Lately, I am shocked by the amount of ignorance I see around blogs and discussions. But, I guess, that’s normal regarding the hype in the media that surrounds Social Networking. Mashable, Techcrunch, LinkedIn IPO, Zynga IPO, all that "is it or is it not a bubble" talk around the web help to shroud the concept of inbound marketing. What is happening to SEO? What is happening to link building? Well, it changed, but the core principles remained the same. Let’s take a look.
The forces that change SEO
Rise of social media
In this excellent post, Paul Carr describes the madness of what we thought social media would bring. Currently, I have 4 social networks I am using (Facebook for friends, Twitter for news and updates, LinkedIn for business contacts, Google+ for my geek friends). When I want to see the review of a restaurant in unknown city, I turn to TripAdvisor. I already have too many web destinations I have to check-in daily.
The social signal is important, but is it all-that important to Google? This discussion on LinkedIn proves that people really don’t know what to think of it. Two camps fighting about is link building dead. Funny, it is like two religions clashing; whose god is more powerful?
Hype around the social media
Place all that hype into equation. Valuations of multi-billion dollar companies that have really low revenue. The VC ecosystem is placing too much money on non-proven concepts. Yes, Twitter is excellent tool, it has it’s user base, but now what? How to capitalize on that. If the bubble bursts, what will happen to all those people surrounding the social media story? Sure, they will find different jobs, but will the landscape change? What will those people that put so much faith into social media think or believe?
Google has changed
Don’t be evil. That was (is) the moto. Larry and Sergey unwillingly accepted adult supervision (excellent interview with Google Employee #59 here). They’ve built a company on a computer code and computer code doesn’t have feelings. It doesn’t like Coca-Cola any more than beer. In the beginning the code was simple. It still may be simple. Black-hats tried to exploit the code and engineers fought their attempts. Algo changed. We see at across all verticals, we see it when we do link building. Do you think that travel has the (exactly) same algorithm as financial services?
Is it about brands? Inbound marketing?
The brands is how you sort out the cesspool. Such a famous quote from Eric Schmidt. Funny, even the top SEOs agree on that (Rand has an excellent post on inbound marketing). But is it because of the brand and how it echoes in our heads, or, is it about the ad-spent ratio?
A lot of people asked the question when Panda hit the street? If everyone lost rankings and traffic, where did it go?
The answer is really simple… It went to Google. You’ve lost the traffic, but some other site gained it. No one reported the raise of traffic. Google earnings call revealed it. When Google revealed the instant search, it made soo much money to Google. They’ve calcluated it, they implemented it, they’ve made money.
When Panda hit the webmasters, who do you think profited in short and long term? Users? Google cannot grow in their own core business. They cannot make that much more money, but they can invent things where they manipulate search results in order to maximize revenue. That is what’s Panda all about, wrapped in "better for user" story. If it was against content farms, why ehow didn’t get hit .
How to do link building in the age of Social
So, back to link building. What is working and what is not working in the age of Social?
So, the guy saying link building is dead is simply put, wrong. If you were Google Algo, would you discard a link from White House? Or Wikipedia (even if it is no-followed)?
It stayed nearly the same. Relevant sources still count. PR still counts. Low-value doesn’t count. In the end, how to do link building is just answering one question: Do I want to have my link on this website?
I’ve seen low value companies sell SEO services and place directory submissions to devaluated directories. I’ve seen article marketing inflating the low content and polluting the results. But Google has ways to fight that. As SEOMoz pointed out, who ranks for even competitive terms like "shoes", "SEO", "cultural travel Mexico" – companies that have done their inbound marketing right.
So, how to do link building in the age of social? Integrate everything. Don’t waste time on trying to game the system with low quality. It takes time since the landscape is getting even more complex, but it pays out in the long run. SEO is not a sprint, it is a marathon. Do this and rankings will follow:
- Your website should be made with SEO in mind (onsite optimization still works in low-saturated niches)
- Directories (even now, yes, directories work, but only paid/high-value)
- Blog and share content
- Create the news and be the news
- Connect with Journalists and bloggers in your field
- Create infographics, white papers, industry research
- Do your research of people, websites and competitors in the field (use MajesticSEO or LinkDiagnosis)
- Analyze your Google Analytics account
- Enable social sharing in your email campaigns
- Integrate Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn
- Comment and engage your audience on forums and blogs
Google takes the social signals into the account. But even Google knows that social signal can be manipulated. It is not the new holy grail of link building, only another signal of quality. Creating and sharing new and interesting content and enabling the social component is the only thing that can be successful in the long run.