In the last month there’s been a lot of hand-wringing about search engines changing their algorithms, social media sites tweaking their privacy settings and other ‘game changing’ internet marketing kerfuffles.
I picked 6 of the alleged changes that have folks talking, from SEO to social media, and rated each one on my personal truthiness scale:
SEO: Link anchor text matters less
What they said: Having the exact same anchor text in 75% of links pointing at your site used to be a good thing. Now, it can get you dinged for spamming. Or at the very least, it’s less effective. Read a great article by SEOWiz for more info. The tinfoil hat crowd takes it a step farther and says that Google has changed their algorithm to zap sites with suspicious link anchor text.
Who said it: Lots of smart people, including SEOWiz, above, and SEOMOZ, and a few others.
Truthiness: Solid. Believe it.
Analysis: Anchor text does matter less. But I highly doubt that Google is penalizing sites for less consistent anchor text. That would make it far too easy to sabotage competitors. I suspect that Google has devalued link text, and has improved their algorithm so that you get less value from consecutive links with the same link text. So it’s not a penalty – folks who depended too heavily on anchor text as their primary SEO strength got hammered because their other SEO factors were too weak. Diversity is key, yes, but no one at Google is looking at link profiles and saying “Ah HAH! Busted!”. If they were, I wouldn’t have to explain to clients why a competitor with 1,000 links from blogs about ‘grow hair now’ outranks them.
What to do: This is just the first shot in a coming war against link spam. I hope. If you happen to use link buying as a strategy, and most of those links show up in footers, with the same link text, you’d better start diversifying. Otherwise you’re toast. I hope.
SEO: Links to the domain matter more
What they said: Total number of links to your web site, regardless of the page to which they point, is what really matters.
Who said it: No one specific, but the Universe is definitely tilting in this direction.
Truthiness: Solid. Believe it.
Analysis: Well, duh! The way authority flows through a web site, links to every page will provide at least a little lift to every other page. Check out my non-mathematical PageRank explanation to see why. OK, I didn’t mean ‘duh’ like ‘you idiots’ – I meant ‘duh’ like ‘well said, why didn’t I think of that’.
Caveat: Search engines still rank pages more than sites. So I’m not sure how far this model really goes. But it makes sense.
What to do: Diversify! Don’t force folks to link to your home page all the time. Let ’em link to relevant blog posts, products, etc. and you’ll do just fine.
Social and SEO: Twitter, Facebook chatter affect rankings
What they said: Links shared on Facebook and retweeted on Twitter can impact your ranking.
Who said it: Uh, Google and Bing. We should probably listen.
Truthiness: 100%. It’s right there in black and white.
Analysis: Not to seem smug, but I’d swear I wrote something about social media and SEO working together way back when. Oh, wait, I am smug.
What to do: Stop saying you’re afraid of brand damage on Twitter. Stop letting your legal department or branding team hold your Facebook strategy hostage. Get off your butt and start communicating. Otherwise, your internet marketing strategy is going to be roadkill within a year.
Social media: Facebook’s improving privacy
What they said: I’m going to try to type this with a straight face – Facebook says they’re improving privacy protections on their site with new settings.
Who said it: Facebook.
Truthiness: Totally false. Your… your PANTS… They’re on FIRE!!!!!
Analysis: Seriously? Facebook is dumping user histories to advertisers willy-nilly, and a few extra buttons in my already-incomprehensible privacy settings are supposed to help? Sorry, no.
What to do: Stop using third-party apps and games on Facebook. Especially Farmville, which, if reports are accurate, has become a huge vacuum cleaner, voraciously sucking down your Facebook user history and who-knows-what-else.
SEO: New META tags help with content syndication
What they said: Google has introduced a couple of new meta tags. “syndication-source” lets the originating site tell Google that theirs is the original source of content found on other sites. It also lets the syndicating site tell Google where they got the content. “original-source” lets the syndicator credit the original site(s) for their content.
Who said it: Google
Truthiness: Low. Pants aren’t on fire, but they’re definitely smoldering.
Analysis: Given how well nofollow and rel=canonical worked out, I’d wait a while (oh, say a couple years) before using these tags. I’m the tinfoil hat dude on this one.
What to do: Any time search engines provide a specific tag or attribute solely to sort out duplicate content or link confusion, run. Any tag that artificially adjusts how search engines perceive your content, even if it’s from the search engines themselves, is risky. that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
Social media: Twitter’s going to fail
What they said: Still fraught with server issues and bleeding active users, Twitter is circling the drain and soon to die.
Who said it: Anyone who wants attention.
Truthiness: Totally false. Pants flash disintegrated.
Analysis: Once you get a few hundred companies using your API, and, oh, a couple of search engines relying on you as a ranking factor, you’re pretty safe.
What to do: Ignore the doomsayers.
SEO is dead
I’m not even going to dignify this one with an answer. If you’re going to write that SEO is dead, take your pants off first, or you’ll be incinerated when they burst into flames because of your filthy, filthy lies.