Link building is a hot topic right now. The reason? It’s causing major headaches for a lot of webmasters. In fact, many are questioning if they should continue with link building as part of their SEO marketing strategy.
The simple answer to that conundrum is yes, but you have to be SEO-savvy to avoid Google penalties. Penguin and Panda, which are still on a tear, are penalizing websites for a number of reasons — the main one being poor quality back links.
Google is handing out harsh punishments too. But, to give the search engine giant its due, webmasters are being notified of the penalties and why they have been awarded, so be sure to check your messages in webmaster tools. Once you have tidied up manipulative links, your former page rank will likely be restored, although it is possible you may have slipped down the list a few places in the interim.
Webmasters are still faced with a problem, however. How do you know which links the SEO ‘bots’ have identified as unnatural links? Google is prepared to help with this too. In a recent video posted on Webmaster Help, Matt Cutts announced search engine masters will give online business owners examples of which links they consider to be unnatural.
Identifying Unnatural Links
Inbound links allows Google to determine how trustworthy your site is or does it have good quality content they can recommend to the end-user? If other Internet users are linking to your site, it indicates you do indeed have a website worth visiting. However, link building only works for Google if the inbound links are genuine.
Links that are deemed unnatural are spam links left on blogs, forums and article directories together with links that have been paid for. If anybody offers you 100 links for $10 do not accept because an influx of incoming links, quite clearly, is illegitimate.
A couple of months ago, Google added “links in exchange for products,” to its list of forbidden fruits or, in other words, writing articles and posting them on third-party websites with keyword anchor text linking back to your site. Embedding links into articles, however, is a completely natural way for third-party sites to refer readers to your site because Google can employ human checkers to verify the authenticity of such links.
Avoiding Google Penalties for Link Building
To benefit from a link-building strategy, incoming referrals should be as genuine as possible – namely from social media network accounts, established online magazines or third-party blogs you contribute to, provided the subject matter of the articles is relevant to your online business. For example, you cannot embed a backlink to your site from a football report if your website promotes mobile phones. It will also help if you have Google Author Rank, which indicates you are, or employ, a reliable writer who produces high-quality content.
Google crawlers can detect where, and when backlinks come from. If you have links coming in on a regular basis from a number of different sites, a red flag will be put up and your site will be investigated. The likelihood is you will probably receive a penalty — especially if you are using the same few keywords.
A lot of SEO companies that provide link-building services send articles to third-party websites on behalf of their clients on a monthly basis. This tactic no longer works and you can expect to be penalized. Worse still, you are probably paying someone to write these articles. Make sure your SEO company is not using this method.
Beware of Sudden Traffic Surges
During an analysis of some websites hit by Google penalties, I noticed an interesting pattern: the sites had a sudden upsurge in traffic several weeks before the graph came crashing down. The surge was probably due to Google activity collecting data from the site.
Look out for sudden upturns of activity and, if identified, act quickly to be rid of bad links and other poor SEO content on your website. Ideally, at least for most websites, the increase in traffic will be a natural climb with a few slight ups and downs over the course of a week. If you run a site that is related to current news items in some way, you may see a sudden peak one day and a drop off the next. This is normal and nothing to worry about.
Link building is, and will continue to be, a very important strategy to improve page ranking. Now that Google has tightened the reins, webmasters have to be more creative with their link-building strategy and not take too many risks — just don’t dismiss link-building strategies entirely.
Richard Oldale is a freelance writer and SEO expert. With a vision for the future of online marketing, he founded johnaudreyjones_productions to provide SMEs with proven SEO and social marketing strategies that will improve their online reputation in the short-term and retain it in the long-term. To find out more, visit his website.