The problem with following Google’s guidelines about building backlinks (see Part I if you don’t remember what I’m on about) is that it’s mathematically impossible. Google wants SEO people to become purveyors of ultra-high-quality content so that sites build links naturally. But there are literally four times more websites then there are seconds in the year (31,536,000 seconds in a year, vs. 134,864,150 active websites according to DomainTools.com at the end of July 2013.)
That makes it pretty strikingly unlikely that any one website is going to get any significant amount of attention simply because of it’s content. After all, it has new content from the other 134,864,149 websites to compete with — and those websites include names like YouTube, Pinterest, and Wikipedia, each one of which can suck up and entire day’s worth of attention and spit out the dust. Getting someone to pay attention to you just because of your words is basically impossible, because ultra-high-quality content is post-scarcity. There’s so much of it being produced that you can’t consume it all as quickly as people are producing it.
On the other hand, if you don’t follow Google’s guidelines, you’re opening yourself up to legal liability. Last week, law firm Seikaly & Stewart sued their SEO firm for the return of $49,000 in SEO fees — which would normally be laughable, because marketing in all of its form is a gamble, but in this case, they had proof that their firm was violating Google’s guidelines, which means they have a solid case.
So, if you do follow their guidelines, you’re screwed — and if you don’t follow their guidelines, you’re screwed. But that’s not even the worst part. Google can — and does — move the goalposts whenever they see fit. No matter what you’re doing right now that you think is “the way”, Google might very well one day make a perfectly logical business decision that makes your content invisible, and you will have no recourse except to start over.
What are the options to avoid this catch-22?
That, at least, is a question with a straightforward answer: stop relying entirely on organic search results for traffic. Invest in a small PPC campaign and be ready to shift more into it if it becomes your best traffic option. Build a social media following and nurture it so that it will continue to grow and send traffic even if Google hates on your main site. Optimize for secondary search engines like Bing! or even YouTube that don’t change when Google changes.
If watching Mad Men has taught us anything, it’s that marketing is also a game of risk management. If you don’t want to get caught in the Google trap, don’t put all of your eggs in Google’s basket, plain and simple.