Dry Your Tears: Link Building Isn’t Dead

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It’s been a controversial couple of weeks in SEO land, with Google again taking action against large online communities and sites that they claim have broken their webmaster rules.

The current crackdown relates specifically to the practice of guest blogging and how it breaches Google’s Webmaster Guidelines by falling under their revised definition of Link Schemes. Manual penalties have been handed out to sites that are known to offer guest posting services on a large scale or provide a guest blogging network. The penalties follow a similar pattern to Google’s action against article marketing directories last year.

What I don’t understand is why everyone’s so surprised. People are acting as though guest blogging is new to Google’s spam radar. It’s not. If you look at Google’s Webmaster Guidelines, you’ll see the following cited as an example of link schemes which can negatively impact a site’s ranking in search results:

“Large-scale article marketing or guest posting campaigns with keyword-rich anchor text links”

Based on my research on the Wayback Machine, this statement was added to the Guidelines sometime between the end of July and the beginning of August 2013.

Besides, Matt Cutts has given plenty of warnings about potential action taken on sites that use such methods. We’ve been duly warned, folks.

Even so, webmasters are like lost toddlers at the mall right now when it comes to the topic of link building. They are wandering around blindly, crying loudly, looking for familiar territory and some kind of reassurance that everything is going to be ok. I’m witnessing a lot of tantrums and hearing shouts of “link building is dead!”, “Google’s killed innocent links, it’s so unfair!”

If you’re one of those frightened webmasters, DON’T PANIC. Take a breath and review your current link building methods. If they include anything remotely similar to what Google describes in their link scheme definition, stop doing it. Now. Assign somebody to clean up aisle 4. Remove any incriminating evidence of said scheme and remove it from your link building plan, permanently. Breathe. Take a yoga class and chill the heck out.

Most importantly, don’t abandon your link building activities. The practice of building links is not dead, despite the rumors. It’s just different. The best link building tactics have actually been under your nose the whole time.

Don’t believe me?

Here are 11 Easy Ways to Build Editorial Links.

Now, go dry your tears.

 

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Q and A: Can a List of Client Sites Be Seen as Link Spamming?

QuestionHi Kalena

I recently finished up helping my dad remake and SEO his site. His company has been around for a long time, and his site hadn’t been updated in a very long time, so it was time for a total remake. The URL stayed the same, but we updated the content/graphics/general design of the site.

So my first question is about a page on the site for “Who Uses Our Service”. On the page there is at least 200 companies listed, and most had links to their sites included. Would Google consider this some type of link spamming to have that many links on a page? Or do they really only care about links pointing TO your site, rather than FROM it? For now we have added a nofollow thing to the robots.txt so Google won’t index that page, but if it wouldn’t impact us negatively, then it would be nice to have it indexed.

My final question is regarding SEO in general. Pretty much I’m wondering how long it takes for SEO to start taking affect, and any reasons why an updated/new site (but with a link that has been around for a long time), that is keyworded on every page for our target keywords, and has some backlinks (not sure of the quantity or quality because this was done a long time ago, not by me), would still not show up within the first 5-10 pages of Google?

We submitted the sitemap to google about 10 days ago, how long would it take for the SEO to really start affecting it’s place in results? The weird thing is it is still top 3 or so in Bing and Yahoo, but had pretty much entirely dropped off the search results in Google, which is part of the reason we remade it. But it still isn’t showing up anywhere, so maybe it just hasn’t been long enough for things to start kicking in?

Sorry for the very long post, but needed to give the details. Thanks for any help!

Chris

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Hi Chris

A double whammy! Ok, let’s see if I can answer both questions in one post:

1) Google recommends a max of 100 outgoing links on any page. Any more links than that and Googlebot may not follow them or index remaining page code. To combat this, I would recommend that you break up that page listing all client sites into several smaller pages, perhaps by category? So law firms on one page, govt agencies on another etc.

In addition, if you are concerned about the page being mistaken for a link farm or directory, I would advise you to use the rel=nofollow tag on all those outgoing links. Unless you specifically want to pass PageRank to those sites, that is the best option for you. It instructs Google that you are not passing on any link juice and so Google is more likely to treat those page/s as genuine content, which is what they are.

2) New sites can take anywhere from 3 to 30 days to show up in Google. To determine if the site has been indexed, you need to do a search for your domain e.g. site:http://[yourdomain].com. If it is showing pages for your domain, then Google has indexed it. If it is showing some pages but not others, you need to investigate any indexing issues using Google Webmaster Tools and compare your site map with the pages indexed to see what could be going on. Webmaster Tools will tell you exactly how often Googlebot is indexing the site and which pages it is indexing.

Also make sure you check your robots.txt file against your XML sitemap to ensure you aren’t giving Google conflicting indexing permissions. I’ve seen many a client blame Google for a baffling indexing issue that was caused by their own instructions to Googlebot in their robots.txt file.

If there are still pages from the old site listed in Google, you need to make sure you use 301 redirects on those old URLs to point them to the new pages. This will signal to Google to update any old content listings. If you spot any dodgy backlinks pointing to the site from previous link partners, you should request they be removed, and/or you can also use the disavow backlinks tool in Webmaster Tools to make sure Google no longer takes those links into account.

