Did AI Just Kill Your SEO Strategy?

Online communities solve the problem of Google RankBrain AI destroying your search rank

Confusion! In the past five years the world of SEO has been thrownbigstock-Slim-Robot-Pickaxe-Swing-5398314.jpg into a frenzy with competing ideas and actions at odds with one another. For example, Our media site TMCnet and its numerous family of sites have millions of pages of content and on a given day, we will get emails from one company asking us to add links to an article and another email from a similar company asking us to remove the links. We try to comply in all of these cases but it is obvious that the SEO industry is spending tens of millions of dollars on driving in circles.

Sitting in the middle of this commotion it seems these companies haven’t a clue. After all, how can two competitors want to remove and add links from the same site on the same day? And this happens constantly.

Quite often the people reaching out don’t work for the company directly – they are hired SEO guns or agencies.

Smarter Search Engines: Part of the problem has to do with Google – the search engine is getting more and more complicated to “game.” The idea of gaming is to try to generate a higher a result than you normally would by just providing useful information to humans.

The company is now using AI to a greater extent and as a result, there are many things to be aware of. John Ramton from TechCrunch does a good job summarizing what’s happening. His article has lots of theoretical analysis and charts about how AI has progressed but what caught my eye is how this relates to sites ranking. For example:

Within Google, there are a number of core algorithms that exist. It is RankBrain’s job to learn what mixture of these core algorithms is best applied to each type of search results. For instance, in certain search results, RankBrain might learn that the most important signal is the META Title.

The point is search results are now so customized, you will have trouble fooling Google as there are few general rules which apply across all queries.

When RankBrain operates, it is essentially learning what the correct “settings” are for each environment. As you might have guessed by now, these settings are completely dependent on the vertical on which it is operating. So, for instance, in the health industry, Google knows that a site like WebMD.com is a reputable site that they would like to have near the top of their searchable index. Anything that looks like the structure of WebMD’s site will be associated with the “good” camp. Similarly, any site that looks like the structure of a known spammy site in the health vertical will be associated with the “bad” camp.

In other words, your site design may or may not be ideal for your industry. The only way to ensure you have a solid chance of ranking for the range of terms in your market is to have multiple sites with various designs. This protects you if the leading site in your space as determined by Google has a redesign.

Broad is Bad: Another point is sites which are not niched may be categorized as spam. In other words, if you aren’t niched enough, you might be punished profusely. I’ve seen the results of this punishment firsthand and can tell you, it’s not pretty. Many companies may be getting punished and not even know it. The best way around this situation is to have multiple sites in the various markets you cover – as a hedge.

Perhaps most scary is the use of backlinking strategies which differ from dominant market players. A shoe company could be severely penalized if it receives backlinks which are different in nature than Nike.

Finally, we have reached a point where each competitive keyword must be considered on its own and a strategy needs to be built to handle them all.

OCs to the Rescue: For over a decade, my company TMC has been building turnkey (content provided) online communities (OCs) focused on niche markets for our customers. We have found the best way to connect buyers and sellers is to allow the seller to surround its messaging with relevant content. We’ve done this for hundreds of companies as small as the two-man show and for others such as AT&T, Sprint, Cisco, Oracle, etc.

This is how the Webscale Networking OC looks as of today

webscale networking.png

In each case, we allowed a company to transcend its own organic SEO with other relevant results. Many companies see a mix of results on their relevant keyword searches made up of their online community as well as their internal pages.

Long-tail search results too are boosted by having an online community with lots of content added by our editorial team.

May I have some more please? The one constant here is content – you need it. Lots of it. The challenge in housing the content on your own site is it may be difficult to justify to management what the ROI might be. On a third-party online community site, rankings can help tell the story.

Of course rank is only part of the reason for an OC – customers tell us they provide an invaluable branding mechanism as well.

The point is – niching your search engine attack and filling each niche site with a well of continuous content is the best way to SEO and sales success. AI always gets smarter and will continue to reward a well-thought-out SEO strategy that goes beyond hiring a consultant to add and remove links for you all day.

TMC has built hundreds of turnkey online-community sites for customers in a variety of industries, allowing them to boost their brands, position themselves as a category leader and generate more awareness and sales.

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