Predicting what will happen in the SEO world is pretty much a question of guessing what the engineers and product developers at Google have been working on for the last few months. My predictions last year about the paid link war haven’t really come true so let’s see what happens in 2009.
Google is maturing fast so we can be sure that any changes are tested for a long time internally before being released for bucket testing externally.
The big news for 2008 was that Google didn’t do much in the way of penalising link buyers and sellers. PageRank penalties are purely scare tactics and I don’t know of a single site that has seen reduced traffic as a result of being penalised for link buying or selling.
We do know for a fact that Google has spent the last 12 months working on pattern matching algorithms to detect and devalue paid links. This means very little for link sellers because it doesn’t matter to them whether the links they sell pass weight or not.
It means quite a lot to link buyers and SEO companies because the link acquisition strategies that have worked in the past might not continue to work once Google perfects this algorithm.
Most of the blatant link buying we see in the UK comes from in-house SEO teams rather than SEO companies. These in house teams spring up because the company worked with an SEO company a few years back and realised all the SEO company was doing was buying links and decided they could buy links just as well in-house. These teams don’t keep up to date with the latest SEO trends and are wasting thousands of pounds a month buying useless links.
A big issue springing up in the last few months for Branded3 has been how to handle link acquisition for new clients. If Google is cleverly watching for link buying patterns then it’s important to be cautious when starting a link-acquisition campaign in case it trips a filter and causes the links to be devalued.
For example if Google spots a sudden burst of anchor text rich links springing up from a certain class of sites (blogs or directories for example) then they might devalue all the links in bulk rendering the entire campaign useless. However if the links were spread out over a few months with a lot of natural links built in then Google would never be able to detect a patter and the links would be highly valuable.