We’re fast approaching 3 and a half years since Google first rolled out their Penguin algorithm. In that time, the doom and gloom merchants have circled and everyone has proclaimed that SEO is dead and not worth the time and effort. At least what many always thought of as SEO; buying thousands of 'exact match anchor text' links from India and the Far East which point to 'money pages', stuffing title, meta and h1 tags with keywords, writing gibberish content and generally having little concern for user experience and their journey through your website. Sounds painful and not particularly productive but sadly effective in certain circumstances.
The sad fact is that those approaches used to work, and for many, they worked exceptionally well and because of this, many business owners are still stuck in the mindset that SEO is a quick and cheap way to bring in business. Its a bit like those that brought followers and likes for Social Media - so doable and yet meaningly pointless in terms of quality conversion. However when working with algorithms and computer systems, you play the game and system. Getting number Google page positions is not a fair game, there are numerous instances of businesses who have experienced prime ranking positions across very competitive, commercial terms which made them hundreds of thousands, if not millions of pounds. Were they the best in their field? Did they deserve to be there? No, of course not. They simply knew where to buy links from and 'gamed' the system.
Let’s not dwell on the past though as Google has stayed true to its word and the majority of these businesses have received either a manual or an algorithmic penalty with some having recovered and others still stuck with rankings way, way below where they used to be. Are they still turning over the money they were back in what they'll dub their 'glory days' of top rankings? To know if they are still successful - it is impossible to tell but their organic rankings have depleted and the revenue streams are probably not as fluent as they once were.
What is staggering though is the attitude of some of these companies - many refuse to accept that SEO has changed. Long gone are the days when a website's rankings can be sustained by 'breaking the rules' or 'gaming the system' and it's debatable as to whether SEO, on it's own, is even a marketing approach anymore. To us, SEO is one piece in the digital marketing jigsaw, where a progressive and long-term plan will bring results that are sustainable and long-lasting.
If you want quick results; put your money into AdWords. Be warned, however. You may see almost instantaneous results (if you know what you're doing) but in the long-run, it will cost you far more than it would have done to build up an organic presence in a natural and organic manner; through the creation, distribution and sharing of high quality content. Enabling your website to best work with SEO though is of paramount importance - too many times we see sites that are badly built behind the scenes to let SEO work in the way they hope. What is it that they say about the emperor's new clothes…
The days of 'Black hat' approaches should never have worked to rocket businesses to the top of the search engines but they did...until Google decided that enough was enough and came down like a tonne of bricks on those deemed to be offenders of violating their guidelines. Too many agencies told clients that the links were natural, safe and worthwhile - knowing fully well that what they were doing strongly violated Google's guidelines but it delivered quick and cheap results for clients...making them look like heroes and SEO wizards.
The problem still remains though that too many people are stuck in their old ways, thinking the same conditions apply and refusing to accept that changes and conditions have been made and you need to play by the new rules defined by Google. SEO takes time - even in uncompetitive niches (if they even exist anymore) but you probably won’t see an ROI on your efforts for at least 6 months. SEO has changed and evolved almost beyond recognition over the past three years and it's now simply one part of a wider digital marketing strategy. Yes, there's no denying that strong search engine rankings are very valuable to a business, but that doesn't mean you can cut corners and get away with it.
As an agency we pride ourselves on the hard work we do for clients - but expectations need to be realistic and we won’t commit to delivering instant results unlike some of our counterparts. If you want that option - be our guest and then when you receive a penalty after a few months and the revenues slide back to zero and your digital footprint is forever tarnished - we’ll try and not smugly say ‘ Told you so!’ Be realistic, patient and look at the long term plan and try to remember that Rome wasn't built in a day and neither was a sustainable organic search engine presence.
If you're not prepared to invest in SEO (alongside the wider approaches needed to see your business succeed online) for at least 6 months without seeing a return,you're playing a very dangerous game. As an agency we try and educate clients on how it'll take 6 months or more to see successes are the ones you need to be working with...not those who tell you you'll be on page one within 4 weeks for your main money term.
It takes time to build up the authority of a site on the search engines but trust us when we say that the returns from strong positions in 2015 are far greater than they've ever been before and so long as you take the right approach which works alongside Google’s guidelines, you'll see successes continue for a long time, without having to worry about the next web spam update that Google drop.