If the new pages are listed, but just aren’t ranking as well as you like, it may be that they are under-optimized or over-optimized for your target keywords, OR, the keywords you are trying to rank for are simply too competitive. Keep tweaking the page and testing until you hit the sweet spot that sees the page ranking in the first page or two of search results for logical, realistic keyword phrases.

I would also recommend doing some more in-depth keyword research using some of the tools and methods I’ve previously recommended to make sure you find every possible keyword combination that your potential audience is using when conducting searches. You’ll find that targeting long-tail keywords (search terms with more words and/or that are more specific) will give you the edge over competitors when it comes to ranking. You may not draw as much traffic from them, but the traffic you do attract will be more qualified to purchase/sign up.

It may also be that competing sites have a much stronger backlink profile and so Google is naturally positioning them ahead of you in the search results. If this is the case, conduct a link audit and kick off a consistent link building campaign. In particular, you’ll need to determine how your competitor’s backlink profile compares to yours so you know how much work you need to do in order to out-rank them. My recent post about link audits should help you through this process.

Best of luck!

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New Milestones for Search Engine College

SEC-smiley-150x178We’ve been busy bees at Search Engine College HQ this month, with lots of exciting milestones and a few developments in the pipeline.

First up – in line with our our push towards integrating more multi-media content and interactive learning materials, we have added over 30 new YouTube videos to our various training modules in the past few days. Existing students and subscribers can view the videos from within the course areas.

If that isn’t exciting enough already, we are also putting the finishing touches on our brand new Link Building Starter course which is getting ready to launch next week. The course contains the latest advice and guidance on link building in light of Google’s recent Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird algorithm changes and crack down on link networks. New and existing subscribers will be given access to this course for no additional charge. That’s right – access comes standard with all subscriptions.

If you’re not already a subscriber – what are you waiting for? You can sign up here.

In other news, we had our first ever student from Jamaica sign up yesterday, which means we now have Search Engine College students in 62 countries. How cool is that? See you in the virtual halls.

 

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5 Must-Have Spreadsheets For Online Marketing Professionals

I_love_spreadsheets_hatAs an online marketing consultant and trainer for the past 15 years, I have used a LOT of online tools to help me do my job.

I’ve seen time-saving tools come and go in crazy peaks and troughs. I’ve also seen a few that have ridden the waves of consumer fascination to become permanent fixtures in the online marketer’s toolbox.

Below are 5 spreadsheet-based tools that I use myself or recommend on a regular basis:

1) Distilled’s MS Excel for SEOs – This Excel-based workbook is like a detailed instruction manual for SEOs on how to manipulate bulky data into logical form using Microsoft Excel. If you are an Excel wizard, you’ll love this tool. If not, you’ll probably need a week to wrap your head around the analysis, but it will be worth it – I promise.

2) HubSpot’s Blog Editorial Calendar Template – If you are a content curator or social media marketer, this template will save your life. It simplifies calendar-based content allocation and helps you prioritize content deadlines and build an annual strategy to meet multiple marketing campaign objectives.

3) Shimon Sandler’s PPC Campaign Kick-Off Template – this Excel template is quite a few years old now, but I still use it as a starting point when kicking off a new AdWords or Bing Ads campaign for a client. It helps you and your client to focus on the big picture objectives and build a unique campaign to suit specific requirements rather than implementing a cookie-cutter PPC campaign that needs tweaking to fit.

4) Google SEO Rank Checker Spreadsheet – a recent discovery, this customizable Google Docs template is all kinds of awesome. It includes a clever integration of ImportXML that allows you to collect at-a-glance keyword rankings on Google in real time.

5) Outspoken Media’s Link Building Spreadsheet – another Google Drive shared doc, this is a customizable template consisting of a gigantic list of link building strategies collated by Rhea Drysdale and her team at Outspoken Media.
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Google Targets Article Marketing, Guest Blogging & Press Releases in Link Scheme Definition Update

article-marketing-newIf you don’t pay regular attention to Google’s Webmaster Guidelines, you might have overlooked it, but last month, Google made a significant change to their definition of link schemes.

The revised link scheme wording now cites the following as violating Google’s guidelines:

  •     Large-scale article marketing or guest posting campaigns with keyword-rich anchor text links.
  •     Advertorials or native advertising where payment is received for articles that include links that pass PageRank.
  •     Links with optimized anchor text in articles or press releases distributed on other sites.

Google also removed these examples from the link scheme guidelines:

  •     Linking to web spammers or unrelated sites with the intent to manipulate PageRank.
  •     Links that are inserted into articles with little coherence.

The changes are important in SEO circles, because article marketing, guest blog posts, advertorials and press release syndication are often key components of holistic SEO campaigns. Note in particular that “links with optimized anchor text” are mentioned specifically for the first time. Until fairly recently, the use of anchor text was considered a standard component of effective article writing and any on-page optimization.

With these changes, article syndication and press release optimization – unless implemented extremely carefully – may end up having a negative SEO impact on the very web sites they were intended to help.

In the wake of the changes, we took our Search Engine College Article Marketing course offline temporarily to check lesson content against the new guidelines and re-write any sections that may have been ambiguous.

If your SEO strategy uses any of these initiatives, I suggest taking a very close look at the revised Google Webmaster Guidelines and ensuring your implementation adheres to the revised policy.

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