Google and Facebook are perhaps the two biggest titans on the internet, so when trying to predict upcoming trends, it is a good idea to turn to these two. In the last week, information has come out from both of these giants that can help to shape the way you drive traffic to your site. On Friday, February 13th, Google’s John Mueller fielded questions about link building during a Google Webmaster Central Office Hours hangout. His answer, in short, was not to bother with link building. On the Facebook front, Business Insider reports that photos/images, which used to be lead to the highest conversion rates on Facebook, have dropped to last, while videos are now the top converters. Looking at trends common with Google and Facebook, it seems clear that webmasters need to be selective with their link building, while on Facebook, images are out and videos are in. However, there is a little more to it than that, so let’s take a closer look.
LINK BUILDING: Search Engine Roundtable asked Google’s John Mueller whether or not webmasters should rely on link building to optimize their search engine results. He replied that webmasters should “try to avoid that” and instead make sure that their “content… stands on its own”. He does, however, encourage webmasters to “make it possible for other people… to link to [their] content” by adding widgets and ensuring that URL’s are easy to copy and paste. He concedes that Google does “use links as part of [their] algorithm”, but also that there are a wide variety of other tools they use and that link building will likely not increase one’s search engine results in a significant way. What is important to keep in mind is that while Mueller suggests that it won’t help your search engine results, he doesn’t suggest that it will hurt them either.
What does this mean to you? If you get a lot of referral traffic from your link building efforts, keep on doing it. It won’t hurt your search engine rankings, and even if it doesn’t improve your rankings, it can still help to drive traffic to your site through referral traffic. WebProNewspicked up the story and solicited link builder Ken McGaffin for his thoughts. He noted that his goal is to get his clients media coverage from the likes of The New York Times and the BBC, while also incorporating links into editorial pieces. Not all links are created equal, then, so getting links from other sites in your field is ideal since they are more likely to lead to a conversion, and also more likely to bring targeted traffic. Be selective, however, and focus on quality rather than quantity. Look into guest posts, for instance, and be sure to hyperlink to other’s articles in your posts to foster reciprocal relationships.
IMAGES OUT/VIDEOS IN: In April of 2014, Socialbakers released a study suggesting that images were the surest way to generate a conversion on Facebook, but Business Insider is reports that the analytics company, always staying current, has released a more current study that demonstrates images are currently performing far less effectively they were a year ago. This is perhaps no surprise given that videos and images were almost neck-and-neck last year Indeed, the proliferation in the use of images, as reported by WebProNews, has led to the use of images being far less effective for the simple reasons that audiences are bombarded with images now and it is difficult for any one image to stand out among all the noise, especially considering that they are competing with an increasing number of videos. Videos also have the distinct advantage of actually playing while the audience is scrolling down their news feed, and so the motion can catch reader’s attention. Part of the decrease, though, may also be a change made in Facebook’s algorithms, also reported by WebProNews, that stipulates that images with links to website sites will be downgraded.
How does this affect you? Images can still be effective, especially for other forms of social media like Twitter and Pinterest, so while this is important to consider when using Facebook to drive traffic to your site, it is also important to keep in mind that Facebook is not the only social networking site that can bring you traffic. As for videos, anybody who follows my blog knows that I always include videos in my posts, and that I always share these videos on Facebook and YouTube. It is an effective tool, and according to my analytics, I get a significant amount of traffic from Youtube, and from my Facebook posts. However, diversifying is always helpful. Looking at the trends published by Socialbakers, it is important to note that the conversion rates for videos spiked this past December and have since dropped slightly, just as the conversion for images dropped slightly last summer before plummeting to a minuscule 3.7% conversion rate. Videos are holding at an 8.7% conversion rate, but even that isn’t equal to the standard 10% that most marketers expect, and given the explosion of videos shared on Facebook, it seems reasonable to expect the conversion rates of videos to drop in the coming months just as the conversion rates for images dropped with the proliferation of images on Facebook. Meanwhile, status updates and link sharing have held steady and have even seen a slight increase inefficiency in the new year. So the thing to keep in mind is diversification. Use images, use videos, and use status updates. They have varied success, and the trends seem to be perpetually shifting. Don’t invest too much in one, and test the different methods constantly to see which ones work for you.
FINAL THOUGHTS: Mueller’s input on link building is not exactly breaking news. Webmasters have known for a while that search engines don’t reward excessive link building like they used to, but the take away is that link building doesn’t hurt your result either. Mueller encourages webmasters to make it easy to share links, but it is important to keep in mind that Webmaster’s must be selective about link building. When it comes to images and videos, it is always a good idea to stay ahead of current trends. Though videos are sitting at the top right now, they may not be six months from now. Go with what works consistently, and be sure to diversify your approach and keep track of your analytics so you can see which methods are giving you the highest conversion rates, and don’t apply the trends you see on Facebook to all social networking sites as each one functions differently.
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