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Internet Marketing and Web Development in Higher Education and other tidbits…

SEO is Dead. Long Live Social Sharing!

25 Jul 2012

written by Karlyn Borysenko

SEO is Dead. Long Live Social Sharing!

I’ve worked with more than a few companies who insist on spending jaw dropping amounts of money every month on retainers for SEO companies. For that money, they generally get “blog posts” that looked like they were written by college freshman, infographics that could better be described as factoids with clip art, and hundreds of “back links” on link farm sites, which they categorize as “social media sharing.” All for the sake of getting back links to increase their Google rankings. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said the words: “This is crazy. Not only is it not going to get you anything, but as soon as Google changes their algorithm, it’s going to bite you in the ass in an epic way.” But without fail, every single place I’ve worked with who went this route responded that the SEO company, who they were paying all this money to, assured them it was the right way to go. But of course, they would. That’s how they make their boatloads of money.

They’re about to get bit in an epic way.

Earlier this week, Ken Krogue published this article on The Death of SEO: The Rise of Social, PR, and Real Content.

He describes a conversation with top SEO consultant Adam Torkildson back in March, who proclaimed that Google was in the process of making SEO obsolete. A bold statement to be sure, but one that seemed to come to fruition a few months later when Google changed their algorithm to decrease to search engine rankings of organizations using schemes to generate “back links” to increase their rankings. Instead, the new algorithm focuses on likes, shares, tweets, reddits and +1s.

Let me say that again.

Google is basing your search engine ranking more on how much your content is shared then on how much your content is linked to. And, no, link farms do not count as social sharing.

This means that having people link to you is no longer enough. That’s easy to fake, and the folks who work at Google are smart enough to realize that. What they’re trying to do, instead, it to identify valuable content, and they’ve determined that link backs make it too easy to game the system. Sharing is harder.

I’ve always said that people miss the point of Google Plus entirely. It’s impact is not that it’s going to kill Facebook. It’s impact is SEO. That’s the real value of getting someone to +1 your content – so Google can see that it is real, and it is valuable and rank it accordingly.

So what does all this mean?

It’s simple: If you want to rank highly in Google, follow these three steps:

  1. Build community.
  2. Create great content.
  3. Get your community to share and like your great content.

It’s all the common sense stuff that we’ve preached about for years, and it sounds easy but its an incredibly hard thing to do. And a lot of higher ups have not yet reached the point where they can completely wrap their head around it. Perhaps this will make it more quantifiable.

The article sums it up nicely:

“Invest in real, valuable, relevant content that your audience wants. Grow your internal thought leaders to where they can add value to your audience and position in the market. Follow internal SEO practices to make sure it is found and sees the light of day. Take the time to make it so compelling so people talk about it and share it.”

A lot of (but not all) SEO companies have grown and thrived by understanding how to game the system. Google just took this shortcut away. Instead, organizations are going to have to spend those ridiculous retainers on SEO companies who do it right – by creating kick ass content – or by taking those resources and investing them in creating that content in-house.

And yes, many SEO consultants are going to fight this and tell you it’s wrong and go down kicking and screaming in a fiery ball of rage. This change means they need to change the way they are operating entirely, and that’s going to be a shock to their wallets. Instead of outsourcing and creating sub-par content, this is going to require them to do actual work.

The content of this post is licensed: The post is released under a Creative Commons by-nc-sa 3.0 license

About the author

Karlyn Borysenko

Karlyn is loving life as the marketing manager for Eduventures and as a staff writer for .eduGuru. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Communication from Boston University, a Master of Business Administration from Norwich University, and is pursuing a Ph.D. in Psychology from Capella University.

To quote a friend of hers: "Karlyn is a super rad ninja marketing genius who will make your target demographic submit to your every whim through sheer willpower. Oh, and she's smarter than you."  We're not sure about the smarter part, but "super rad ninja" is true enough.

Compulsory disclaimer: The views expressed in Karlyn's posts are hers and hers alone, and do not represent those of anyone she earns a paycheck from. Yes, it's true - the girl has a mind of her own. 

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  • Aaron Rester

    Just a couple of random thoughts:

    1) How will Google deal with things like Facebook privacy settings? As more and more people take control of their privacy settings and stop sharing content publicly, the accuracy of Google rankings should go down, right?

    2) I bet social sharing will soon be as fake-able as link farms. I imagine G+’s user base swelling with fake profiles in the coming months as black-hat SEO adapts to the changes.

    • Karlyn Borysenko

      Aaron, they actually address both those points in the article far better than I could sum up here :-)

      • Daniel O Keeffe

        Yeah Aaron is right. Wonder how long it will take befoe black hat SEO social profiles building software comes onto the market? Not long, but in any case i still believe that backlinks will still count for a lot. The death of backlinks? i highly doubt it.

  • Jessica Krywosa

    Love love love this. It piggybacks on my Facebook thoughts regarding pay for posts. You can no longer stand idly by and think you are communicating well. You actually have to do the work. 

    As always, great post, Karlyn!

  • Adam Torkildson

    Hey Karlyn, Thanks for posting this. I’m getting a few bitter SEO people screaming about how I’m an idiot and whatnot. Their time to shine is dwindling.

    • Karlyn Borysenko

      Hey, thanks for commenting and being one of the good SEO people :-)

  • donnatalarico

    Yes! Great post. 

  • Seth Meranda

    It should be pointed out the heart of SEO is connecting quality content with qualified traffic. Yes, there has been a lot of black hat attempts at gaming the system with back links, but this is really a small part of SEO. Proper semantic structure of page content, appropriate keywords and their placement in text, helpful page titles and headings, descriptive image captions/alt attributes and even text in links all play significant roles. Now, social sharing will be part of the mix.

    So it’s not one or the other; it’s now social sharing trumps back links, not social sharing trumps SEO.

    • Karlyn Borysenko

      Seth, I’m sorry but I have to disagree. This is not a small part of SEO. This is the type of thing that the majority of SEO companies sell and charge their clients – including universities – an arm and a leg for. The price they pay these guys they could hire no less than 2 full time people just to create content for them all day, and it would to more valuable to the institution as a whole. 

      • Seth Meranda

        It’s not a large part of SEO, it’s a large part of what some snake-oil-selling-companies provide as a promise to attempt higher result list rankings. Is that the majority of SEO companies? Perhaps, but I don’t have any figures to confirm or deny that. I have my experience, and my work with clients and their experiences. I haven’t run into a single SEO provider that has tried to sell a strategy that involves back links. Count me lucky in that regard.

        I don’t disagree that it’s a problem, nor do I disagree that it happens and some may fall into the trap. 

        However, the majority of SEO (especially with the updates to which you make reference), is the content. I’ll take a strong page title over a dozen linking pages.

        My point is that SEO isn’t dead, but back linking may be. It’s still more important than ever to structure content, focus on keywords, and all the other items I mentioned.

  • Aranzamendez Design

    I think Google trying to fool seo’s who are building too much links just rank hing and stated that social media signals are more prioritized than building links. I think social signals are not enough to rank high on Google. Matt Cutts just want us seo’s to be fair and not over optimize the website’s that we are working for. Instead build links naturally that looks good to Google Webmaster policy.. As what Matt Cutts said, if you have hing authority linsk pointing to your site, your website has a higher chance to be on top of Google.

  • Alex Thompson

    I love this article, but SEO is still working, so you should not idle to get the good results, you should work hard on SEO.

  • zeenat

    Thank you for another fantastic posting. Where else could anyone get that kind of information in such a perfect way of writing and i was looking for more info.
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