The Harsh Realities of SEO That No One Tells You

    by John Bonini

    Date

    July 8, 2014 at 8:00 AM

    cmo_cio_mythsThis post originally appeared on the Insiders section of Inbound Hub. To read more content like this, subscribe to Insiders.

    Want to know the truth about search engine optimization?

    You’re being misled.

    Maybe not in a sleazy, overt kind of way. But there are many bloggers and SEO "gurus" who are guilty-by-omission in that they’re portraying search engine optimization through rose-tinted glasses.

    Any time something as complex as SEO is painted in such broad strokes, things will be left out. And unfortunately for many marketers trying to improve their search rankings, the left out things often are very important.

    Because regardless of what you’ve seen or read, ranking higher in search engines is hard work. There are no easy fixes or simple steps. There are many factors that go into the success of your SEO efforts. It’s complex.

    But no one tells you this. At least the vast majority of bloggers and consultants don’t. 

    We will.

    Blogging Doesn’t Work (Right Away)

    Claiming that blogging will increase your traffic from search engines is like saying that jogging will get you into shape. While it’s certainly possible, it’s also dependent on a variety of factors. How often are you doing it? For how long? Are you even doing it right?

    And just like jogging, many are blogging with only the outcome in mind.

    Blogging purely for the sake of increasing search rankings is the primary reason why there’s so much uninspiring content polluting your news feeds.

    Your first priority should be to create resourceful content that engages your audience. Getting found is simply a product of doing this well consistently.

    Ranking and getting found for specific keywords is a process that takes time. You shouldn’t expect that if you launch a blog tomorrow, or simply increase your efforts next week, that you’ll start ranking immediately. In fact, Google says, “crawling and indexing are processes which can take some time and which rely on many factors.”

    Why no one tells you: Because ranking is hard work. It’s really as simple as that. Agencies and consultants would like you to believe it’s much easier, and that with their help, you’ll be sitting atop the search engines gloating at the ignorance of all of your competitors in no time.

    With that said, it’s not impossibly hard either. It takes patience, and above all else, consistency. Both of which are in short supply in our mobile, “get everything right now” way of life. We want to rank right now. We want more traffic right now. We want more money right now. Consistency leads to sustainability, in which all of those are possible -- you've just got to put in a few months of effort to start seeing results. 

    Your Domain Age Matters

    Regardless of the degree to which it matters, there’s enough evidence to suggest that the age of your website domain does have an effect on how quickly it ranks.

    This means that If you’ve recently launched a new website, or are in the process of doing so, even if you’re doing everything right from an SEO standpoint, it can still take some time before you see any traction from search engines.

    It’s an inexact science, as there are varying opinions on this subject. For instance, Moz founder Rand Fishkin has said “Is [domain age] going to substantively change rankings? The answer is almost certainly not. Almost certainly not.”

    Matt Cutts, head of the web spam team at Google, also addresses the topic in this video. He says “not to worry that much” regarding the age of your domain. He adds that, “the difference between a domain that’s six months old versus one year old is really not that big at all."

    Sure. But what about a startup business whose main competitors all have domains older than five years? That's where it gets a little trickier. 

    Cutts wraps up by stating that “it’s mostly the quality of your content, and the sort of links that you get as a result of the quality of your content that determine how well you’re going to rank in the search engines.”

    The harsh reality is that older domains have had more time to accrue quality inbound links as well as publish content on a consistent basis. So by default, older domains will have an advantage simply due to their good fortune of being first to the party.

    Why no one tells you: From a consultative standpoint, time is a really tough thing to sell. It’s the most valuable commodity in business, and also the most unforgiving.

    From a more tactical standpoint, it’s pretty damn confusing. People like Rand Fishkin can’t even say with certainty what the age of your domain means in terms of ranking. Even Matt Cutts provides a pretty ambiguous response to the age old question. The solution, which should come as a surprise to no one, is to produce great content on a consistent basis. Great content gets shared. It generates inbound links. The more great content and organic inbound links you have, the less the age of your domain matters.

    Optimizing for Keywords Can Actually Hurt Your Rankings

    This is more applicable to companies without a strong, expansive content marketing plan in place.

    If you already focus on publishing helpful content on a consistent basis to get found by your audience, keyword targeting is an essential part of gaining traction.

    If you’re not publishing consistently, however, chances are you don’t have many indexed pages in search engines. And in traditional SEO fashion, you’re probably loading the few pages you do have with as many industry-related keywords as possible.

    This may not have been a big deal a year ago. Heck, you may have generated a high volume of traffic from practices like these and maybe even climbed to the top of the search engines.

    Then Google rolled out Panda 4.0 in the spring of 2014, and many companies like this took a hit traffic-wise. A big one.

    eBay was perhaps the most widely publicized “loser” of the Panda 4.0 update, losing a significant portion of their organic traffic literally overnight. The chart below -- published by Moz -- shows eBay’s drop in their share of top 10 rankings the week leading up to Panda 4.0’s launch (which, you guessed it, was May 19th).

    chart-4

    eBay, a site thin on content and heavy on doorway pages -- what Wikipedia defines as "the practice of spamming the index of a search engine by inserting results for particular phrases with the purpose of sending visitors to a different page" -- exhibited practices Google has been trying to eradicate. 

    Companies that aren’t publishing content consistently, yet still rank for hundreds, or even thousands of keywords do so by loading the few pages of their website with keywords in order to secure rankings. This is a dangerous practice, specifically when companies rely heavily on only their homepage to deliver the search traffic needed to be successful.

    Why no one tells you: Experts and consultants can wax poetic all day about how to optimize the current pages and content of your website for search, but when it comes to actually putting together a strong content strategy based on those keywords, they’re often a bit out of their element.

    The solution is to put a content strategy in place that inherits the majority of your keyword targeting. Don’t over optimize one or several pages of your website in order to rank for specific keywords. Start publishing original content that naturally attracts the attention you need, and the rankings will follow. 

    Image Credit: Moz

    SUBSCRIBE TO HUBSPOT'S MARKETING BLOG

    Join 280,000+ fellow marketers! Get HubSpot's latest marketing articles in your inbox. Enter your email:

    Written by John Bonini

    Marketing Director at Impact Branding & Design, LLC.

    Search Inbound Hub

    Subscribe to Marketing Articles by Email

    Subscribe by RSS

    Follow HubSpot

    Call Us: 1-888-HUBSPOT