Why Relationship Building Will Remain Key in 2013

One thing that is clear in the wake of the Google Panda and Penguin updates is that conventional SEO tactics (read: spam) are scarcely effective anymore. No more can you just buy a bunch of links, blast away a few thousand scraped comments, and spam forums to jump to the top of the page. Panda and Penguin, in many ways, brought back SEO to its very roots: building relationships.

Relationship marketing is as old as human civilization. Human beings are social animals. On and offthe internet, people usually engage in business with people they already know and trust. The old saying in business – “It doesn’t matter what you know, but who you know” – holds true on the internet as well, especially when it comes to SEO and general online marketing activity.

Going Beyond Links

Before Google launched in 1998, search engines ranked websites based on their on-page content. Google turned this model on its head, counting the number and quality of links coming into a page to determine its search ranking. While the Google ranking algorithm has become vastly more complicated since, the number and quality of links is still crucial to rankings.

Because of the importance of links in Google rankings, a generation of search engine optimizers grew up equating links with rankings. SEO became a race to get the most number of links as quickly as possible. This, of course, led to the mushrooming of an underground industry of link sellers and spammers.

Consequently, when Panda and Penguin altered the ranking algorithm completely to discount paid/spam links, most SEOs were woefully ill-equipped to adapt to the changes. You can still try throwing thousands of links to a page, but you’ll see hardly a bump in the rankings.

In 2013, to really get on the first page, you’ll need to go beyond links and build real, lasting relationships.

Why You Need to Build Relationships to Succeed

In our present hyper-connected world, the strength of your social network buys you influence. Need to get a new blog post spread across the internet? If you have Maria Popova or Michael Arrington on speed dial, you can be pretty sure your post will be seen by thousands, if not millions. Spent 10 hours writing a huge linkbait article? If you’re friends with Pete Cashmore, you can get a feature on Mashable and attract thousands of backlinks overnight.

With SEO, relationships matter. The image of the lone-warrior SEO guy pumping out link after link is woefully out of date. SEOs today network.They blog, tweet, email and Skype to create a huge list of online friends. When they finally need to get a post spread virally, they can tap into this network for traffic and links.

No amount of spam and paid links can beat a strong relationship network in generating traffic.

So here’s a resolution for 2013: stop spending money on links. Instead, find prominent (and not so prominent) bloggers, journalists and social media power users in your niche. Get to know them, what they like, what they dislike. Build your way into their relationship network. This will take a long time, but when you finally need a favour, you’ll know who to turn to.