Google’s ostensible goal is to create the best corollary to how users browse the web. Without impediment, this would allow Google to eventually provide near-perfect information to the user. Whether by commission or naiveté, the SERPs are not free of the static noise that is SPAM. As such, any methods Google perceives as disruptive to this goal will eventually be devalued or penalized, in an effort to clean up the results.

Traditional SEO has become a balancing act of effectively responding to increasingly aggressive updates from Google. Agile response to these updates is crucial, as many techniques are still effective, even if they don’t necessarily gel with Google’s mission statement. This agility must be tempered with acceptance of Google’s process, and embracing of more “bulletproof” methods.

The more natural the method, the higher its inherit power. The more control over a method a webmaster has, the more potential it has for exploitation. Onsite optimization is a far weaker signal than a citation. Citations imply the relevance of the site to others to the engine, whereas optimization ensures proper indexation, and definition of site hierarchy and content. Optimization is still important, but implies a more technical perspective in attempting to garner traffic, through manipulation of rank.

Power vs Control

(Fruit Punch)

Humanization will be the new optimization. Content must be crafted for people, not regurgitated banal brochure copy crammed with alchemically-devised mixtures of anchor text and keyword densities. “Linkbuilding” is dwindling in deference to inbound marketing, relationship building, and outreach to like-minded individuals. Social interaction isn’t icing on the cake anymore, it is a necessary avenue from which sites must garner traffic.

Decline of Optimzation, Rise of Humanization.

(Blueberry / Cherry)

Content Strategy vs. Page Optimization

Onsite work has always been divided into two camps, content and speed. Speed is purely technical, and will always remain a constant. This is not to say that new technical standards may not benefit the way in which sites are indexed, cataloged, or presented, but it is a scientifically objective avenue.

Speed is always a positive thing in terms of user experience. Content, a purely subjective concept, is open to interpretation by the individual user. It used to be the case that content could be approached almost like speed, in that you could “optimize” by hitting certain keyword densities and ensuring that self-constructed satellite properties were also using the same key terms. That is not the case anymore.

While a certain amount of attention needs to be paid to meta data, headings, and content in terms of attempting to gain ranking for particular keywords, it is only establishing a definition of your pages content for the SERPs. Content needs to provide something other than repeated keywords.

Google scrutinizes duplicate, thin, or “overoptimized content”. Content should be natural, unique, and of an appropriate length for its purpose. If content is on a page purely for SEO, the existence of that page should be questioned.Guess the Smell!

(Guess The Smell! Answers at the End of the Post!)

All of the items above add value to a site’s content, beyond simple information. Some are harder to implement than others, but the return is much higher. Often, content can be generated by the user given the correct platform.

• Any informational site can craft evergreen content. Create tutorials for how to use your product, craft case studies for on-site contractor work, show people the value of your product over another.

• Gamification has become increasingly popular. Sites offer onsite rewards, certifications, or levels of achievement that may, or may not, have any bearing on the outside world, but inspire the user to continually engage the site.

• Often users are attracted to the opinion of others on current events, politics, or whether Star Wars is going to become a Jar-Jar fest with Disney at the helm. People crave interaction online. Sometimes even just a strong, opinionated, personality can draw people.

• Staying on top of news, regardless of topic, can pull users in. If you’re the first to report on certain topics, especially in niche spheres, it can by a massive boost to your perceived authority, garnering interaction and citation.

• I admit, humor could have fit in with other sections, but very few things bring as much repeat traffic. If you can get on someone’s funny bone, you’ve got a repeat visitor for life. Just don’t let them down.

• User generated content is a powerful thing that can quickly grow out of control, in good and bad ways. Many of the most popular sites on the net are fueled purely by user generated content. Consistent curation and censorship is necessary, but the returns can be limitless.

• Rich media powerfully augments any standard content. Video especially can aid in explanation, entertainment, or humanization of a conversation. With the constant decrease in cost and increase in quality of video equipment, it is becoming increasingly easy to create professional rich media.

