There's No Shortcut to Good SEO...Or Is There?

In some ways, this is a continuation of my rant in last week's column on paid links.

In life and business, I've always felt that there are no shortcuts. You work hard and build a successful life. You reap what you sow. Nothing good in life comes from a lack of effort. Take the high road.

Perhaps that's why my background includes so many years in sales. Sales will teach you that -- especially if you tried to sell banner advertising on a CPM basis after the 2000 bubble burst. You had to work 10 times as hard to maintain what you may have been able to do a year prior.

As an SEO, I've always believed that you should build meaningful, useful Web sites and help promote the content to establish links. Set up the site without technical roadblocks. Do what's necessary to achieve long-lasting results by abiding by the guidelines set forth by the major search engines.

I won't change anytime soon.

However, why is it that so many Web sites rank when they're blatantly participating in paid link activity? How easy would it be if we knew that Google wasn't going to penalize for these activities?

I mentioned last week that a prospect was penalized for sponsoring a hit counter. Perhaps Google found a way to address these types of paid links through an algorithm update?

But wait. No, a hit counter Web site ranks in Google's top 20 results for "search engine optimization," as of the writing of this column. So, the hit counter company wasn't punished, but the company that sponsored a hit counter got "pinged"? Did they not alternate/randomize their anchor text in their paid link enough?

Duplicate Content Revisited

I addressed duplicate content while speaking at Search Engine Strategies San Jose in August. I was fully prepared to share with the folks in attendance the reasons that you should be very mindful of duplicate content.

Then, I came across a "competitor" (I don't really think of other SEO firms as "competitors," per se) Web site that ranked number one on Google for a very competitive keyword. Not only were they ranking -- they had sitelinks. They also had multiple versions of their Web site, participated in link farms, and had paid links.

This is one thing that makes my job difficult. How can I tell a client/prospect that they shouldn't do these things when they -- apparently -- work?

All I can do is be honest with my clients/prospects. Yes. These things work. Today. We don't know what may -- or may not -- happen tomorrow.

Google says these things are against guidelines. They say that punishments can be handed down. I've seen some Web sites get punished while others make thousands of dollars per day, indirectly, because of their paid links.

Good SEO Isn't Supposed to be Easy

Good SEO is supposed to be about building a quality/accessible Web site full of great copy, using keywords in the appropriate areas, and getting quality links "naturally" because people like your content. Nothing about being in SEO is easy when you try to do it right. SEO isn't "rocket science," but it requires real work.

You achieve rankings/traffic because you put in the work to analyze the competitive landscape, do thorough keyword research, write effective, usable, SEO friendly Web copy, have the correct structure to the Web site (information architecture, internal linking, blog set-up/categorization/content, headers, etc.) and found the relevant, powerful links necessary to achieve authority with the search engines and reached out to hundreds of Webmasters to ask them to link to your Web site. Yeah, social media marketing can be a much easier -- and effective -- way to generate relevant links. This is one reason most SEOs recommend adding a blog to your Web site.

I want to scream to the spam police at the major search engines.

If you want us to operate in an "ethical" manner, show us that you're penalizing the Web sites that abuse your guidelines! Not just one here and another there. That doesn't get our attention. Instead, reward those who follow your guidelines.

About the author

Mark Jackson, President and CEO of Vizion Interactive, a search engine optimization company. Mark joined the interactive marketing fray in early 2000. His journey began with Lycos/Wired Digital and then AOL/Time Warner. After having witnessed the bubble burst and its lingering effects on stability on the job front (learning that working for a "large company" does not guarantee you a position, no matter your job performance), Mark established an interactive marketing agency and has cultivated it into one of the most respected search engine optimization firms in the United States.

Vizion Interactive was founded on the premise that honesty, integrity, and transparency forge the pillars that strong partnerships should be based upon. Vizion Interactive is a full service interactive marketing agency, specializing in search engine optimization, search engine marketing/PPC management, SEO friendly Web design/development, social media marketing, and other leading edge interactive marketing services, including being one of the first 50 beta testers of Google TV.

Mark is a board member of the Dallas/Fort Worth Search Engine Marketing Association (DFWSEM) and a member of the Dallas/Fort Worth Interactive Marketing Association (DFWIMA) and is a regular speaker at the SES and Pubcon conferences.

Mark received a BA in Journalism/Advertising from The University of Texas at Arlington in 1993 and spent several years in traditional marketing (radio, television, and print) prior to venturing into all things "Web."

Read more of Mark Jackson's columns at ClickZ.