I’m in the mood for a rant today so hold tight, here we go…
If you aren’t already aware, there has been a lot of turmoil in the SEO community recently.
This has been come about in reaction to changes made by Google to its ranking algorithm. In particular it is focusing on “overly optimized websites” and has de-indexed a link building service called BuildMyRank.com.
The changes have been so dramatic that BuildMyRank.com has gone out of business and are currently refunding their customers. This means that the thousands of people who have used their services to try and boost their Google ranking are probably feeling a touch of frustration right now.
This is a classic example of why I don’t rely on SEO as a traffic strategy: You can spend an awful lot of time and money trying to get your web pages to page 1 in Google with very uncertain results.
This blog is only one of my websites but it still gets around 4,000-5,000 visitors per month on average:
However, as you can see about only around 13-14% of my traffic comes from Google.
The other 85%+ is from other sources, referrals from other sites, guest posts I’ve done, contributions of content I’ve put out there on the web, mailings by other marketers and my own email list.
Here’s why I don’t focus on SEO for traffic generation:
- It’s increasingly slow (read: usually takes MONTHS to get ranked well in Google these days)
- You’re playing a constant game of cat and mouse with The Big-G who can change the rules on you at any time
- It’s not really “free” traffic as you really need paid tools to get it working well
- It’s very time intensive compared with other traffic strategies. Sure you can outsource the work but again this costs money.
- The success of your business rests entirely in the hands of an arbitrary third party (Google again of course) – is this really sensible?
- The results of SEO are very uncertain (all of your work can be wasted)
The Great SEO Scam
So why, you may ask is SEO so popular and why do so many people keep talking about “get to Google page 1” strategies all the time? After all, there’s not a day that goes by when I don’t receive several emails about exactly this kind of thing.
My cynical view, is that SEO appeals to internet newbies and people exploit this.
Many marketers who sell make money online products know full well that using phrases like “get to Google page 1 in 7 days” entice people to buy their products.
But I can tell you from firsthand experience that virtually NONE of these marketers use SEO in their own businesses – they know it’s flaky so they rely on other traffic strategies instead.
I was at a conference last week where one marketer showed an example of how he got to page 1 in less than 24 hours. Now, this is technically TRUE but the phrase he ranked for was “The best speaker at XXX conference”.
Well that is a phrase for which no one searches, hence the competition is very nonexistent and therefore he’ll get virtually no traffic from it even though he is technically speaking at #1 in Google.
Nonetheless, he received a solid round of applause from at least half the audience who were clearly in the dark about this.
Don’t blame the audience though: 18 months ago I probably would have clapped too.
If I created a post here on my blog called “Why Rob Cornish Doesn’t Like SEO” it would be ranked as number 1 in Google in probably just a few hours.
So I could claim that, “I’ve got to page 1 in Google”, here’s the proof, buy my course and I’ll teach you how to do it!
What a load of hogwash – this is part of the “The Great SEO Scam”.
How To Avoid The Scam
The best way forward for the vast majority (but not all) websites is to work on non-SEO traffic and marketing strategies which involve less effort and have more certain results.
This is what I do personally, and it’s what we cover in massive detail inside our members area.
Serious businesses starting up online don’t begin by focusing on SEO. They promote their businesses by writing articles for other websites in their niche, posting videos, doing press releases, paid for advertising, offering free content to other product creators and networking both online and offline.
The list goes on and on but SEO is way down the list of priorities when they start out.
Now, here’s an interesting thing: Many of these traffic strategies produce nice SEO side benefits as a by-product! So as you become more popular, build out your site’s content and get more traffic, Google will recognise this and reward you by sending you some traffic.
This is “natural SEO” and is exactly what Google wants you to do. You won’t get penalised for this because it is genuine as oppose to what so many people have been doing which is effectively trying to game the system by finding loopholes and using paid for software which Google disapproves of.
So stop worrying about keywords, article spinning and link building so much. Spend some time learning real and proven ways to get traffic. There’s no magic, it’s just a skill set you can learn. The results will come with more certainty and less effort, I can almost guarantee it…
What do you think of the “Big SEO Scam”? Whether you agree or disagree please click LIKE if you liked this and drop your comments below. Don’t hold back, tell me what you REALLY think…. 🙂
Great article Rob. I like it when bloggers speak their minds.
The best advice you can give to newbies is SEO, as Google wants it, comes with time. Focus on deliver great content, forget about magic tools.
