Any entrepreneur who is well versed in modern marketing methods knows the unbridled power and impact that a successful SEO campaign can have on a business’s success and revenue.
However, what they might not know is that on the path to search engine success, Google will intentionally employ every dirty tactic, psychological deterrent, and algorithmic manipulation at their disposal to try and get businesses to quit.
Now, I know that the above statement has probably left some of you scratching your head in confusion.
“Surely Google doesn’t WANT me to fail!” You might be thinking.
And you are right.
Google doesn’t want you to fail, they simply want businesses that are not committed to adding value to fail.
If you are still struggling to comprehend what I mean, let me make a quick analogy.
Why Google is So Ruthless.
Most of you are probably familiar with the infamous Navy SEALs, an American special forces unit that must undergo a rigorous training program boasting the highest attrition rate on the planet..
While the number obviously fluctuates, in a typical training class, less than 20% of the men who start training to become Navy SEALs will actually see it through to the end.
Some are injured in training and forced out, but most simply quit.
Because the instructors responsible for their training are absolutely ruthless.
They do everything in their power to break men down and get them to wave the white flag and go home.
However, they don’t do this out of malice or a desire to see any one particular candidate quit.
The training methods they employ are intentionally designed to separate the wheat from the chaff and ensure that, as the old saying goes, “only the strong survive.”
And this makes sense.
For the trainees who graduate, they will be participating in some of the deadliest most high-stakes mission on the planet where any error or weakness spells death for themselves and their teammates.
And while nobody dies in the game of SEO, Google has employed similar tactics with a similar logic to ensure that only committed entrepreneurs are rewarded.
They don’t use the dirty tactics we are about to discuss because they want you to fail.
They do it because they want to make sure that only people who are serious about providing value and giving something back to the online community are able to rank their sites and maintain their prized first-page status.
Now, before we dive into the exact tactics and methods that Google uses, let’s take a brief look at Google’s history to better understand the method to their madness.
The Lessons of History.
2000-2009 was considered the “Golden Age of SEO” for spammers and online marketing hacks.
Poorly written, valueless content abounded and all that was required to achieve first-page ranking was a few cheaply purchased links.
This lead to a world wide web that was rife with useless webpages and laughable articles that somehow managed to provide their owners with a handsome income.
But then, the wizards over at Google heard the world’s disgruntled complaints, and realized the detrimental effects of their algorithms, and decided to make a change.
Google underwent a number of evolutions, including the 2011 Panda update, that transformed their algorithm from link and content centric to brand centric.
Then, in 2012, Google dropped the hammer on bad link building… Hard.
The Penguin update completely changed the world of backlinking and made it nigh on impossible for marketers to purchase their way to a #1 ranking.
Almost overnight, companies large and small had to make the evolution from businesses to brands, either shifting their focus to quality links and valuable content or facing severe penalties that would all but cripple their online marketing.
And this is where Google’s true genius lies.
Google has developed an algorithm that knows what types of signals and indicators are given off by a growing brand.
And if your SEO campaign isn’t giving off those signals, then you are, as they say, “Sorry(?) out of luck.”
Google’s Psychological Warfare Tactics.
Part of Google’s genius is their understanding of how different companies work.
They realize that brands of any kind are not focused solely on SEO results, they are focused on creating valuable content for their audience and creating a dent in their industry.
Google also knows that the majority of entrepreneurs do not truly grasp the power of branding and, as a result, will be unlikely to invest the required time and money into developing a branding campaign that will generate real SEO results.
These two simple principles are the foundation for the psychological warfare at play in Google’s search algorithm.
Just think about it.
All that it really requires is a mobile optimized website, long form blog content, quality inbound links and, if we are referring to local SEO, a unique NAP, a few citations, and quality directories.
Follow the above formula and you will boost your rank.
Most entrepreneurs and search engine optimizers know this and Google knows that they know this.
Which is why they developed a series of psychological games to separate the entrepreneurs who are truly seeking to build their presence and add value from the business owners who are looking for a silver bullet approach to first page ranking.
What are these games that I am referring to?
1. Testing Your Patience by Rewarding Consistency
The first “game” that Google plays is to reward websites based on their consistency of link building and content creation and not just the overall volume of links and content.
For example, if your company or brand generates 100 links in 30 days, you will likely notice a minuscule increase in your ranking, if you notice an increase at all.
However, if you were to build only 10-15 links a month over the course of 6 to 12 months, the search engine gods would reward your efforts handsomely.
2. Forcing Ranking Delays
The second psychological tactic that Google employs is to force ranking delays.
What does this mean?
Well, any backlink that you build today will not truly begin to benefit your ranking or your brand for at least 6 months time.
This means that if you started an SEO campaign today you would not reap the fruits of your labor for almost a year!
3. Unexpected Ranking Changes
If you grew up playing some kind of competitive sport, many of you may have had the (mis)fortune of having a coach who reveled in playing mind games.
You know, the kind of games where after “finishing” a 2 hour work out with a 5k run, your coach then informed you that you had another 5k to run before you were dismissed.
And while many of you may have hated your seemingly sadistic coach as you ran across the track, your lungs burning and heart rate dangerously close to inducing cardiac arrest, most of you probably realize that this style of training, developed an inner strength and resolve that helped you succeed when it was game time.
This is the same kind of tactic that Google uses to weed out the weak links in the search engine game.
