When most people think about ‘SEO’, they think of link requests. While that is a basic part of SEO, it’s also insulting to the practice of search marketing. IN comparison, it’s a bit like saying that mathematics is about adding and subtracting numbers, or that playing the guitar is all about strumming a few strings.
Such views give an incomplete picture and oversimplify the subject to a point where it becomes open to ridicule. For me, SEO (or search marketing) has always been about figuring out what the search engines will want tomorrow, what their endgame, their main goals are and how they plan to rank websites in the future. As the algorithms evolve, my aim is to have my sites rank higher automatically through smart SEO and working on those factors that will be valued more and more in the future.
So what are the search engines aiming for? Beyond the strict academic citation model, an easier way to understand search engines is to study real-world social networks.
A social network at its most basic level is a collection of people you know and are in contact with. You share ideas and information, give and receive recommendations from your friends, and you can let your network stagnate or choose to grow it by meeting new people.
One of the most important ways of finding new information and meeting new people is through recommendations provided by people already in your network. Also known as ‘word of mouth’ marketing, this process works on the basis of unbiased recommendations from known (i.e. trusted) sources.
The sharing of ideas and information withing social networks (i.e. recommendations) functions on the basis of trust – you either trust the recommendations given to you by your friends and family or you don’t. The criteria for trusting these recommendations comes from those two metrics: whether the recommendation is unbiased (that is, no ulterior motive involved) and whether the recommendation is from a known source (so you can evaluate if that source’s judgment can be trusted or not).
If a recommendation is biased, it loses value (but isn’t completely worthless). if a recommendation is from an unknown source (you don’t have to personally know the source, you just need to know / have previous experience with that source and their recommendations), you can’t trust their judgment (but maybe their argument is very compelling).
So how do you raise your search engine rankings?
The most valuable recommendations are those that are unbiased, compelling and come from highly trusted sources (that is, sources known to be trustworthy from past experience). With the right quality and quantity of recommendations, any service or product can beat its competition (provided the user experience matches the hype).
Replace ‘recommendations’ with ‘links’ and you have your answer.