Quality content is what it’s all about. I know from experience producing quality content can seem like a daunting prospect when we start out, but it DOES come with practice. Just stick at it and create your stuff for real people not for Google. Ironically, Google will respect this and give you the rankings you deserve over time. Goes back to the “natural SEO” point in the post I think.
Hope your marketing is going well, great to see you here on the blog again 🙂
I fully agree with you Rob, as far as a solo blogger, or internet marketer goes SEO is very much a long term strategy and providing good quality content with lots of opportunity for interaction is by far the best policy. But for business , and by this I mean bricks ‘n mortar and tradespeople, so-called ‘offline’ biz SEO can be a good investment if it is done legitimately and with skill. i don’t believe you can ‘trick’ your way to the top-not for long anyway-but for business owners who may not know how to optimize their sites, taking a professional service can deliver dividends.
What a great blog, Rob. I thought SEO was hyper important too. Now that you’ve put that into perspective we’ll all know not to place too great an importance on it and concentrate on other methods of website promotion.
Nice one Rob – keep up the good work.
I was also under that impression for a long time when I started out.
I think its natural for people who are relatively new to internet marketing to think the only ways of generating traffic are Pay Per Click (e.g., Google Adwords) or SEO. But in fact these are often a good way to either lose a lot of money or get frustrated, or both!
Thanks for your input Colin, good luck with your projects going forward.
Hi Rob 😉
This is by far the easiest to understand explanation I have read on the current Google moves. Thanks very much for your clear and simple explanation that even a newb like me can easily understand ;-))
As usual, an offering of an excellent, worthwhile use of my limited time…
Thanks for your kind words!
There is a stack of discussion and counter discussion out there on the web about this right now so I thought I’d try and just focus in on the nuts and bolts of it. Good to know it helped you 🙂
Kind regards, Rob
Thanks for that and all the other information which you provide. We’re learning all the time!
You mention how some people are trying to game the system by providing loopholes. While I was searching for PLR material to assist me with creating my ‘free gift’ as part of the 15 Steps to Success, I signed up to a site where the person recommended looking at ‘Google Sniper’. Have you heard of this? It’s about creating a one-page site as part of a system that brings FREE traffic to you and where Google is ‘forced’ to rank you high! The money then comes in on ‘automatic pilot’. The original site owner and the ‘Google Sniper’ owner both seem to have done incredibly well out of it – usual bank statement evidence provided!
Very tempting but doesn’t seem to ‘ring’ true! What is your opinion?
My opinion is that Google Sniper doest work in 2012 you just have to build an authority site. No quick fix or magic to earning money online.
Thanks for your thoughts on this – great to see you here on the blog 🙂
I totally agree with that. Sniper sites (little niche websites that promote affiliate products, e.g., wedding speech eBooks) hit their sweet spot quite a few years ago in my opinion. Google has been closing the loopholes on these steadily but surely!
Thanks for your comment – an excellent contribution as always 🙂
Yes, Google Sniper was a product a few years ago that did extremely well on Clickbank. A 2.0 version was released more recently. The basic idea was you get all the “on page” SEO (i.e., tweaks and adjustments to your website itself) absolutely correct and then you just get ranked high, loads of traffic and money from the affiliate products you promote. Your website is a basic WordPress one which provides a review and personal recommendation on the affiliate product.
There were quite a few of these sites around, including some by the author too but I highly suspect (although I can’t know for certain of course) that most of them get very little traffic and earn zero money.
Now Google has cracked down even further, I should imagine the situation must be even worse. Google just doesn’t want these kinds of sites ranking high. So it’s not a strategy I’d recommend as you’ll have very uncertain results and constantly on thin ice with any money you do make. No way to build a business really.
Hope this helps Peter! If anyone’s got experiences which run contrary to what I’ve suggested then please do comment and let us know.
Excellent post Rob, a fresh look at all the paranoia and confusion going on right now about SEO and the death of the blog networks – which although they were bound to be found out by G, did work quite well. Your site proves that traffic can be acheived with good quality content and lots of relationsips online, great strategies moving forward for sure! Cheers
Glad you enjoyed Ralph thanks!
Nice article Rob best one you have written. Great points you make.
Cheers Bruce – I appreciate that. Good to see you here on the blog 🙂
Great info as always Rob. I was one of those people using BuildMyRank and Magic Submitter software to boost ranking on Google. However, I think I know better now… just concentrate your effort on creating good content and submit articles to web 2.0 and article directories will do the trick. Forget about all these SEO magic stuff, it does not work and a big waste of time in my opinion.
