There used to be SEO shortcuts.
You could pay for a bunch of links with specific anchor text and in a month or so you’d be ranking for that term in the anchor text.
That lasted until about 2012 when Google got advanced enough to decipher different types of links. It really shook things up, but for the people using search engines it shook things up in a good way.
Today, though, I still get people that want SEO results right away. I’m not even an SEO, I’m in the blogging and content business, but sometimes people ask if I can improve their SEO and their expectation is for it to happen in 1-3 months.
I’m here to tell you it’s not possible.
There is more competition than ever for the real estate on search engines.
More ecommerce sites. More blogs. More of everything.
In 2010, I started a personal blog about country music. Lists, opinions, song reviews, etc. Sometimes I could write a song review, for a popular artist and song, and be the only piece of content on the entire Internet about that topic.
And it would obviously rank.
Today, those artists usually upload their song to YouTube, they write their own blog post about it and so do many other bloggers. And that’s all wonderful. I love it.
But it obviously makes it more difficult to rank for things when there is more competition.
Less Real Estate
Lots of people still search on their desktops and laptops, but mobile and voice search are increasing.
If you’ve used Google on your smartphone you know that you only see about one result when the results first appear. You might scroll through a few quickly, but the first spot is even more important than the old days.
And who knows with voice search. People like getting results fast so tech like Amazon Echo may only respond with one or two results when we ask questions.
There are also different types of results on Google. Map results. Featured Snippets. All kinds of things that take up space and make the top result more prominent.
So now you’ve got more competition for less space.
Links used to be the end all be all with SEO. It’s still a very important signal, but Google has gotten better at figuring out what content is the best content to rank. They have tons of signals that give them information and help them make all the determinations.
One example seems to be the brand’s reputation. The more mentions of your brand online or the more people are talking about, writing about, etc. about your brand the more it signals to Google that you’re a big deal and likely trustworthy and all that stuff.
And that’s just one signal.
Basically, Google is looking for anything that indicates what content should be ranked first. Their stated goal is to help searchers find the answers to their questions. They’re going to keep advancing their technology to look for all kinds of signals to help them with this goal.
More signals means more work to rank well. No more manipulating. Just hard and long-term work.
Google will continue to get more sophisticated. They’re going to find more signals that indicate what content is the most valuable to searchers. It’s nearly impossible to anticipate what those signals will be in the future.
And that’s a good thing because it gets you focused on creating the best content for your audience and not worrying so much about what you think Google wants.
You kind of have to trust Google to be able to figure it out. And you have to be honest with yourself about how your content and brand stacks up against all the competition.
Final Thought: Long-Term SEO Is An Opportunity
Here’s the good thing in all this…a lot of people and businesses aren’t going to like that SEO is a long-term game now. They’re going to not even get started with the effort it takes to rank for important terms. They’re going to look for other marketing opportunities. The quick fixes.
But if you have the patience to put in the work creating content and building your brand for 5-10 years then you’ll likely win.
Here’s one example, blogging is a great way to build your reputation. If you create blog posts consistently for five years you’re likely way ahead of your competition. They’ll never do that. Now you have all this content that’s helping your audience. That all sends the signal that your brand is useful and trustworthy and in demand. It will help you rank for important terms in your industry.
Create a plan to create the best content and to build your reputation. Take a long-term approach. That’s the best (and really the only) SEO game in town anymore.