diberry - 5:43 pm on Apr 18, 2013 (gmt 0)
So the consensus seems to be that while in the past some have managed to build niche sites that beat the brands, using yesterday's tactics, it would be much harder and not worth attempting now with today's tactics.
This is where I'm stuck. I never "built" links because Google said it was a no-no. But I did acquire a lot of natural links because people liked my content and linked. But now the natural links just don't happen like they used to, for several reasons, including a general fear of linking and a tendency (in some niches at least) to "link" you via social media rather than a traditional web page. But one of the biggest reasons is that it used to be easier to rank high alongside the brands so that people could actually find you and link to you. Like, you might start out #3 if you produced a really good page for a query. Now it's more like page 3, with brands taking up all the slots ahead of you. It's a vicious cycle: you can't attract natural links because you don't have enough natural links to be visible in the SERPs.
I have no idea how to improve my rankings nowadays. I've tried to push my sites in social media, and they get a good response, but not enough to sway my Google rankings. What are we actually *allowed* to do without penalty that will get us past the problem of starting out so far behind the brands? That's what I'd like to know. And I don't care about why the brands are ranking so well or whether Google's being unfair to us. I just want to know: what steps can I take to improve my situation?