When we look back at the changes Google made in 2013, as well as the start of 2014, we find that many of them come back to link building. We saw a lot of efforts by Google to get link building to be less on the minds of marketers (at least link building for SEO purposes). While some may argue link building is a complete waste of time and others refuse to let this comfortable approach go, the majority of us find ourselves somewhere in between when it comes to how the changes affect SEO. After all, SEO is more than just link building, right?
Consider a few of the new updates we saw that came from Google last year that can lead us to believe that link building for SEO purposes needs to actually be over this time.
Review extensions and other new options devalue links.
Once again, we see the need for a huge number of links become seemingly less important. Google added review options everywhere, including for your AdWords listings. The two biggest changes were called “Shared Endorsements,” which you can learn more about here, and “Review Extensions,” which you can learn more about here. Because reviews are becoming more important, experts agree that keywords had to go down in importance. They still matter, just maybe not as much as they did in the past.
The first screenshot below shows shared endorsements, the second review extensions:
Encrypted data was introduced, so keyword research and link building was made harder for marketers.
This is what I would consider a very clear message from Google that you shouldn’t be focusing on keyword optimization and research non-stop. Because all search data (except the data you get from AdWords) is now encrypted, people are forced to find other options including looking at data from Bing and Yahoo, tracking landing page data, looking at top queries in Google Webmaster Tools, and of course turning to social.
Matt Cutts Says “Put a fork in it, guest blogging is done.”
When you read more into this announcement, you’ll see that Matt Cutts, head of Google Webspam, is really only talking about guest blogging specifically for link building purposes. He actually says, “Okay I’m calling it: if you’re using guest blogging as a way to gain links in 2014, you should probably stop. Why? Because over time it’s become a more and more spammy practice, and if you’re doing a lot of guest blogging then you’re hanging out with really bad company.”
On the flip side: To play devil’s advocate, Google did update PageRank in 2013, which surprised many. PageRank is often calculated with links in mind, and everyone thought it was surely going to die for good in 2013. The update may have changed this opinion for some, but others think we won’t see any updates in 2014. Only time will tell.
Of course after seeing how Google may have been swaying marketers away from the constant link building and more link building routine, the social marketers can’t help but wonder: Will this affect social media in the upcoming year, or is it unrelated?
How Your Social Strategy Was Affected by the Link Building Crackdown in 2013
So to answer the question that started it all, the link building changes affect social media because social media is going to be more important. Making those connections and sharing your content on social media has always been important, that is simply going to be heightened in 2014. Social media is one of the biggest ways that you can fill in the gaps that Google left us last year as well as improve upon the message—keywords are not as important—that Google tried to send about the future of SEO:
1. You can get data from social media. Now that your keyword data is encrypted, seeing what people click in the social sphere can help you understand your audience and write content that is relevant.
2. You can find trends and see what is successful. Elaborating on the point above, social media is a place to find trends amongst your audience as well as get reviews (something that will be more important in the near future).
3. You can create leads/relationships all from social media. Social media gives your audience a direct place to ask your questions and engage. If you see a potential lead somewhere, you have easy access to take that lead and turn it into a conversion. In other words, it’s an excellent place to build those now all-important relationships.
While you may have been able to rely on link building in the past, you won’t be able to in the future. It’s important to take this information and use it to tell your boss (or make the decision on your own) that you need more social media, and quick!
How do you think the link building changes will affect your social media strategy? Were there any changes you think are negative as we enter the New Year? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
Photo Credit: leadchangegroup.com
Amanda DiSilvestro gives small business and entrepreneurs SEO advice ranging from keyword density to recovering from Panda and Penguin updates. She writes for the nationally recognized SEO agency HigherVisibility.com that offers online marketing services to a wide range of companies across the country.