Saturday, April 30, 2016

No Short Cuts: The Hard Truth of Organic SEO

The SEO community promotes the belief that in-bound links or "backlinks"--links from another website to your website--are a key to ranking success. We believe this is true, to a point. For search engines, a backlink from a reputable source is a vote for your content. At the very least, a backlink implies that someone else found your content relevant.

Of course, established sites enjoy an abundance of backlinks. And popular wisdom says that backlinks are one of the best ways to improve placement for any site.

According to Google, however, link-building "can do more harm than good."As we reported last year,Google's Webmaster Trends Analyst, John Mueller, advises websites to avoid link-building.

"We do use links as part of our algorithm," Mueller stated, "but we use lots and lots of other factors as well. So only focusing on links is probably going to cause more problems for your web site than it actually helps."

Link-building, as defined by Moz,"is the process of acquiring hyperlinks from other websites to your own." Mueller's statement implied that this "process" is not necessarily organic.

As we noted:

"In theory, even when practicing 'good' link building, a website owner is essentially venturing out into the wild Internet, shouting, 'Come visit me!' This could be as simple as a comment on a blog--'Hey, check out my blog'--which is bound to annoy the blog owner, if not the readers. Or it could be as 'sophisticated' as an ad campaign, which could do more than annoy. At the very least, most attempts to artificially promote your site are met with annoyance."

Our contention then, as now, is that website owners should not work to "acquire" links. Link-building is artificial, not organic; it smacks of the sort of spam that promises "25,000 Unique Visitors Every Month!"

A Facebook sponsored post from Backlinko

We recently spotted the sponsored post above, from Backlinko, on Facebook. The post purports to be an authority on "high quality content," yet the content itself is teeming with mistakes. 

As you might know, Google advocates error-free content. In its Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide, Google says to avoid "writing sloppy text with many spelling and grammatical mistakes." Elsewhere, Google equates mistake-ridden writing with "things" like spam and broken links--things "that can make visitors not trust your site or leave."

The sponsored post from Backlinko above essentially defines what Google is not looking for--and despite the company's name, "Backlinko," the post does not reveal the sort of authority that inspires backlinks.

That said, Brian Dean, the founder of Backlinko, is viewed as an authority in the SEO world. His blog inspires countless comments; on Twitter, he counts over 33,000 followers. We can only imagine that this post from Brian is an aberration.

No matter Dean's relative influence, though, this post is bound to failure--Dean himself would likely admit it is not a great example of "high quality content." Of course, a sponsored post can--and often will--attract traffic to your business. Yet, that traffic will be short-lived, even pointless, if your content does not make visitors trust your site.

So how do you create a durable following?

John Mueller's warning is relevant here because it points to a simple truth: There is no shortcut to a true, organic ranking.

When Mueller speaks about "link-building," he is essentially referring to any SEO practice meant to attract attention. According to Google, all attempts to attract attention must be organic.

Note how Google defines "high quality content" in its Webmaster Tools

"Provide high-quality content on your pages, especially your homepage. This is the single most important thing to do. If your pages contain useful information, their content will attract many visitors and entice webmasters to link to your site. In creating a helpful, information-rich site, write pages that clearly and accurately describe your topic. Think about the words users would type to find your pages and include those words on your site."

Note, too, the operative words here: Useful. Attract. Entice. Creating. Helpful. Information-Rich. Clearly and Accurately.

His unfortunate sponsored post aside, Brian Dean has obviously done enough enticing to build a tremendous following. This is organic SEO. You cannot buy attention. Instead, you must entice and attract. Brian Dean surely knows this.

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