Search engine optimization (SEO) is constantly evolving, and unless you work in the industry, it can be hard to keep track of all of the changes. Don’t worry; we’ve got you covered. If you’re trying to figure out how to keep abreast of – and navigate – SEO changes, read on.

1. Willy-nilly link-building is no longer effective
Back when people were first trying to determine the best way to draw traffic to their sites, they’d try to rack up as many links as possible. Some small business owners would pay to be listed on obscure directories, and others would even pay for links on sites that weren’t widely visited in an attempt to game search engines into thinking their site was more widely valuable than it actually was.

But things have changed since then, as Google and other search engines have become wise to these tricks and set up checks and balances to negate the effects of them – all in order to create a better experience for real people looking for information online.

Old school SEO agencies used to charge hefty fees in exchange for a large quantity of links built each week, and small businesses would try to replicate these results on their own. This may have been effective several years ago, but these days engaging in this strategy is likely to find you serving time in the Google penalty box.

Instead of focusing on quantity, work on quality, recommends our SEO Manager, Chipper Nicodemus. That means that the sites linking to you are ones you’d be proud of being associated with. You also want to make sure your links are highly relevant to your industry. So if you’re trying to build links for your coffee shop, for example, your coffee bean distributor may be a good source. A curated list of top local coffee shops in a credible food blog would also be a good bet.

2. Guest blogging is dead
When I first started doing SEO writing in 2009, I often got paid to write guest posts for blogs in exchange for – you guessed it – a link to the site that paid me. Guest posting was considered an effective way to build links.

But Google is less forgiving than it used to be, and has really cracked down on this practice if it’s done specifically for SEO purposes. As Nicodemus explained in a recent post, guest blogging doesn’t give you the results that it used to. Instead, he recommends spending the same time and energy you would’ve spent on guest blog posts to create engaging and relevant YouTube videos, become a valued member of online communities, or create great content for your own blog. This may mean your posts get shared in resource directories, but the process will be organic and, ultimately, more effective.

3. The changes keep coming
It can be a full-time job to stay up-to-date on search engine optimization, and the speed in which updates are made is dizzying. Luckily, the VerticalResponse team works hard to do the heavy lifting for you right on this very blog. “We make it easy for you by sifting through all rumors and only writing on actual topics that Google has said they’ve updated,” says Nicodemus. Finding just a handful of blogs to help you break down the details into actionable steps can be incredibly helpful.

4. Social media is more important than ever
Obsessing over the specific number of links you’ve built is out. Focusing on the actual effects of it – by paying attention to referral traffic, for example – is far more effective. Nicodemus believes that tweeting and sharing information about events at a local store, for example, is similar to link building in that it draws attention to your site and business.

Will search engines take notice? It’s not likely. Although Bing uses social signals as part of its algorithm, few people use Bing as a search engine. Google says it looks into social signals, but doesn’t take them into account in search rankings, Nicodemus explains. Google does have tools in place, though, to determine whether a tweet is widely shared.

Your Turn
What strategies have you tried that used to be effective but no longer work for you and your business? Is there anything that’s working for you now that didn’t work in the past? Share your stories in the comments!

Want more marketing tips and advice? Get the VR Buzz delivered weekly.

© 2014 – 2018, Contributing Author. All rights reserved.

Related Blogs

Ready to apply what you've
learned about Email