The Death of Link Building?

Unnatural links is the next fight for Google as many people noticed with Penguin update in April.

Notifications about unnatural links pointing to your website were first sent out in July 2011 and this was further ramped up in March this year with a peak in the last weeks, causing both panic and relief for webmasters around the world.

This is not something you want to receive:

“We’ve detected that some of your site’s pages may be using techniques that are outside Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.

Specifically, look for possibly artificial or unnatural links pointing to your site that could be intended to manipulate PageRank. Examples of unnatural linking could include buying links to pass PageRank or participating in link schemes.

We encourage you to make changes to your site so that it meets our quality guidelines.

Once you’ve made these changes, please submit your site for reconsideration in Google’s search results.

If you find unnatural links to your site that you are unable to control or remove, please provide the details in your reconsideration request.

If you have any questions about how to resolve this issue, please see our Webmaster Help Forum for support.

Sincerely,
Google Search Quality Team”

The reason that you receive this message is most likely that you have bought links in an unnatural way and that you have been doing it in too much volume.

Consequence of this message has usually been a hit on your rankings within 1-4 weeks, most commonly after about 10 days. The penalization is likely to lasts 6+ months and to get back in rankings you would need to send a reconsideration request to Google.

There is however no reason to panic completely, Google has recently sent out many messages with “false alarm” and you may not be in danger as Matt Cutts is stating here. Going forward it will be more clear what kind of danger you are facing in regards to this.

What should I do now?

You still need to get your links to rank but more attention needs to be put in the direction of creating content that people naturally really want to link to.

If you find this too expensive and hard you need to consult a link building expert, such as Nordic Search, to ensure that you are keeping the risk level you want and that your money is put in a direction where it matters, within Google’s guidelines.

Relevance and quality needs to improve, at the same time you can’t be too aggressive with anchor texts and definitely avoid link networks to boost your rankings. Short term, go through your link profile and make sure that obviously bad links are removed.

This is time consuming and many people are expecting the launch of a “link disavow tool” (enabling you to select what links that you don’t want to count) also for Google (not only Bing) to make this process easier.

Stay tuned for further updates about Google’s war against bad links!!

Link building facing huge challenges nowadays

After the famous Google Penguin Update, the importance of hard-to-get quality links has become clear to all. What you should aim today is to get links meant for humans, not for Google.

So what does this all mean?

Linking from relevant places

Don’t just submit links to different directories just because they are directories. Choose the best and biggest ones, where people actually go to look for websites. Examples could be Dmoz.org, Yahoo! Directory, etc.

If you want to make blog commenting, do it only if you really have something smart to say and you believe that the link you are posting in a comment provides some value to the blogger, or other readers. Otherwise, just skip it.

I could go on and on about this, but what I really want to say is that you should avoid all kinds of link building activity where the main purpose is just to get SEO optimized links and affect to your search engine rankings.

You want to be linked from places where you are having actual audience that might see your link and click on it directly to visit. You want the links from these kind of places that believe the link will benefit some human beings by providing them more information beyond what’s on the page itself, not because they are thinking the link will benefit someone to rank better.

Yes I know, earned links are not easy links. But they are worth it, or at least they won’t lead you to get penalized by Google.

Unnatural looking links

So what are then unnatural looking links? The examples I am going to give you are based on the examples I found from Search Engine Land’s article Can There Really Be 85 Types of Unnatural Links. (Don’t worry, not going to list all 85 types.)

1. You have a link from a sports bar based in Paris to your boxing club in Birmingham. This is a classical unnatural link that has no natural connection in subject matter or location between these two websites.

2. The title tag and the heading tag of some of your internal pages are the exact keyword match for several anchor text links from other websites pointing at your site. This is clearly unnatural.

3. Your less-good-blog or site has ten times more blogroll links than your nearest competitor. The amount of links should go hand in hand with the quality of your website. If your bad quality SMS loan site has 100 blogroll links, it will be seen as unnatural.

4. If your website has 1000 unique domains linking to it and 400 of them are coming from some directory, or file named /resources-links.html, links.asp, or /exchange-links.html, it is definitely unnatural. When half of your inbounds originate from links pages, that is unnatural.

5. Your site has a high amount of incoming links, but all these links are coming just from few resources.

6. Sitewide-links

7. Blog networks and article networks.

8. Mass directory submissions outside of your vertical.

9. Link(s) from (a) site(s) that offers no contact information, author name, etc.

10. Blogs with 3 external links from each blog post: one link to Wikipedia, one to .gov or .edu site, and one to a client site.

