Last week, Google’s Webmaster trends analyst, John Mueller told SEOs to “in general…try to avoid [link building].” Now, your response to this news probably places you in one of three camps. I’ll break down each:
The non-SEO: What’s link building?
The old-school SEO: WAIT?! WE HAVE TO AVOID LINK BUILDING NOW? IS ANYTHING SACRED ANYMORE?
The new-school SEO: It’s surprising that Google would tell Search Engine Optimizers not to focus on link building, but based off the trends of the last few years (specifically Google’s Penguin update), this seems in-line with how Google seems to be evolving.
For those readers who don’t spend their days in the weeds of SEO, link building is the term for getting external pages (those not on your domain) to link to your website. Many years ago, an SEO could pay a shady company to link to a website from thousands of domains that existed simply to link to other websites (think of them as a weird type of shell companies).
These phony back links would grant a website unearned authority and the site would see an increase in their organic rankings. Google has cracked down on the most extreme purveyors of this practice, and is always looking to make their search results more egalitarian. However, finding new ways to get other websites to link to yours has remained a cottage industry in SEO. Some practices are more “black hat” than others, but back links have remained a very important tool for SEOs everywhere. Mueller’s comments are the strongest statement against link building to come out of Google.
Fortunately, Forthea has seen this train coming for a while now. We work with our clients to maximize existing (and real) relationships through natural link building, but the traditionally spammy method of link building is officially a thing of the past.
So what now? If Google is pushing SEOs to spend our time elsewhere, where else should we spend our time?
I’m glad you asked! Here are five ways to better you spend your SEO energies:
1. The Fundamentals
Don’t let anyone tell you that you’re too good for the fundamentals. In every industry, every skill, there are cornerstones from which everything else builds. In SEO, it comes down to research and implementation of keywords. I like to explain SEO basics to our clients by comparing every page on a website to a dictionary. As Google crawls your site, a well optimized page provides a very clear definition to your optimized keyword.
So before moving onto link building or local SEO optimizations, make sure every page has a unified definition shared by the keyword, title, URL, and description. The basics go a long way, don’t forget them.
2. Continued Research
Once you make your keyword selections and optimizations, your job isn’t quite done. Just as Google continuously tweaks it’s algorithm and new websites and webpages arise, any SEO worth his or her salt monitors keywords regularly refines keyword implementation, always experimenting with new copy, keywords, and tactics. SEO is a long game, but a good tactician with a vigilant eye can find small ways to improve a site’s rankings.
3. Local, Local, Local
As the black hat tactics of yore have been slowly trending out of Google’s playbook, local optimizations have moved in the opposite direction. Tracking keyword data on local Google engines is a relatively new development, but the insight into those searches are vital for modern SEO.
Make sure your local data is up to par. That means incorporating city and state data into the metadata listed in bullet one, but it also means using tools like Moz Local to make sure that your business is being represented across the internet consistently. When in doubt, make it easier for users (and Google) to find all your relevant information.
4. Seasonal SEO
Another increasingly important trend coming into 2015 is seasonal SEO. Stop treating web pages like finished products and look to optimize around what’s relevant for users. Don’t lose organic traffic because you optimized a page for the Christmas rush and never bothered to update that text again.
Optimizing towards seasonal keywords like “Valentine’s Day Jewelry” instead of simply “Jewelry” can make the page more relevant, which increases rankings and tailors a user’s experience, which increases user experience. What’s there to lose? I wrote about seasonal SEO a few months back, so if you’re interested take a deeper dive into the concept.
5. Blogging/Content is King
Google isn’t declaring the importance of links dead, they just continue to refine their process of spotting unearned links, making them less and less practical as an SEO strategy. One thing remains clear, however, links are important. Google recognizes links as – ostensibly – references from other websites.
The surest way to get links that matter in 2015? Creating premium content that others want to share. Whether that’s a blog post, a video, or authoritative webpages that others in your field use as a reference. Content is king. Like it or not, content is the new link building, so get on board.
Photo by Mark Schellhase.