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You've probably seen them: programs claiming to teach you how you can use SEO to boost your Google rankings and in turn build a successful internet business that runs on cruise control. All for the low price of $49.95.

While such programs almost always fall into the 'scam' category, there is truth to the notion that SEO can be a pathway to success. If you run any sort of website, chances are you need traffic, and SEO can deliver it. But there are some inconvenient truths about SEO that often get ignored, especially in 'newbie' circles. Here are six of them.

SEO takes time. Everyone loves the idea of instant rewards. Unfortunately, it's hard to find instant rewards in the world of SEO. In my opinion, any commitment of less than six months isn't a commitment at all because in competitive markets it's my experience that you shouldn't expect to see results that drive meaningful returns before then.

SEO is not fair. Paid links work and your competitors might be winning by using them in flagrant disregard of Google's 'rules'. But that's life in the world of SEO. Just as in life generally, some people break the rules, get away with it and prosper as a result. You can fret about this or focus on your own efforts.

Top SERPs aren't always possible. Hard work and patience can go a long way, but let's be honest: everybody in your market wants top SERPs for the valuable keywords. You all can't have them. Bottom line: there's only one top spot and only one person can get it.

SEO is not all about process. The mechanics of kicking a soccer ball are easy enough to understand. But chances are you're not Ronaldo. The same is sort of true of SEO. While you can learn the mechanics, from page structure to link building, there's something beyond the mechanics. The truth is that there are naturals who just have a natural talent for putting it all together and getting to the top of the SERPs.

SEO isn't a standalone marketing strategy. I cringe whenever somebody tells me that his marketing strategy is "viral marketing". Yet "SEO" isn't much better. Sure there are some people who use nothing more than SEO and whose websites bring in big bucks, but for the average person just starting out, SEO should be looked at as a potentially valuable part of a more comprehensive marketing strategy. That doesn't mean that, in the end, SEO can't represent more than 50% of where you spend your time and money, but depending on the nature of your business, paid search, display, email and offline techniques can all play a big role too and are worthy of consideration.

The last mile counts more than the first 99. The process of getting great SERPs can be a long, strenuous journey. But getting great SERPs isn't the end of this hundred miler. Success is based on what you do with those SERPs. So if you're in the business of generating leads, for instance, all the organic search traffic in the world won't do you an ounce of good if you're not converting, or converting but still leaving lots of money on the table. Bottom line: SEO done right delivers intent; the job of your website is to convince the user to take action.

Photo credit: jetalone via Flickr.

Patricio Robles

Published 30 October, 2009 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

2377 more posts from this author

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Matthew Phelan

Matthew Phelan, Director and Co-Founder at 4Ps Marketing

7) SERPs can vary from minute to minute. They can also vary from machine to machine and so on.

The answer is showing trends over time but clients will inevitably want to check results on a daily basis. Educating clients on the wonders of SERPs is essential for any long term strategy.

Have a good Friday everyone!!

Matt

I do love the emails I get (I work at an SEM agency) offering to get me top results within 6 minutes for 57p Guaranteed!!! Love it!

over 6 years ago

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Facebook Applications Development

Absolutely Right. I agree with your all points. Really informative specially "Top SERPs aren't always possible" and "SEO takes time."

over 6 years ago

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Wijn

I had a customer who thought that all he had to do to sell his products was to have a good website. He soon found out that nobody came to visit his website. Now, SEO is the new holy grail for him.

I wonder when he will discover that traditional marketing methods are far from extinct...

over 6 years ago

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Andy

I think I may be directing clients towards this article in the future. Especially the next person telling me his terrible one-page site NEEDS to be #1 for the world's most competitive keyword within a week.

over 6 years ago

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Julie Kosbab

Top SERPs may not always be desirable. Quite frequently, clients get a pet phrase in their heads - one that none of their customers, potential customers, or marker partners would ever use, or that is so knowledge-specific as to be market-limiting.

over 6 years ago

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Justin March

I think that the point about top SERP's not always being possible is spot on, people tend to fixate on SEO when PPC and other methods can be a better fit.  

