By Edwin Choi
Search engine optimization (also known as SEO) is one of the most exciting (and also stress inducing) jobs. Very few careers in the world are at the mercy of Google’s extremely frequent algorithm changes.
Ask any battle-hardened SEO specialist who has been in the game for at least five years–most, if not all, of the strategies that worked in the past will likely cause a penalty now. Worse, being in Google’s penalty box can be a massive headache to resolve.
A healthy SEO campaign is very similar to having a healthy body; there are no shortcuts or “magic pills” for success. A SEO campaign built on solid, irrefutable principles done steadily over time will never get penalized and remains as the only surefire, effective way for organic search success.
Here are five reasons why “hard SEO” beats any sort of miracle “easy SEO” campaign:
1. Insulation from Google’s algorithm changes
To most people, names like Panda and Penguin give them a warm and fuzzy feeling. For online marketers, they can strike terror deep into their core. Very few things have the power to single-handedly destroy the top source of organic traffic—and with it potentially an entire company–than a Google change in a company’s search formula.
In 2011, the “Panda” change tanked many article aggregator sites such as ezinearticles.com (-90% loss) and associatedcontent.com (-93% loss). But the worst was still to come. In 2014 “Panda 4.0” came out and decimated some major brands. eBay was singled out as a target of the Google machine; up to 80 percent of eBay’s search results were gone from the first page of Google. Ask.com, History.com and Biography.com also got hammered.
Google has entire teams of engineers, data scientists, and spam engineers working on improving search algorithms. Their sole goal is to prevent anyone from “gaming” the system unfairly. Unscrupulous organizations may be able to get away with an unethical or “get rankings quick” type of scheme, but they will be found out eventually.
If an SEO campaign is built on solid, accepted principles such as killer unique content, strong foundational website best practices, and a strong PR outreach campaign, Google will never penalize these types of approaches as it is exactly what their algorithm wants. The cherry on top is that doing these things is good for a website irrespective of SEO.
2. Avoiding the manual penalty
The organic landscape is a war-torn battlefield in most verticals and there are multiple companies pitching the “secret weapon.” These may be “undetectable” link or blog private networks, link pyramids, cloaked paid links, and more.
However, even if you do avoid the automated algorithm consequences, there’s no guarantee that one of your competitors won’t rat you out via a Google spam report. If Google manually reviews your site and finds that you are actively violating their principles, retribution will be harsh, swift, and likely permanent.
Don’t let this happen. Don’t give your competitors any weapons that could be used against you in the ongoing SEO war. Check out this long list of things your competition may be salivating over to try to nail your website for.
3. Holistic marketing benefits
An SEO campaign built on the latest and greatest “surefire, can’t miss” tactics may get you rankings in the short term, but it likely will not give you any additional “oomph” anywhere else in your marketing mix. Conversely, if an SEO campaign is built on strong public relations, best-in-class content, and passive placements, you will start to experience incremental benefits on top of the additional organic traffic.
An example would be securing a review of your product or service on a top website (public relations). When people Google your brand, this article would likely be one of the first search results (online reputation management). Most articles have viral social sharing buttons that would then give your article legs online (social media). The article may very well have a link to your site, providing you with that coveted high-quality backlink from a website with high a Google PageRank and/or Domain Authority (SEO). You could use the article as news for your monthly email marketing newsletter (direct marketing). The article could also be added to your “In the Press” section of your website, and a logo could be added on your homepage under “In the News” (social proof).
The net result is that cross-channel marketing becomes exponentially more effective.
4. Lower capital commitments and costs
“Easy” SEO campaigns are typically expensive and require weekly or monthly upkeep. An aggressive “easy” SEO campaign can easily costs thousands of dollars as money exchanges hands in order to massage certain “organic placement” relationships. Websites such as Elance.com are filled with offshore contractors promising to “build links” for such an arrangement.
What happens if your bills aren’t being paid? These relationships suddenly disappear, plunging your rankings and leaving it no foundation to stand on. To avoid this, build an SEO campaign based on strong, organic content and placements that can have a life of its own. The best part is, “hard” SEO isn’t actually that hard or expensive. Blogs such as Backlinko show real-life case studies and unveil easy steps that anyone can do.
5. Loss of granular control
Many “easy” SEO campaigns are built on poor keyword silos and may only serve to boost the authority of the root domain. You may see these services as “social bookmarking blasts” or “link blasts” or something similar. However, a “hard” SEO campaign will allow you to attack certain areas of your site with 100 percent control. You can choose keywords that will drive the most net profit or the highest top line revenue versus having Google’s spiders choose the focus for you.
6. Building a sustainable competitive differentiator
“Hard” SEO can over time build a massive competitive advantage for you over any new entrant seeking to replicate what you’ve achieved. Because there’s no “easy” button, competitors will be forced to also emulate tactics such as PR and generate awesome content. These tactics, however, take time and patience. In the meantime, your business is basking in the glow of love from Google and reaping the rewards that come with a high ranking on the first page.
Hard SEO isn’t really hard. Like many things in life, it simply requires persistence and creativity. By avoiding the temptation to take the easy way out, any company can build an SEO profile that will serve it well for years to come.