With all the changes that Google has pushed down the pipeline in the last few years, many site owners and marketers are left wondering exactly what kind of SEO world we are now living in.
Anchor text is out, followed links in press releases are out, keyword data has been pulled from Google Analytics, Matt Cutts said guest blogging is dead — which way is up?! With all the changes many old SEO tactics are now (at best) valueless or (at worst) going to hurt your website in the long-run. So what's a site owner to do?
Well, Marios Alexandrou of STEAK’s Search Marketing made an interesting point:
The rules for marketing haven’t really changed despite Google. A site or site owner earns trust by providing a good product or service. Increasing awareness of that product or service is done by interacting with potential customers and those that influence potential customers. The interaction can take place online in the obvious places like Twitter or Google+, but the opportunities to engage with people in-person at industry conferences, meet-ups, or other gatherings shouldn’t be ignored. Consistency also plays a role here.
The basic goal of SEO is to increase your organic search presence so potential customers can more easily find you, right? That hasn't changed; it's just the way you go about building your search presence that has evolved. The general rules of marketing still apply, even if the exact tactics themselves have changed.
Find New Ways to Connect with Your Audience
Where does your target audience hang out online? What sites do they read and visit on a regular business? What social networks do they use? How do they consume content? All of that influences your SEO program, and how you go about connecting with your target audience.
Most SEO tactics that Google has banned (like link exchanges and article spinning) were never really about connecting your website to your audience; they were about boosting your website's value in the SERPs and trying to beat the system. As long as you focus on building new and real connections with your customers, chances are you aren't investing in the SEO tactics that Google has penalized websites for. Marketing, at its core, is all about connecting with real people. When you stop worrying about the search algorithm and focus on the people you'll be better off in the long run.
Focus on Building Your Brand
When you are looking to build or earn links you should really be focusing on the kinds of links that actually build your brand. Does getting a dozen links on an article spinning site that accepts content from everyone with no editorial process and has no real traffic to speak up actually going to build your brand? Probably not. So if those sites aren't going to help you build your brand why would you want a link from them?
It's so important to realize that the quantity of your link profile matters so littler — it's the quality that counts. And while it may look good to tell your boss you built 500 links this month, what are those 500 links really doing for your brand? Are they building your authority? Building consumer confidence in your brand? Helping grow your online presence? Or are they just part of your attempt to rank better?
Yes, every website wants to rank higher in the SERPs. There is no denying that being ranked #3 or #4 is going to drive much more traffic than being on page 3 or 4 — but when all you care about is "playing the game" and trying to work around the rules set by Google you are missing the bigger picture. SEO isn't just about getting to the top of the SERPs or hitting some arbitrary visitor count. It's about building your brand and connecting with your audience across the Internet.
Nick Stamoulis is the President of Boston SEO agency Brick Marketing. With over 13 years of industry experience, Nick shares his SEO knowledge by writing in the Brick Marketing Blog and publishing the Brick Marketing SEO Newsletter, read by over 120,000 opt-in subscribers. His last post for SEMrush was “Is Social or Organic Traffic More Important?"