I'm going to be blunt. These 5 tactics are valued too high and heavily abused:
- "content marketing"
- guest posting
- link building (*gasp*)
- links from niche experts
- social signals
Yeah, all of these tactics have some value and most deserve some place in SEO, but they aren't as valuable as "experts" make them out to be.
1. "Content Marketing"
I've talked about this a few times before, but when BS gets repeated on a regular basis, critical responses need to be repeated ad museum as well.
While (genuine) content marketing can be valuable as an SEO tactic, it is not and should not be synonymous with SEO. Good SEO (yes, "white hat" SEO) doesn't even require content marketing to work.
In fact, interactive platforms such as utilities, communities, and games are often far better for your SEO than any piece of content ever could be. Content marketing deserves a place in most SEOs' repertoire, but it's almost always overvalued.
This blinds SEOs to the alternatives.
Just as importantly, most of what SEOs call content marketing is really just link building in disguise. It reminds me of the superficial difference between "multilevel marketing" and "pyramid scheme." If your "content marketing" strategy wouldn't be valuable without the links, it's not really content marketing.
2. Guest Posting
The fact that this tactic is overvalued, and abused, is finally becoming obvious. As I said a couple weeks ago, you should have seen the My Blog Guest penalty coming, as well as any of the other guest blogging penalties, no matter how overzealous they might seem.
Google's guidelines have always made it clear that you shouldn't use a tactic unless it makes sense as a non-SEO strategy. You might not like it, and it might sound like a threat to your job description, but that's how it is. SEOs need to think like SEOs as well as non-SEO marketers in order to remain within Google's guidelines.
Not to mention the fact that you're just asking for a bad time when you rely on the behavior of a single monopoly for your livelihood.
Guest posting can be great as an SEO tactic if the way you're doing it would also valuable without the blessing of search engine traffic.
3. Link Building
No, link building is not dead, and that myth needs to die right now. That's not what I'm getting at here.
The issue is that links themselves are overvalued, and have been for quite some time. You don't need as many links as you think you do in order to reach the traffic levels you're looking for. You don't even need as many super-duper-quality-high-PR-links as you think you do.
The fact of the matter is that too many SEOs are chasing competitive search terms, and the natural conclusion is that they need to have more links, or more "high quality" links, than the sites that are sitting in the number one spot for those specific search terms.
The reality is that you don't need to compete for those search terms, and you probably already have enough links to pick up a lot more traffic than you realize. You just need to start diversifying and targeting a wider variety of more unique topics.
You need to stop thinking about your "niche" and start thinking about your unique selling proposition. Focus on what your target audience cares about, instead of the "subject" you think you need to cover.
Please don't get me wrong. Link building is a crucial part of SEO, provided the links are sending actual traffic and producing actual business. (It's not about the kind of link you build, after all.) It's just that every piece of content you publish on your blog is going to pick up long tail traffic. Past a certain point, that's often a faster way to grow than to build additional links. Unfortunately, this tactic gets neglected because of link building myopia.
While we're on the subject of niche...
4. Links from Niche Experts
Would a doctor's clients read a blog about how to be a doctor? Would a freelance writer's clients read a blog about how to be a writer? No, right?
But that's exactly what a lot of bloggers end up doing. They misunderstand what it means to be the "authority" in their "niche." They think they need to produce content that will help and impress other "experts" in their niche.
So what do they do? They produce resources on their site that they hope will be useful for other experts in the same niche. Then they seek links from those experts.
See the problem?
Those experts are their competitors. No wonder outreach is so hard.
They're also...experts, so most resources you put together for them aren't going to be teaching them anything new anyway. Again, that makes outreach a lot harder.
Yes, you want links from authoritative sources. And yes, preferably there's some relevance involved. But you don't want links from experts in your niche. You want links from influencers who could become your customers.
That's a very different kind of influencer.
5. Social Signals
Read my lips.
Google does not use social media signals to rank websites, and there are very good reasons to think they never will.
Matt Cutts has come right out and said many times that they don't use social metrics to rank websites. Furthermore, Google+ would completely cannibalize itself if +1s became a ranking factor.
Social metrics are easily faked and already abused on a massive scale. Even if Google can tell the difference between fake and real profiles, "shareability" is not a good proxy for "usefulness" by any stretch of the imagination.
Instead, Google is almost certainly relying on much more trustworthy metrics: search queries, actual clicks, and other behavioral data.
Yes. Social networks can be a good referral source, and should be used for that purpose. If the associated behavioral data looks good, it might help your rankings. But social metrics such as "likes" and "tweets" aren't influencing your rankings in Google (and really aren't useful for any other purpose).
Social networks also pale in comparison to email as an audience retention tool.
Including easily shareable, bite-size content (or embeds) within your blog posts, in your resources, and on your site can certainly be a good way to expand you reach with minimal effort. But if you are going out of your way to grow a following on social media specifically to boost your search engine rankings, you are wasting your time.
Nobody was ever successful because they followed the herd. None of the tactics discussed above are useless, but all of them are overvalued. If you want to pull ahead, you need to be divergent and question "best practices."
Innovate. It's what the internet is for.
Image credit: Brian Holland