SEO companies that have been caught in the same old rut of focusing on the quantity of links rather than the quality of links need to wake up and smell the roses. Times are a changing and what worked say a year or so ago is not going to work now. If you are promising clients a high rank on Google’s SERPs just by pointing as many links as possible towards their site, you are in for a shock, because such strategies are not going to work anymore.
But does this mean all SEO companies must change their link building strategies? Well, there are different ways of looking at this question. Firstly, companies that were not focusing on quality link building at all will need to overhaul their link building strategies. Other’s whose core focus was on natural link building and who were focused on quality need to utilize newer ways of attracting natural links to websites.
Great SEO is always about evolving with the times. If you are astute enough to recognize an impending change and adapt to it rapidly, you don’t suffer the consequences; on the other hand if you prefer to sit back and use the same old SEO techniques till something drastic happens, it will be a while before your services will be taken seriously again.
Google is already calling out companies that are utilizing link schemes or other black hat link building techniques, so it will be a good idea to wise up and change your outlook on link building if you aren’t going about it the right way.
To understand the change required, we need to know about the wrong ways of going about building links.
The Wrong Way
Google abhors paid links. The fact that websites are linking to your site because you are paying them to do so, is something that Google dislikes. Such links are categorized as unnatural links and Google penalizes sites that have unnatural links pointing towards them. So, avoid buying links.
Links from Un-moderated Directory links
Directory submissions are a great way of getting links but you mustn’t submit to directories that aren’t human moderated or that aren’t reputed names in their niche. The fact that your website gets links from directories where a link goes live immediately on submission means there is very little quality associated with that directory or the link you get from it. This is again a wrong tactic of getting links.
Links with Keywords as the Anchor Text
Agreed, you want to increase your website’s ranking for a particular keyword; after all that is the purpose of link building in the first place. But why have thousands of links point to your website that have a particular keyword or phrase. Such links are an indication of unnatural link building. This is something else that Google doesn’t like.
Unrestricted social bookmarking submission
Using social bookmarking to build links is not a bad idea but if you submit your links to irrelevant networks, it’s something that comes under the ambit of unnatural link building. What is even worse is SEO companies using the services of automated software that submits links to directories across the board without considering the quality of the site and the niche that it’s servicing. This is a strategy that paid rich dividends in the past, it doesn’t now.
Spinning articles for bulk submission to article directories
There was a time when one article was submitted to multiple directories to generate links. Another common practice, still in use today, is spinning articles and submitting them to article directories. Both strategies do not work now, and if at all pay very little SEO value. You must pick and choose the article directories that you want to submit your articles to, and go for only those that have quality content on them and are human moderated. At the same time, you must ensure that the quality of the articles you are submitting is of top grade.
Senseless commenting for Cheap Links
I know plenty of companies whose instruction to their SEOs, especially newbies is to keep commenting on blogs to build links. The problem here is not the strategy itself but the way they go about accomplishing this task. They pick any and every blog to place their comments, irrespective of its quality or relevancy. Also, their comments are mostly inane with no connection to the blog’s article.
Yes, blog comments do work in link building, but only if you target high authority blogs and place insightful comments.
SEO companies that are using these and other strategies need to change their thinking and approach towards link building in 2013. Such techniques aren’t going to deliver the results you are looking for. It is either shape up or ship out. And I am sure you don’t want to close shop, so you must adapt to changing expectations of Google vis-à-vis link building.
Penguin Says only Quality Link Building Will Work
The first Penguin update came out on April 24th, 2012 and things were never the same again. Right from the first Penguin update, Google made it very clear that it’s started cleaning up search spam. So pages that were stuffed with keywords, had duplicate content and were using link schemes were penalized. This made all SEOs sit up and take notice to understand where Google was headed with the Penguin update. Its subsequent updates left no room for doubt that its aim was to get rid of Webspam and penalize those sites that were using unethical link building techniques – Building unnatural links was a strict No.
To put simply, it is the Penguin update that has forced SEO companies to change their link building strategies and focus on natural link building and throw their unnatural link building strategies out of the window. Make no mistake, Google’s always wanted SEO professionals and webmasters to use quality SEO for improving their website’s search engine rankings but with Penguin, it’s given the added impetus to improving the quality of search. Those who don’t subscribe to quality link building will find their sites being penalized.
