Link building, link buying, and focusing obsessively on keywords were once ways to build your presence in the online world. Nowadays, Google and other search engines have wised up and the effectiveness of traditional SEO strategies has deteriorated. Today, interesting content is king.
I sat down with Mike Jackness, head of Terran Marketing, which owns and operates several Websites, including WPHub.com, to explore the changing face of SEO. Jackness told me why content has reigned supreme:
Google has taken a strategy of penalizing any site that does SEO... Any site that falls out of a narrow range gets penalized whether or not it's natural. It renders SEO mostly useless in a traditional sense.
Acquiring natural links and driving traffic to your site, thus making it relevant, can build a brand. Jackess pointed out:
The way to get links is to have a user-friendly site that looks good, that you'd be comfortable using your credit card on, and that you'd link to and recommend to others -- that's what Google is looking for. For example, people will read an article about a new WordPress theme site that WPHub.com has produced, send it to their friends, and that's good content and good traffic.
Google's about-face has caused headaches for traditional affiliate sites, which are now having trouble generating a presence and securing traffic, he said.
Affiliate sites are having a tough time ranking, which has been a trend for Google. The longstanding low-quality sites are falling out. It's very drastic. Anyone who was doing aggressive SEO has been shut down.
Although a site's internal link profile is still relevant, "You don't want to only link to one thing," Jackness told me. "You still want it to be natural. If you're adding a link to try to BS your SEO, Google is going to pick up on that and penalize you." Moving a Website up in Google's search results has always been a difficult task, and those Websites that managed to advance quickly and unnaturally were usually identified and penalized.
In the last three to four months, every update from Google has stressed content and quality to the detriment of more traditional SEO. "Google puts comments on their website to talk about what's going on," Jackness said. "They're very vocal about what they're doing."
I can recall buying links for a Website and having Google penalize my business for doing so too quickly. Link building and link buying were very gradual processes, but now it seems that providing quality content that readers would want to link to and share via social media is much more important.
Speaking of content, what length provides sufficient ammo for Google and your readers? "Article length affects SEO from the standpoint that it's hard to have a relevant, quality article with fewer than 600 words." In essence, shorter articles can lack substance.
Quality content, as opposed to traditional SEO, can also help your site become a staple of Google News. As Jackness wrote in a 2011 blog post: "It's been my experience that you need a site that is at least 3-4 months old, has at least 100 quality news stories, and has at least 5 authors before [Google News] will accept your site. These are unwritten rules, but they have worked for me in the past."
Getting into Google News means more eye balls, more organic links, and a de facto stamp of legitimacy. It's a win all around, so focus hard on meeting Google's requirements before submitting your site for inclusion. Once an application for Google News is denied, it's quite difficult to get in.
There is also a heavy push toward using social media to enhance your footprint in Google. A recent Forbes article, for example, emphasized a Google+ presence to strengthen a company's organic SEO: "Start to embrace the Google+ world. It's not going anywhere and users are beginning to adopt it."
What are your SEO experiences in the last few years? Let me know by commenting here.
Dan Cypra is an Internet gambling industry expert and writes for several of the leading poker news sites on the Web.