Well, it depends on who ‘we’ are. If you own an online business, sit tight and don’t despair – your SEO consultant has probably got more than a few new strategies already devised. It’s what they do – after all – they pull rabbits out of magic hats. At least, that’s what it seems like.
On the other hand, if you’re a digital marketing agency you know that’s not the case. There is oh so much more to it than that. Before you leap off the ledge, remember it’s not the end of the world. Honestly. In fact, it may just be a happier ending than you think.
Not so sure about that? Okay, so let’s take a trip back to the future. Sometimes (just like in the movie) you have to understand the past in order to change the future’s outcome.
Search meets PageRank.
In 1996, Larry Page and Sergey Brin turned their research project at Stanford University into a revolutionary standard that would dictate the strategies of digital marketing for the next two decades. PageRank would become the be-all and end-all algorithm, based upon how a page of information on the Internet could be ordered according to the number of links pointing to it.
Online pages were ranked between 0 and 10 (higher is better) based upon the amount of inbound links – as well as the PageRanknumber ofsource sites from which the links were generated. Various toolbar add-ons became available, allowing a user to instantly view a site’s rank once the home page had fully loaded. All without an SEO analyst at your right hand.
Really, it made sense. The more ‘traffic’ to your site from other well-ranked sites, the better yours ranked. Wouldn’t that mean a PageRank of 6 indicated your website was not only credible, but super relevant and authoritative? Well, that was Google’s plan – to give users a better experience from their search engine. Mission accomplished. And then all hell broke loose.
What price quality?
Instantly, the race was on. How many links could you get, and how quickly? Soon, they were sold by the dozens in an almost black-market fashion; creating a whole new industry on the side for starving foreign nations.
Random business directories were cropping up like dandelions, with the sole intention of selling links. Microsites were created for the sole purpose of gaining links for various client locations. The demand for huge amounts of on-site content was needed quickly – so much so that plagiarizing another person’s words became commonplace.
It got so crazy that Google drew a line in the sand. And, you became either white hat SEO (the good guys) or black hat SEO (the bad guys). They crafted quality guidelines in a concerted attempt to try to get everyone to clean up their act. Which worked; for a little while.
Change is a given.
And, then there were algorithm changes with names like Panda, Pigeon, Penguin, and Hummingbird; and sequels called updates. And it still wasn’t enough. Is it any surprise that Google’s PageRank algorithm tool would vanish from our sight? Not really. Wasn’t it only a matter of time?
It’s easy to lean in to familiarity. You’ve found the secret formula, and it works really well. Your clients are happy and your staff is relieved, and empowered. It’s always nice to chill for a while in ‘the zone.’ But we all know that is a very temporary place when it comes to digital marketing.
If there’s any truer constant in the world-wide-web-of-SEO, it is change. And yet we still feel more than a little trepidation as we prepare to shift our game plan (yet again). What’s safe, what isn’t? Where is the next ‘new thing’ and how much is it going to cost us?
Take thenext steps!
If you think about it, the answer’s been there all along. It’s what Google based its business upon: user experience. When people search for what they want, and they are driven to your site (with links from content, reviews, directories, etc.) it doesn’t look promising if there is no “there” there.
Time is money, and visitors don’t like you to waste either one of theirs. Make your website a labor of love, one that demonstrates your purpose and vision. Keep it concise, without too much flash and dash; be real.
Online marketing is certainly more complicated than hanging an open sign on your shop’s front door. But, it isn’t a mystery. You want your visitors to turn into clients, and for them to refer their friends, right?
Well, you’ve got to practice the same good business techniques and customer satisfaction as any brick and mortar – and then some – because they can’t meet you in person and shake your hand. Here are a few tips to keep in mind as you ‘weather’ the latest storm; the demise of PageRank as we know it.
- Treat your customers as you would if they walked in your door.
- Represent yourself honestly and openly as a legitimate business.
- Present your services and products with clarity and fair pricing.
- Don’t overrun your site copy with keywords.
- Make sure that your content speaks to the target customer’s needs.
- Update things occasionally, to show you’re still growing.
Respond to questions and comments with kindness and professionalism.