Play the long game for organic SEO success

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classiccokeYou want quick results. I get that. Usually when a good idea strikes you, your brain is focused on the end result and not the process – “We should do X because then we will achieve Y”.

People enter Britain’s Got Talent because something tells them they are good enough to be famous – they don’t do it because they think it would be nice to stand in line trying to get noticed.

Entrepreneurs put their ideas into action because they envisage making themselves rich – not because they think it will give them something interesting to do.

We’re probably all the same with any idea – the end goal dominates our vision, not the process for getting there.

With SEO, focus on the process

When it comes to search engine optimisation (SEO), we need to stop and focus on the process more than the end goal. If you want to get traffic faster, you can pay for it using pay per click advertising, but that is costly in the long run if you don’t optimise your PPC over time.

Growing free traffic is often called organic, but that’s not really correct. You can’t just build it and the traffic comes. You’d have to be brave, lucky or stupid to believe you can just build a website and then sit back and wait.

So, we have SEO – an industry designed to help you gain the visibility that leads to traffic. There was a time when SEO was a quick solution. You could pay a company to create lots of links around the web, pointing to you, and you would achieve high positions, which would lead to high levels of traffic.

Nowadays, all of your competitors have SEO experts, there are also more competitors vying to get on page one ahead of you, and the search engines are getting better at stopping people gaming the system with underhand tactics.

Slow and steady wins the SEO race

You can still achieve quick wins in SEO, but the real message from any SEO consultant these days should be “play the long game”. Anything you do in the short term to get fast gains on search engines can only be down to one thing, with one potential result:

  • Either you have created a lot of links very quickly pointing to your website, hence giving Google the impression that your site is suddenly popular;
  • or you have genuinely suddenly become popular thanks to some big news event;
  • or you have benefited from a general seasonal increase in demand or some algorithmic re-juggling of the search results.

In all three cases, your success is likely to be short-lived. As far as link building goes, search engines know the average number of links any site will get on a monthly basis and what those links will look like. If you are suddenly popular, that popularity is unlikely to continue. If you’re in the news, your ranks will increase and then perhaps decrease again when you are no longer the topic of the day. If your high level of link building continues unnaturally, you could even fall foul of algorithmic penalties.

Search engines change their algorithms all the time, so you may have times where your ranks look fantastic and others when they drop. Any short term tricks you employ may not be worth it in the long run. (Read How to apply big data to your SEO.)

Playing the long game means laying all the groundwork for continual growth – building your domain authority, the authority of your authors, the popularity of your content and the reach of your social network. Continually adding relevant content and adding value for your visitors… Running and growing an online business is a never-ending job.

Additional SEO articles worth reading

Steve Masters profile picture
Steve Masters

Steve (RIP) was Services Director for Vertical Leap. He started professional life as a magazine journalist, working on music magazines and women's titles before becoming a web editor in 1997, then joining MSN to work purely in online publishing. Since 1999 he has worked for and consulted to a broad range of businesses about their digital marketing.

More articles by Steve
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