“If you build it they will come” – Or will they?
The battle seems to be raging on in the digital world; in one corner you have the old school black hat SEO team that consists of online moguls frantically searching for high quantities of links each month that they have promised their clients, and SEO site networks that exist without integrity, simply to host article after article for a fairly hefty sum.
In the other corner you have those who have entered the realm of digital PR, who may not be chasing the high numbers but who ARE chasing the high quality, high authority links. It could be argued that a link back from a highly trusted site with a domain authority of 60-80 is worth more than 3 links from SEO sites/mummy bloggers with domain authorities of around 15-25. The great thing about digital PR is that the links are much more natural and published in a way that will reach the right audience, ultimately giving the piece and all involved, credibility. Online audiences are a cynical bunch and can easily see through a post that has been placed without any real thought.
The gods of the internet, Google, are also extremely quick to decipher the questionable link building tactics, and it’s not uncommon to see sites penalised for their substandard attempts at digital marketing. Continuing to produce content unnaturally littered with key words, placed on unnatural network sites that have little to no relevance to the brand it is linking to is an almost sure fire way to make sure that your site does not climb into the dizzying heights of page one.
And then we come onto brand mentions – many in the industry have argued that these are the future of digital marketing and PR. I’m sure that those working in digital agencies all over the world have been sat on the edge of their seat waiting for that AMAZING link they secured to go live, and when it does you scour through to make sure your clients comment or contribution has in fact been included, only to have your heart sink when, ‘it’s only a brand mention’.
However, it’s these brand mentions that are going to work towards your site being pushed further up the Google ranks. The launch of the Google Panda algorithm and its patents were placing editorial judgement that left SEO specialists everywhere trying to figure out just what it would now take to get a golden place. Let’s just go out on a limb and say QUALITY and the age old, “write for people, not search engines”. Well written content on a topic that you have expertise in, placed on a site that is trusted, influential and relevant – that is the Holy Grail. If there is a follow link included, you’ve hit the SEO jackpot – if not then it’s ok, because brand mentions are becoming important when it comes to building your sites authority.
“Brand mentions, unless linked, do not have the same impact on search rankings, but they do play a role in the trust and authority your business commands. If top influencers are talking about you, then there is a commensurate rise in trust & authority that has a cascade of knock-on benefits. One of those benefits is the increased likelihood of being mentioned or covered on other authority sites, which should ultimately lead to an increase in backlinks.”
David Mercer, founder of SMEpals tells us, “Links are hugely important, but Google tries to only count genuine editorial links as conduits of PageRank. These are hard to come by in a natural organic way, and most companies simply don’t have the creativity and experience to do this effectively. Especially since it takes time, money and effort – and great content.”
Also known as ‘implied links’, these mentions are becoming relevant to building a brands authority – as long as the business name is specifically mentioned. The association from these high profile sites will place spotlight on your website, even without an explicit link – much in the same way that word of mouth recommendations work so effectively. They don’t appear to be forced, compromised or false in any way.
These brand mentions will go a long way to sorting the wheat from the chaff in online marketing; high profile, influential sites look for thought leaders and industry experts, and don’t accept dubious content in exchange for a fee. Brand and marketing executives will have to write exceptional content and a huge emphasis should be placed on creating solid content strategies that are immune to Google Algorithm updates because they are so honest and authentic that they have long term potential and don’t rely on holes in the algorithms to survive.
While I don’t think that implied are going to make link building obsolete, I think that it is going to regulate the process and make brands and marketers work harder to raise online profiles, keeping links natural, keeping the quality of content at an all-time high so that it naturally attracts shares and mentions and those responsible don’t need to default to black hat tactics. It should also encourage brands to truly research their audience, and use these data insights to write content that is in demand, ensuring that they stay relevant.
Stuart Buckley from CallTracks gives us his opinion, “2016 will undoubtedly see us optimise our content strategy by becoming data led. There is no avoiding it with the algorithm changes. We will aim to assess the performance of the content that we create by looking at social shares along with page views and entrances to conversion funnels to ensure that we are engaging with our audience and producing content that they want to read. We are heavily involved with Google in our line of work and have witnessed the changes in the algorithms first hand – it is becoming harder for brands to rise through the ranks without proving to the audience and Google why they deserve to be there.”
I’m sure that those on the peripherals who rely on the old school building links tactics to earn a living will find ways around this and start selling brand mentions, the way they sell links – but Panda has started a monumental shift where brands will begin to truly see the value in quality over quantity. Evergreen, quality content for high profile, high quality sites will reduce and eventually diminish the need for content farms.