Why There Are No Shortcuts to Online Success
As Americans, we’re conditioned to expect instant gratification. It seems at every turn we are offered quick and easy solutions to tough problems and are promised rapid results with little or no effort – as long as we’re willing to ante up and pay for the latest gadget or surefire approach.
If you’re as old as I am, you’ve seen a lot of gimmicks, gadgets and just plain nonsense come and go. Remember the Abdominizer? Or the Ab Energizer? Both promised rock-hard six-pack abs with little or no effort. In fact, the latter used “powerful technology” to “send just the right amount of electronic stimulation to your abdominal muscles”, thus toning them without the need for exercise. Get a rock-hard washboard stomach, while watching TV and enjoying a dozen chicken wings…imagine that. Or how about the Hollywood Diet, which promises that you will magically shed pounds in mere days. What could possibly go wrong, especially with a name like that? Turns out plenty, since none of these actually work and quite a few may send you to the emergency room.
Likewise, our penchant for easy solutions and quick fixes extends online as well. Brands want to rank in the top-3 results for a given search terms on Google but all too often don’t understand and appreciate what it takes to get and, perhaps more importantly, stay there. And, of course, they would like to get there fast. Ideally this week, but if not, certainly by the end of the month. And, if at all possible, without making any of the hard changes, like developing a better website, investing in compelling, relevant content or implementing an effective social media strategy. This desire for real results without hard work is the online marketing equivalent the Abdominizer. And, just like its offline cousin, it promises a lot and delivers very little. But, hope springs eternal and, fueled by heady promises from “search experts” who bandy about mysterious terms like black hat SEO, link building and cloaking, there seems to be no shortage of companies willing to spend money on a quick-fix boost to their search ranking.
Now, don’t get me wrong, there are legitimate and effective techniques that make a site more SEO-friendly and thus easier to index, and these should certainly be employed. SEO-friendly URLs, consistent terminology and keywords, proper redirects and an up-to-date sitemap are indispensible and no site should be launched without. And, even some of the more frowned-upon practices may indeed deliver a short-term boost to your ranking. Another option, one I am not fond of but certainly effective, is to employ paid search (AdWords) and simply buy your way to the top of the results page. Of course, paid results are often viewed with skepticism by users, the traffic they generate may differ in terms of quality and conversion, and there is the risk of click-fraud. So, while this approach may circumvent natural PageRank and lift traffic, it does so at an ongoing cost and thus hardly presents a long-term advantage.
At the end of the day – and certainly with the recent Penguin release of Google’s algorithm – there is only one surefire way to improve your PageRank and that is to regularly create compelling, valuable and relevant content that people want to consume, reference, share and link to. Anything short of that is not just short-sighted, but also bad business.