Let’s not kid ourselves, the state of SEO 4+ years ago was laughable, a joke, if you will. Google’s own search results were so easily manipulated with “backlink packages” and the like that it was straightforward to a fault to get a new site ranking, even for a competitive keyword, provided you had the money (or the time).
Over the past few years, Google – and other search engines, too! – has wised up and started making it more difficult to game the system. While some lamented the downfall of blackhat, spammy techniques, it was a game that was doomed from the beginning, and an equal number of people recognized the value in Google’s new incarnation.
Right now, the social and link cues that tell Google a page is important and relevant are more closely aligned than ever with the actual relevance and genuine popularity of that page. This has been Google’s goal for years, so it’s no surprised that they’ve worked extremely hard to move this direction as quickly as possible. I’m sure they’re quite happy with themselves, and they should be.
Is there still some way to game the system? I’m sure, but it’s not worth it, because every loophole gets closed, and at a rate that is gaining speed with every single day.
So, if the old kinds of link building aren’t effective, what does work?
Social cues are big.
Social media is the currency of a generation right now, and content that is blowing up with links, likes, shares, and retweets on social media is going to make a blip on Google’s radar. Google knows that these are often real indicators of people thinking something is valuable and worthwhile, and they’re all about that positive end user experience.
Leverage and squeeze every drop out of your social networks. Repurpose your tweets and posts to help appeal to different people and at different times. Try scheduling posts to go out on social at various times of day, with different images, and try alternating your headline with a quote from within the page itself.
Mobile is king, for now.
While we can’t know exactly what the future holds, one thing is for sure: Google is big on the mobile trend. It’s for good reason, too, seeing that internet usage on phones has skyrocketed over the past few years, meaning that websites who are responsive to various screen sizes and who don’t have a crappy mobile experience are going to be rightfully propped up in the search results.
This trend is also true of tablets, and any new device that comes out and begins to gain popularity.
Don’t stop building links.
Backlinks are still a big deal, but the focus now is on the quality of the links you’re bringing in. When it comes to lone links with suspiciously consistent anchor text, your efforts are going to get ignored at best or earn you a penalized site at worst. Instead, focus on building contextual links through creating products and services so good other people write about you, through stellar guest posting gigs, and by leveraging the press.