by Jonathan Gebauer (@jogebauer)
(Disclaimer: The following represents my personal view of SEO and the monopoly in the search engine market.)
There is a reason this blog and this site are called “The Social Marketers” and not “The Online Marketers”:
We love social media marketing. We’re not very keen on SEO and SEM. Why?
Anything related to Search Engines makes you depend on one single company: Google.
Google, in most parts of the world, simply rules the search engine market. If Google doesn’t like what you are doing, there is no alternative route. You live by Google’s rules; you fly under the radar, or you die. As simple as that.
Yes, there is Bing, and a couple of others, but if you honestly examine your traffic, how much do you get from other sites than Google? If you are thinking SEM, do you think about strategies involving all your advertising traffic to be bought from somewhere else and keeping Google Adwords out of the loop?
Chances are that at least 90% of your search engine related traffic will come from Google related services, and that makes you depend a lot on one single company – and that company doesn’t owe you favors. They change something small in their algorithm, and you lose half your traffic. It happened to me – it can happen to you.
Now you might say that Google is only downranking sites for employing “Blackhat” tactics (meaning either tactics against their guidelines or flat out illegal tactics), but there are always innocent bystanders getting caught up in the crossfire. And Google will change their guidelines from time to time.
The social media industry and the social media marketing industry is a little different – because there is not just one social network. There is healthy competition.
Even if Facebook would decide not to show content from your website at all anymore, you could still try to go for traffic from all other social networks. If Google decides to completely deindex your site and you have Google in place as your main traffic source – well, you are effectively dead.
A healthy social media strategy optimizes for different social networks, which is not possible for SEO – because Google does have close to a monopoly for most of the industry.
Do you want to know how to build a social audience and generate reliable Social Media Traffic?!
Check out our ebook “The Social Traffic Code!”
Google’s actions are not predictable from the webmaster’s point of view
A while ago, one of the most effective SEO strategies was guest posting. As a best case scenario, this would mean that people would write quality articles on highly ranked blogs – which would then link back to their sites and would increase their rankings.
The reality created a problem for Google: Bloggers and SEO’s would create crappy content, exchange guest posts for money and negatively affect Google’s algorithm.
Well, what did Google do?
They had the “Head of web spam team” (crazy job title, isn’t it?), Matt Cutts put out a statement, that guest blogging for SEO is now dead and that bloggers probably shouldn’t accept guest post at all!?
They also followed up with downranking a couple of article and guest blogging sites.
First: Guest blogging for linkbuilding and SEO still works – and works great. The real lesson here is: Google can come at any time and take your rankings away.
Second: Google wants to tell you who can publish on your blog? WTF? This is your web presence, your own, personal media outlet, your sweat and your tears. Google is a company, it neither has legislative nor judicative powers.
Third: There is nothing wrong with guest blogging – quality guest posts are one of the things that make the blogosphere great. If Google cannot filter out crappy content, it’s not your job to improve their search engine.
What Google is currently doing is identifying behavioural patterns on the web that hurt their search engine (yes, their search engine – that does not equal the social web). They then put out an announcement that they don’t like it and make an example out of a few sites that have been doing it.
They scare the shit out of people.
But they only have the best for their main asset in mind, the search engine. Not your best interest. They are protecting themselves and they don’t care about anything else. And they don’t do that mainly by algorithmic changes, but by manual actions.
And even if you never thought about SEO at all and simply ran your site the way you liked it, you might one day wake up and find that you lost half your traffic.
This won’t happen in social media – and the simple reason again being that there is competition. Even Facebook cannot dictate what people like and share because the have to be careful about what they do. They sometimes make slight changes to what they do and change their newsfeed algorithms, but the general principle stays the same. People like BuzzFeed content – so BuzzFeed will get traffic.
There are many, many SEO tactics that Google simply wants to scare you out of doing. The latest example of this are Private Blog Networks – read this article on Viperchill for an overview.
Google may claim they are doing these by algorithm changes, but the fact is: Most of these strategies will still work, and the professional SEO’s are still using it.
But for the small, one-man-band type of site, the risk might be too high. Which brings me to the next point:
Being largely based on the links between websites (with their social experiments having failed most of the time), Google’s search engine takes ages to react to new sites. Niches are running out. And the chances are that you simply want to run a site in your area of expertise, not a site based around a carefully researched niche which still is not covered well on the web.
What do I mean by that?
Well, take this blog for example: I’m a social marketer. That means I am active on the topic of online marketing, and that is probably one of the most covered topics on the web. I am also competing against all the big online marketing companies and blogs out there: MOZ, Social Media Examiner, Content Marketing Institute, Kissmetrics, …
There are literally thousands of sites out there, writing about anything social media, content, online, SEO, …
All of these have had years to perfect their rankings, build links, connect to each other, …
We started this 5 weeks ago – and we are quite happy with our traffic. All of that is social traffic.
SEO? Go home – we have no chance. Social media? Here we can compete. Because within social media you get your chance with every single piece of content you write. Every image you publish has a chance of getting a few more viewers.
Should you ignore SEO? Hell no!
Don’t get me wrong – I am not ignoring SEO. I’m not ignoring search engines.
But I live a life without depending on them.
If you want to go for SEO there are a few takeaways from this article:
- Mistrust Google: If you want to rank well you have to do what works, not what they say works.
- You are always at risk.
- You are putting yourself at the mercy of a company that has a monopoly.
I also recently read an article, that stated that you need to keep yourself from using Google services: If you want to hide what you are doing from Google, there is no Google Analytics for you. No Gmail.
Social media is simpler. More honest. It lets me concentrate on the marketing part of my job. That is what I do best.