Change Your Link Building Strategies
It’s surprising really that it was when Google started penalizing websites with unnatural links pointing towards them that many SEO companies realized the folly of their ways. Google always insisted on using white hat techniques for link building, plenty of SEOs preferred taking the easy way out by focusing on quantity instead of quality. These SEOs or shall we say their websites are suffering now and need to change their ways in the interests of search quality.
So, yes choosing reputed directories for submission, using well moderated social networks for bookmarking, mixing branded and keyword anchor text (anchor text diversity), creating quality articles is all well and good; but this is the bare minimum that should be done. Of course if you aren’t doing this already, you must get started on quality link building immediately. But Google’s focus on placing only the most appropriate content in front of users, means we need to think beyond just quality link building and innovate.
Here is how you can think a little differently and change your link building strategy in 2013:
Leveraging Social Media
You keep reading about how Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and other social networks keep adding to the number of active users, so why not make social media an intrinsic part of your link building efforts. Along with the traditional link building methodologies, you must use social media to spread your content around and thus build natural links.
The first step towards maximizing the potential of social media is ensuring that you create quality content and have it up on your blog/website. You must keep posting new blog posts regularly and share their links on your Facebook fan page, Google+ and Twitter. By sharing them amongst your fans and followers on social media you are going to get re-tweets, +1’s and a lot of likes, all this contributes towards your SEO rankings and also helps build links. More importantly, it helps you reach out to a wider audience and connect with them at a personal level.
Focus on Internal Links
Link building is not only about linking to the homepage and this is one of things that SEO companies have to change about their link building strategies. They can no longer afford to point thousands of links to their homepage. This is something that will have Google sitting up and taking immediate notice and might penalize your site. So, make sure that you are linking to your internal pages as well. Spread your back links over your Home Page and internal pages.
Make your internal pages an important part of your link building strategies. What’s more, it makes perfect sense to do that because more than your Home Page, it’s your internal pages that will have useful information. So, make sure that you create backlinks that point towards your inner pages, as well. Something else that you need to keep in mind is that the right keyword must link to the right internal pages. A good internal site structure helps Google crawl your site faster and easily. This again wins thumbs up from the search engine.
Quality Content is the Key
Whatever you do, don’t veer away from quality. If you are using guest blogging to create links, make sure that you approach only the most authoritative and reputed blogs in your niche. Something else that you need to guarantee is that you only offer useful information that is worthy of sharing. In this case, if you get just 5 links from 5 high quality guest blogs, they deliver more value than getting 50 links from slow quality sites.
Even your website needs to be updated with fresh content regularly. Don’t update for the heck of it, but make sure that you have something important to say, something that your target audience will want to know about. This is why it makes sense to integrate a blog in your website. It offers you the opportunity to deliver informative and useful content to readers who can also be your potential customers. Implement social media buttons on your blog pages to make its content shareable. The more it is shared, the more you can generate links and improve awareness of your brand.
Once again, I want to reiterate the fact that quality link building cannot take place without quality content. It is increasingly get clearer that useful content that is interesting and engaging, is becoming the foundation for improved link building.
Change is a Constant
Even if you have been following stringent quality guidelines for building a quality link profile and have been staying away from manipulative link building strategies, you still might have to rework your strategy. Don’t get me wrong, quality is paramount, but your strategy also needs to evolve with the changing times. Today, its social media that is playing a huge role in building the visibility of a brand and also its reputation, so you need to use it in a big way to enhance your link building efforts. Tomorrow, some other media channel might rule the roost and you will need to make that a part of your overall SEO strategy as well.
Shady SEO practices need to be avoided and even if you are sure of not getting caught or are confident of pulling the wool over Google’s eyes, don’t do it. The Big Daddy of search is continuously updating its search algorithm making it more and more adept at catching those sites who have tried to be smart, or more appropriately, stupid.
It really doesn’t take much to follow the guidelines for quality link building and the rewards are very rich. Why adopt unethical link building practices when you can easily create natural links by making changes to your link building strategy. And here it’s not necessary to make wholesale changes. Just a little change here and there is enough.
2013 will be the year of quality link building. If you want to develop and implement a successful SEO campaign this year, it will revolve around ethical link building practices and nothing else.