Google is growing market share and vowing to implement more changes aimed at reducing web spam and manipulative linking. But to the average small business owner these constant changes are mystifying or even maddening. To small businesses, Google seems to be sending a consistent message: Link building, in all forms, is manipulative and bad.
But this can’t be true. We know that Google’s algorithm runs on links at the core. How can there be such a disparity between what everyone knows to be true and the message Google sends to marketers?
First Reaction: Give Up on SEO
In the face of continuing Google updates and a desire to stay “clean,” most marketers flirt with the idea of giving up on SEO entirely and turn to PPC. PPC should be in the marketing portfolio already, as it is an excellent complement to search engine optimization.
PPC should be used for testing new keyword spaces, end-user reactions to copy, time-on-site and conversion behaviors. It is the right tool because it brings traffic quickly. But long term, PPC is expensive and estimating PPC ROI is difficult.
The next target is social media. Social media has serious media hype behind it, leading many to believe it is a viable alternative to SEO.
While social media is critical for public relations, customer service and reputation management, data strongly suggests that social media is not a great source of first-time visitors (i.e., leads) for small businesses. Like PPC, social media is an important part of a diversified marketing strategy. And it is vital for content marketing. But it is not a silver bullet.
Second Reaction: Do SEO Faster (and More Poorly)
Faced with the realization that SEO has the strongest ROI, small business marketers often come to the conclusion that they just need to do SEO faster. Sadly, this usually means cutting corners and doing SEO more poorly.
Thin content is not a viable onsite SEO strategy. Furthermore, thin content placed in low-authority article directories does not bring strong results. Guest blog posts can be very beneficial, but not on unrelated websites. In short, link manipulation techniques that may have worked 4 years ago are now detrimental.
Avoid bad link building techniques, as Google has gotten much stronger as spotting link manipulation attempts and schemes. Don’t use spammy blog networks or buy links from shady websites. Don’t make articles without co-citation and then spin them. This is not helpful to the end-user and leaves a bad footprint in the link graph.
Final Reaction: SEO Requires Effort, Purpose and Creativity
After the dust settles (or a webmaster receives a penalty), the smart marketer starts viewing the costs associated with good SEO as a wise investment. At this point, they start to think creatively about SEO and explore the full potential of inbound marketing. They invest in building relationships while they are building links, which to the uninitiated may not even make sense. Relationships breed accountability whereas anonymity does not.
After drinking the SEO Kool-Aid, marketers recognize that their link building should be in the form of content that has real purpose and value to the end-reader.
In short, they transform from link building SEO professionals to content marketers. They start writing for a real audience, caring about facts and statistics. The presentation of content is upgraded with relevant images and is never reused. Content is syndicated to higher-value websites now that it takes longer to procure. The end-result is stronger for end-users, and marketers invariably start to look for more creative ways to syndicate content with the hopes of something going viral.
Creative SEO Tip: Newsjacking
Newsjacking is a newer idea in SEO, but a natural extension of content marketing. While it sounds like a negative term, it is not. Newsjacking is a technique in which marketers ride existing demand associated with breaking news for exposure. In other words, smart marketers know there is extremely high demand for breaking news stories and use this to their advantage by contributing to the overall discussion.
What is newsjacking?
- Paying attention to breaking news
- Understanding the keywords being searched for in a particular news cycle
- Producing high-quality, well-researched content that serves a specific demand for information
- Syndicating content very quickly to be found when other news organizations search for sources.
Small businesses can’t newsjack any story, it has to be related to their space. But most businesses won’t have difficulty finding breaking news that somehow relates to their business.
For example, a high profile fire in a historic building could be used by a construction company to highlight the importance of local code and inspections. A bank robbery could be used by a home security company to discuss the merits of a reliable security system. In both cases, working in a natural sentence that highlights the company’s position will not be difficult.
Newsjacking is similar to content marketing in that the content comes first and the marketing second. Serve the reader’s desire for news, facts and opinion – but use that opportunity for a branded mention and a link (yes, it is still OK to get a link when you work for it). Finally, use social media for quick dissemination and viral spread. Recognize that unlike content marketing, newsjacking is fleeting and timing is critical.
Regardless of the debate on Google’s effectiveness today, all agree that Google will continue to make updates to its algorithm to spot unnatural link manipulation. Smart marketers understand this trend, but don’t want to give up on SEO due to the ROI.
After exhausting PPC and social media, SEO professionals turn to high-quality, creative techniques to contribute valuable content while gaining exposure and links. Content Marketing is a well-established technique.
Newsjacking, a type of content marketing, places the emphasis on breaking news events rather than how-tos or technical Information and rides the wave of existing demand for news information to get well-earned backlinks and branded mentions.
Meet Your Favorite Search Engine Watch Contributors
Many of SEW's leading expert contributors will be at ClickZ Live, the new online and digital marketing event kicking off in New York (March 31-April 3). Hear from the likes of: Thom Craver, Josh Braaten, Lisa Barone, Simon Heseltine, Josh McCoy, Lisa Raehsler, Greg Jarboe, Dan Cristo, Joseph Kerschbaum, John Gagnon, Eric Enge and more!