Posted by wilreynolds
This past week I gave the keynote presentation at Searchfest in Portland and I hit on a few themes that seemed to resonate with the audience, and with Rand. So I wanted to share them here. It’s what I have been passionate about trumpeting for some time now. And it’s that the "Good Guys" of SEO, the people who do the things like building great content and community are being made into two faced liars every day by Google. Every day we tell our clients to build good content and Google will reward them we know that it’s a white lie most times, because the other side of that coin is and ALSO build anchor text links so you can actually rank well, because community building is not enough of a factor yet.
Just examine for a second this backlink profile to a sub page for a competitor to one of our clients:
What does a backlink profile like that say to you?
I think the above image from one of my slides illustrates this best…I showed how a client of mine who is getting killed by a website who is just targeting tons of anchor text only links on GARBAGE sites and is KILLING my client in the rankings. This is a truth we are all used to by this point that is nothing new. But let’s take a look at Google's rules
. Go to that URL and do a Control F for the word "link" – you will find three instances. None of them talk about link building as a tactic to help you rank better, just to be leery of having to link to an SEO company. While that is a good tip, there is not one tip that talks about building links as important, HUH?
Notice here Google says: The quantity, quality, and relevance of links count towards your rating.
GREAT! They've admitted that the number of links, the quality of links, and relevance count – sweet!
But if you look at that screen grab above, do you see relevance, do you see quality? I don't, I see quantity and anchor text.
Later on Google says:
The best way to get other sites to create relevant links to yours is to create unique, relevant content that can quickly gain popularity in the Internet community. The more useful content you have, the greater the chances someone else will find that content valuable to their readers and link to it.
Hmmm, let's see how this plays out. But before we do, do me a favor:
Take five seconds to think of the SEO companies that you respect most, whom you consider to be constantly creating unique relevant content in this industry and whom you think of as thought leaders, and participants in the community.
Ok, now go type in SEO company
, SEO consultant
, or SEO agency
on Google (unpersonalized) and report back on whether or not you saw one of those companies / consultants / agencies you hold in high regard anywhere in the top 10.
Let's take three companies with active blogs, lots of social engagement, and tons of high quality links and compare them to sites in the top 15. The companies I picked were SEOGadget
, and SEER Interactive
(us) all come to mind VERY quickly. I am not mentioning by names of the companies I picked who where ranking top 15, but let's examine some differences
Looking at our site stats according to SEOmoz
- SEOGadget has over 50 pages with 10 or more linking root domains
- Distilled has over 100 pages with 10 or more linking root domains
- SEER has over 30 pages with 10 or more linking root domains (we got some work to do!)
The "other guys" never had more than two, yet they are killing us on the rankings.
I knew putting this data in a chart form would illustrate this best:
First I looked at RSS subscribers, by going to Google Reader and searching for their blogs like this:
Wow that description sucks, I gotta work on that…anyway…
Half-Truth #1 – If people subscribe to my blog, that will show Google that I am writing good content and people want it, and that should help me rank, right?
Reality: Not even close pal. The four mystery SEO companies have seven subscribers to their blog combined.
Half-Truth #2 – If I engage with people on Twitter and social channels – that will show Google that I am engaging my audience, and I'll be rewarded with rankings, right?
Reality: Nope. Connecting with people on social can get you links in many ways but if you did that well and didn't get anchor text, you'd probably fail.
Half-Truth #3 – If I engage with people on Google+ and get added to circles, Google can DEFINITELY see that – that will show Google that I am engaging my audience, and I'll be rewarded with rankings, right?
Lastly, I looked at Google Circles (obviously you can buy Google accounts to add you to circles, but I am hoping Google can see more engagement not just counts), here is what I got:
Reality: Not yet. But I sure hope it comes.
What message does this send to SEO providers?
OK Big G – We are all playing by your rules, building community, working our tails off on social, and getting our butts kicked, why are you recommending I tell clients to do those things if they aren't helping us?
It's sad to think that if I wanted to rank well for keywords in my industry, writing this post, getting comments on it, and engaging in the community by answering questions counts LESS to help us rank well for targeted competitive keywords than me getting 20 anchor text links on a tag page? A freakin tag page! So when I spend time doing the HARD work, I get fewer rankings than those who take the lazy way out?
Is that really the message Google wants to send?
Think about the daily high wire act every one of us undertakes, too much anchor text – you win temporarily and risk getting banned too little you risk your reputation as an SEO company and are likely to be branded a snake oil salesman.
But let's also think in the same way we consult with clients, we tell our clients every day that people "Google things" and when they perform searches, they make sometimes make purchasing decisions, based on those searches, right?
So when people search Google for "SEO company" and they find this smut outranking the goog guys of SEO…Google is perpetuating the cycle they want to end.
They are "letting" the bad guys rank, which only gets them more clients, and pollutes more of the web with crappy sites that have over aggressively linked. Let's also act like noobs for a second – if a client is picking between SEO Gadget or Outspoken Media and one of the companies who ranks on page 1, then guess what they might say to Richard or Rhea? The prospective clients may say that they don't have the social proof, which would be true. It's logical to say, well Google MUST like what company X is doing because why else would they reward them with such high rankings?
People don't think about "algorithmic weights" and "over optimization" they believe in what they can see, and what they SEE is that the company ranking #1 or #2 has the social proof that maybe SEER or Distilled does not when it comes to the rankings.
C'mon Google! You are perpetuating the problem.
REAL SEOs wish that we NEVER had to worry about anchor text, we are the people who care about this industry and want to do the GOOD work. The real question is why does Google make us into liars everyday in the eyes of our potential clients? If we follow Google's rules to a T, we will likely never get the rankings, and if we don't get the rankings, we are branded as snake oil salesman.
Personally I can't wait for Google+ to start impacting results more. I want to see our TRUE industry leaders
rankings to FINALLY be rewarded by our hard work in the community and I bet a LOT of others are with me!
If you are saying Wil help me get anchor text in a better way, then I want to give you a few ideas on how to get your targeted anchor text:
- Include the keyword in your domain name, so consider that when registering domains or microsites
- Include the keywords in your digital assets, so whether it is a scholarship or a whitepaper, just the "suggestion" of titling a scholarship or whitepaper with your target keywords will help
- Link internally with targeted anchor text in blog posts, when people copy your posts or scrape them, they will pull in your anchor text and you'll have a chance to get links
Hoping the good guys get rewarded soon!! Or we'll all be selling snake oil!
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