Whether we want to admit it or not, SEO is a big part of content marketing. You don’t need to be the next Rand Fishkin, but you do need to have a basic understanding of how the big search engines (ahem, Google) work and what they’re looking for.
But with Google constantly changing its algorithm (here’s looking at you, Penguin 2.0), how can content marketers keep up with the ever-changing SEO landscape? The short answer: By knowing the fundamentals and understanding the direction search engines are going in.
While The Short Cutts is awesome, you don’t need to memorize 101 link building tips. You just need to know the art and science of it all.
When asked, Matt Cutts named these the five most common SEO mistakes:
1. Not having a crawlable website. If search engines can’t crawl your website properly, you’re in serious trouble. Use tools like SEO Browser to make sure your website will pass the crawlable test.
2. Not thinking like a searcher. Always consider how people search. For example, don’t use “Mt. Everest Height”. Instead, use “How high is Mt. Everest?”.
3. Being too focused on the science. Compelling content should be the backbone of your linking strategy. Simply trying to build links won’t be nearly as effective.
4. Not covering the basics. The titles and descriptions of your pages are important. It’s the small things!
5. Not having a working knowledge. Again, don’t just build all the links you possibly can. Understand how search engines actually work and cater to what they actually look for.
Notice any patterns? 40% of those mistakes involve putting too much of an emphasis on the science of link building. According to Cutts (and us), great content goes a long way. In creating high quality content, you’ll naturally build high quality links.
So, does the science of link building still matter? Is it all about the art of content marketing now? Of course the science still matters! What’s important to know is that the science is changing and becoming more and more intertwined with the art.
Early predictions for what the Google Penguin 2.0 update will bring are clear: quality over quantity. Sounds familiar, right? The art is slowly making its way into the science. And it’s not just Google; search engines are shifting.
So, here’s what you need to know about the science of link building and how it’s changing:
1. Google will care more about links backed by actual social influence and you should pick guest blog contributors based on their social influence, not their social reach. Your new guest contributor has 200,000 Twitter followers? That’s awesome! But how many are bots? How many are actually engaged? These are the questions Google will be asking. Essentially, it’s better to have someone with real influence (no vanity metrics, please) tweeting about your latest blog post than someone with 200,000 unengaged followers.
2. You need to be using Google authorship because Google will start placing weight on the individual writer, not just the publication. If you’re not already, you absolutely need to be taking advantage of Google’s authorship feature. Let’s say you contribute an awesome post to KISSmetrics, a popular Internet marketing blog. If you then post on your own blog using the same author profile, you carry some of that content value over to your blog. Both the author and the publication get the rewards!
3. More of an emphasis will be placed on the quality of links instead of the quantity of links. Here it is again: quality over quantity. Google seems to care less and less about how many links you’ve built. What Google really cares about is the authority of the pages that are linking to you. For example, twenty links from websites Google thinks highly of are worth more than thirty links from websites Google knows are spam-fueled.
4. Google will care more about the quality of outbound links, so you need to link strategically and make sure you’re not guest posting anywhere that links to spammy sites. It’s not just inbound links that count. You need to be strategic about the websites you link out to as well. You need to be linking to quality, authoritative sites (Forbes, Wikipedia, etc.) It can’t be anything irrelevant (or that Google might perceive as irrelevant). And don’t forget that variety is the spice of life. Don’t link to the same websites day in and day out.
5. Google will care about your mention:link ratio, so make sure it’s natural. We’ve talked about link:content ratio. You can expect that 30-35% of the people who mention your website won’t link to it. That’s natural. If everyone that mentions you links to you, Google will perceive that as paid or spammy. You don’t always have to link to your site in guest posts.
So, does link building matter? Yes, but gaming the algorithm is becoming more difficult. It’s not about who can build the most links. It’s about creating high quality content that resonates with influencers. Essentially, high quality content equals high quality links equals SEO success.
Create amazing content and the link building will come naturally! That’s the art and science of it all.