With more than a billion active websites today, competing for the top spot on Google is harder than ever.
That’s what makes it so tempting when a smooth-talking SEO company comes along and claims that they can work magic for you overnight.
We all know that Google is the king of search engines. Google nerds are constantly working to improve their algorithm to return better search results. (That’s why everyone uses and loves it.)
But as of 2018, Google is doing their best to make it impossible for lazy SEO and digital marketing tactics to work.
Which is good!
No matter how much you’re spending, you want to make sure that you’re truly getting your money’s worth. So how do you ensure that you won’t be wasting any of your precious digital marketing budget on bad SEO?
Bad SEO is Self-Serving
Bad SEO doesn’t care about about your customers. Bad SEO doesn’t care about your business. It doesn’t even care about money. (If it did, it would give you the type of results that make you rich.)
Bad SEO just wants to do the least amount of work possible.
In the past, we’ve talked about black hat SEO that will actually hurt your web presence. But lazy web guys have found a way to mask their shady SEO practices as something legitimate.
Spinning Gold Into Straw
I’m sure you’re familiar with the story of “Rumpelstiltskin.” In this classic fairy tale, a strange little man had the ability to spin straw into gold (but would only do it in exchange for a firstborn child.)
Well, lazy web guys have figured out that they can spin that gold back into straw by offering so-called “white hat” SEO tactics that are a complete waste of money, because they don’t really do anything.
A few years ago, we published a blog post called “Shady SEO Practices to Watch Out For.” In it, we listed three white hat SEO tactics that we swear by: content marketing, pay-per-click campaigns, and tracking your site’s analytics. When done the right way, these methods work. We’ve seen the results for ourselves.
But when done the lazy way, they’re nuttin’ but a waste of money, honey.
1. Content Marketing
Content is king. It’s been that way for a while, and it doesn’t look like the tide is going to turn any time soon.
But Google doesn’t just accept any ol’ content. Nuh-uh. Only the finest content will do.
Every word, video, podcast, or image on your site needs to provide quality information that will be helpful to your reader. The more, the better. In fact, Google’s latest algorithms track your site’s bounce rate and visitor’s browsing activity to make educated guesses about how useful your content actually is.
Which means that if visitors leave your site too quickly and go view another site right away, Google assumes your content wasn’t up to par.
Meager 300-word articles or duplicated content (even if it’s repurposed a little bit) aren’t the kind of content marketing that Google wants you to use.
Instead, create original, comprehensive (between 800-1000 words), quality content that aims to help your readers.
Yes, even if you’re guest posting.
2. “More Eyes” Marketing
In our old article, we listed pay-per-click (PPC) marketing campaigns as one of the best things you can do to get your name out in front of the people that are already interested in you. We didn’t talk about backlinks, but they fall under this category as well.
In short, the idea is that getting your name in front of more eyes means more money for your business.
This is true, with one caveat: those eyes have to be interested in you.
If you just drop a bunch of flyers for your nail salon from a plane, you’re completely wasting your time and money, because you’re not targeting your demographic in any strategic way.
Lazy SEO guys do this a lot with backlinks. They’ll charge you for a link that comes from a site with a high Page Rank or Domain Authority score, like Amazon.com or Sony.com.
But lemme ask you this…does Sony have anything to do with your business?
If they’re getting backlinks just to get backlinks (and your money), but not to actually get you customers, that’s a huge waste. You’re getting in front of more eyes, all right. But those eyes don’t want to look at you.
Same goes for keyword selection.
We see it all the time. Offers like, “I can get your Google ranking to skyrocket!” or “Show up on the first page of Google, guaranteed!”
On the surface, this sounds great. (Especially if there’s a money back guarantee.*) But this is one of those occasions when you should definitely look the gift horse in the mouth, because oftentimes the keywords they’re focusing on aren’t relevant for your business or your industry. They’re just easy to rank for.
Think about it: chances are, if you’re reading this blog, you have competitors. And they’re way bigger than you are.
Competition for the first page of Google is fierce. And the only way to “guarantee” that you’ll show up there is if you cherry pick your keywords like the low-hanging fruit they are.
Is that the kind of SEO that you want to pay big bucks for?
*By the way, NO ONE can “guarantee” any kind of results.
3. Holistic Approach
It sounds “hippie-dippie,” but a holistic approach to your website—one that sees it as a singular digital presence rather than a part of the whole—is what really sets apart a high-quality SEO expert from one of the money wasters.
The lazy guys are focused on the short-term results. They like to make you happy right away so you’ll give them money and they can be done.
But SEO doesn’t work that way.
Building domain authority (i.e. the score that gets you a better Google ranking) is a marathon, not a sprint. In order to get the amount of staying power that will keep you in the game for the long run, you’re gonna have a slow start.
But the lazy web guy doesn’t actually care if you’re successful. He wants you to be happy just enough that you’ll shut up and leave him alone.
Some of these short-term fixes involve irrelevant keywords and some of the things we talked about before. Sometimes they involve only a temporary solution, like having a negative review of your business “removed” from a third party site. (Once the review is overlooked by Yelp, it could go right back up on the site.)
In short, these guys aren’t interested in getting to know your business or building a relationship with you. More importantly, they won’t be around when you get penalized by Google for black hat SEO tactics.
Good SEO aims to solve a problem, not just “do a treatment.” It’s the difference between going to a dentist and just using a Crest Whitestrip.
Good SEO is User-Focused
“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
It’s known as the Golden Rule for a reason. Treating others the way you’d like to be treated is the ultimate exercise in selflessness. And it’s not just the right thing to do…it actually works!
As new SEO practices pop up (and there will always be more), put them through the Golden Rule test. Is this something your readers and site visitors would be happy seeing? Or will it just piss them off?
Pleasing the algorithms is an important part of doing business online in 2018. But it can’t be the only thing.
After all, computers don’t buy from you, people do.
Just continue being awesome at what you do and focus on quality over quantity. Because, when it comes down to it, if you are truly focused on doing your job well and making your customer experience better, the rest will follow.
Is SEO Worth It?
So, how do you know if that SEO package you just paid for is really worth it?
For that, you have to look at your long-term ROI.
Don’t just listen to what the SEO guy tells you about his results. Investigate it for yourself with a big ol’ grain of salt. Sure, you might be on the first page of Google for one keyword, but are you making more money? Are you getting more leads?
Or are you just writing more checks?
Clarity Creative Group is a digital marketing agency located in beautiful Orlando, Florida. What was Rumpelstiltskin anyway? A troll? A gnome? One of the fae? Somebody get on this!