Did my SEO or Web Marketing guru steer me wrong?

March 5, 2014 by Roger Smith

The Nutshell

Squirrel Sitting on a Laptop

In a SEO Nutshell

Google may be attempting to significantly lower the signal strength generally afforded relevant backlinks to your website. This could be a significant blow to marketing strategies around the world.

Time to Impact: 2–3 years maybe…to wait will be too late.

Crash Position: Marketing strategies should be user-centric not Google-centric. Market your brand as if Google does not exist…no, really. Learn about your markets. Study their behaviors on- and off-line. Be there for them with rich, creative and immediately helpful content…frequently.

The Whole Squirrel Cache

There is a buzz in the SEO world that began with an excellent article curated by Elisa Gabbert entitled, “The Future of PageRank: 13 Experts on the Dwindling Value of the Link”.

This article caught my attention because of the long-time focus and weight SEO and Web Marketing professionals have put on backlink strategies…including me. The strategy works, I’ve seen it time and time again. In my experience, well thought out backlink strategies, above most if not all other techniques, provides exponential returns.

Let’s back up…So, what is a backlink? Simply put, a backlink is an off-site link that points back to one of your web pages.

Backlinks are/were a way for search systems to determine how important a webpage is. If numerous webpages link to a single webpage somewhere else, that is a signal (a potentially powerful one) to search systems like Google that the single page being linked to is important. It might be considered an “upvote” for the content being linked to. The theory makes sense to me…sort of.

Some on the cutting edge might say “Oh, that’s so 2000’s”. Fine, let’s fast forward. What might represent a modern day backlink strategy? How about social media? Is a “like” not the same as a backlink or “upvote” for a particular webpage or piece of content? Well, yes and no. In the big picture, absolutely but some search systems do not index some social signals…Google being one of them…and SEO folks still can’t get Google to give them a straight answer on this topic.

Let’s assume that search systems are motivated by the following; to make money. Let’s also assume that in order to make money in the long term, search systems have to provide a quality product. No secret there. So how does a Google do that…in simple terms anyway? If I make a query through Google and they return poor search results, perhaps irrelevant, all paid or of low quality, I’m gonna query my search somewhere else. Bottomline, and Google openly states this, they want to provide relevant, high-quality and unbiased organic results (we’re not talkin’ ads here, just natural or organic search results).

So here’s the rub. I can buy backlinks from 1000’s of sites. I can buy social “likes” so if the signal weight is based on the quantity of links that will return a bias. So what signals exist, currently or in the future, that can provide search systems the ability to return unbiased results? Ahhhhhh…now we have entered a thought-experiment…and so too has Google.

The SEO Thought-Experiements

Admittedly, Matt Cutts, head of Google’s Webspam team, says that initial testing of link-less based search results produced “low-quality results”.

SEO leaders have entered the thought-experiment as well. Without link value, how can a search system determine the value content on a webpage? Ideas include; let the people decide much like social relevance, let users interaction with your web pages be a strong signal, less on links, more on user engagement. Google Analytics offers such granular webpage metrics it is scary. Why not use more of those metrics? Google is also placing more weight on Google Plus for author and publisher trust signals.

The point being, and yes there is one, backlinks have been a successful strategy for many businesses small and large for years. When executed well, the strategy works(ed) excellent. When done poorly, it can often get your website blacklisted. If Google is going to reduce the value of backlinks, which this web professional believes they will, many business are going to see a significant drop in their SERP. If a business uses their website as a major marketing tool AND rely on their backlink strategy, life is going to get tough for them.

Future-proof your SEO and Web Marketing Strategies

To be honest, I’ve been saying this for years now. My clients are probably sick of hearing me say it. “Publish rich, creative and immediately helpful content…frequently”. There is no getting around this and in fact Matt Cutts recommends a similar strategy:

By doing things that help build your own reputation, you are focusing on the right types of activity. Those are the signals we want to find and value the most anyway.

Put another way, Rand Fishkin, founder of Moz has this to say:

Producing things (content, branding, product, services, features, etc.) that naturally earn the types of links [search] engines are trying to find and count is the very best way to stay ahead of whatever shifts may occur in the future.

–Rand Fishkin is the Founder of Moz

Here is what Rae Hoffman, CEO of PushFire has to say:

By putting a larger focus on increasing the slices of your traffic pie outside of search engine rankings than most business currently do, you’ll end up with better – and more defensible – search engine rankings at the end of the day.

–Rae Hoffman, AKA Sugarrae, is the CEO of PushFire.

And one of my favorites:

I would pretend that search engines don’t exist and focus on everything else.

-– Brett Tabke is the founder of Pubcon and WebmasterWorld Inc.

Search Engine Optimization and Web Marketing Tips

You and and your marketing director should consider the following:

  • How much does my business depend on organic search results?
  • Is my SEO strategy helping engage users or is it purely in place to improve page ranking?
  • Do I have a means by which my market can engage my business in conversation?
  • What can I give my customers right now that will immediately benefit them?
  • Forget about keywords and reach out to your key customers, let them advocate for you!
  • How can I insert my message into my customer’s daily behavior?
  • How can I leverage the social nature of my content?
  • How can I leverage the mobile behavior of my customer?

Want a forward-thinking web marketing strategy?

Q: What is the intention of the user’s search query?
A: Be that intention not the literal definition

Our daily behaviors don’t lie for the most part. Google knows this and is monitoring our behavior both on- and off-line. Smartphone, apps, automotive onboard computers, free wifi…get the drift? This is the future of search. How can your business be positioned to be there when the time comes…because it is coming soon.

The Web Marketing Mantra

“Rich, creative and immediately usable content frequently”

RAS Design Media can help you navigate the SEO and Web Marketing waters with its integrative approach to web design. Give my office a call at 831.241.5452 or email me at [email address] and let’s get to work!

About the Author

Portrait of Roger Smith, owner of RAS Design Media

Roger Smith is the owner of RAS Design Media, a web design studio in Monterey, California and has been building websites since 2006. He focuses on enabling business growth via modern web technologies and successful web strategies.

When not working Roger can be found kayaking along the magical central coast or photographing the beauty that surrounds us.

You can reach Roger at [phone text only] or [email address] and/or follow him on , Facebook or Twitter