One of the most annoying things in the digital marketing industry is the constant stream of bloggers declaring that XYZ tactic is dead, or speculating that XYZ tactic will die because of a new Google algorithm update. Now, I'm no fancy-pants doctor, but in every other corner of the universe, it isn't difficult to determine if something is, in fact, dead.
If you need help checking the pulse, I've pulled together a quick list of internet marketing tactics that are still alive and kicking. Poke 'em with a stick all you want, these aren't going anywhere for a while.
If you've been marketing online for a day, you probably know why this is first on my list. According to industry "experts," SEO has died more times than Kenny. In fact, just last year, Forbes detailed the death of SEO. Last week, Inc. echoed those thoughts. But wait, this week Forbes published an article stating that SEO is in fact not dead. What?
Here's the thing: Google has released numerous "major" algorithm updates over the years and is said to make up to 600 changes a year, and all the while SEO has stayed strong. The tactics people use have varied, however the essentials have remained largely unchanged.
As many on this side of the fence have stated, as long as there are search engines, there will be SEO. People will always seek ways to benefit from being found ahead of the competition and to appear in the most positive light toward both search engines and users. This one is so overplayed I'm annoyed that I even have to address it.
2. Link Building
Ah, the almighty link. Back in the day, links were among the few factors that determined the relevance of a page. Not surprisingly, its effect has diminished over the years as search engines have become more intuitive and have found more useful signals.
Along the way, several link sources and link building techniques have been stomped out by the Google machine, such as buying links, link wheels and numerous other spammy sources. With search engines becoming better at detecting a dishonest link and its diminishing piece of the relevance pie, many have declared link building as a dead art.
Those people are lazy. Gaining valuable links (aka the ones that are unaffected by algo updates and penalties) has always been hard. Commenting on blogs and forums and submitting to crappy directories is easy, which is one reason why it's useless. If you've been doing it right, nothing has changed.
In reality, links are still an excellent relevance signal. I'll even do something I really don't enjoy doing and quote Matt Cutts, who very recently said that links are still “the best way” to rank content.
You can still engage in effective link building, starting with quality content and finding opportunities to either share or magnify your voice.
3. Guest Posting
Man, guest blogging as a popular online marketing tactic really blew up fast. So fast, in fact, that it really didn't take long for people to begin speculating that it would be the target of a Google update and vastly devalued. Call it the Groupon of internet marketing strategy.
The problem with guest posting is that most people are doing it wrong. They are spinning low-quality articles and pushing them to guest blog networks and any low-authority site that will publish them, essentially cluttering the web with junk. How is it surprising that that doesn't work wonders for you?
Guest posting, when done right, not only earns you a backlink or two, but it earns new readers and potential customers. The point of guest posting is to reach an audience on a high quality site that wouldn't otherwise find you, while the publisher earns a piece of [ideally] high quality content on their blog.
These well-written articles, on the right sites, can only do good for you. Google knows that good stuff is being written for other blogs here and there, so they know that some sort of massive update devaluing all guest posts would be bad for the web. If you contribute rushed guest posts to blogs that publish an onslaught of junk, however, be prepared to be buried.
In case you haven't noticed a trend yet, most of these can all be summarized with one point:
Whenever someone says "XYZ is dead," what they really mean is "I'm too lazy to do it correctly."
4. Anchor Text
The once-treasured-now-feared anchor text is the source of confusion for many marketers. Do I have too many exact-match anchor text links? Do I have too few partial match links? What is the "perfect" ratio of exact match, partial match, brand name and website name links? Does my link profile look "natural" enough?
You get the point. Basically, the "death of anchor text" came as a result of one simple thing: Fear. The Penguin update for "over-optimization" scared people out of seeking links with specific anchor text and led most to believe it was best to not even try and in some cases, even discourage any anchor text besides your company name or your domain name.
The bottom line is that search engines still put a good amount of stock into anchor text. In fact, in a recent report of 2013 search engine ranking factors, one of Moz's key takeaways was that "Despite Penguin, anchor text correlations remain as strong as ever."
It is of course important to take note of your link profile and look for any potential issues (i.e. if you have 100 links and 40 of them have the anchor text "san francisco dry cleaner," you should probably do something about it), but a good balance will still give signals to Google to what your content is all about.
5. Exact Match Domains
If you're unfamiliar with exact match domains, it is essentially the process of acquiring a domain name that is exactly the same text as the primary keyword you wish to rank for (i.e. if I want to rank highly for "Jeff Goldblum action figures" I would buy jeffgoldblumactionfigures.com). Years ago, this would have given me a significant advantage and certainly paid off for those who were active early in the domain game.
Like most ranking factors, the importance of this one in particular has diminished over time (to make room for a wider range of signals), and there was an "EMD update" from Google last year, but it remains a factor nonetheless. Its influence is continuously tracked by Mozcast and it was also mentioned in the 2013 search engine ranking factors report, stating "the EMDs that are still present are ranking higher overall in the SERPs, even though they are less prevalent."
This one will most likely have some advantage, albeit a very minor one, for some time in the future. People will still link to you in different variations of this keyword because it is your domain (could also be your official website name or even business name). Don't count on it as a primary strategy, however, and definitely don't drop thousands of dollars trying to secure an exact-match domain because it just isn't worth it anymore.
There is undoubtedly a lot of speculation in our industry; it is just the nature of the beast. However, the amount of death declarations is getting old. Unless you're a doctor, don't tell me what's dead (I'll make an exception for Dr. Pete, of course).