For many years a large proportion of SEO’s have relied on paid links to boost their search engine rankings, over the years this has been made easier and easier through paid link brokers and sites offering paid blog posts and reviews. 2008 has really been a turning point for search engine optimisation with Google’s Matt Cutts publicly stating that Google does and has penalised sites for buying links. This was combined by Google placing penalties on a number of high and low profile websites.
One of the most interesting signals the Google sent out earlier in the year was how hard they came down on sites that sold and used paid reviews and paid blog posts, to many this may have just seemed like an obvious step to make buying links more difficult. However to others this was a signal that Google’s algorithms were placing a fair amount of weight on social media and by eliminating the effectiveness of paid posts and reviews Google has effectively cut out the majority of spam in social media, although by no means is social media spam free.
This has left a lot of old school SEO’s pondering the way forward as they have relied heavily on paid links and now there is a huge associated risk with this technique. But on the other hand it is still a very effective technique as we can see from sites which still rank in the top few position in highly competitive serps purely from buying large quantities of seemingly irrelevant and unrelated links. This begs the question, why has Google not penalised these sites? Are they scared because the brands are incredibly well known or could be related to ad spend, one final possibility is that currently it is an incredibly manual process and Google just physically does not have the resource to manage it, who knows.
What Is The Future Of SEO?
Predicting the future, not an easy task! What’s for certain is that over the last year anyone actively buying links is walking on a tight rope. Putting a website a risk through buying links is personally something I would ever recommend, but for those that are currently using these techniques which place a site at risk maybe you should consider the wider impact that is the current world financial crisis. Why should this effect a link building strategy? Well in times when businesses are struggling to stay profitable a website is a must for any business trying to attract new customers. If either your in-house SEO or your SEO agency is undertaking a link building strategy that includes buying blatant paid links then not only are they placing your website at risk of a penalty, they are also placing you business at huge risk of losing its biggest revenue generator and in these economic conditions that could spell the end for the business. What you have to ask is, is it worth the risk of using an SEO or a search agency that is stuck in the past?
Old school SEO’s, in-house teams and agencies have to realise that link brokers and paid links are dying and are a thing of the past, and as mentioned above no longer just put a website at risk, they now place an entire business at risk.
For some the way forward has been clear for a long time, and essentially is quite obvious – it is just a case of developing a complete online strategy that includes social media, pr, blogging and the many other forms of social media. It’s not just about the off-page side of things though, I recently read an article stating that a lot of SEO’s are still writing pages purely for the search engines, personally I though this technique died out whilst I was at University a couple of years ago, but apparently not. In my opinion you should never write a webpage purely for the search engines – its just purely lazy. A webpage should always be written to give the best user experience and then optimised accordingly, yes this does take longer but thats where we should be demonstrating our skills. Your online marketing agency or team should be making land grabs, if not for now but for the future – does your company have a twitter account for example, if they don’t then I would make sure you register the company name before someone else beats you too it.
Any SEO’s that either haven’t really used social media or don’t see the benefits in using social media to create a safe and sustainable search engine optimisation strategy, then over Christmas you really should be taking a good long look at the way the web is going and the success that can be gained through an effective social media strategy – all you really need to do it take a look at Dell which display a near perfect example of this (I say “near perfect” as personally I believe things are always evolving and thus perfection can never be achieved, you can however get pretty close). Now is the time for those who haven’t already to accept that for now social media and online pr are going to form a huge part of any SEO campaign. If you choose to stick with the old school methods of buying links etc, then you are going to have to do a lot of catching up in a very small amount of time, or you will just get left behind stuck in the past. Not only that but it is my opinion that if your current strategy puts a site at risk then in these difficult financial times you are placing a business and people jobs at risk and lets face it no-one wants that on their conscience.
What About On-page Optimisation
It’s not just about the off-page side of things though, I recently read an article stating that a lot of SEO’s are still writing pages purely for the search engines, personally I though this technique died out whilst I was at University a couple of years ago, but apparently not. In my opinion you should never write a webpage purely for the search engines – its just purely lazy. A webpage should always be written to give the best user experience and then optimised accordingly, yes this does take longer but that’s where we should be demonstrating our skills. A well written page that appeals to the user will hands down always convert better than a page written purely for the search engines, and at the end of the day conversion rates and ROI should be forming a huge part of an SEO’s job – there is very little point in ranking highly and getting loads of traffic is your site can’t convert!
The Difficulties Of A Successful Social Media Strategy
As I see it, there are currently two main issues with adopting an SEO strategy than incorporate social media, blogging, pr etc. The first is that it needs buy in from the company, if there is no belief and buy in then the social media side of things will fall flat on its face. The buy in side of things is not helped as the results gained from social media can be hard to quantify. This said there are a number of monitoring tools out there such as Radian6 which will help monitor your success and as always Google Alerts will be there to alert you to any mentions. In terms of visits and backlink numbers the standard tools will provide the same level of detail as always.
The second issue is time, developing and executing a successful social media strategy takes time. This is particularly an issue for smaller in-house teams where the SEO’s are often also the web developers and as such have a task list longer than a really long thing. The solution is clearly to except that it is going to take time and just get on with it, or alternatively look to an agency or consultant to take on the social media aspect of your SEO campaign.
So there we have it, the future is social.