Stepping Off the Drug-Fueled Animal Ledge

May 2, 2011
By Lisa Barone in SEO

If the search industry was allowed just one blogger, I’d vote that blogger be Aaron Wall. No one covers this industry quite like Aaron Wall does and his post yesterday on how Google creates black hats was another testament to that. If you haven’t read Aaron’s post, please go do it now. Because it’s important. But then come back. I’ll be waiting.

Aaron’s post breaks down the post-Panda world we live in and what it’s done vs. what it was supposed to do. Specifically, Aaron talks about the small business owner who had his content and domain smacked down even after he thought he was doing everything right. He talks about how Google has the audacity to not only smack down the SMB, but to throw salt in the wound by ranking content syndicators and content scrapers of that same content higher than the original source.

Because it’s not that Google doesn’t like your outfit, it just likes it better when someone else is wearing it.

Aaron summarizes it like this:

So Google whacks your site, tells you to clean up your act (& increase your operating costs while decreasing your margins), lumps you in the bad actors group, offers no information about when the pain will (or even could) end, pays someone to steal your content, then ranks that stolen copy of your content above you in the search results.

What Aaron describes is often what I’m thinking about while pounding a 110lb at six in the morning. As a content owner, I get the frustration. I get that it’s frustrating to bend over backwards trying to play by Google’s rules only to get the shaft anyway. It’s frustrating to invest in content, only to see other people rank for your content or, in some cases, to rank for content that seems LESSER THAN what you’ve written. It’s disheartening, it’s crappy, and in the end, you just want to beat someone or something.

But you can’t. So where do you turn?

According to Aaron, it’s likely that you’ll turn to black hat search engine optimization and start “experimenting” with things Google doesn’t approve of. Things like:

  • Buying links.
  • Creating scraper Web sites.
  • Scaling and exploiting loopholes.

If that’s the ledge you’re on right now, take my hand and let me pull you off it.

We can do it together.

Before my career in search, I was a small-time athlete. And when you compete, you’re no stranger to the allure of shortcuts. You have members on your team who will skimp on the workout today, only to suffer for it come competition day. You also have members who will try and, er, enhance their performance, essentially damaging themselves and risking it long-term. And every day you have to make a decision: Become that “bad actor” that you promised you weren’t OR recommit to be better and to fight harder.

As a business owner, you don’t have the option to skip corners. You MUST fight harder because your business depends on it.

Fighting harder is what Outspoken Media was founded on.

We’re privileged to do SEO consulting for a lot of competitive clients rocking competitive keywords. And it’s a struggle sometimes. It’s a struggle to keep coming up with game plans that work and to keep ourselves a step ahead. It can also be a struggle to reinforce to some clients why it is we’re not going to buy links or become “bad actors”. Because you can’t blame them. When you see a competitor buying and scraping his way to the top, it’s tempting to go that route. I’d even say it’s natural to want to go that way…at least for a moment. But when that moment passes you need to remember why you’re investing in search engine optimization in the first place.

You’re investing in SEO to grow your business and your brand over the long-term. That is not done through shortcuts, through buying links, or through acting out because you’re PO’d at Google. It’s done through putting in the work.

  • It’s done through SEOing a Web site with Google’s intent in mind and thinking about where you’d go if YOU were Google. What would YOU value? What would YOU be looking for?
  • It’s about building a brand that users will come to trust. Because it doesn’t matter if you’re ranking if no one would touch your site without a rubber glove of protection. The search engines may rank your site, but it’s up to customers to buy from it.

When it looks like getting through the front door will take time, don’t immediately start eyeing the sledgehammer. Instead, trust your path but also start looking around for side doors. The side doors of social media, of video, of digital asset optimization, of building a defensible brand, etc. No one said the playing field was level, but there are other ways to help even it.

Aaron’s right that when you back an animal into a corner it will often react in unpredictable and uncontrollable ways. Looking for immediate fixes, immediate hits, and immediate pleasure is exactly what an animal would do. But are you an animal reacting on raw emotion or are you a business owner?

Do not risk your business and your future by becoming the animal Aaron hints at, the one looking for a quick fix and a way to juice up. Even more important than ranking in Google today is building a brand that people will want to associate themselves with tomorrow, one that will not only sustain, but will grow, in the long-term.

Investing in white hat search engine optimization over the long-term isn’t always sexy, but there’s value there. It’s about knowing that when the New York Times comes knocking on your door for a story it will be to write about your success, not to out you. It’s about knowing that you’re laying the groundwork to be the kind of brand that both users and the search engines will want to do business with.

It’s your choice: Act like a drug-fueled animal or act like a business. What are you going to do?

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