Last year, I received an early Christmas gift from Google. Instead of a card or a PPC voucher, I got repeated ‘Google slaps’ that sent me tumbling down to the wastelands of page three. I’m not alone in experiencing such a bruising encounter.
SEO forums are rife with distraught businesses that have seen their rankings plummet after a visit from Google’s cuddly sounding updates. Their crime: embracing what worked in SEO a couple of years ago. In other words, pasting the same keywords in their anchor text repeatedly, like some sort of SEO mantra.
It’s clear that Google has set its sights on punishing anyone for ‘over optimising’, and the days of relying on keywords alone for higher rankings appear to be over. So what’s the answer? Should we take Google’s advice and give up on SEO altogether?
Step 1 – Diversity your anchor text
If Panda and Penguin have trampled all over your backlinks, and put your business on life support, recovery is possible.
The first step is to make sure your website itself isn’t breaking Google’s cardinal rules. Pop your URL into SEOBugz to get a report on whether you’re guilty of keyword stuffing and other SEO misdemeanours.
The next step is to check out whether it’s your backlinks that are to blame. Check out SEO SpyGlass, ahrefs.com or Majestic SEO to get a free overview of your backlinks profile (more advanced stuff is available if you upgrade).
Step three is to then diversify your backlinks. The goal is to make them look natural and more random, and less like a virtual flyposting campaign. Include phrases like ‘click here’, ‘check out this site’ or paste your entire URL to deter Penguin and Panda from making another visit.
Step 2 – Plan for the future and create ‘linkable assets’
Backlinks are still what counts. But the era of being able to build your own mass of backlinks is fading fast. Google is steadily moving the goalposts so that the only links that count will be those you have no control over.
Links from article directories, already bursting with junk content, aren’t going to pass the test. Instead, you need links from high quality ‘authority’ sites – which is something we’ve actually known this for years.
Instead of links you can create, you need links from popular sites where people hang around (time spent on site is now part of the equation) and share with their friends in social media. These links can sometimes be bought, with money or a guest post. But the long-term strategy is to create content that will earn you links naturally (yes, I’m jumping back on the ‘content marketing’ bandwagon folks).
SEO is dead. Long live PR and Great Content
E-consultancy recently posted on how PR firms are now offering social media and SEO as part of their services. I posted myself on how copywriters should do the same. It is copywriters, whether freelance or working in a PR department, that can provide the well researched, engaging and compelling content that will earn exposure and higher rankings for their clients.
It appears that SEOMoz (big cheeses in the world of SEO) tend to agree, judging from their recent Whiteboard Friday video. They explain how the old way of link building is dead and that creating ‘linkable assets’ is SEO of the future, which can only be good news for us content creation types and the internet in general.