• Social interaction does not have to be relegated to offsite resources, start discussions on your site. Bring on guests to spark continual interests. Host offsite events. Introduce users to other users. A constantly growing community is one of the most powerful tools a site can yield.

So now you’ve got powerful, engaging content. How do you get people to see it?

Inbound Marketing vs. External Linkbuilding

Linkbuilding has been one of the most abused areas of SEO for a very long time. Often, inbound linking resources were constructed with low quality, duplicate, or non-existent content. Because anchor text matched, they would still imply relevance to Google. Legitimate properties have existed for just as long, but were easily outmatched by overzealous submission to article directories, social bookmarking sites, and other artificially malleable sources.

Since the last wave of Google updates, included the dreaded Penguin, these practices have been largely devalued, leaving many sites with the proverbial rug pulled out from under them. Additionally, when sensing significantly artificial link velocity, Google penalizes sites, crippling their ranking power for the offending anchor text.

It Smells Like Sadness!

(Scratch Penguin’s belly! It smells like sadness!)

So how does one imply relevance without bulk loading one’s diet with artificial domains? Content crafting shifted from emphasizing optimization to humanization, and linking follows in lock-step. While attractive quality content that fulfills a consumer need can be all you need to garner an impressive link portfolio, it is not only avenue.

Social Integration vs. Community Leadership

Pure organics should be supported by effort-driven social engagement. Every site has the potential to become part of a community, industry or otherwise. Local meetups, charities, or other personal interest groups can connect people in ways business relationships can’t.

Social interaction used to be the icing on the cake, a sidecar to powerful SERP rankings. It has become increasingly important, with the decreasing effectiveness of artificial SERP posturing, to develop a decent social profile. The more a profile interacts, and adds to the universal conversation, the more it infers authority to the rest of your sphere.

There are two important aspects to any social campaign. Cognizance of social discussions, trends, news, and events is paramount. This shows that you are a true player upon the social stage. Tempering this is consistency of message, voice, and brand. This inspires user trust in the stability of your brand, as well as allowing them to adopt your site into their social routine. Basing social actions on these two avenues helps grow your authority.

Social Action Grows Social Authority

(Maple Bacon)

Once established as social player, a few things will happen:
• You will likely garner more organic links to your properties, as people discuss your interactions.

• You can help lead the industry discussion, often to your benefit

• You may be asked on other properties to weigh in on industry topics

• Industry players may be willing to appear on your properties, weighing in on industry topics

Tracking Success in a Post-Penguin, Post-Panda World

Since its inception, the SEO industry has been hung up on ranking and SERP traffic. While organic traffic will always be important, and a reflection of ranking performance, one must not discount other metrics. First, just because the SERPs are sending traffic through the site does not mean that traffic is converting. Social traffic may have higher conversion potential, even if it is volumetrically weaker. Once relationships with other sites are established, direct channels from those referrers may also garner a significantly higher conversion percentage.

To compound the issue, in most cases a conversion is a monetary transaction, but this is not always the scenario.

• Information Gathering – A conversion may be a contact form, lead capture, or crowdsourcing.

• Content Generation – An upload of user generated material

• Social Interaction – The goal of the site may be to generate online or offline event participation

• Internal Operations – It may be a recruiting tool for company careers, or an education tool for current employees.

Because of the wide gamut of possibilities, it is imperative to properly quantify your site and what conversion is.

Humanization is the Future, Welcome to the Atomic Age of SEO

Old vs. New Linkbuilding

(If you print out the large version (pdf | png), please be kind enough to scent the right side with a zest of lime, and the left with raspberry.)

What makes the internet so powerful is its ability to bring people together, regardless of location. The shift from optimization to humanization is occurring, ushering in a new age for SEO and the internet. Unique and effective content, outreach, and community engagement will all become integral in the success of any campaign.