over 6 years ago

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Theresa Sheridan

I agree, and I have a few clients that I will direct towards this article as well! One sends me every email he gets about this kind of thing, and I usually advise him to pass. Thanks for giving us all a resource to better advise our clients!

over 6 years ago

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atommedia

It's always been a mixed approach that wins through, however there is a big lean towards serps for clients and rightly so as without that in your mix, you ain't selling much at all!!

over 6 years ago

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Manchester Marketing Consultant

I am concerned that there are many businesses that see SEO as the answer and then forget about the customers experience on the website. SEO needs to be part of your marketing strategy not the marketing strategy.

over 6 years ago

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Darryl

Generally a good post, my only point of contention is "SEO is not all about process"

SEO isn't black magic or witchcraft, if you know the right process then it is reproducible, perhaps you are thinking of the process as direct instructions more than concepts though. Sure you're not going to get links from exactly the same sites each time, but you can go through similar link acquisition steps as you took before. And yes, some of the links/partnerships may come down to being in the right place at the right time, this doesn't mean you have a natural born talent for SEO, it simply means that you got yourself into situations where opportunities cropped up, or plain and simply you got lucky.

Good SEO requires tenacity, people who are excited by their work and seek out knowledge, are comfortable with numbers and who can go through logical processes, it doesn't require your parents to work for Google (though if Matt Cutts is your dad you've probably got a head start!)

P.S. Odd bolding occurs when you copy/paste in Firefox from your post, apologies!

over 6 years ago

Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles, Tech Reporter at Econsultancy

Darryl,

Soccer isn't black magic or witchcraft either. Just about anyone can physically learn the mechanics of kicking a soccer ball and just about anyone can learn the rules of the game. But being able to kick a ball and knowing the rules of the game does not a Ronaldo make. :)

over 6 years ago

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unnikrishna menon damodaran, web content and print production specialist at ae

SEO takes time. No. Unlimited time.

over 6 years ago

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Clinton Ritchie

Your six points are very spot on. If it can be made any clearer to small business owners who seem not to understand that Internet Marketing efforts cannot be just SEO alone. They must mix it as SEO is only one aspect of any internet marketing efforts.

over 6 years ago

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Jaron

Good post. I've found that too many people learning SEO or looking for SEO services think that there's a formula of sorts that will guarantee you a spot at the top (and that if they pay enough money, they'll be guaranteed a #1 ranking). SEO is a process, and usually a long one (longer than many SEO clients are willing to accept). For those interested, I recently created a free tool that helps you track all of your backlinks (paid for or exchanged) and automatically verifies if your backlink is still live or not. It also tracks the PR of the linking page, cost of the link, anchor text, etc. It's free, all you have to do is provide a link for continued use. I'd love to get some feedback on it. To sign up, go to BackLinkReporter.com.

over 6 years ago

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Polly Pospyelova, SEO Consultant at fuse8

This is a really good post and the last point describes exactly where most clients who believe good SERPs will sell their product go wrong. It is the responsibility of an SEO specialist to educate the client that achieving good SERPs is on the beginning.

The success depends on the commitment not only from the SEO specialist but also from the client. Very often I come across websites that feature in top 3 SERPs for valuable keywords and convert nothing or very little.

Spending all the money and effort on rankings only is not worth it if you are not prepared to work with the website itself to improve the process of turning traffic into leads.

over 6 years ago

Dominic Geary

Dominic Geary, Managing Partner at Carat (Leeds)

Good article despite it pointing out the obvious!

over 6 years ago

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SEO Wanna Be

Hi your post is amazing, It's incredible, I learned a lot about SEO and Man, this thing's getting better and better as I learn more about internet marketing. Also as part of my ongoing mission to find the absolute best tools to make money, this is without a doubt at the top of my list. Everything happened so fast!

over 6 years ago

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SEO Services Expert Company, Search Engine Optimization Expert at SEO Services Company

SEO optimization is a time consuming activity. If you are planning to optimize website for top positions on Google then it can consume 4-12 months easily.

over 6 years ago

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six months SEO training

Ah I have a website, and I need traffic, I know that SEO can deliver it. I didn't knew about these inconvenient truths about SEO that often get ignore.

over 6 years ago

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