It's been a crazy couple of years for SEO. We've seen the rise of unnatural links manual penalties. The infamous algo updates like Panda and Penguin, and some lesser talked about ones like the page layout algorithm. The rise and fall of super-agencies. And, of course, the increased value of social media.
And yes, there's been a ton of others, but you get the idea.
The whole nature of search – and by extension SEO – has changed drastically. But what isn't entirely clear is how SEO providers have evolved to meet this new state of reality. One gets the feeling that they really haven't fully embraced it. Or at least a lot of folks were never really much more than link shores and hype merchants... thus seeming are unable to adapt.
Changing With the Times
I was reading some articles lately about unnatural links messages and various tools and remedies to deal with them (or even Google Penguin). In most cases they talk about addressing or finding which links might be the problem in the website's profile.
OK, seems sensible. But is it?
I mean come on... do you really need a tool?
For starters, if you're even slightly worth your salt as an SEO, you should be able to pick them out without much trouble. It's kinda stunning that people actually need guidance or a tool to do that.
Furthermore, if it's your website or you worked on the link building, I am pretty sure you know exactly which links were manufactured. Remember that crap-hat SEO you bought on eBay? Or from that circa 2005 long scrolling sales page? Fiver? Pretty sure you can now start removing them.
Now let's consider Google's take on whether a link was manufactured to increase rankings. If that link was not about actual traffic, branding or exposure... good chance it's going to fit the description. But still it seems there's a ton of folks still trying to walk that thin line. It's bound not to end well.
Start thinking about link attraction not link building.
What is SEO?
This becomes the real question to be asking. All too often we see SEOs that talk about search engine optimization including things such as social media, public relations, conversion optimization, content strategy, and more. But is this really the case?
I suspect that:
- SEOs think they really are so smart they can do all of the marketing disciplines.
- Clients can't afford all those other services, so the SEO fills in.
While I wish it was the latter, sadly it is often the former. We do a great disservice to the professionals in those respective fields by pretending it is the domain of the optimizer. Which of course begs the above question, what is SEO?
Some of the things we actually do:
- Keyword strategy
- Page level (template and contextual)
- Site level (things like internal link ratios)
- Server level (redirects, htaccess, etc.)
- Monitoring (Google Webmaster Tools, reporting, etc.)
- Forensic work (cleaning up others garbage)
Some of the areas we're advisory in:
- Site development (architecture, updates, etc.)
- Content strategy
- Content development
- Social media
- Public relations (outreach and PR)
- Paid advertising (in SEO, for brand lift)
There's more, but you get the idea here right? I'm tired of hearing about the "new SEO." Article after article tries to redefine what SEO is because somehow a lot of people got lost. I do understand that we touch a lot of things in our job, but let's not lose sight here.
Notice link building isn't on the list? There a reason for that: it's really not SEO to me. There... I said it. Nyeaaah!
This Ain't Rocket Science (It's Computer Science)
OK, so let's look at this concept of link building. First off, the name. It actually puts us right square in the sights of ol Googly. Why? Because that's manipulation. That's what an unnatural link is to them.
One of the more catchy buzz phrases over the last while is inbound marketing. As my pal Dan Thies mused the other day, “if you're doing outreach for guest posting/links; how is that inbound in any way shape of form?” Damn good question, huh?
Need some links, do ya? I hate to be a nutter, but have you considered:
Content + Outreach + Social + Promotion + Brand reach
And I don't want to hear that your client can't afford all that. Then I guess they can't afford to be in business.
Seriously. Pick your battles. Maybe cut back on the number of terms your targeting.
Not all content needs to be pillar content (popular, stands the test of time). You can have filler as well. But create a strategy that's doable. That's your freakin' job!
The fake-it-til-you-make-it days of "just throw some links at it" are well and truly gone, my friends. As a consultant that specializes in forensic work, I am tired of seeing shoddy SEO work that gets our m on the bad side of Google and ultimately hurts the industry I love.
It's Time for Dialogue
At the end of the day, this has become a HUGE problem. The lines have become blurred and that's not a good thing. Yes, a lot of things do affect SEO. That doesn't mean it's our domain. Yes, links do still have a roll in the SERPs. But that doesn't mean building them is the only answer.
And there's even pressure from clients. Pressure from agency higher-ups. That all comes down to education. We need to educate others as to the evolution of SEO. Like any (link) addict, we need to break the cycle.