It's hard to confidently make a list of things that Google will never do. The company is too forward-thinking and secretive to be predictable. Five years ago, who would have forecasted that Google would make eyewear? Who would have guessed they were developing self-driving cars?
For a long time, Google was strictly a search engine. They may still make the overwhelming majority of their revenue from search, but they have slowly extended into other tech fields.
I can safely say that Google has one secret they will never reveal however, one that directly relates to their search engine: I'm talking about the algorithm that dictates the SERPs.
The search algorithm will always be a mysterious beast to anyone not employed at 1600 Amphitheater Parkway in Mountain View, CA. Its obvious why - Google has no interest in letting SEO's know how exactly to manipulate and abuse it. The revenue stream from the ads demands that Google do everything in its power to maintain the integrity of the results they provide.
SEO's are always debating which factors make up the algorithm, and how those factors are prioritized. Scouring the web, you'll find your share of case studies, educated guesses, and wingnut conspiracy theories. This could be said about anything on the internet really. Ultimately though, only the keepers know.
There has been a quiet war amongst SEO's about whether or not the power of the link is diminishing. I myself don't think so at all. Amit Singhal, head of Google Search, confirmed as much at SMX on March 11. When Google started out as BackRub in 1996, there was little doubt about the central role that links played in the algorithm.
While I would argue this role has not been diminished, I understand why people have trouble believing in the power of links in today's world wide web. There was no such thing as Twitter, Facebook or Pinterest in 1996. The founders of Facebook were still in high school.
There is a sizeable portion of SEOs who believe that social signals will be the primary ranking factor in the future. I don't think that will ever be the case, but I'm not going to argue that social media signals wont have added value in the algorithm in coming years. they're too prominent to ignore. Even Google has its own platform.
Even though I founded an agency devoted to link building, I'm here to tell you this: the people on my floor need social media. Its convenient and its effective when it comes to relationship building, promotion and idea generation.
Relationship Building and Community Engagement
If you're link building but never building relationships, you're not really link building: you're spamming.
It probably goes without saying that there's a lot of social in social media. We in the internet marketing/SEO disciplines may be somewhat jaded since we spend so much of our on-the-clock time on it, but the fact is that the majority of people on social networks are there to talk to friends, family, and their favorite celebrities. They aren't there to promote a cause and/or product: that's our job.
Even if that IS what were doing, there's no reason we can't play up the social aspect as well. Not only will it lead to more success in your work, it will make your job more fun (which in turn leads to more success at work). Social media is an ideal arena for relationship building.
But why exactly is relationship building important? Simply put, relationships with people in your niche will lead to more authority links. If you are viewed as helpful and pleasant within your community, you up your chances of webmasters wanting to link to you. Not only will they potentially link to you, they might point you in the direction of other golden opportunities.
Rand Fishkin preaches about non-measurable serendipitous marketing. that's really a fancy way of saying providing solutions to problems within the niche for free. It can be as large scale as building a tool that will increase efficiency; it can be as small scale as simply offering advice to those asking questions.
If you run the site massagemessage.com, a blog devoted to sharing massage techniques and selling supplies, you should make a point to follow certain Twitter hashtags. Look for your keywords. If you're trying to rank for back massage, use the twitter search bar to see who is writing about back massages.
If you do that, you'll find a lot of tweets like:
Look at the profile to see what city the user lives in. Recommend a favorite massage parlor in the area by tweeting back at this person. When he/she gets the massage from this parlor, ask them to drop your name to the masseuse. Who knows; that parlor might express gratitude in the form of a link. If so, you've increased your visibility through social media AND link building. Well done.
Content is king.
Bill Gates wrote about that in 1996. The premise of his article was that content would dominate the web; that content would be the leading source of revenue in the not-too-distant new century. I'm here to say that the man was once again right.
Great content can do wonders for your site. Regularly producing creative, inspiring, and informative content is one of the best tricks of the SEO trade. But is it enough to have great content? Not quite, especially if you operate a new site still cultivating its readership. You have to promote your content.
Social media is the perfect place to promote such content. Even if you don't have an abundance of followers, you can still amplify your content to a large audience (and potentially attract some followers in the process).
Lets say you are utilizing guest blogging in your link building campaign. Forget what Matt Cutts said back in January: quality guest blogging can and should be integrated into your efforts, if it matches your marketing goals.
When you attain a link via guest blogging, you should absolutely tweet about/facebook share it/pin it etc. Webmasters will typically promote your content via various social platforms, but you should promote as much as possible as well - show the world how proud you are of your content.
Even if you don't have a large following yourself, you can reach out to a larger audience. With Twitter, the # can once again be your best friend. When your guest blog about massages goes live, link to your piece and add #massage like so:
Anyone who searches massage in twitter will see your post; maybe they'll even like it enough to retweet.
Google+ is a great place to promote content to a targeted niche as well, thanks to their communities feature. Communities are a place where like-minded G+ users can share thoughts and content about a specific topic. It's fairly simple to find these communities too.
These are three communities relevant to your site, and they all have a sizeable audience interested in what you have to say. Tell them.
Idea Generation and Link Prospecting
Link builders block is a real thing. As spacious as the internet is in actuality, working in SEO can sometimes make the internet seem alarmingly small. A lot of this has to do with the niche you've been dealt.
A Google search is certainly an effective way to find link prospects - it makes SEO sense to want to attain links from sites that rank highly. But if you're only using Google, you're willfully shrinking the internet.
Social media can be used for link prospecting as well. A large portion of influential webmasters are not only on twitter, but they are frequent tweeters. Ordinarily, they will list their website in their twitter bio. Rather than sift through every single person who uses #massage to find those webmasters, why not use a tool that scrapes twitter bios for you?
Followerwonk is such a tool. Simply insert a target keyword into the search bar and followerwonk will return you a lengthy list of twitter users who have that word in their bio. For example:
Even if the bio doesn't have a domain name with massage in it, clearly these people are interested in massages enough to include it in their bio. Take a look at their twitter feeds and see what kind of content they are sharing; you are likely to find even more sites this way.
What happens when you're not running out of internet however? What if you're running out of ideas? When you spend month after month writing about a specific niche, the topics for potential content seem to dry up.
Social media sites can be useful for brainstorming ideas. By joining the right communities, you can actively engage with people operating in your wheelhouse. Other users will be posting niche specific news and will likely be writing/posting content of their own.
Because someone has already written on a particular subject doesn't mean you cant as well: you just need to give it your own personal spin. that's not plagiarism. I like how T.S. Eliot put it: Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different.
To me, it almost seems as if Pinterest is designed to help a content provider desperate for ideas. A Pinterest wall is littered with content, narrowed to fit within a the niche you are searching for.
So to use the backmassage.com hypothetical again, you would be best to follow boards along the lines of massage therapy, back pain, relaxation etc. You can pin articles that you find useful to a private page like so:
Boss. Office workers. Carpal tunnel syndrome.
I know many online marketers who fear they are developing the symptoms of carpal tunnel due to typing away all day. Its a cause of stress.
You're in the massage industry; your job is to relieve such stress. Using the three articles on the left, you could potentially find inspiration for content about providing hand massages at work.
Show Your Carpal Tunnel Who's Boss: Hand Massagers for Your Office
Link building is not going away anytime. As much as they ever were before, links are votes of confidence from one site to another. But that doesn't mean that social media doesn't have its place. An expert link builder should always be using social media to reach out to influencers, promote content and to simply get ideas for the next piece of content.