It’s fair to say that 2011 was mental as far as SEO is concerned. Every week something new would be announced that says “hey guys, do this in order to beat Google” and “you’re doing that still? You’re soooooo January, c’mon, it’s the middle of February now, that doesn’t work!”
It’s enough to make the average man in the street (well, the man in the street with a website and the Internet) to think that it’s absolutely impossible to rank on Google anymore because nerds have taken over. Have you seen “SEO For Dummies” on Amazon? Over 400 pages!! Who’s going to read that!!??Not to mention the fact that it appears Google released a Panda into the mix which rather than feed on bamboo went to work devouring and spitting out large websites in a rampant charge that got everyone all scared to do anything anymore. This apparently robotic bear has since been upgraded with metal teeth and claws that can also bite websites which look quite legitimate. The Panda is rampant, the Panda is unphased by whining web owners and the Panda will eat your site. If you have over a gazillion pages on it full of spam or something.
It’s not just Panda
There were, of course, a lot of other changes made in 2011, hundreds of them. So how have they affected search?
As far as I can see, not much if you were a good marketer. If you still stick to best practices then you’re OK. If you have a website with more content than the entire Encyclopedia Britannica and mostly copied from elsewhere (which is apparently what Panda went after) then you’re likely to have had a problem, but why are your sites that big anyway? And why duplicate content (*)?
*A side note – I was challenged once, nay, lambasted by someone who understood the whole duplicate content thing all wrong. Duplicate content, titles, URLs and all that on your site is bad, duplicate content syndicated to lots of sites for backlinks isn’t bad. It’s not great, but it’s not bad.
Anyway, the point is that it appeared that 2011 was the year SEO was stolen. Google was even on the news. Between world leaders being shot in the head and the financial crisis meaning we are all going to be eating our own shoes come the Olympics, there would be the odd story relating to Google and Facebook and Friends Reunited (maybe not that one). Some of the stories were about how if you’re not careful you could probably catch a nasty disease from just clicking on a link, others about people making millions of pounds because they offered a lock of their hair through social networking and it went viral and appeared on South West Tonight or something.
Google, the Internet, Social networking, do we actually do anything anymore that isn’t in some way linked to these things?
An ironic Facebook post I read recently was from someone who is a huge Farmville fan, a game where you “live the rural dream” by tending to your virtual crops and animals. The post was talking about an extremely nice take-out curry that had just been delivered. I wondered if the chicken was virtual?
So, as we eat our take-away meals, yearning for the days when we all used to live off the land and grow our own tikka spices, we spend our time constantly interacting with people via phone, PC, tablet or some other device that only operates when within range of wi-fi.
But what has this ramble got to do with SEO?
Everything. Let me tell you why.
SEO is nothing but marketing. Nothing. It’s just marketing. It just so happens that it’s marketing on t’interwebs and it’s all electronic and that. Digital marketing if you like.
Now, let’s imagine for a minute that you decide to buy a farm. One day, you venture out of your flat, fight through the smog and turn up at the farm. Let’s also assume that the fresh air and ehanced oxygen content doesn’t give you the bends and you stumble into the light to plant some carrot seeds you bought from the supplies company.
The seed packet will have a company name and probably a website and a strapline “Put our carrots in yer field and get ready for a cracking yeild!”
You’ve been marketed to.
The van that delivered them would have had a logo on the side advertising the delivery company. The envelope would have various logos and I wouldn’t be surprised if the carrots eventually grow to have a logo printed on the side, give it chance.
This is all marketing, it’s everywhere and now we can plant virtual carrots on Facebook, we now have more and more chances to market to people through ever more diverse methods, we just need to be creative. Farmville have got this down to a fine art because even though the game is free, you can ‘buy’ virtual coins to spend in the game with real cash. They’re making a mint!
And of course, people are talking about it and this means they’re getting good publicity and this means Google loves them. Finally we get to the crux of the matter – Google absolutely loves them.
You see, the biggest change to Google and the one that has almost slipped in without anyone knowing is the fact that they are taking note of chatter on social networks now. If you get mentioned a lot on Twitter or Facebook or any other of hundreds of sites you will get lots of Google love. To some this heralds the start of yet another challenge to get ranked – now they’ve got to spend all day on Facebook.
But it doesn’t have to be that way because Facebook is designed to be passive and easy to use, you don’t and you should’t approach it as simply a marketing tool, it’ll send you quite scatty. Instead you should use it for what it is – just another way of getting your message out. Same with Twitter, same with any of these new avenues.
Is there a silver bullet?
No. There never has been, there never will be. I grow tired of people asking me “what’s the secret?” when there really isn’t one. There’s no one way to get your site ranked, it unfortunately takes lots of hard work and the use of a varied array of methods as I mention above.
Wait, there is a secret, it’s persistence.
If there’s one thing that most people fail on, it’s the simple fact of not carrying on. Not pushing forward and consitently trying to rank and relentlessly building those links. They try for a bit, then nothing happens so they give up.
However, we’d really like to help, so we’re currently updating our DIY SEO guide which will be available very soon. When it is, you’ll be the first to know and it will show you how to optimise your site and then help its ranking. The rest is up to you.