Why SEO Shortcuts Don’t Work


Shortcuts are all the rage in the business world.

Terms such as growth hacking are trending upward. So are the tactics that go with them.

It’s the acceleration of a process that started with Henry Ford and the assembly line. By focusing on efficiency, businesses can see greater returns for lower costs.

But, these principles aren’t universal. There are still some areas where slow and steady wins the race.

Your website’s SEO campaign is one of those areas.

The Wild World Of SEO

It’s well-known that SEO is in constant flux. The discipline relies on the whims of Google, the world’s largest search engine.

Google earns profits through its lucrative AdWords product. Paid search ads from AdWords show up at the top and bottom of results pages for related search terms. But unpaid, organic results still appear between the ad blocks.

These organic search results are critical to Google’s success. Businesses can’t pay Google to show up in the organic results. As such, skeptical consumers trust this section of the results more than they do the ad blocks.

Combining organic and paid listings into a search results page is the best of both worlds. Google earns the trust of skeptical or research-minded searchers. And, it earns revenue from clicks on paid search ads.

Google must put searchers first to earn revenue through this model. If searchers can’t find what they’re looking for in quick succession, they’ll go elsewhere.

So, Google makes constant changes to their service. They adapt the design and features of their search product. When they update the guidelines, websites must follow to rank.

The SEO Hack Fallacy

Google is a moving target. Yet, it’s one businesses must take aim at. Particularly in the insurance world.

Insurance agencies rely on Google for visibility, brand awareness and commerce. Their opportunity and profitability depend on navigating Google’s turbulent waters.

Some of enterprising agencies try and outfox the hound. They keep track of the changes Google makes and try and hack their way to a prime search position.

These hacks take advantage of loopholes in Google’s updates.

In the past, this meant buying thousands of links to an agency website. Or, stuffing that website with every variation of a keyword under the sun.

More recently, it meant putting the words near me on location-based pages. This was a direct reaction to a surge in near me searches on smartphones.

Some of these tactics succeed for a time. But once Google closes a loophole, they go bust.

In a best case scenario, Google’s changes will render an SEO hack useless. Machine learning breakthroughs make this outcome more common these days.

In a worst case scenario, a website can lose visibility for taking a shortcut. The Penguin and Panda penalties devastated agency websites that used shortcuts to rank. Many of those websites took years to recover their search visibility.

The bottom line: SEO hacks are not sustainable. And, basing your agency’s success on SEO shortcuts is downright dangerous for search visibility.

The Long Game

Instead of focusing on outsmarting Google, don’t focus on Google at all.

Google itself endorses this policy. Its webmaster guidelines include the following nine words:

Make pages primarily for users, not for search engines.

It’s a bit jarring for a company with the stature of Google to take this position. But it makes perfect sense.

As an insurance agent, you’re chasing the same goal as Google: Consumer satisfaction. Satisfied consumers are more likely to favor your agency and buy from you. Satisfied consumers are your quickest path to revenue.

Google pits itself as a middleman in this exchange. It matches consumers’ in-the-moment needs to relevant solutions.

Google gets hefty revenue from paid ad clicks this process spawns. But, it otherwise serves as a facilitator. Consumers must click on a link to another page or another website to buy. If they click through to your website, you stand to get all the ensuing revenue.

The goal, then, is not to outfox Google. It’s to delight consumers.

This takes time, persistence and consistency. It takes building trust, shunning shortcuts and delivering continual excellence.

It’s a lot of work. But in the end, it will be worth your while.

How To Move Forward

Embracing the consumer-first mindset is only the beginning of a sound SEO strategy. To succeed, you must deliver on this promise.

This starts with comprehensive research. Take a deep dive into what consumers are searching for. Then, see where your business can provide solutions. You can use tools such as Google Autocomplete, Google Trends and Answer the Public to do this.

Next, focus on providing comprehensive answers to these searches through your website content. Position your agency as the best authority for that searcher need.

Build upon this foundation over time by adding more pieces of relevant content to your site. These can be blog articles, line of business pages, or pages specific to the cities you serve. Be sure to promote this content on your agency’s social media pages.

Once your content strategy is in place, focus on your agency’s online reputation. Ask businesses you have a professional relationship with to link to your website. Ask customers to leave reviews on your Google Maps listing or Facebook page. Share pictures of your agency’s community involvement on social media. And don’t forget to ask for referrals.

This will all take time and effort. But by committing to this process on a consistent basis, you’ll see results. Not only of your search rankings, but also in your revenue.

So, stop looking for shortcuts. The SEO outcomes you seek are worth working for.


About the Author

Dylan Brooks

Dylan Brooks helps ITC clients improve the visibility of their agency websites, working directly with them to improve their search engine rankings. Dylan has a bachelor’s degree in communication from the University of Miami and an MBA from Southern Methodist University. Dylan has extensive experience with writing, strategy and marketing analytics. In his spare time, Dylan enjoys cooking, participating in 5K races, and spending time around Dallas.

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