There are surely more different types of unnatural looking links, here was listed only 10 of them. Please go and read the article published in Search Engine Land (natural link above) if you are interested in reading further about unnatural looking links.

What is a good link profile then?

Good link profile is diverse. There are links from blogs, static pages, news websites, directories (good ones), social media bookmarks, etc.

Some of the links can be SEO optimized links, but majority should be just natural links, placed by webmaster. These include URL-links, brand links, long-tail keywords, just some word like “read more here“, etc.

It is very important to vary the anchor text, also the top level domain (.net, .com, .org, etc.) and geo location of the site linking to your site.

The link types should also vary: some links should be permanent, some footer links, some links from sidebar, some links should point to your subpages, some links should come from other website’s subpages, some from the homepage.

Important is just to try to have the link profile as diverse as possible, and of course, natural.

Brunch in Malta

Brunch in Malta – that is not very SEO related, or is it? In this case – yes, it is.

All started when I was looking for some brunch place for the weekend in Malta. I tried to Google “brunch in malta”, “malta brunch” and “brunch malta”. Nothing.

Is it really so that there is no brunch places in Malta? Or are the websites just so badly optimized that it’s impossible to find them by using search engines?

In case there are some brunch places in Malta, it wouldn’t be too hard to get #1 ranking in Google. This is what you need to do:

1. Decide what is the most important brunch-related keyword/ -phrase you want to focus on. This is done by using keyword research tools.

2. Optimize the page title for that keyphrase by using the keyword in the title, preferably starting the title with the keyphrase.

3. Optimize the site content by repeating the keyphrase and varieties of the phrase in the text. Try to use the keyphrase as early as possible in the text, you can even emphasize the phrase once. But don’t make the text keyword stuffed and remember that you are writing the content for humans, not for search engines.

4. If you are using an image/ images in the page, optimize them for the keyphrase using image alt -tag.

5. Even though search engines don’t really care about meta descriptions, I would anyway optimize them by making them selling, that potential customers want to come to your site. Meta description and title are the ones that are showing in Google’s (and other search engines’) search results.

6. Make sure that there are some internal links pointing to the brunch-page, preferably optimized links and links that can be followed by search engine spiders.

7. After all the onsite optimization work is good to do some link building for the site as well!

Need help with this? Just contact us!

 

How to recognize a paid link from a natural link

I wrote earlier about link building, how to find and train link builders. I think now it is time to write about trying to recognize paid links from natural links.

When you are doing link building, you should avoid getting links from websites that are obviously selling links (no, I don’t mean Google’s sponsored links or similar). That is bad SEO and against Google’s rules. You shouldn’t pay for links, but you can send content to the website or just ask the webmaster to place a link to his website. Links should look natural and fit into the content.

Sometimes it can be difficult to draw a line between paid link and natural link. There are anyway some general patterns that you can recognize.

1. Links are hidden among the text

You don’t really see any outgoing links from the normal page view, but if you take the text only -version, you will notice all the links hidden in the footer or somewhere else in the text.

2. Lots of outgoing links from the site, especially to commercial sites

A website has lots of outgoing links without any reference to this other websites. As an example could be a page explaining about cardiovascular training and then linking with an anchor text “weight loss” to a website that is promoting weight loss pills.

3. Outgoing links in an unnatural way from each blog post

A blog has outgoing links from every blog post without the blogger to refer to these other sites he is linking to. Quite common is to have 2-3 links from each blog post to the same website, using keywords as anchor texts.

4. Unrelated links

A website has unrelated links in the content. With unrelated link I mean a link that is not related to the content of the page. An example could be a website about health and suddenly there is a link to casino site.

I know it is very hard to get links from websites without any incentives, I have bumped into the problem several times at my work. You just need to be creative and try to come up with ideas how to get links without needing to pay for those.

Infographics

Data-visualization is a great way to deliver a message in a short and attention-grabbing manner. “A picture is worth 1000 words.”

An infographic is a graphical representation of an idea or a concept and can often tell a message more effectively than you can with words. It’s a good way to represent information in an interesting and high-impact way, and it can be much easier and faster to digest than a text-only version of the same information.

You have probably seen some infographics before, but here is one example that I very much like:

http://degreesearch.org/blog/infographics/valentines_day_spending/



As you can see from that infographics, an infographic packages graphs, charts, other images and text into one image file. It makes the information easier to syndicate to other websites while maintaining the formatting.

An infographic is easy to embed on other websites so is is an attractive option for site owners using the content as well. And there is no risk for duplicate content because the image is not crawlable by the search engines.

