Recently, Google updated their search engine algorithm to target one long-trusted SEO strategy: Link Building. The dust has finally settled on the Google changes, so I wanted to take a moment to offer my insights and cover some critical myths, truths, and realities about what these latest changes mean for your small business website marketing plans. The changes offer two critical insights for the future of Search Engine Marketing that you simply cannot ignore -- 1) the importance of having high-quality content on your website just went up and 2) the future decisions at Google will likely make your content marketing strategy critical to your survival and success in online marketing....
The SEO Link Building Love Affair
Over the years, good SEO practices have continued to place *link building* at the very top of the list. In the very beginning (aka "the good ol' days") you could throw up some great content on a website and just sit back and wait for the search engine traffic to pour in. After all, "Content Is King" right?
Then, Google made it more difficult by giving additional weight to inbound links. Link building, Google realized, was one of the best ways to distinguish one website with good content from another website with good content. If other sites were linking to your site, that meant you had votes of confidence that Google could rely on and thus rank you higher for a given keyword phrase.
The logic was that anybody could throw up great content about "New Jersey plumbing" on any website, but only the very best New Jersey plumbing websites would also get links to those same pages.
And for a long time, this theory proved true. There were really only a handful of ways you could build links -- 1) wait for organic links, 2) comment on blogs 3) post to forums, or 4) do article marketing.
During this period (let's just call it the "Height of Link Building") Google became very well known for their special sauce, Google PageRank. This proprietary tool allowed Google to assign a VALUE to every website on the Internet. The higher the value of a website, the more it's outgoing links were worth.
Let's Talk About Google
Before we proceed any further with this trip down SEO memory-lane here, let's take a step back and remind ourselves what Google really wants. Over at the #1 search engine, those guys have 2 primary goals -- To Increase The Number Of Google Users AND To Improve The Quality Of Google Search.
This means that Google is NEVER going to stop improving its algorithms and NEVER going to stop conducting its "website policing" strategies. Since they are driven by profits just like the rest of us, their primary goal will always be to get better and better at doing what they do. Nobody can judge them for following good, sound business principles.
So obviously it benefits you as a website owner to follow Google's guidelines. If they say "post quality, unique content" then you better do it. If they say "get quality links" then you better do that too.
But sometimes what Google says isn't so cut-and-dry. This is precisely where we can start to examine some of the myths, truths, and realities of this latest Google update.
The Myths & Truths
Every time Google releases a new update, they don't have to work very hard to get press & publicity. I remember when "SEO" was a specialized term few people even recognized. But today, there's an entire industry around SEO and a lackluster list of bloggers, tweeters, and ebook writers who all want you to think they know RIGHT from WRONG.
So before you get misled once again, I want to cover a few myths I'm reading out there in the blogosphere and dispel each one for you right here. Why should you believe me? Well, unlike most of the bloggers and marketers you're hearing from, I've been working in this industry for over 7 years. But more importantly, I've worked on countless SEO campaigns and link building projects. I've studied the rise and fall of thousands of websites, observing exactly what kinds of on-site and off-site SEO practices lead to rankings increases and rankings decreases. And I'm not talking about affiliate marketing sites in bizarre "low hanging fruit" niche areas here -- I'm talking about real-world small business websites where rankings increases and decreases can easily make or break a business.
I'm simply NOT speculating. All of my observations are based on cold, hard data & facts.
So let's dig in...
Myth: Google Killed All Blog Networks
This is false. Google specifically targeted blog networks controlled by HUGE companies like BuildMyRank.com and others. These blog networks have thousands of members and have been around for several years. They also allowed users to login and post content and links to websites of their own choosing without much regulation.
Truth: Small, well regulated blog networks & article directories are still effective.
Myth: Link Building Is Dead
False again. The biggest myth being spread about this latest update is that link building is dead. This couldn't be farther from the truth. Links are still a POWERFUL way to increase your search engine rankings.
Truth: Your link building needs to be diversified across a variety of networks & sources.
Myth: Anyone Building Links Got Penalized By Google
100% false. Actually, all Google did was de-index the most popular and the largest blog networks. By de-indexing the sites that belonged to those networks, any links pointing to your websites simply disappeared. Yes, lots of website owners did watch their rankings drop after the update, but only because those links were working before and now they're gone. (Let's not forget that Google targeted huge blog networks for good reason -- they work!)
Truth: So called "bad links" will never hurt your website -- they will just NOT help you. Again, the key is link diversity.
Myth: Google Told Me To Stop Building Links
False! Just after the new update, Google sent lots of website owners a message inside their Google Webmaster account. That message included the following text...
We’ve detected that some of your site’s pages may be using techniques that are outside Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. Specifically, look for possibly artificial or unnatural links pointing to your site that could be intended to manipulate PageRank. Examples of unnatural linking could include buying links to pass PageRank or participating in link schemes.
I've highlighted a few phrases in this text to point out Google's vague language and their true purpose: to convince website owners into thinking that Google is the all-seeing, all-knowing Internet god.
Personally, I'm disappointed in Google for these types of PR campaigns because I think they intimidate people and do more harm than good. But it's important to recognize that Google's true motive is to weed out spammers, not genuine small business website marketers just trying to improve their business results online.
Unfortunately, what Google doesn't realize is that news travels fast in SEO circles and inevitably a game of "SEO telephone" begins. Pretty soon, nobody has stopped to think critically about what's going on and things come to a standstill. But there's not much else Google can do since taking steps like "penalizing certain types of links" would lead to a brand new form of SEO: negative link bombing your competition. Google definitely doesn't want that because what they're trying to eliminate would only get worse.
It's truly good news that sites like BuildMyRank and the others are no longer effective. That only levels the playing field so legitimate small business owners like me and you can have a fair shot with our ethical SEO tactics.
Blog networks were a great idea (and they still are!) but a handful of companies and people got too greedy and lost control. You can't possibly provide value when a blog network simultaneously services thousands of people without limit or control. But the good news is that small, well regulated and well controlled blog networks DO still work (and we've got the data to prove it).
Truth: Link building always worked, still works, and will not stop working anytime soon.
The Realities And The Future Of Online Marketing
Ok, so there you have the truths behind many of the myths floating around about Google's recent updates. Now, I want to move a step further and examine some important realities about what these updates signal about the future of website marketing and search engine marketing.
The reality is that Google is always going to work hard to lead searchers to the best possible website with the best possible content.
Every time Google releases a new update, their algorithms get better & better at producing more quality results for Google.com search engine users. So the formula for SEO success is still the same as it always was...
Great Content On Your Website + Great Signals Off Your Website = High SEO Rankings
There are lots of ways to unpack this...
Frequent Blog Posts + Frequent Tweets = SEO Rankings
Keyword Optimized Website Pages + Keyword Optimized Inbound Links = SEO Rankings
Valuable Website Content + Valuable Article Marketing Publications = SEO Rankings
No matter how you slice it, the formula has never changed. It always boils down to this -- activity on your website + activity off your website = activity on Google, Yahoo, & Bing.
If you hope to succeed in your online marketing campaign and if you hope to maintain that edge over your competitors on the search engines, you're going to need to keep posting unique content, keep building new links, and keep increasing your social media activity. It's that simple.
So forget the myths. Remember the truths. And keep the reality at the top of your list all the time.