Every SEO Silver Bullet Will Fail

seo-silver-bulletTired of Penguin 2.0 related posts yet?

Every major Google algorithm update is followed by weeks and weeks of posts addressing the specifics of the particular change.

Who got hit the worst? What were the similarities? The differences? How is this update related to the equinox? The Earth's alignment with Venus and Mars is a very serious and pressing matter for all SEO professionals to consider.

Please excuse my attempt at humor. We can't help but get worked up over these changes. They are like new seasons for a sport, giving us something to count the passage of time and the maturation of our industry.

Taking a step back though, did the changes of Penguin 2.0 really catch any SEO professionals by surprise? Quoting from Danny Goodwin's post last week, these were the common link issues that caused drops in ranking:

  • Paid text links using exact match anchor text.
  • Comment spam.
  • Guest posts on questionable sites.
  • Article marketing sites.
  • Links from dangerous sites.

Now look at Moz' top 10 ranking factors in 2005 and 2007. Look familiar?

Essentially all of these factors have been talked about by SEO professionals for at least six years at this point. It just took that long for the message to sink in and Google to take a real swing at penalizing these behaviors. It's actually more noteworthy how long it's taken to penalize the greatest abusers of SEO signals than the fact that they were penalized at all.

Silver Bullets are Nothing New

It can be very easy to fall into the habit of using what we know works – because we have deadlines, ROI goals, and processes already in place. These "silver bullet" methodologies work, and work well. This has been the case throughout the storied history of SEO. Remember:

  • Exact match domain names.
  • Keyword stuffing.
  • Cloaking.
  • PageRank sculpting.
  • Shareable widgets with embedded links.

There is no doubt these worked; the real question was always “for how long?” As Google matures as a search engine, silver bullets are becoming rarer and rarer.

What is Your Silver Bullet?

Sometimes a silver bullet isn't as obvious as link-baiting for tens of thousands of links. It can be as simple as having a set process for link acquisition.

What tactic have you been relying on for years? Do you always get links from the same place? Rely solely on social? Don't use social at all? Optimize for the same keyword list that you generated years ago? Only rely on desktop search?

Relying on any one tactic or factor within search engines is fine in the short term, but in the long term will assuredly fail.

The Benefits of Enterprise Mentality

One of the unexpected benefits with working in enterprise SEO is that most of these silver bullets are completely out of the question. Forget moving the organization fast enough to correct for the eventual algorithm fix around these tactics, it's challenging enough to move organizations this big to even take advantage of them in the first place!

And good riddance! More SEO professionals should think like (well executed) enterprises because the best enterprises always have to prioritize with long-term investment in mind.

Not only that, but enterprises find most of their efficiencies in cross-department projects. That means SEO working with the social team, working with public relations, working with PPC, and working with offline media buys.

Of course, not all enterprise companies can manage all of this. One of the greatest challenges of organizations of this size is simple communication and coordination between groups.

The great thing about a diversified cross-media approach is that it makes companies decently Penguin-proof. When you are obtaining references (and links) from a variety of sources all linked to your other marketing channels, while creating interesting and meaningful content, that goes beyond just good SEO. It's also good marketing!

Every Bullet Fails – But You Don't Have To

So, in summary, no matter how nimble your organization may be, Penguin 2.0 is a perfect chance to re-evaluate your tactics thus far. Are you relying on any one method in your SEO repertoire? Has SEO been an exercise in boom and bust optimization, attempting to leverage whatever latest technique brings immediate benefit?

Maybe it's time for a change. Web marketing has seen incredible growth and development in the last ten years. With every passing year, Google refines its algorithm further, reducing the effectiveness of silver bullet techniques.

This in turn means that more organic and integrated strategies are slowly becoming the most effective, reliable ways to increase a brand's popularity over the long term.

The focus may change from company to company. Some will benefit most from local optimization; others are geared towards mobile search. Regardless, you don't have to be a big brand to employ cross-channel marketing efforts – and reap huge benefits in return.

About the author

David Cato has more than six years of search marketing experience, working both in-house leading corporations and in key digital agency roles. He has spearheaded a variety of international programs in more than 10 countries in Europe, Asia/Pacific, and Latin America.

Joining Covario in 2010, David currently serves as an SEO manager, leading international teams to deliver organic search optimizations, content marketing strategies, and SEO thought-leadership within large organizations.

His passions include data-driven decision making, traditional marketing integration, and mobile search marketing.