An infographic that is visually appealing and attention-catching will have a high chance of being shared with friends online. A successful infographic is a great tool for link building and it will also increase traffic to the website and improve brand awareness.

Infographics in link building

An infographic is a great tool to be used in link building because of its ability to grab people’s attention and their willingness to share them via social media and blogs. A catchy infographic with the embed code provided immediately under it is easy to embed and share.

But how is it possible to use infographics successfully in link building if there is a lack of crawlability?

The key is to include a brief text under the image in the embed code that you provide to other site owners. A few different texts can be written, each using different keywords as the link text when linking back to your site.

Of course, the more interesting the infographic is, the greater the likelihood that people will want to share it with others either via social media or on their own sites.

What is a good infographic?



A good infographic should consist of data that is reliable and fresh. It should be gathered intelligently and represented in a surprising way giving information.

The design should be reader-friendly and you should pay attention to the users of your data. It is always good to have some professionals involved. Things to consider in the design are e.g. colours, font and images.

If the infographic doesn’t make you say “Wow” when you look at it, it’s not probably attractive enough.

It is important to review data and compile a design with a distinct point of view. An infographic should persuade and educate the viewer, without forgetting the quality design.

The URL where the infographic is hosted is equally important as the infographic.
 Know who your targets are and make sure that as many people as possible are exposed to the infographic.

Link building – how to find and train link builders

Link building is very basis of SEO, but it is time consuming, it requires hard work and patience. It is always an advantage if you can hire someone to do link building for yourself rather than do it yourself. But, to find and educate one can be tricky and there is always a risk that your site gets banned from Google if link building is done by suspicious way (black hat SEO).

Petter Attia published an article last week about How to Train a Link Builder. In the article he assumed that the person to be trained didn’t know anything about SEO. I have trained several link builders in my previous job and I can relate to the article he wrote. Some differences in the order how to start and proceed with the training there are though.

1. Finding an appropriate person to do link building.

This can be difficult because often the candidates don’t really know what the work is about. It is important to make it clear already in the first interviews that there will be no misunderstandings and then huge disappointments when the work starts. Being unmotivated is one of the worst things and it will definitely kill all the creativity.

Maybe the most important qualities that the potential candidate has is being street smart, creative and ambitious. They don’t need to know anything about SEO, but they should be familiar with surfing in Internet and interested in it.

You can find more ideas from Justin Briggs’s article What Makes an Effective Link Builder.

2. Educating the link builder with the basics in SEO

Comprehensive training in link building is the key. Even though a link builder don’t need to know much about SEO, it is still good to teach him the basics of SEO and how search engines work, what is the difference between anchor text and keyword, etc.

4. What kind of sites to contact

This is critical and apparently so hard for some link builders to know. What kind of sites are ok to contact? They cannot be too spammy, they can’t be selling links or have suspicious incoming/outgoing links, and the content of the site shouldn’t be copied, especially of there is no reference to the original content. There is always a risk that your site gets banned from Google if you do suspicious link building.

What is a good website then? This is about analyzing the websites where you need to use some SEO tools (e.g. SEO toolbar, Quirk search status, etc.) and know some important parameters: age, overall link profile, Google cache date, how many indexed pages the website has, how is the content quality…. The list is quite long but the link builder have to know the list and keep in mind the important parameters.

There are not clear answers to all questions about the parameters, so common sense and ability to be street smart are important.

3. What is a good link and link placement

Where in the website to place the link? Preferably not in the footer, header or marginal, too close to other outgoing links, etc), what keywords to use and to what landing page to link, etc. The links built should be registered and marked down somewhere, and you should (or some of the SEOs) check the links built and give feedback on those. These kind of quality controls are important in the learning perspective and to be able to increase the quality of the links.

4. Emailing and negotiating

How to start sending out emails and make sure that they won’t go to spam filters? What words should be avoided in the email, and what is a good subject. How to structure the email.

What if the link builder don’t get any replies? Have to send reminders. How many, how often?

The link builder gets a negative reply. What to answer, or should he answer? What about answering to a positive email, how to get forward in negotiations?

Michael King wrote a great article about sending emails, Throw Away Your Form Letters (or Five Principles to Better Outreach Link Building. It is worth reading.

Conclusion

This article was just to show how it is to actually educate link builders what things are worth to take into consideration. Of course it always depends on your site and what kind of industry you are working with, how careful you need to be.

What is important it’s to follow up and monitor the link built and what effects it has on your rankings. Quality controls, constant feedback and encouraging the link builders to ask lots of questions is vital.