Feel Free To Embed Our Atomic Infographic!

(Lime, Banana, Blue Raspberry, Cherry, Grape, Lemon-Lime, Orange, Shame)

Matt Cutts, Google’s head of webspam, announced at Pubcon that a new tool: Disavow Links within Webmaster Tools.

Google Webmaster Blog:

If you’ve ever been caught up in linkspam, you may have seen a message in Webmaster Tools about “unnatural links” pointing to your site. We send you this message when we see evidence of paid links, link exchanges, or other link schemes that violate our quality guidelines. If you get this message, we recommend that you remove from the web as many spammy or low-quality links to your site as possible. This is the best approach because it addresses the problem at the root. By removing the bad links directly, you’re helping to prevent Google (and other search engines) from taking action again in the future.

Link (Use the disavow tool with caution!): https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/disavow-links-main

Google Disavow Links Tool

In Webmaster Tools, select a site you control:

 

Google Disavow Links Tool in Webmaster Tools

Google Disavow Tool Case Studies

SEOWizz.net recently posted some real examples of success stories using Google’s new Disavow Tool: http://www.seowizz.net/2012/10/the-disavow-tool-works-real-sites-real-recoveries.html

It’s impossible to read the latest news in our industry without noticing the tone of immediate concern that so many others have. Ever since the more recent Panda updates started taking a significant toll on SERPs linked with popular trending keywords, everyone has been pointing at Google and blaming the company for the increasingly poor performance of their websites. Add to this the shakeup with Penguin and company’s ongoing silence regarding its algorithm and it’s easy to see why so many well-known voices in the SEO community are up in arms.

When the Penguin update first hit a few months back, Google was quite forward with the reasons for why we saw the rankings drop. Citing duplicate content and heavy anchor text usage as prime elements of sites that were trying to game the system, the company came under fire by many webmasters who themselves were using these disingenuous tactics. It also certainly didn’t help that the initial version of the algorithm hit several well-to-do sites and messed up their rankings for a brief stint as well. Nearly everyone in our industry was up in arms and panic was rampant.

Of course, it’s not all doom and gloom. Months after the most significant updates, thousands of link-farming directories and sites fraught with black hat SEO tactics have finally been dropped from Google’s SERPs. While not every exploitative page has disappeared from the page one results, most keyword searches now return results that have achieved their position due to smart design and ethical SEM campaigning.

Tried and True Tactics with the Best Impact

At the end of the day, it’s those SEO companies that have used and continue to rely upon transparent marketing techniques and natural linkbuilding practices that have fared the best since the Google’s updates began rolling out in full force. Google-friendly site optimization, social media campaigning, and original and interesting content generation are all methods through which the most notable online marketers are getting their clients onto the top of the SERPs these days.

Although search engine users continue to see mainstay sites like Wikipedia appear in the top 5 spots of their queries, many non-brand specific search terms have now become easier to lock down as trending keywords for clients’ brand. And, surprisingly enough, it’s Google’s Panda and Penguin updates that we have to thank for these SEO opportunities. While the constant search algorithm revisions certainly have made all our lives a little more complicated, these new challenges are being made in the name of better content for users. And that’s something we can all get behind.

Link building strategies have come a long way since the early days of SEO and search algorithm updates such as Google’s Panda and Penguin have made the process even more complex.  Formerly, link profiles existed merely to bolster the authority of pages within the SERPs.  However, the quality of those backlinks was not deemed to be nearly as important as quantity.  As the search engines have improved their functionality, quality and relevance have become crucial and certain link building strategies have been rendered obsolete.

Many webmasters find the task of building high-quality links to be particularly challenging and some may even wonder if there is still value in link building processes post-Penguin.  Does a strong link profile still matter to online businesses?  Yes.  In fact, it may be more important than ever before.

