The internet age has brought in several new additions to the English language – Google has gone from being a noun to officially being a verb, Facebooking has become a word recognized and repeated by millions and referring to an image that is Photoshopped is no longer the domain of only Geeks. However, after the New York Times story on J. C. Penney and their SEO fiasco, the first addition for 2011 (and I suspect that there will be many more) may be “getting JCPenneyed”.
So what caused it?
Before I get to that, let me explain to you what links are and what they do.
Let’s take a real world example. A really famous actor will have more people in his social circle than a small time SEO consultant right? More people will talk about him and want to be associated with him.
Now, let’s take this online.
The Google algorithm uses this real world similarity as one of the more important factors to determine more important sites that should be pushed up on their search engine ranking pages. So, a more famous site will have many more people blogging about it and discussing it compared to a site belonging to a mom and pop store. Hence, it will have more links and should have better rankings compared to a relatively unknown site.
So what is the problem here? Well, it seems that the folks working on the J. C. Penney SEO forgot that neither are links the only factor that will affect them positively in the longer term nor that there is a caveat that Google puts out with regards to incoming links. Google wants them to be from related sites and primarily targeted at users.
What does that mean? Well, it means that you should get incoming links from sites that are in related fields and whose users will benefit from clicking on it and coming to your site. Further, for publishers, it means that you need to link only to sites where you want to send your users and you shouldn’t hide these links in some corner of your page or mask it using a similar color as your background.
From an SEO standpoint one should also remember that link building it only one of the many factors that affect rankings. You need to concentrate on building content pages that have original content, complete with the clean code, a good Title, meta description, Heading tags, etc besides working on an easy to use navigation structure.
This episode will hopefully have many search engine optimization consultants revisiting their roots and relooking at the more labor intensive but more permanent methods of on-page optimization.
Lastly, for all the people outsourcing their SEO process out there, next time you push your consultant and he/she tells you to slow down, listen to them. Being overly aggressive and taking shortcuts for short term gains may lead to your downfall in the long term.