Saccharin, Silicone and SEO

What in Charles Dickens Are We Thinking?

Recently I posted at a “touch bases” post, just checking in with my readers and letting them know I’m blogging some of my better SEO and business ideas here. Checking my comments, I found a new comment on an older post where I was talking about recovering from the Google Penguin update.

One marketer mentioned that he thought people were “over-complicating Penguin” and said some comment in passing about keeping things simple (something to that effect).

I asked for him to clarify, and part of his answer was:

After penguin it’s all about simulating what would be “natural”.

To be fair, I agreed 100% with his other statements on anchor text and their proper usage (mainly using URLs as anchor text), as well as gaining relevant links (from quality sources). But my neck hairs (*ahem!* if I had any of THOSE) stood on end at “simulating what would be ‘natural.'”

The Problem – SEO Ghost of Christmas Past

Simulating? Did he say “simulating what would be natural”? But wasn’t that exactly what we all did in years past?

Whether the ulterior marketing (profiting) motives of Google are clear as mud or not – the fact is that we have seen an ever-increasing hostility from the algorithm against exactly this: simulating what should naturally appear.

Oh, and just for the record, I’m not complaining against my blog commenter…

But the point broadly applies: this is exactly how we SEO’s and marketers think.

Rather than being natural in link acquisition, we want to hurry up and simulate popularity, authority, credentials. Our new websites have no street cred, so we manufacture links – isn’t that exactly what SEO should be?

Rather than simulation of “natural links” – what about instead learning to stimulate natural backlink accrual?

In other words, as I said before – try to earn links like you would respect. You can manufacture respect in certain ways, but earning it pays off in the long haul. Links are like that.

If you need help with content that earns links, that’s where professionals like Ross (or yours truly) come into play.

SEO Ghost of Christmas Future

Two words: Knowledge Graph. If you haven’t read on it or noticed it yet, you ought to read that epic article on the subject.

There are few ways to fake relevance – links was one of them and Google has done a fairly good job at getting rid of that…but even they understand they can’t get rid of 100% of the spam.

One answer they’ve come up with is the “knowledge graph,” which completely re-invents search based on “entities” versus “documents.” Entities are actual in-the-real-world things. Document-based search engines rely on keywords and also backlinks to find relevant pages to return for a user’s search…

The knowledge graph, on the other hand, seeks to know what a user is searching for through various other filters that don’t rely on keywords and documents (and arguably not relying on backlinks, but it all remains to be seen how it plays out).

I can’t do the description of the knowlege or entity-based search justice at this point, since it’s still new to me and not fully implemented yet; but long story short: the days of link spam are numbered and very short.

Think: brands win. Solution: build a brand. Become a brand.

Should You Use Sugar or Saccharin? Aspartame or Agave?

When I read how my reader mentioned we should simulate what appears natural to Google, it hit me: we’re still looking at SEO like it’s a diet soda. We want “marketing lite” with half the calories but 100% of the sweetness.

We want 100% traffic with 10% of the work.

As an entrepreneur: that entirely makes sense to me.

But that was before Google decided to unleash the hounds on the SERPs. Overnight it all changed, ready or not. Frankly, I don’t want to be responsible for another wave of disillusioned SEOs and business owners looking for a refund on SEO services that used to work.

So my response – if you haven’t picked up on it yet – is to not simulate anything, but be the authority and earn the links and traffic the old-fashioned way. Marketing. Producing great content.

Would You Prefer Silicone Implants Or…?

Not to be crass here – but let’s consider another analogy. Silicone implants versus the real deal. Oh, it can be lips I’m talking about here, or whatever enters your mind – but the point is that going natural with our bodies is usually the best medicine.

Keep the silicone for Silicon Valley and circuit boards – not for human implants and augmented anatomies.

And that’s as crass as I want to take this post. Go natural. That’s my advice.

Can You Fake It?

If you’re wondering if I’m saying you can’t build links, that’s not what I’m saying. But I’d recommend the majority of your links and traffic comes from earning links.

I’d recommend:

  • Marketing your website/blog.
  • Building content assets that attract attention, press and happy users.
  • Creating unique, in-demand, evergreen content.
  • Creating social content.
  • Producing viral videos.
  • Outsourcing to people like Ross and myself. Naturally. 😀

But can you fake it? Can you build links to a site and expect Google to give you a pass to the top?

Of course you can. But don’t expect to remain there long.

If Google doesn’t “catch you” simulating authority, your competitors will. If you’re in a niche where there is money to be made, you can bet 100% of the time you’re not the only webmaster gunning for top position. The SERPs, if anything, are a dog-eat-dog world: and if enough webmasters complain about your artificial links, my guess is Google will take notice.

Then comes a potential manual review…and possibly lost rankings. All that hard work, all that money building these artificial links – all of the content and outsourced writing/videos/graphics…all of it down the tubes.

For what? A short-sighted shortcut.

Don’t let the Ghost of Christmas Future come haunting you with another slap from Google; my advice is to do things as “right” as you can.

But hey – this is business, after all. You do what you want with your sites, if you’re my client, I’m telling you to stop looking for the shortcut and earn your place at the top.

At the end of the day, you can build links from any site using any tools and services you darn well please – just don’t say I didn’t try to warn you.

Have You Had Success With Simulating Authority?

Here’s your chance to prove me WRONG. I admit it: I have been wrong once in my life. (At least.)

Maybe you’ve spammed links like it was 2008 and you’ve made plenty of money, and continue to see success in the SERPs. If so – tell us about it. My guess is that I’m right in what I’m saying, but you tell me if you have proof otherwise.

And by the way: thanks for dropping by!

[Image Credit]


  1. You have very valid points and the fact that SEO has definitely changed a lot these days is very true. I also agree to the fact that while Google wants us to do everything naturally, we are forced to simulate various techniques to come up with methods that can increase our rankings in searches. This is because the Big G can’t find a single algorithm that can actually tell the most relevant results.

  2. Building links the natural way is very important after the Google updates. Unethical practices and automated link building will be severely punished. Thanks for sharing some great points.

Speak Your Mind