Why Links Still Work
Although Google, Bing and other search engines now consider quality to be paramount, quantity still plays a part in determining organic rankings.  Link building isn’t dead, it’s just different.  Paid links that were once effective for gaining authority are now penalized and backlinks from reputable sites have become even more valuable.

An Optimized Profile
P.R. initiatives, guest blogging and social media are proving to be effective ways for business owners and webmasters to gain high-quality, authoritative backlinks.  Additionally, these strategies also enhance overall brand awareness and visibility outside the SERPs.

The future of link building looks to be very secure.  It always has been and likely, always will be, a key component in SEO and digital marketing.  However, online businesses must be prepared to forge a new kind of link profile with quality at its core in order to retain their presence in the organic search rankings from here on out.

What are your thoughts on link building on the post-Penguin Web?  Drop me a line at brymshaw@webimax.com or follow me on Twitter: @brwebimax.

In the weeks following the much-discussed Penguin Update, many things have changed for Internet marketers.  Last week, I covered the topic of link building and how it has evolved since Penguin first struck on April 24th.  Today, I’m going to address another major issue affecting digital marketers, bloggers, content developers and business owners alike: Content.

Out With the Old?
It was once said that “Content is King” and until very recently, that was certainly the case.  On-page content was one of Google’s known ranking factors for organic search results and it was considered a crucial one, at that.  Although content still plays an important role in SEO efforts, relevancy has become the new king of the post-Penguin Internet.  Going forward, originality, quality and relevance will be key elements of content development and new marketing strategies will replace those which were rendered ineffective by Penguin.

Re-Inventing the Wheel
Inevitably, search engine algorithm changes lead to new online marketing techniques.  Traditional “article marketing” strategies no longer have substantial value to SEOs.  Additionally, spun articles and paid links are being penalized by the Penguin Update.  In order to remain successful in the SERPs, optimizers and content developers should enhance their social media efforts and use various popular social networks as a marketing platform.  Sharing and promoting articles and blog posts via Facebook, Google+ and Twitter will be increasingly beneficial to campaigns.  The utilization of public relations is also effective in raising brand awareness.  Delivering press releases and guest blogs or articles to legitimate online media outlets helps to establish a company’s identity and authority.

The Future of Content
In the months ahead, Google’s Penguin will continue to analyze content and link profiles and penalize sites for their failure to adhere to best practices.  Blogs, social media and P.R. outlets are legitimate platforms for digital marketers to consider and these are likely to become even more valuable in the future.  With relevancy reigning as the new king, quality will undoubtedly become the foundation of the successful Internet marketing campaigns of tomorrow.

The effects of Google’s Penguin Update have been felt by many webmasters and digital marketers over the past six weeks.  Not surprisingly, a large percentage of sites impacted by the update were penalized due to their link profiles.  Before April 24th, paid links were prevalent throughout the Internet, but many link farming companies were reeling from the effects of Google’s Panda.  In fact, BuildMyRank.com was even de-indexed for its link building practices and was forced to shut down entirely.  Penguin’s debut effectively finished the job that Panda started by specifically targeting black and gray hat link building techniques, amongst other things.

Rebuilding Through Relevancy
Why does Google dislike link schemes?  Quite simply, they “cheat” known aspects of the search engine’s algorithm.  SEOs have been aware for quite some time that links affect organic rankings.  More links equate to higher authority in the SERPs.  However, Penguin was designed to carefully monitor those links for their relevancy and today, quality has become far more important than quantity.  Sites that were hit by Penguin for their irrelevant, low-quality backlinks must now focus on eliminating those and creating a stronger link profile.

Staying in the SERPs
After building relevant, high-quality links through blogs, social media and proactive outreach efforts, it is important for webmasters to retain those links while simultaneously striving to gain new ones, as well.  Backlinks have always been a significant ranking factor and will continue to be crucial in the future.  However, Penguin has shifted the balance and indefinitely changed link building strategies.  Going forward, an emphasis on quality links isn’t merely optional; it is an absolute necessity.