When you’re considering getting your company into Local SEO (Search Engine Optimization), and you get a phone call from a “Google analyst” that promises you a front page Google search result “as soon as tomorrow,” you’re dealing with a scammer. Many business owners get suckered into this scam by shady agencies that use “Black Hat SEO,” or aggressive SEO tactics that focus only on immediate payoff, and don’t 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 then penalize you with a back page search result, or none altogether. By this point, the scammers have taken your check, and will ignore your calls. At some point, you, as a business owner, will receive a phone call or email by such an agency claiming you immediate search results on the Front Page.
In reality, SEO, done correctly, can take months. It’s a process, an investment, and it 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, analyzing your competition on Social Media, and putting in the right work.
Here are some aspects of the SEO game in a nutshell, and why it takes the time it does to be done properly.
Assessing Your Competition Takes Time
Unless you’re selling 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 them. Tools like Majestic SEO and Open Site Explorer can give you a complete competitive analysis of every backlink 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 front 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 with Sites with High PageRank and Reputation
To catch up to your competitors, and save time striking out on the oft-frustrating original linkbuilding process, it is recommended that your next step be building links on the sites that your competitors use for backlinks. Tools such as AHRef’s Backlinks Report will help you analyze backlinks 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 PageRank 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 PageRank 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 linkbuilding, 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 SEO scammers might tell you.
Catching Up to Your Competitors Takes Time
Linkbuilding, especially through blog comments, can only get you so far. In fact, too many links in too little time can cause Google to think you are either link spamming, or getting links from sites with low PageRank or are less reputability.
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 company or consultant, 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, and requires an ongoing, consistent effort.
Slow and Steady Wins the Google Race
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.
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.
That being said, it is important to point out the difference between instant unnatural popularity, like overly fast linkbuilding, and natural, organic popularity, like viral links and videos from Social Media sites like Facebook, Twitter and Reddit. A particularly aggressive ad campaign can lead to sharp, short-term increases in popularity as well. Google somehow knows how to tell the difference.
SEO Constantly Changes
In addition to all we’ve already given you to consider in your SEO campaign, it is important that you or your SEO staff stays abreast of the news of constantly-changing Google algorithms. Google is always fine tuning its ways of determining PageRank and 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’s that the “Google Analyst” that called you yesterday at lunch cannot get you a #1 rank in Google’s search results tomorrow for a one-time fee of $200, and you can’t get that rank with a day’s work tomorrow and be done with it either. Just like with most things in life, there are no SEO shortcuts. It requires consistency and dedication. However, there are good companies, like Scout, that can manage it for you, get you on the treasured Front Page, and at a price your small company can afford.