In a meeting yesterday I listened to a SEO expert talk about his craft, and it occurred to me that I should have made more out of being right about social/SEO all those years ago at Social Media Week 2010. The wonderful Claire Thompson of WavesPR organised a panel debate ‘Who Owns the Social Space‘, pitting experts in the the fields of PR, social media (hello!), social technology, digital marketing and SEO against each other to argue over a mythical budget.
I was cast as the ‘social media purist’ and argued from the point of view that everyone who has any interest in the company, especially the decision makers, should get themselves onto the platforms they make decisions on. They should take part, because only they can speak with their authentic voice about what they do. So far, so logical. I also said that SEO would be taken care of with authentic content – basically the people doing the thing talking about doing the thing. Ooh, what a revolutionary concept. My point was that the budget should be going towards training, guidance, with the aim to ‘speak for yourself’ (there I go again.) All the right words would be in there because – well we are talking about the things we do, right? So there it is, your SEO.
Now this was four years ago when everyone, including the very big players, were still doing paid SEO to make them appear on top of the search results. A grubby, muddy, manipulative world which I didn’t want to touch with a barge pole – but that’s what everyone was doing.
Since then, google has changed its search algorithms several times, and with the latest change, these things have become completely impossible. Not only that, but every company who was using them was penalised (this includes big names we are used to seeing on top of search results like Broadbandchoices.) There is a full list of all the updates here, with lovely names like Panda Dance and Penguin they seem cute, but they were hitting those SEO experts hard. Details about the penalties the worst ones (household names, in most cases) were hit with here.
The result is that, four years later, an SEO expert will give you the exact same advice I gave you – speak about the things you do. Your content will be indexed organically. Link to sites you like in your blog (tbh I should do more of that. New Years Resolution: Finally make a blog roll). All these things are natural, human-scale things you do anyways. If you have a business you can invest in getting the experts in to build on existing skills and add confidence, so you and the people working with you learn to talk online about what they do. There are no other tricks anymore to moving higher up in the search rankings.
Incidentally, that’s also why content marketing is the latest big thing, and that’s also why all those shit sites like upworthy (more about that grubby world here) have raised their ugly heads – making us click on their spammy headlines. Because can you remember this artifically ‘viral’ stuff going around even a year ago? That’s because it wasn’t there. Clearly we can’t do without some kind of grubby idiocy. But more about that in another post.
Good on google anyways for working so hard on becoming more useful to all of us and a less spammy, muddy place. Bad on humans for falling for the next set of dirty tricks.