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From Quick Wins to Hard Work

John Doherty —  June 8, 2012
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SEO is not about quick wins. I get asked all the time to “give us something that we can do now that will have a noticeable effect”. People, everyone, wants to get the most bang for their buck, and this especially happens in business where there is direct pressure to produce ROI. After all, no one brings in a consultant until they are unable to solve their own problems. At this point, your problems become mine. And if you’ve been seeking quick wins and they’re not working, what the heck makes you think that me giving you quick wins is going to fix your problems? Quick wins have not been solving your issues until now, so why do you think anything is going to be different with my quick wins?

Remember, doing the same thing again and again and expecting different results isn’t smart. It’s actually a sign of madness.

Good Work Takes Time

I’ve mentioned this before. But this post was inspired by Danny’s epic rant from SMX yesterday about easy links, where he went off on people wanting easy links. But, as he pointed out, easy links are not the ones that are going to move the needle for you. Of course, Danny is a word wizard, so let me let him tell you about it (and you should read the whole article):

Can you imagine going to the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal as a reader and finding that the home pages don’t show you the top news but rather suggest that you submit news to get visitors to your web site? No one would turn to these sources for news each day. They wouldn’t be important.

If people are reading the Ezine site, then the site would be designed for readers — and it would have readers — and if it has readers, then the links would be of great value. But a site that exists mainly to help other sites just get links? I don’t think those links have long-term value.

I am absolutely not suggesting that by having submitted to Ezine Articles that you might get yourself banned in Google, hurt by Penguin or any nonsense that I fully expect some people will try to read into what I’m writing. I’m not trying to “out” the site. Moreover, the site apparently does distribute content and has a mission to let other sites discover some of the articles they might want to feature. I’ve not done any deep exploration of how the site works; maybe there are gems of great content within it.

I’m simply saying that on the surface, this site seems to have nothing to offer a reader, no compelling reason why someone would come by each day to see the latest articles and, then when reading those articles, perhaps click on links within them to learn more about something covered. Those type of links are the ones that the search engines want to count, links that add value to a reader.

Let me show you some examples that have driven links, traffic, and brand awareness for Distilled, and then some more examples from around the Internet.

Excel for SEOs

My coworker Mike Pantoliano, who can do some awesome things with Excel, put together the Excel Guide for SEOs in 2011.

Mike told me that he spent over 30 hours on this one piece of content. To date, this thing has received:

* 235 linking root domains;
* Over 2,000 tweets and Likes probably (hard to know since we transferred URLs);
* Been mentioned in countless conference slidedecks.

Whose clients wouldn’t love this kind of exposure?

Linkbait Guide

We can also talk about Ed Fry’s Linkbait Guide, which he did during a two week internship at Distilled during Summer 2011. He shot videos, brought his cat into the office (I think), had a 3-d Distilled logo created, and put together this monstrosity of a document.

To date, this guide has received:

* 159 linking root domains
* Almost 1,000 tweets
* 244 +1s

Once again, whose clients wouldn’t love this kind of return?

Time Invested Wisely = Bigger Return

I’m always preaching to my clients that it’s the big things you do that have the biggest returns. We took risks with creating these guides by dedicating time to them, but they’ve had quite a payoff – between them, that make up about 1/10th of our overall link profile!

And don’t get me wrong, this can be text content in the form of well-research stories. This article from TheAtlantic has almost 3,600 linking root domains (z0mg!) -

Even for me, I usually spend a couple of hours on a blog post (though this one has taken considerably less). But the one that got the most attention and still gets links took me about 8 hours -

And if you’re an SEO, you know Jon Cooper’s linkbuilding strategies post, which I saw him tweeting about for WEEKS before it was published:

And this is what happened when DollarShaveClub’s video went viral. Check out that link velocity!

I’d love to see other examples y’all have of content that took forever, but paid off! I’d also love to see examples where it did not!

tl;DR – Spend more time, higher risk/reward, but when you get it right, the reward is sweet.

John Doherty

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I'm the Senior Marketing Manager of HotPads.com, based in San Francisco. Previous to Hotpads I worked at Distilled for 2 years as an online marketing consultant. In my spare time I shoot lifestyle photography, ski, rock climb, and update my Twitter and Google+ accounts.

3 responses to From Quick Wins to Hard Work

  1. You’re totally right: link building is hard, and now even more because is sooooooooo related to producing great content. And great content means usually taking your time, testing, researching.
    For instance, to prepare my “Content Curation Guide for SEOs” for SEOmoz took me almost 2 weeks with testing sites, apps and syntesizing everything into a long post from a sort of eBook.

    But it is true also that great content, especially when it is related to posts, can be a question of minutes to be produced. An intuition that enlight your brain, or a rage that explode (but you are able to calm down when writing). That was the case of my most “viral” post (the one about the “Forget SEO” adwords campaign).

  2. Very Well Said John… I really enjoyed reading the article… it always takes hard work to build anything whether its links, traffic or any other thing… but people usually don’t understand the fact and always try to go for the shortcut which most of the times is not the right thing to do…

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