Great to hear from you, thanks very much for commenting.
It’s great to hear from someone who was actually using these services. It’s very interesting to listen to your views because I’ve also noticed a few other long time SEOers saying they are now moving away from SEO as a traffic strategy. I spent about 9 months work solely on SEO when I started and ironically enough as I moved away from it at the start of 2011 my business really began to take off!
Good luck going forward, hope the impact wasn’t too bad on your business and do get in touch if you think I can assist with anything 🙂
Good afternoon Rob …
excellent article! I think for those of us embarking on an Internet Marketing business, your content couldn’t be better advice for us all. I think it is always a case of not following the crowd and that is the pitfall many fall for. Give them a gimmick, and they fall for it hook, line and sinker, SEO seems to be one such gimmick. Remember the line, if something is too good to be true, it normally is?
In my opinion, the problem for newbies is that you are brain-washed with SEO and we keep getting it rammed down our throats. It is a little bit like the British Press, if they repeat the same line over and over again and you are in danger of believing its true. SEO, in my opinion falls into the same category.
I did pick up on Google’s comments early last week that changes were imminent. My interpretation was that I felt this is better for the ”small guy” operating an business online. Too many of the big boys have obviously become too slick with marketing keywords but their articles made little sense or relevance to their niche market. So I’m all for these changes and hopefully there will be a more level playing field. At long last, quality content should be duly rewarded and that will certainly be my aim.
Thanks for the article Rob …
Best wishes … Andrew
Great comment there and you make some excellent points.
Only thing I would disagree with slightly is SEO being a gimmick. SEO is a genuine way of getting traffic and there are things you can do to make your site appeal to Google. Many companies do this and hire SEO people to implement this. But the gimmick part is the “get to page 1 by next week” or whatever. And you are of course right also that newbies often get it rammed down their throats, mostly because this is what marketers believe people want.
Cheers for now 🙂
Thanks for coming back so soon Rob. Yes, I would agree with you that SEO is NOT a gimmick. I should of worded it better. What was I trying to say? Probably the gimmick “packages” that were being sold a few years back, giving the impression that nothing else matters except SEO to have a successful online business … and they cost an arm and a leg. Also, as you correctly point out ”get to page 1 by next week” sucked in a lot of people. Did I fall for that one? Quite possibly, can’t quite remember, probably because I’ve been offered many ”false dawns” before GHG came my way! … cheers Rob for your time … Andrew
Say it like it is Rob 100% true, I am an internet newbie myself and I sometimes wonder how come no one else seems to see through this seo magic thing. Anyway true words like always from you.
Thanks Michael, hope the post add some perspective on traffic generation for you.
Great to see you here on the blog, thanks for commenting 🙂
I have a lot of time for your work.
However I cant agree with two observation one in the article and on in the comments
1) Sniper sites are alive and welll. The course is BS but the concept is not.
Do great keyword research and find a low competition but good cpc keyword build a few page website and do very little backlinking. Make money from adsense.
This negates the need for expensive tools or long lead times. (nov 2011 brand new 5 page site by March 2012 with no new content or backlinks – a total of 5 i think income is at $3/day – $90 a month)
i refer your to adsenseflipeprs and nichepursuits as clear examples that you adjust a concept a bit and bingo.
2) SEO is not a scam. Nice SEO title for the article though 🙂
Until Google eliminates PR and backlinks from the algo we will still be able to rank with traditional SEO its just getting more complex. No bad thing it will make more space for those left.
I do like your ideas and for many situations they are better than traditional SEO but not all.
Thanks very much for commenting. I was wondering when somebody would challenge what I’ve said, I know this is controversial.
Let me make a few comments in reply:
1. Sniper sites
I am prepared to stand corrected on this. You’ve obviously seen different results from me.
All I can go on really is my experience which is that I have an adsense site that generates me a small amount of money every month and is still ranked high in Google (#1 position for main keyword and #3 position for secondary keyword) even after the recent changes.
But the work I had to do to get it to this point was a GREAT deal and much more than other strategies that that generated 1000x more traffic and money for me (literally). Other sites I tried to rank for using SEO failed or they didn’t get the traffic that the Google Keyword Tool or Market Samurai initially indicated. I know not everyone wants to shoot for the big bucks but of the people I know who do these sites day in day out, they really only make small amounts of cash. Again their whole business rests in the hands of Google. You’ve only got to read the blogs of people who do this to know of the turbulent conditions that have to put up with week to week.
