The High Price of Low Cost SEO

seoEveryone wants to be found in the search engines. Organic visitors typically account for most Web publishers’ traffic and yield one of the highest long-term returns on investment of any digital channel.

Ranking well in Google has obvious benefits to one’s business. More qualified traffic equals more revenue and customers. As such, this led a lot of companies to take shortcuts in their link building for years because the reward far outweighed the risk.

Some examples of link building tactics that used to work include: Over-optimization of anchor text, low-quality links and creating dummy blogs with robot-generated text.

What is the common theme here?  Little to no effort in order to generate these links. Much of it could be automated or purchased relatively cheaply and the low costs yielded tremendous returns until February 2011. That’s when Panda hit, and it hit hard. Then in April 2012 another major update hit: Penguin. This focused primarily on the sources linking to Websites.

After the dust settled, Warren Buffett’s famous saying “when the tide goes out, you see who was swimming naked,” which was intended for those who played the stock market and were heavily leveraged could also apply for many Websites’ SEO. The tide went out on low cost link building and many company’s link profile was naked, resulting in losses of traffic and thousands to millions of dollars for many Webmasters.

Unfortunately for these companies, regaining lost rankings was not as easy as drawing a line in the sand and doing things right from that point on. The cost was exponentially greater because these companies needed to factor in the price of fixing the old issue before moving on towards the newer, cleaner link building.

Earning trust today in Google takes time. A lot of it. It involves building relationships with real people, at authoritative Websites, and distributing quality content across the Web that provides real value to the audience that engages with it. The links earned from quality content tells Google’s crawlers that Web sites of authority trust you enough to link to you.

Google can also quickly discern which content is more valuable than others based on the number of times it is shared across the social Web. Obviously the easiest way they have insight into this data is from their own social property Google+. However, since most Twitter tweets are public, their crawlers can also determine how frequently the content has been shared on this massive social network.  In addition, Facebook’s API can quickly indicate how many times a given domain and page have been shared on its site.

The times have changed. Continuing with old link building practices is only a recipe to digging an even deeper grave for a Website’s SEO. Costs associated with link building today have increased mostly because of the time involved, but the end result is the same: prominent visibility in Google which leads to more awareness and customers for your brand.

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