“SEO is dead” – Many people have been bouncing this cliché around for a couple of years now and it’s become particularly pertinent since Google Panda and Penguin arrived on the scene and started wreaking havoc with our websites. Although many sites might now have been killed by Google, SEO in itself is alive and well. It’s simply changed, so as SEOs we’ve had to change our game plan.
There is so much misinformation about SEO all over the web that it’s very easy to get confused or worse, take the wrong advice and get burned by Google. One reason the web is abundant with rubbish advice is because SEO is a very fast changing industry and what works today may not work tomorrow. The other reason for this misinformation is the biggest paradox of all; when people want to know what SEO techniques work now they turn to Google search to see what they can learn. But guess what! Google knows their service better than anyone else so whatever seemingly amazing SEO tactics you find on the internet, you can bet your bottom dollar they have already been found by Google’s huge teams of manual link spam analysts whose job it is to crack down on unnatural links.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that it’s just Matt Cutts and an office full Google’s finest that have the unenviable job of keeping the world-wide-web spam free. Think bigger. Google employs 30,000 people worldwide. There are huge workforces in developing countries where labour is cheap. It’s highly likely that Google’s web spam team are over a thousand strong and kitted with cutting edge software for unnatural detecting links.
For this reason many SEOs (myself included) are forced to keep our most effective SEO tactics a secret. It’s not because we derive a secret sense of power from our knowledge but that we need to guard our tactics. Tactics that take weeks, months if not years of tinkering to discover.
Whatever SEO tactics you find on the world-wide-web will also have been found and implemented by a rapidly increasing number of other SEOs. The more SEOs that implement a single SEO tactic, whether it be on or off page, the higher that tactic appears on Google’s Radar. Eventually they will smack that hammer and they’ll smack it hard. When they do, your SEO victory could quickly become an SEO disaster. This will lead to loss of online traffic for any domain you have worked on using these online-sourced SEO tactics and could potentially be embarrassing if it happens to a client’s site.
The Truth is out There
Despite the fact that Google derives information from their own search results to discover how people are exploiting their organic search, there are still many SEOs who are more than happy to broadcast the ingredients to their success stories. It’s just difficult to tell the great advice apart from the really terrible advice that could ruin your site. It’s probably this confusion, misinformation and general lack of clarity about what works and what doesn’t that actually helps shroud the tactics that do in fact work from being picked up by Google’s spam hunters and unnatural link auditors.
One way we can distinguish between the SEO tactics that are worth implementing from those that are not, is and always will be, trial and error. You need to be dedicated to SEO and willing to spend your time experimenting with strategies using expendable domains until you figure out what works and what doesn’t.
But with almost any SEO strategy you ever discover to be worthwhile, remember; you won’t be the only SEO who discovered it. When it becomes widespread then it’s only ever a matter of time until the overlords at Google say enough is enough.
Essentially what this means for many SEOs is that they are ‘chasing the algorithm’ whether they admit it or not.
To leave on a positive note and also fulfil the promise I made in the heading of this article I want to share with you the most important SEO tactic of them all.
Make it look Natural
That’s it; make your SEO look 100% natural. If your SEO is totally indistinguishable from natural search signals then it is undetectable by Google and totally future proof.
And just to clarify by ‘natural’ I mean; natural to a human not just to an algorithm. Many SEO’s are still under the archaic assumption that if they can doge Penguin and Panda they are succeeding in their job. This depends on how you measure success. If you completed the construction of a house with no foundations would that be success?
Any form of identifiable unnatural link building is a suicide mission in the long run. So the key to Google domination is having a totally fluent understanding of what natural look like.
This should mean looking beyond link quantities and anchor texts but also looking at types of links and their content management systems, the ratio of no follow links, social media signals, the average time users spend on your site and even the amount of branded searches your site gets each month in Google. Because these are all things of which that Google has access to data about, Google could be using this data to validate whether SEO has been implemented.
If you’re ever in doubt about your link building efforts it might be a good idea to ask an SEO expert to look for evidence of link building in your clients back link profile. If an experienced SEO is unsure then Google will be too. Because if Google can’t pinpoint link building then you’ve got nothing to worry about. However, evidence is visible then it’s just a matter of time before Goggle notices this too. Google have been tightening the reins on unnatural link building practices but they are not finished yet. You can expect the algorithm to only get smarter as time goes on. They will continue their fight against “unnatural links” as long as SEO exists.