The Future of White Hat SEO and Downgrade of Blog Networks
2012 Signals the End of Blog Networks and Black Hat SEO
I think the last 2 weeks have signaled the end for black hat SEO completely, which includes blog comments, link pyramid schemes, web 2.0 blogs, blog post networks, etc…
A lot of the major blog networks have closed down or had the majority of their blogs de-indexed (e.g. BMR, ALN, the Link Juice Network) and I’m sure more of these networks are to come.
Since the introduction of the Panda update in February 2011, it seemed obvious to me that black-hat SEO was going to die soon. The SEO strategy of spinning hundreds of articles for blog post networks or engaging in link pyramids with different “tiers” was always going to become obsolete. Everyone thought that they were protecting themselves with these “tiers” (you can read about these in the SEO eBook I’m giving away on my blog) but the truth is it’s fairly easy for Google to follow the breadcrumbs. Once the base of your black hat pyramid scheme (e.g. forum profiles and spun articles) become de-indexed, the knock on effects will be massive and so this was inevitable.
I think the smartest black hat SEOs knew that this would happen eventually, but I think a lot of less intelligent black-hat people became over reliant on these strategies without considering the risks. Either way, I guess we’re all still surprised at how quickly Google has acted on this. I personally thought the majority of blackhat SEO methods would work for at least another year until Google caught up.
I’ve already seen a lot of people in the black hat SEO forums squandering about what to do now, which blog networks they should use, how to replace their backlink strategy etc, so here’s my opinion…
My Opinion on the Future of SEO
Blackhat SEO is going to be out the window. Forget that, it’s a lost cause. There are far too many negative signals that Google has caught onto for this to work including: low quality content, low quality blogs, lack of social signals, low quality links, over optimized backlinks etc…
I think even grey hat SEO methods from last year have become outdated. The biggest issue of all is that you can’t escape from the past. Even if you engaged in black-hat link schemes on your website from years ago, and have cleaned up your act now, the algorithms can still hurt you and penalize you based on historic strategies.
I think the future of SEO right now literally revolves around building a high quality site for users (good, fresh content, social metrics and user metrics) and diversified, high quality backlinks and guest posts. Over optimization looks like it’s going to be a thing of the past. I think going forward I’m going to focus on natural brand URLs and just try to get some general authority going with my sites. Oddly enough I think these changes have also increased the value of premium exact-match domains.
The fact remains that SEO isn’t going to die. Google’s algorithms still rely heavily on backlinks and anchor text for relevancy signals and authority. This means that a good backlink now will always be valuable, regardless of what the critics say. Nothing will ever replace links in the search algorithms – just look at the past 15 years of the industry.
Links are still as good an indicator of relevancy and trust now as they were 10 years ago. Google just has to find a better way of devaluing the lower quality links from poor sites with no traffic. De-indexing half of the blog networks was a great start. These really were the lowest of the low in terms of web content and I don’t think too many people can complain. I don’t want to sound too callous, but these changes will probably eliminate around 25% of the competition in the search engines. I’ve already seen quite a few competitors with poor sites dropping places.
I’ve also been spending a lot of time researching the major black hat SEO forums and some of these people have been completely dependant on BMR for their rankings, with 2,000 links to their site from BMR. Thus, it’s hard to feel sorry for some of them. Changing to the grey-hat or white-hat method of SEO is going to become a lot more expensive or even impossible for some of them, but I think Google had to do something about blackhat SEO and automated software sooner or later.
One last point I want to make is the people arguing that Google should devalue spammy links rather then penalise webmasters, otherwise it would be too easy to link-bomb your competition. I think this is the wrong way of looking at things however. What Google has been trying to accomplish with these unnatural link building penalties in my opinion is prevent people optimising their sites for specific keywords. If you have 100 links to your site, and 60 of them have a targeted keyword unrelated to your site, Google isn’t going to be capable of knowing which links to devalue. They can only force you to remove these links manually and stop trying to optimise yourself for keywords.