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Search engine optimization is in many ways, like weight loss. You've got some things that are effective, some that are not and it's hard to tell the claims of one from the other. You want to believe the great-results-with-no-effort claims, and you hope they are true... but are they worth wasting your time and money on?
It seems every month there is a new fad in weight loss: protein-only, all the grapefruit you can eat, or high carb/low carb. All offer fast results if you'd just stick with it. They usually do achieve some results, however, they aren't lasting. As soon as you kick back into your old habits of potato chips, hamburgers, and ice cream, the weight comes back.
Similarly, when you use "quick results" spam techniques, you may see some fast results. Mini-networks, keyword stuffing and cloaking can work for a while. However, when you base your search rankings on a quirk of the SE algos, you have nothing left when it stops working.
Some companies will keep you pointed toward your goal with weekly weigh-ins and a diet of protein shakes or prepackaged foods. These programs can work... while you're on them. When the money stops so does the program, and since they haven't taught you how to change your lifestyle, old habits drift back in -- along with the weight.
"Optimization" companies that don't touch your site but send you traffic based on their offsite doorway pages are similar; their techniques may work, but they haven't improved *your* actual site or helped it to rank well. When you stop paying them, your traffic goes to someone else.
These plans "work" as long as you are forking over the cash!
Submission companies suck us in with claims of submitting our site to hundreds, no THOUSANDS of search engines. They guarantee great traffic, getting your site noticed, and a one-click trip to search stardom. All for the low, low price of $29.99 a month. Sounds reasonable, after all, they couldn't make these claims if they weren't true, could they? So we keep paying and waiting, but in reality, all these programs do is drastically increase your email spam.
If you've got the money, you can buy a better body through surgery. Stomach stapling, tummy tucks, liposuction... if you don't like it, surgery can fix it! However, it is usually expensive and often painful, plus it can backfire. Results are often achieved, but if you don't change your habits, you will find yourself facing similar issues down the road.
If you've got enough money, you can buy your way to the top of the search results. PPC advertising and buying links on a range of sites can put your site at the top of the listings. While you may gain traffic from this, you may not make sales. Buying your way in does not address any underlying usability or marketing issues with your site.
Deep down we all know the key to long-term weight loss is to eat less and exercise more. Sure, there are different styles of "eating less" differing on what to eat, but the concept of take in less calories and expend more energy stays the same. Change your habits to eat healthier foods and be more active. If we'd follow those rules, we'd be healthier, look better, and create a healthy lifestyle.
The key to great search rankings is just as simple. Create a great, usable website with useful content, and obtain more relevant incoming links. While there are different strategies you can use to improve your site, the underlying goal is the same. By addressing any site issues first and constantly making it better and more useful, your future search marketing efforts will return more results.
Why don't we do it the right way from the start? The right way is boring. It takes hard work, creativity, and long-term commitment. We want that magic potion that will make us thin and put our website at #1 without having to work so hard. The reality is that long-term results require hard work.
I'll admit to reading those ads that claim to perfect my body in hope that they are true, and I also read the latest SEO techniques with interest, hoping for that quick fix that will send my sites instantly to the top. But the only sure, long-term answer is to spend the time to do it right. It's not the instant fix I'd prefer, but the ultimate success is sweeter when you know that you earned it.
This article originally appeared in the High Rankings newsletter.
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