The “Can’t I Just . . .” SEO Problem

By Alli Denning
January 15, 2008

I have clients and seminar audience members ask me all the time when talking over SEO strategies and to-do lists, “But, can’t I just . . .?” Almost without exception, the answer to this question is no. At the heart of the question is the client’s seeking (logically) the fastest and most efficient way to get the job done. However, in SEO (as in lots of other areas in life and business), short cuts just don’t yield the same output. To get the desired output, there needs to be good input, and good input takes time. In this article, I will discuss two common areas of SEO that folks like to shortcut and why neither shortcut is a good idea.

Content Development

One of the most important factors in long term search engine visibility is ongoing, quality content generation. There are no shortcuts when it comes to developing good content. It takes time to research the ideas and time to write the content. You can reduce some of the time involved by hiring a professional copywriter, but that person will still need your ideas and goals for the content. What you get from such a relationship is tied to what you put into it (again – see the theme?). Search engines love content, but they have sophisticated algorithms in place to detect the difference between good content that is of use to searchers and bad content that is poorly done or that duplicates something already out there. So, if you think, “Can’t I just grab content from this competitor’s site and change it a little bit, making it my own?” Think again. There is little if any benefit to you and your site, and the time involved would be much better spent developing something new and of real value to online searchers.

Keyword Integration

Clients often want a website that doesn’t have much text but that has good search engine rankings. The common “can’t I just” question in this case is whether one can hide the text by making it the same color as the page background. The assumption is that the user won’t see it, but the search engines will pick it up. In fact, what the search engines will pick up is the fact that you are trying to cheat the system (this is a decidedly black hat SEO tactic) and penalize or ban your site. The same applies to tiny text that is so small you can’t read it, as well as keyword stuffing — repeating your keyword phrase over and over again. All shortcuts – all bad ideas. Best case, you waste your time doing it; worst case, the site is banned, defeating the entire purpose of the exercise.

There are other areas as well in Search Engine Marketing (SEM) that take a lot of time, such as inbound link building and social media participation. Just Say No to Can’t I Just tactics! There simply is no substitute for putting the time in to do something right.