Google’s Penguin algorithm update targeted over-optimized backlink profiles, but it’s main focus was on helping the bigger brands rank naturally in organic search.
Where we’ve come from
Before Penguin, SEO was all about building as many links to your website as possible with the keyword you wanted to rank for in the links. The problem was, the bigger brands weren’t ranking on the first page of Google because they weren’t implementing this type of linking strategy. That’s what Penguin was about… ranking websites based on the ‘natural’ link profiles of bigger brands.
The first step in the process was to reduce the dependence of rankings on keyword-rich links, as most of the bigger brands didn’t have keywords in most of their links. This also meant a reversing of previous ranking requirements. Now, having too many keyword-rich links actually holds you back from ranking.
The second step was to ensure authority is only passed through relevant links – links that were not solely for SEO purposes. This was a much bigger challenge for Google but they’re a smart bunch and they came up with something very elegant – focus on branded links and look very closely at keyword-rich links. Think about it… most of the bigger brands have a lot of links with their brand name in them, and only a few that have keywords in them.
Google also introduced the Disavow Tool that basically had the SEO industry doing their work by getting them to submit all the links they thought were ‘unnatural’ – which are essentially all of the links built purely for SEO purposes. Google can then just exclude them from their ranking formula. Smart.
Google is also focusing on brand citations, which is where a brand in mentioned online (like in an article or through social media) without a link to their site. Google uses the context of the citation to help it figure out what to rank a website for.
Where we’re going
The future of SEO is about brand building. The bigger your brand is, the more likely it will rank at the top of Google and maintain its ranking over the long term. With that in mind, it’s important to focus your online marketing strategy on building your brand. Integrate social media, paid advertising, social media marketing, email marketing and content marketing into your mix. That’s one part.
The other part is to focus your SEO on getting your brand out there. Google doesn’t need keywords in the links to know what to rank your website for. What you need instead is to build up as many links as you can with your brand name in them – we’ve seen sites rank for keywords without any links that contain the keyword they’re ranking for in them.
Building links with your brand name in them is a lot easier than building links with keywords in them. Think about how many times you’ve seen articles online with keywords you knew were only inserted for SEO purposes, and weren’t really required. Now that same article can have a branded link at the end of it through the Author Bio and be even more effective. That’s just one example.
You might be part of industry associations that list you on their website. Or you may have won an award, and your site is listed on the ‘winners’ page. There might be industry directories or local directories that your prospects use to find service providers. Or there might be coupon sites that online shoppers use to find deals on products they want to buy. You get the idea.
The future of SEO is about your brand. The more links you have with your brand in them, and the more places your brand is mentioned, the higher you’ll rank on Google. Just make sure you have a page for each keyword you want to rank for because Google (currently) uses onsite relevance to rank a web page for a particular keyword.