Last week Google tweaked its visible PageRank in what seems to be an attempt to stifle the paid link trade. Scores of well known web sites saw their PageRank fall as they were slapped for what many believed was selling links and/or participating in excessive cross-linking. Google has confirmed at least some of the changes are due to paid link selling, but it’s widely accepted that this display of bravado was a reminder they can and will enforce their guidelines against paid links.
Browsing through the countless news stories and blog posts, I raised an eyebrow after reading this article:
A site’s PageRank impacts not only its ranking in Google search results but also the price it can charge advertisers……Ironically, in the ultimate democracy that is the internet, Google reigns as virtual dictator. By changing the way it ranks sites in search results, it has the power to effortlessly shape the digital economy and manipulate the incomes of millions of web businesses around the world.
Just ignore the error where they report “PageRank impacts… ranking,” but consider the ramifications if it were true. The idea that any single search engine or online entity could “effortlessly shape the digital economy and manipulate the incomes of millions” is staggering. With the exception of the IRS, I can’t think of another on or offline venue that could have the same financial impact. Have we as link builders and SEOs unwittingly put all our marketing eggs into a search basket that’s totally Google-centric?
Perhaps a better and less melodramatic question for those looking for links would be the following: Can you afford to only develop a campaign that focuses solely on Google? I for one have always advocated securing links from a wide variety of sites, but not from a wide variety of search vehicles. If Google had decided to tweak the relevance of anchor text instead of turning down the knob on PageRank, would you be sitting here reading this or out looking for new search venues to replace your traffic?
I think I’d be out looking. But where? Let’s look at two possible search and information venues to tap: Social media sites and offline advertising.
Link bait is touted by some as the holy grail of link building, since this tactic attracts links based on merit rather than incentive. My style of linking is different, so I’ve never gotten behind link bait using sites like Digg and Reddit. Instead, I focus on using the search engine news channels to launch our promotions and “bait.” This has always worked well, given the reach of search engine news; however, with Digg becoming a source for mainstream media, I plan to revisit my approach and would urge you to do the same.
The runaway popularity of Digg has helped launch an array of niche social news sites. Finding the star within your community and learning how to Sphinn it should be a top priority. There are a growing number of alternative social media sites out there, each with their own voice and topical focus:
- Small business owners can get involved in the new Small Business Brief. Nicknamed “Fetch,” this media site is quickly growing into a resource for journalists and business owners looking for news and information on small business.
- Auto Spies. Are you in the car industry or a complementary niche? Auto Spies is a site for auto enthusiasts.
- Tweako Tweako is a social news site aimed at programmers.
- Dissect Medicine is a collaborative medical news website.
Don’t be dazzled by these social news sites to the exclusion of the trusted standards like forums, directories, and authority sites—especially the authority sites. Having links in and from these venues almost ensures streams of traffic and links from a wide variety of sources, both online and off.
It takes a village
With more and more businesses crowding onto the web, it’s becoming difficult to stand out if you’re new, small, and/or don’t have a ton of money to throw at PPC. Consider spending some of your time and marketing dollars in offline print media to support your online sales efforts.
Offline advertising will help attract link? You bet. Most offline publications have online sister sites that run the same content, which is pushed through the news sites as well as wire services. Journalists like to quote what they read in an established publication and bloggers lift the link-filled content. Most mainstream newspapers have incorporated reviews, discussion boards, and directories which tend to link back into stories for reference.
Submit an article to a magazine or advertise in a newspaper your customers read. People trust what they see in established news sources and what they hear from friends. And with over 80 million blogs now on the internet searching for content and filler, there’s a good chance someone will blog about what they find. A passive approach to building links, but an effective means of keeping your name front and center.
I don’t want to say the recent changes in Google’s algo have been a wake up call, but it’s certainly been a reminder not to depend on “just one thing.” It’s time to diversify and take advantage of all the tremendous news, networking, social communities, and search venues springing up. Will any of these niche sites replace the traffic a top ten placement on Google potentially sends? Probably not—but if you’ve established yourself on enough of them, it’s a start.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.