Ben Childs
By Ben Childs | SEM, SEO | February 17, 2015

What We’re Reading (2015)

We try to read as much as possible here at Digital Reach, whether it’s industry news, subjective analysis, or in-depth how-to’s. I’ve listed some articles here I feel are special, as they include some groundbreaking announcements (the end of link building, Facebook’s quality scores) and perhaps the best article I’ve ever seen on bad SEO firms (there are a lot of articles about the subject).

The end of link building?

In a recent Google Hangout, John Mueller, Google’s webmaster trends analysts, told participants that they should avoid link building, if at all possible. The potential penalties for bad links have become so great that it’s just too risky.

Our head of SEO has told clients that he avoids anything but the most natural link building tactics for almost two years now. Sometimes that’s meant no link building at all. Although Mueller’s announcement confirms that we’ve been on the right track (it brought a tear to my eye, as there’ve been some tough conversations with clients who still believe links are everything), it challenges us to throw out link building altogether. A challenge we’re ready to accept!

You can see the hangout at Search Engine Land.

Red flags: SEO agency edition

For many of our clients, the majority of our sales process was spent talking about the scars left by their experiences with other SEO agencies. They were either in the dark as to what happened, hit with a penalty from bad links, or no work was done at all. Often, these all happened during the first month. Chris Enge, writing on Forbes.com, goes through 12 warning signs of bad SEO firms.

“You would never let your PR firm run off and do whatever they felt like doing without telling you, and your SEO firm is no different.”

– Chris Enge

We’ve seen all 12 of these. One of the major problems that isn’t covered in the article, in my opinion, is that those bad experiences color a client’s perspective on what SEO actually is from there on out. If the bad SEO agency guarantees a certain ranking and doesn’t achieve it, they’re going to want their new firm to make the same guarantee but actually hit it. If they’ve worked with an agency that buys links, they’re looking for someone who buys “better” links. The damage goes pretty deep! It can be tough to have them trust another agency.

You can read Enge’s article on Forbes here.

Facebook adds their version of Quality Score.

Larry Kim writes on Social Media Today that Facebook will start using feedback from users to determine ad relevance on the familiar 1 to 10 scale.

“Both positive and negative ad feedback factor into the Relevance Score equation. Positive interactions might include video views, conversions and other factors, depending on the type of ad you’re running. When people hide or report your ad, your Relevance Score will suffer.”

– Larry Kim

Compared to AdWords’ Quality Score, I actually think that this more representative of an ad’s quality. While Google’s is simply based (mostly) on Click-Through-Rate (a somewhat shaky determination of “quality”), Facebook’s determination of Click-Through-Rate is based on positive and negative interactions like video views and people reporting your ad. I’m surprised that it took this long, but it will be a benefit for firms with a well-managed Facebook strategy.

I used to tell people who were considering AdWords that they’d be “sitting at the table with sharks” from a Quality Score perspective (someone has to lose), and now Facebook is no different.

You can read Larry’s article here.

The link building announcement is definitely a paradigm shift for anyone interested in SEO. What was once the bedrock of good SEO strategy (granted, a long time ago) is officially over. It was a long, slow decline, but the season has changed. I’m excited for the new world of great and valuable content, good user experience, and whatever’s coming next.

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