So the whole thing is very hit and miss to me and the success rate must be extremely low in an every increasingly competitive (and complex as you say) environment with all the courses being taught about it.
2. 100% agree that SEO is not a scam
It’s just that there are far easier ways to get traffic and make money on the internet now. SEO done properly is fine, but there IS an SEO scam in existence which is all the hype about it being portrayed as much easier than it really is.
But I appreciate your comment about the article title! We’re all in the marketing game, right? 😉
Thanks Steve, you’ve injected some good ideas here.
Thanks, my intention is always to add to a discussion rather than distract.
The niche site business is difficult and most people fail. Im all for calling out the terrible courses and advice out there. Most information is bogus.
If anybody wants to look closely at this business model there are non better than adsenseflippers.com to study what they are doing. Its a warts and all site 🙂
And its not for everybody thats for sure. you could argue that people starting out should not attempt that model.
Iin GHG do you have methods for ranking with micro niche sites?
Thanks Steve, all good healthy discussion which is exactly what we want here at Gain Higher Ground.
We don’t talk much about ranking micro sites at all really in GHG Membership. Mainly for the reasons I’ve given, there’s just easier way to make money and get traffic in my view and direct experience.
Horse for courses and all that of course though 🙂
Cheers for now, Rob
I have read your blogs this one and the the one on traffic and I shall use some of all of them in time. So this blog is of its time and thank you for that.
Thanks for this article and I have heard from people who have either been affected panda and its after effects.
Although a change was needed I have felt for a long time that people are contradicting themselves all the time for example Article writing has virtually has had its day, and then offering an article writing course. which kind of defeats the object, especially to me still being a newbie. It is the same principle and is ultimately about trust.
I am also concerned about the chances of any newbie article being read because there are so many articles out there already and it is possible that only the experienced writers will get there view accross in only a cetain popular section of the information niche markets.
However this is no reason to give up and I think that we all have to keep trying and investigating different forms of contact to keep whatever one is doing online.
You’ve hit on a great point here.
Again my view and experience: Article writing is very much alive and kicking, it’s just that article directories (e.g., Ezine articles) are virtually dead now.
Imagine this: You write 1 article and it’s published on BBC.CO.UK, along with a link back to your squeeze page or blog.
How much traffic and subscribers do you think this would get? A MASSIVE amount I would suggest!
Obviously, it’s very difficult to get your article on the BBC but I hope this shows that articles are still very good. It’s just about where they get published. So a great skill to learn is how to find great sites in your niche to get articles published on. There’s no magic, it’s just a skill to learn that’s all.
The side benefit (or “by-product” as I called it in the post) is that you’ll get some great SEO back to your site which Google will be fine with. So win-win.
I’d rather do this all day long as oppose to trying to play traffic loopholes with Google which I know they’ll eventually shut down anyway.
Good to hear from you, hope for your input again soon 🙂
Once again, good clear explamation of how it really is
Cheers Colin – glad you liked!
Well hello Rob, great and timely post, had to stop half way through and cancel my account with a backlinking service!
As Marting Avis said yesterday at his meetup, the magic starts when you start networking with others in your industry, which is exactly what you suggest. Get out there and submit your content to sites relevant to your niche not the content farms like Ezinearticles.
Great to meet you yesterday.
Great to see you here on the GHG blog.
Yes, I think Martin was right on the money there – there’s a great deal to be said for “getting out there”!
Great to meet you too & talk soon I’m sure.
Very interesting debate here – oddly enough I came back to this site to see if Rob could recommend any ‘decent + useful’ SEO plugins for wordpress.
Anyway heres where i stand. SEO is just one part of the jigsaw, but it is definately worthwhile. I have a website running, which gets a nice amount of traffic just because of the domain and title. (low comp keyword) – however when it was just a squeeze page it did not rank well. Throw in some valued content and hey – page 1. So it is important – in my view. But i tend to also agree with Rob – there are easier ways to generate traffic, but there is a arguement that these could be more time consuming. Google also move the goalposts every so often so i think its always a challenge (but I quite like the chess match!)
So – anyone know of any good plugins? Not mega-bucks too…….
You make some excellent points here. Google does like content so ranking squeeze pages is pretty difficult. Plus viewing SEO as one piece in the jigsaw is an excellent idea.
As for plugins I recommend the All in One SEO Pack by Michael Torbert. It’s free and you’ll find it in the standard library if you search for it. 🙂
Hope this helps John, thanks for your input and questions – always great to see you here on the blog.