I’ve been in SEO for a while and have seen my fair share of large SEO events. I remember pretty much all the major changes that have happened over the last 5+ years in the SEO world, including:
- 2006: Search engines claim to be battling spam and link building, specifically link exchanges, by diminishing the importance of anchor text
- 2007: Search engines continue to crack down on sites that are building “unnatural” links to manipulate search rankings
- 2008: Search engines place less emphasis on on-page factors due to manipulation through keyword stuffing
- 2009: Search engines start to place less emphasis on certain types of links due to heavy manipulation
- 2010: Search engines start to place much less weight on forum related links due to heavy manipulation
- 2011: Search engines focus heavily on natural looking links and start to place less weight on blog comments
- 2012: So far search engines deindex and place less weight on blog networks and specific anchor text matches
Sorry for that boring list — I’m sure you noticed the one common factor in all of the items on the list, and that is that search engines are trying to fight spammers and try to keep their results relevant. Quite honestly it’s a task i couldn’t even imagine being responsible for just because of the sheer magnitude of what search engines have to do and process every single day. I feel for people like Matt Cutts who heads the Google Webspam team because they really have a lot to work with, but at the same time I also sometimes deal with people who experience huge drops in rankings due to their site being unfairly penalized by search engines by algorithm changes.
Over the years I’ve seen a lot of big algorithm changes, and I’ve seen a pretty big improvement in search engine rankings. Yet there are still people that easily spam search engines and there are still very low quality sites showing up in search results for keywords in every single niche. Unfortunately it’s my opinion that an algorithm will never be able to weed out spam and deliver relevant results, but that’s just my two cents.
SEO Changes In 2012
There’s been quite a few changes in 2012 which we’ve been on top of and anticipating for quite some time. I personally believe in taking a more ethical approach to search engine marketing. Everyone on my team asks theirself a question before building a link or doing any SEO related activity:
If the answer to BOTH of these questions isn’t yes, then we won’t do it. There’s SEO’s out there who build thousands of links by spamming other websites. That isn’t us and isn’t what we believe in. We truly believe in providing a quiet SEO campaign that delivers long term results by forming quality relationships on the internet. That means a spam free SEO campaign.
Other people in SEO and people who handle SEO for businesses take a different approach. They have what we refer to as a “loud” SEO campaign, and quite frankly I believe their days will soon be numbered. As time goes on, search engines gain more experience and learn how to identify spammy tactics. They learn how to devalue links from low quality sites, how to determine which links are spammed and which aren’t, and are getting closer everyday to finding an algorithm that really prevents webspam. In my opinion there will always be spam on the internet and there will always be people trying to game the system, but search engines are trying to steer people in the right direction and prevent spam on the internet.
Whisper Don’t Shout
Our approach is a quiet one these days. That doesn’t mean building thousands of links per month, it means building quality links. Whether it’s an editorial link from a large media site or an article that gets published on a relevant business website, we believe in taking a more ethical, quiet approach to SEO. And with people like Matt Cutts saying that there will soon be penalties for “Overly SEO’d websites” we believe this is a lasting strategy that will not only improve our client’s search rankings, but also deliver them a large amount of referral traffic from related websites.
New tactics for SEO in 2012 include focusing on quality over quantity, but they also include focusing on relevant websites. If you’re a local florist, a link from a floral related website holds more value than a link from an accountant’s website. Yet so many SEO’s don’t spend the extra time to go after those related links.
The Bottom Line
The bottom line quite simply is this: as long as search engines exist, there will be people trying to manipulate their rankings. I don’t think of SEO as manipulative unless your sole purpose is to spam other sites to manipulate rankings. Rather good SEO not only improves your search rankings, but it also builds relationships with relevant site owners which drives thousands of visitors from 3rd party websites to your site. As 2012 continues (and yes we’re somehow already 1/3 of the way into the year) I anticipate seeing more large changes to search engines to combat webspam and continue to place an emphasis on quality > quantity.