There’s been a lot of discussion about blockchain over the past few years and what it means for this industry or that industry. You’ll hear people discuss the potential with which it could revolutionize fields like finance, wealth management, investing, banking, real estate, insurance, payment processing, etc. But it cuts much deeper than this. Blockchain has the ability to fundamentally alter the way businesses and marketers approach important online activities, such as link building and SEO. Do you know what to expect?
So What is Blockchain, Anyway?
If you’re reading this blog, chances are you have a cursory understanding of what blockchain is. However, it’s also possible that you’re a link building or SEO professional and have stumbled upon this resource to learn more about where the industry is going. In that case, let’s provide a basic explanation or refresher on what blockchain is, how it works, and why it’s so important.
For starters, blockchain is basically an incorruptible digital ledger that records and stores economic transactions, as well as any other tangible event that needs a definitive, immutable “receipt” attached to it. If you’re looking for the simplest, non-technical explanation, it’s basically a massive, tamperproof Google Doc spreadsheet that’s shared with the general public. Each time a transaction is made, it goes into the spreadsheet. And since everyone has access to it, there’s never any confusion over who owns a specific asset, how much it was purchased for, when it was sold, etc.
Blockchain gets its name from the idea that blockchain is a collection of individual “blocks” that are chained together to make up a ledger. Each block stores information about a transaction (date, time, dollar amount, etc.). But instead of displaying private and personal information, each individual or business is given a unique digital signature. Furthermore, each block has its own distinguishing code called a “hash.” Each hash is a cryptographic string of characters that’s created by a special algorithm. In addition to recording transactions, the blockchain is used to verify transactions and confirm details of the event.
The Impact of Blockchain on Link Building and SEO
So while you typically hear blockchain discussed within the context of cryptocurrency and financial transactions, it will have far-reaching impacts on every aspect of life and business. This includes digital marketing – especially link building and online SEO. Here’s a look at what to expect moving forward:
- Crack Down on Black Hat Link Building
Link building is one of the most critical aspects of SEO and online marketing. Over the years, it’s also been prone to manipulation and unethical practices. These strategies, which are still in existence today, are referred to as black hat link building. Blockchain has the potential to completely extinguish these unsavory practices.
Instead of would-be online marketers searching “what is link building?” they’ll be more likely to query, “what was link building?” In other words, the strategies of today will be completely replaced with white hat link building methods that are fresh, novel, and different than anything that’s currently happening in the industry. The next section on “smart links” provides one taste of what this could look like in practice.
Never heard of smart links? Don’t worry – you’re in good company. This is a fairly new concept, but it’ll almost certainly play a significant role in the development of link building and SEO as blockchain technology expands.
Smart links function in much the same way as traditional links, but with one key point of differentiation: They natively track when and with whom the link has been shared. It does so via an embedded “smart contract.”
While we can’t know the precise ramifications of smart links until they’re used in the real world, the belief is that they would give content creators more control over their links and how they can be used. This will ultimately lead to more ethical and collaborative online interactions.
- Dramatic Shift in Affiliate Networks
Affiliate networks, like Amazon Associates, are extremely popular. They work by allowing individuals to build product pages that link back to specific Amazon products. When someone clicks the link and buys the product, the affiliate gets a cut – such as 10 percent of the sale price.
Smart links will render the current affiliate networking strategy useless and decentralize the process. There will no longer be any need for the network. Individuals and businesses can use smart links to track sales and provide immediate compensation.
PPC advertising is a multi-billion dollar industry. Much of this money filters through Google’s AdWords platform. And while the ROI can be significant for businesses that have deep pockets, click fraud – where competitors or bots click ads to drive up costs – is a serious problem. By one estimate, 20 percent of a marketer’s advertising spend goes towards these fraudulent clicks.
Blockchain has the ability to effectively eliminate click fraud by verifying that every user is legitimate and ensuring that advertisers are only charged for actual click-throughs. It can also verify that ads have been viewed by real people, not bots.
As click fraud becomes less of a problem, businesses will have more incentive to invest in advertising. This will boost ad spend, which will benefit website owners and bloggers who can monetize space on their sites. The result will be mutually beneficial business relationships that keep cash flow cycles well lubricated.
- Better Keyword Research and Analysis
For SEO professionals and business owners, trying to check up on keyword rankings can be very frustrating. Even with all of the advanced analytics platforms out there, it can feel like an uphill battle. Between the location, login status, device type, browser type, and cookies, keyword positions can be dramatically affected between users. Blockchain is coming to the rescue.
Powered by blockchain, SEO tools will be able to track the average keyword position from a variety of scenarios without much problem. And because it’s incorruptible and easily accessible, the result will be fast, accurate keyword rankings that require minimal analysis.
- No More Advertising Middlemen
At the moment, Google has a firm chokehold on the advertising industry. But the reality is that Google is just a middleman taking a massive cut from the businesses/advertisers that are doing the real work.
Blockchain is set to establish greater transparency. This will decentralize advertising and make products and services more accessible to consumers. Google will still make a killing on advertising, but they’ll no longer the gatekeepers.
- Content Trust and Transparency
With all of the worry over fake news, manipulative links, shady reviews, and other questionable online practices, blockchain ledgers will become signals of trust. This will help genuine content creators and authentic businesses show off their transparency and establish stronger connections with the marketplace. We can also expect to see Google and other search engines place an even greater emphasis on trustworthiness as they rank web pages. This will ultimately force businesses to take trust and transparency seriously in order to amplify visibility.
- Blockchain Certificates
For now, blockchain remains a buzzword for the general public – much like the “World Wide Web” was a buzzword in the mid-90s. But before long, internet users and consumers will begin expecting web pages to have blockchain implemented into the code. This means Content Management Systems will have to integrate it into their platforms. Blockchain certificates will become the gold standard of the internet.
Ecommerce fraud is a big deal – specifically Card Not Present (CNP) fraud. Retailers are losing billions of dollars per year, and the issue is only getting worse. But once again, blockchain promises to come to the rescue. Smart contracts would ensure only the person initiating the contract is actually who they say they are.
Blockchain could also help prevent situations where buyers purchase items from unknown websites and the person on the other end runs off with the money without actually sending any product. It could potentially act as a sort of “digital escrow” – holding funds until a package is marked as shipped. This would prevent the buyer from losing money without a product, while lessening the seller’s chances of not getting paid.
For SEOs, link building and marketing will no longer be about trying to decipher Google’s latest algorithmic changes or updates. Tomorrow’s SEO experts will need to be tech-savvy individuals who understand the intricacies of blockchain and how it impacts commerce and decision-making. This will become a much more complex and interconnected field, as opposed to an isolated branch of the marketing world.
- More Trustworthy Environment
When it’s all said and done, the hope is that blockchain will lead to a more trustworthy online environment where users, advertisers, customers, businesses, and even search engines have a greater sense of trust and camaraderie. There will be less fear and fewer people looking over their shoulders. Instead, we’ll all be free to enjoy the beauty of safe, productive online interactions and profitable commerce.
The Future of Link Building and SEO
To precisely speculate what the future of the digital marketing industry holds is to set yourself up for embarrassment. However, one thing we know: Blockchain will have a permanent and significant impact on link building and SEO in the future. We’ve provided a list of 11 specific ways we believe it’ll change the game. Now we just have to wait and see how things unfold. It’s going to be exciting to watch.