Link-building has always been a touchy subject in the world of search-engine optimization, or search-engine positioning. Massive changes in how Google, the largest search behemoth does things has meant equally massive changes in healthy and safe ways to get websites out to where others will find them.
Tonight I found myself reading half-way through a rather lengthy article on this very subject, with many references to the fact that in 2017, Google wants your links to be “natural” or not having been obviously generated by YOU! The short of it, is that such links are created by content-rich blog articles or reader-useful product descriptions that compel others to link to it when they read it. As a result, one could be forgiven for observing that the age of the blog (short for “web log”) ushered in the age of content marketing! If you don’t like to write, you’ll either be hiring out a content-management consultant, hiring on a content-writer, or struggling with your placement in the search engines.
What is also becoming clear as I wade through this article, is that what works for Google doesn’t necessarily work for Bing/Yahoo and vice versa. Webmasters now need to decide where they wish to rank most. Are their target customers hanging out more on Bing than on Google? If so, it won’t matter if their website tanks on Google. But if their target market hangs out on Google more than Bing, they will want to rank well on Google to the expense of Bing. Time will tell how this disparity plays out when people are trying to find things online. It was already obvious in the past that how each search engine displayed content was not equal, but as of 2017, that could become even more pronounced.
Google and Bing however, are not the only large locations of content aggregation anymore. Sites such as Facebook are now flagging spam when they come across it. I recently joined up with an online business known as SFI (Strong Future International). The flagship product of SFI is their online store known as Tripleclicks. Tripleclicks is designed to take on the likes of Amazon, eBay and Etsy while also acting as an online international garage sale as well. SFI promotes Tripleclicks products, auctions and games via their affiliate base. While having multiple levels of affiliates is not a necessary part of earning an income, it helps what they call “leveraged income”. The goal of course, for every affiliate, is to get word out about their involvement with SFI and to bring in as many affiliates into their own business as they can. It turns out however that this has led to unscrupulous behaviour among affiliates marketing their gateways, leading social media giant Facebook to brand all affiliate links to SFI or Tripleclicks as spam.
The way around this for SFI affiliates is the same answer as it is for any other online company out there. Direct-linking to product, information, or sign-up forms is best done from within blog and/or news articles now. Even PR (press release) sites are starting to feel the rap as marketers release poor-quality press releases for no other reason than to garner links back to their desired website.
Marketers have to get more crafty now. As a webmaster myself, this is very important to stay abreast of. I have clients with websites, and one who relies on me for keyword content in their website copy, images, URL’s, etc. Social media and bookmarking sites are making it easier to spread useful content around, but they too are getting more and more sensitive to spammy behaviour.
Link shorteners are one way to mask URL’s flagged by social media or search engines as spam, however some shorteners have been over-used in the past, causing them to be blocked by these content aggregators as well. Not all shorteners have landed in this fate, but enough have that a marketer now has to be careful which shortener they use on which sites.
The world of online marketing has become a minefield as a result. Fake news, poorly-written press releases, spammed links, have all made it harder than ever to make an honest effort for FREE in getting one’s message out there. Forums, safelists (now called viral mailers), and one-to-one communication remain untouched, largely. Large forums have had to set up rules regarding the sharing of links to avoid being spammed as well, with most only allowing them in signatures or from members who have demonstrated a dedication to useful content in the forums.
The thread now, if you haven’t picked up on it by this point, is “useful content”! It doesn’t matter if you are marketing to social media, writing a blog article, writing a press release, or contributing to a forum, if you don’t have useful content, no one wants your stuff. Useful content can be more than just text however, although text is the word count against which Google will rank your content’s usefulness. Google ranks your user-readable content against the keywords you’ve sprinkled throughout and if it runs across too many keywords for the length of content present, it will penalize that content. Google used to say a webpage needed at least 300 words. That changed to 500 words, and now useful content is deemed to be much longer. The longer the better now when it comes to content creation.
This flies in the face of the meme and soundbite culture where people want their information in tidbits of 140 characters or less. Micro-blogs such as Twitter have even expanded allowable characters to 160 or more in certain cases to attempt to grab more engagement. Google’s call for longer content suits writers like me just fine. If you are still reading this, we are well past the 500 word mark now, just so you know. Did you think you had the patience to read this far? No? Surprise! And if you can read this far, so can the next person you are marketing to. Trying to get your message out in as few words as possible is only necessary in certain target markets. It will harm you on Google if that is where you wish to rank.
Imagery and video are also valid ways to your message out to the masses. Youtube has been used for this purpose for so long that they are also starting to crack down on video content that does nothing more than promote a spammy link or what is deemed to be spammy content or fake news-style. Once again, CONTENT IS KING! Youtube’s own changes as a subsidiary to Google now, are causing those who prefer video content creation to look at other online sources such as Facebook live or Vimeo or other sites.
SEO is an ever-changing beast. It is not my “bread and butter” like it is for others I am acquaintences with, but it is necessary to stay abreast of if even on a cursory level so that drastic mistakes don’t harm efforts to get word out about business, books, and causes I feel strongly about.