning, and strategy at every level of the game. It requires analyzing your competition on the Front Page of Google’s SERP (Search Engine Results Page), optimizing your website, using and analyzing Social Media, and putting in the right work.
Here is a detailed guide in a nutshell of what SEO takes, and why it takes the time it does to be done properly.
Analyzing Your Competition Takes More Time than You May Think
Unless you’re selling or getting in on a product or service that is brand new, and thus is not yet on the SERPs, you will have competition that is already established and well-ranked on Google. Just figuring out how to catch up to where they are can take time, even for experienced SEO analysts. In just about every industry or market, you will have competitors that have spent 5, 10, even 15 years building their websites and links to their website. Tools like Majestic SEO and Link Explorer can give you a complete competitive analysis of every back-link that leads to every competitor’s result on the first few SERPs for your targeted keywords.
Tools like iSpionage and Spyfu can help assess the extent of your competition for your desired keywords in your market. High numbers of first page keywords and SEO traffic value indicate that you have a lot of work ahead of you to catch up to your competition. In markets where your competition has been in the web marketing and SEO game for some time, a “longer-tail” strategy, one that chases after longer, less popular keywords, may be the best method to use. This strategy, though more difficult to manage, will help you compete within more specific industry niches, and, in aggregate, can actually drive more traffic than capitalizing on shorter, more popular keywords.
Build Links from Sites with Authority
To catch up to your competitors, and save time striking out on the oft-frustrating original link-building process, it is recommended that your next step be building links on the sites that your competitors use for back-links. Tools such as AHRef’s Back-links Report will help you analyze back-links from your competition’s domains, so that you might harness their “link juice” for your own site. AHRef can also give you a report of the links you create successfully as you go. If you want to be thorough, make a database of every link pointing at the top sites that rank for each of your keywords.
At that point, the key to catching up or getting ahead in page rank is to build links from new pages that are undiscovered by your peers, or that few of them have found. In recent years, Google has made this much more difficult, in large part by the infamous and dreaded “NoFollow”. As you comment on blogs or forums looking for links, if you inspect the code of the link you have created to your site, you may notice, after the “a href” code, a tag that says “no follow” or “external nofollow.” This essentially tells Google “disregard any link juice that this link receives.” Why would anyone do this? To discourage the link spammers, and to make it so that their Page Rank isn’t lowered by linking to many, low-quality sites (not to say yours isn’t high quality). However, it is possible, and vital to you getting ahead of your market. As you get more experienced in link-building, you will find techniques that find sites that do not use the NoFollow feature.
As you might be starting to realize, all of this takes time. It can’t be done in a month (or a week, or a day, or instantly) like the black hats may tell you.
Getting On “Ground Zero” With Your Competitors Takes Time
Link-building, especially through blog comments, can only get you so far. In fact, too many links in too little time can Google to think you are either link spamming or getting links from sites with low Page Rank or are less reputable.
There are really two routes you can take after this: paid (think paid link placement, advertising campaigns) or unpaid (content creation, guest posts). If you are using an SEO agency, then obviously both of these options would be paid. Of these options, many would say that content creation is king. It’s genuine; it’s authentic. Google recognizes this. Content creation can include: blog posts, article creation, article spinning (taking other articles, sometimes combining them, and rewording them to make them appear to be original to Google), and image and video creation. All this content, of course, must be search engine optimized: articles must have your keywords, images must have the correct meta tags, videos must have the right file names, and so on and so forth.
You may be saying to yourself, “I have to create blogs and images and videos just to get ranked well in search results? That sounds like a ton of work!” Now you can begin to realize why good SEO takes much more than a week to a month to do properly.
Google Rarely Trusts Speed
As mentioned above, Google doesn’t entirely trust sites that gain many links quickly. Unfortunately, many sites and hack SEO agencies have taken advantage of link spamming to quickly turn profits, and although you probably aren’t spamming for links, you must obey Google’s rules, or face their wrath. Nowadays, all it takes is a few links from disreputable-looking sites for Google to put its foot down in the form of a back page ranking.
It is important to point out the difference from instant unnatural popularity, like overly fast link-building, and natural, organic popularity, like viral links and videos from Social Media sites like Facebook, Twitter and Reddit.
So if your SEO people aren’t getting links as fast as you like, this actually may be a good sign. They are probably being patient, and doing it the right way.
Good SEO Takes Fine Tuning Along the Way
In addition to all we’ve already given you to consider in your SEO campaign, it is important to stay abreast of the news of constantly-changing Google algorithms. Google is always fine tuning its ways of determining Page Rank, and the way it determines SERP rankings. Sites like Moz, SearchEngineJournal and SearchEngineLand are great at analyzing what is coming, as or before it happens, and informing you quickly in terms you can understand.
Google’s search algorithms can literally change overnight. It is similar to Wall Street: it has made a lot of companies very successful, and brought plummets in profits to large companies in hours. Just as it is good to have good brokers and investors in the stock market, good SEO is vital to your company’s success on the Internet. So if you’ve learned anything from this article, hopefully it is that the “Google Analyst” that called you yesterday at lunch cannot get you a #1 rank in Google’s search results tomorrow for $200, and you can’t get that rank with a day’s work tomorrow and be done with it either. It requires consistency and dedication. However, there are good companies, like Scout Buffalo Web Design, that can manage it for you, get you on the treasured Front Page, and at a price your small company can afford.