To be more accurate, Google is moving SEO towards traditional marketing and it began in 2011 and continued in 2012 with the Panda and Penguin algorithm updates. Regardless, this is where we are at in 2013 and most likely beyond, but is it really so bad?
It used to be that you could throw a bunch of your targeted keywords all over your site and then race to the top of the first page with an army of anchor text optimized backlinks – the larger the amount, the better. Google measured trust and authority with a relatively rudimentary backlink assessment that could be (and was) gamed by those that knew how to manipulate it.
Now, in additional to targeting so called "web spam" (unnatural backlinks) and over-optimized websites, Google is continuing to move the needle on how they measure trust and authority. While backlinks still play a major role in sending signals that Google uses to rank sites – they have developed additional ways to qualify those links and their importance to ranking.
SEO Trust Now Coming From Content And Authors
Moz has been using the MozTrust rank for a while now – simply put – an algorithmic metric gained by measuring the proximity and occurrence of inbound links to a page or website from other known trusted websites. This is definitely a solid way to measure and look at trust online. Google however, is seemingly adding to the trust arena the importance of relevant content and authorship of that content as measured by co-occurrence and Google's rel="author" tag.
Lexical Co-occurrence – an Idiomatic Expression of SEO Relevance
Where keyword based anchor text links back to your site used to boost rankings, now brand or naked URL links from pages that have co-occurrence to relevant content (measured by keywords) carry significant weight. Semantic proximity of a backlink to related keywords on the page give an indication of trust in part because this is more difficult to manipulate and is how natural linking occurs. Now the degree of importance given to co-occurrence and how it is measured exactly is unknown, but it would stand to reason that a co-occurrence brand link coming from an authority site would be given more weight than a co-occurrence brand or naked URL link coming from a web 2.0 page you created on your own. In other words, it's not just about co-occurrence.
Google Authorship for Brand Credibility and Trust
Another way to weight co-occurrence and to measure the value of a piece of content (and therefore the contextual links embedded in it) is with Google Authorship. This is the Google equivalent of authority social signals – a way to measure the significance and reach of a piece or content (via a link) amongst online users. If there is a piece of content that has authorship markup, it now seems more likely to rank ahead of a piece of content that is optimized for the targeted keywords, but does not have authorship. Of course there is a scale here – Google calls it "author rank" – supposedly a way to rank the value or trust of an author.
"If you can move from an anonymous web, to a web where you have some notion of identity and maybe even reputation of individual authors, then… you kinda get a lot of benefits for free. It's harder for the spammers to hide over here in some anonymous corner"
I'll put the full video (although it's only 2 minutes long) below the post to watch in its entirety, but he's basically confirming what's been talked about in the SEO world for over a year now – the rise of Google Authorship.
"Traditional Marketing, Meet SEO, SEO, Meet Traditional Marketing"
While this is a bit of an overstatement, it does reflect the direction that SEO has taken. In their pushing the algorithm to rank and display websites and content based on reputation, authors, brand mentions, and relevancy, Google has inched closer to the mechanisms of traditional marketing.
Marketing can be looked at as an organizational function and a set of processes for creating, delivering and communicating value to customers, and managing customer relationships in ways that also benefit the organization……Marketing is the science of choosing target markets through market analysis and market segmentation
Target markets? Market Segmentation? Communicating value? Authorship and co-occurrence are just two of the ways that Google has figured out how to measure authority and relevance to reflect these principles and use them to steer our search experience online.
One of the cool things about this system is that it theoretically levels the playing field. While a large marketing (or SEO) budget can give corporations a leg up, the tools are available for any business or individual to gain authority and trust online. A solid understanding of the fundamentals of SEO, such as keyword research, and especially, the use of longtail keywords for SEO can quickly level the playing field. SEO may be much closer to traditional marketing then it has ever been, but the internet is still a vast arena. Solid Search Engine Optimization practices are still key to a successful online presence – it's just that what solid SEO can be defined as is constantly evolving. SEO is dynamic. Run away from anyone who claims differently.