Many business owners lost interest in search engine optimization a few years ago when Google implemented patches like Panda, Penguin, Hummingbird and a seemingly endless number of methods in April of 2012 — all aimed at defeating black hat workarounds.
After years of feasting on free traffic from Google with thousands of doorway pages, morphing content, spintax, invisible text and a laundry list of other very creative ways to become top listed for valuable keywords, Google finally succeeded in making it easier and less expensive to rank with worthwhile websites than it is to rank garbage backed by meta gimmicks.
SEO is still quite viable as a profitable means to drive traffic, engagement and sales. —Rodney Thompson, CyberStampede
However, some of the bright minds that fueled SEO in the last decade are also finding ways to move ahead of the competition now, and XBIZ asked for their SEO advice.
“Is SEO still a viable way to get traffic? Absolutely,” said Rodney Thompson, founder at CyberStampede. “SEO is still quite viable as a profitable means to drive traffic, engagement and sales. Those two search engine updates branded as Panda and Penguin were engineered to weed out sites without relevant content and sites that have a high quantity of incoming links where the source domains for these ‘backlinks’ are also not relevant.
“These types of practices stacked the deck unfairly for many years against quality adult sites with rich, relevant content. However, the practices of the past, such as bulk quantity link building, where it didn’t even necessarily require basic onsite SEO implementations be in place for an adult website to take first page placement in major search engines will not fly today. In fact what will help drive SEO success is solid onsite/offsite SEO implementations and quality link building over quantity.”
Adrian DeGus, SEO director of Adult SEO Partners, agreed: “There is no reason to be fearful of penalty if your SEO methods do not blatantly go against Google guidelines and there are plenty of methods that work quite well for adult sites which make SEO as viable today as it was pre-Penguin. The most important key difference is that old tricks were built on shortcuts around proper website marketing, while modern methods rely on proper website marketing. So instead of using software to fake link popularity, you now need to create actual popularity by negotiating link deals with the webmasters of other websites that Google trusts.
“You need to create real content or take proper steps to make common content unique to your website,” he said. “You need to focus on building real SEO value into core websites rather than cranking out hundreds of templated keyword-targeted websites.”
Anyone watching adult SEO in practice has likely observed two important facts. First, Google has essentially sanitized many of the top keywords of the past by removing all adult content and displaying more mainstream results instead. For example, a search for the word “lesbians” used to result in dozens of hot girl on girl sex sites.
Today, it lists Wikipedia definitions, LGBT associations and dictionary definitions of the word instead. Surprisingly, this also happens when one does a search for words you would expect to be entirely adult, like “cunt” or “cum,” even though it is far more likely someone searching for “cum” wanted to find porn instead of the Merriam-Webster dictionary definition of the word that Google now shows in its place.
The second observation is that free tube sites have an undeniable strangle hold on many of the terms that do display adult content. This is believed to be driven by very high time on site, page view and backlink metrics along with a very low user bounce rate.
Google has made it clear that it intends to continue cleaning adult content off pages that have some connection to major mainstream alternatives, so trying to rank for a prime term like lesbian with an adult website is futile, but on longer tail searches like “lesbian porn” or “lesbian sex videos” the question is clearly, can a site owner compete effectively against major tubes for top slots in the results?
“There are many types of adult sites that can compete effectively with tube sites for SEO rankings,” Thompson said. “Keep in mind that to Google, a good tube site is a site likely to follow the most updated best practices for extreme content relevance at any given time. Non-tube site operators can do the same. Check out adult VOD sites and well-established review sites and how they rank for organic search — the deeper (by volume) the content offerings and the better the adherence to search engine policies, the better that these adult sites will perform in SEO results.
“Competing effectively against a site that dominates search results for a keyword you need for your site means setting a goal for dozens or even hundreds of properly tagged and viewable relevant content pages to be eligible to rank in the search results, instead of one or two,” he said. “There is definite strength in numbers (of relevant pages per site that can rank); the tube sites embrace this fact and so should you.”
According to DeGus, site owners should also be focusing on a clearly defined set of targets.
“Paysites, blogs and review sites can absolutely compete with tubes. The key is to avoid targeting the big keywords and instead target second- and third-tier keywords that tubes rank for based on domain authority alone. To find these keywords you just need to look at the inbound links pointing to the top 10 ranking pages. Target the keywords with top ranking tube pages that have few inbound links. These won’t be the monster traffic keywords, but the potential for accumulated traffic is big.”
Looking forward, much of the SEO outlook extends beyond desktop users to a much more varied set of viewing devices and search methods.
“One big trend to pay attention to is VR. As hardware prices drop, Virtual Reality is expected to become mainstream, which will create a big demand within the adult industry,” DeGus said. “Another trend is the growing popularity of mobile. Adult webmasters need to think of mobile as the new desktop, since it likely will be within the next two years. Don’t optimize for mobile, convert to mobile.”
Thompson added: “Along with the higher relevancy and content standards noted above, sites that seek to rank well for organic search terms should also prioritize being fully responsive, to desktop and all common mobile and tablet browsers, as being the absolute standard. The same will be the case with the use of https instead of http on a site wide basis.”
“Search engines are protecting consumers more aggressively and rewarding the sites that offer consistent and safe user experiences. In short, Google and the other search engines will reward the sites that are secure on every page, have relevant content depth and can be viewed easily on any device a user wants to use.”
In many cases, SEO is now the only method by which an adult site owner can acquire traffic from Google.
As Thompson explained, “Since Google AdWords is no longer open for business to drive paid search engine traffic for most adult sites, adult site operators should be looking much more actively at ongoing commitments versus one time efforts on SEO, to ensure that they receive the maximum possible volume of organic search traffic at any given time in coming months and years.”
So, where do SEO consultants fit into this new equation?
“One area in which Adult SEO Partners is unique is that our vast network of webmasters run some of the highest SEO value websites in the industry, and they help us provide our clients with the powerful backlinks needed to rank well,” DeGus said.
Meanwhile, Thompson pointed out that the CyberStampede team “is now available to provide advisory assistance to sites who have an internal team, but need a third-party view of where their best keyword ranking and SEO opportunities exist for their specific sites. We will continue to offer execution as well, which is our core business, including the research, deployment, optimization and analysis of SEO campaigns for premium sites.”
As Google and others continue to restrict where adult companies can buy traffic, and the affiliate sources of years ago become even less useful, many forward thinking business owners are beginning to look at SEO with fresh eyes, and given the right approach the results can be a significant increase in perfectly targeted traffic — but attempts to revert back to the way things worked years ago are actually likely to cause more harm than gain from the prevailing expert points of view.