Their algorithm contains triggers that will intentionally produce unexpected swings in your performance, (like decreasing your keyword ranking for 30 days) in order to test your commitment to your campaign.
Check out Google’s patent application to read more about it.
The First 6 Months.
Google uses the above tactics to ensure that companies are willing to truly invest the time and effort required to succeed at building a brand and achieving SEO success.
But for many of you, the financial stress and fear of the unknown that these tactics create are simply too much to handle.
If this is the case, you need to realize that this is exactly what Google wants, and you are being beaten by the game before you even become a real player.
Without the internal fortitude and long-term commitment to your campaign, this is what you can expect from your SEO efforts.
In the first month, your spirits are high. The prospect of #1 rankings and tons of leads has whet your appetite and you are hungry for success.
With leads and an increased revenue on the mind, you are more than happy to trust the advice and actions of your recently hired SEO agency.
As you pass the 30-day threshold, your spirits are still high.
You have done your research and know that SEO success takes time, so you are more than willing to sit back patiently and wait for the results.
However, as you open up your email and find that second invoice, a small seed of doubt is planted in your mind and four words ring in your head; “Will this really work?”.
Pause and take a deep breath! You’ve made it to month three.
But there’s a problem. Your agency keeps sending you reports about flat keyword rankings, a nonsensical graph, and some B.S. about link timing.
And to add insult to injury, all of the content they are publishing reads like it could have been written your 14 year old nephew.
But hey, these guys know what they are doing right?
Screw this! It’s all a scam and you just can’t take it anymore.
Your business partners are on your case, the rankings are the same as they were or worse, and all you have to show for your efforts is an increasingly sparse marketing budget and a few new prescriptions for your blood pressure.
You throw in the towel, believing it is all a game.
And as you walk off dejectedly, with your head hanging low to the ground, Google’s algorithm is sitting back in its chair, laughing like a James Bond villain as it enjoys its victory.
Google successfully kept your website off page #1 because you weren’t committed to doing whatever it took to truly build your brand and offer unique value.
Or at least that’s what would have happened if you hadn’t read this article…
But luckily for you, you did.
The True Path to Winning the War.
If you are unwilling to trust the process and be patient on your path towards SEO success, then the above section is more of a self-fulfilling prophecy than a possibility.
However, if you can pull an Indiana Jones and take the leap of faith, in time, you will be rewarded with the Holy Grail of SEO.
Let me show you an example from a previous client.
Case Study 1:
Here is a rankings graph for a supremely competitive keyword in a city with 2.2 million people.
This particular site started with no SEO authority, close to zero inbound links, no verified Google maps listing, and zero branding.
Not exactly what you would call a head start.
To make matters even worse, the client had zero understanding of SEO, no particular interest in learning about it, and were extremely impatient.
They wanted results and wanted them yesterday.
Despite the challenges we knew this client would present, we decided to move forward with the project, taking it upon ourselves to not only deliver a great campaign, but also keep the client motivated and in high spirits until the campaign paid off.
For the first three months of the campaign, the results were, as expected, atrocious.
But we knew how to play the game.
After re-optimizing the website and building optimized landing pages, we knew we would have to give Google time to digest it all.
Along the way, we also built tons of foundational links like citations, quality directories, and social profile accounts and augmented our strategy with an aggressive guest posting campaign.
And yet, as we advanced into months 4, 5, 6, and 7, our boots muddied by Google’s brutal trenches, the campaigns volatility and unpredictability continued and, unsurprisingly, the keyword rankings trended downwards.
While none of these trends are particularly alarming or unexpected for an experienced SEO company, it’s a different story for the customer.
As the client continued watching their rankings like a hawk, the tension started to build, and their concerns grew.
With the bad reputation many snake oil SEOs have given the industry, this is the point where most clients begin to question the validity of your work and start doubting your ability to deliver on your promises.
Luckily, this client kept the faith and continued working with us.
Around month 6 or 7, we’d built enough consistent SEO juice to warrant a major upgrade in rankings.
However, Google had other plans.
As we crossed the threshold into month 8 the rankings went lower than ever!
But we understood their strategy.
This change in our ranking was nothing more than a ploy to test our commitment.
Would we change our strategy? Delete links? Triple our links? Get more aggressive with anchor text?
Google was hoping so.
However, if we had made these alterations, it would have confirmed Google’s suspicion that all of these activities were being done solely for the purpose of SEO.
And this would have spelled game over for a long, long time.
With our client’s trust and our extensive knowledge of Google’s tactics, we may have lost many small battles, but ultimately, we won the war.
During month 9, the rankings recovered like clockwork, and finally, during month 10, after nearly a year of consistent effort, the client’s site ranked in the top third of page #1.
As frustrating and time consuming as it might be, this is the only path to true SEO success, and if you go into each new campaign understanding this, you will be ready and equipped to beat Google at its own game until you are #1.
Despite the overall “Us against them” attitude of this article, I want to conclude with one final point.
Google is not the enemy.
Their algorithms are designed to test your will and commitment to ensure that only the best websites earn a first page ranking.
And this is a good thing.
It guarantees a prevalence of high quality content and prevents spammers and “get rich quick quacks” from stealing ranks through unethical methods.
And luckily for you, with the above information, you are now an insider of the game which gives you a distinct edge over your competition.
You now know how to handle the waves that Google will send your way and how to ride them accordingly.
So use the knowledge in this article to give you the resilience and perseverance required to rank your website.
And feel free to thank us when you reach the top 😉