They should know better.
Recently I was reading one of the more popular, well respected online marketing blogs and came across this paragraph…
“You know what Google likes? Relevant, accurate, informative content that is better than what the competitor has to offer. That’s how you rise in the rankings and that’s how you stay on top the next time Google makes another update.”
What a load of crap!
The sad thing is a lot of “experts” parrot this garbage giving business owners bad information and false hope.
Now before I go any further, I need to make one thing perfectly clear…
I’m completely in favor of creating relevant, accurate, informative content that’s better than what your competitors put out there.
Producing great content is an excellent marketing strategy. It can be leveraged in a number of ways to position you and your company as a trusted authority and can help drive more traffic to your site.
But…if you’re in any sort of competitive niche, just creating great content alone is not going to get your site ranked on Page 1 of Google.
Let me give you an example…
A few months ago, I was brought in to consult with a large firm operating in a fiercely competitive market.
Their 12 year old site was a content lover’s dream. They had 100+ highly skilled professional employees creating high quality, unique content for their site each month. There were articles, videos, podcasts, a forum, resource guides, etc. From a content perspective, in terms of both quantity and quality of information, this site clobbered the competition.
Yet, for any of the most relevant keywords to their business, they were ranked no higher than Page 3 on Google.
Well, during our initial meeting I asked the owner what their backlinking strategy was.
His reply…“What’s backlinking?”
Quick mini-lesson 1: Backlinks are links from other websites to pages on your site and are the major component that determines where a site ranks in the search engine results. They’re kind of like a “vote” for your website in the eyes of the search engines. The more backlinks you have, and the higher the quality of the backlinks, the more authoritative your site is perceived as being and you’ll often be rewarded with higher rankings.
The Lowdown on Backlinks
The big issue for business owners is that Google doesn’t want you building backlinks to your site to try to improve site rankings. They want you to create relevant, accurate, informative content and just let the backlinks happen naturally.
Now if you’re running a website for a big brand or are in a web savvy niche, that strategy may work. But if you’re running a small e-commerce site, are a local chiropractor/plumber/florist or you’re the small manufacturer trying to compete in any sort of competitive niche, don’t expect naturally occurring backlinks alone to get high rankings.
And this puts business owners in a dilemma. Do you just roll over and let the big brands win or do you try to level the playing field and fight for one of the coveted top rankings?
If you chose the latter, that means you have to build backlinks.
Now there are legitimate ways to build links (known as White Hat strategies) and there are ways to build links that violate Google’s rules and policies (known as Black Hat strategies). Then there’s a whole “Grey” area in between.
One example of this is article marketing.
Quick mini-lesson 2: Article marketing for SEO works like this: You write articles (or pay someone to do it), and submit them to article directories around the web. In each article you get an “author box” which is basically a few sentence bio about the author. In that author box you can put 1 or 2 links pointing to your site to try to give the site a boost in the rankings.
Article marketing is a great way to generate hundreds or thousands of links to your site, it’s relatively easy to do and it’s (still) a pretty effective component of a site’s overall SEO strategy.
But Google doesn’t particularly like article marketing. In fact their official SEO spokesperson said in early 2011 he’d advise people to “lean away” from article marketing.
Though, again, article marketing still works well. So as a business owner, do you steer clear of article marketing for fear that Google may penalize sites that use it or do you stick with it because it works and using it to help get higher rankings puts more money in the coffers?
Another example in the Grey area is buying links. Buying links is a big no-no in Google’s book.
Now, I wouldn’t advise you go out and buy 1000 links for $5 on Fiverr.com or hire one of the “SEO” firms out of India that pummel you with SPAM about their link building capabilities.
But, what about buying a listing on Business.com or the Yahoo! directory or the Best of the Web directory or paying for inclusion in a local business directory? Links from sites like those can often help give your site a nice bump. So do you pay for inclusion there or avoid them for fear they’ll be counted as a paid link?
These are two examples of the dilemma that business owners face when it comes to their SEO efforts…
Option 1: Listen to Google and the “experts” and just rely on great content alone hoping that, eventually, you’ll be rewarded with Page 1 rankings (understanding it’s probably not going to get you very far in the rankings, ie. there’s no guarantee of success).
Option 2: Or, do what works and try to stack the deck in your favor by (smartly and strategically) building links with the understanding that it’s possible you could get penalized at some point down the road (ie. there’s no guarantee of success).
After trying Option 1 for 12 years with little to show for it, the firm I mentioned earlier decided to try Option 2 and started a strategically executed SEO backlinking campaign to compliment their killer content. Within 3 months their site ranked #1 on Google for 5 of their top keywords.
No one knows what will happen to that site in a month, 6 months or a year down the line.
But I do know that 12 years of relying solely on great content and naturally occurring links didn’t work for them and probably won’t work for you either.
And the so-called “experts” should know better.