Q and A: Is it good SEO practice to cross link related sites in the footer?

QuestionHello Kalena

I took your SEO classes at Search Engine College a while back. I’m hoping you might be able to help me with a question that I really don’t know the answer to.

I now work at an advertising agency and we have various clients…some we work on their SEO and some we don’t.

One of our client’s websites [link removed] has their sister companies listed on the bottom of the site with links pointing to each. All the companies are related and interlinked in the same way. They were told by their “SEO” company that having the companies linked is not a good SEO move.

I would think that since these would be quality links that it is good practice to link them.

Can you please weigh in on this?

Thanks
Lena

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Hi Lena

Actually, I can see where their SEO’s concern lies. All of the sister sites are linked together in the footer, in a kind of feedback loop. This can be misinterpreted by Google to be a mini link farm of sorts.

Please read Google’s guidelines about links and you’ll understand what I mean. They particularly highlight this issue:

“Here are a few common examples of unnatural links that violate our guidelines… Widely distributed links in the footers of various sites…”

By all means link to the sister sites, but use the *rel: no-follow* tag on those links so that no link value is attributed to them. That should prevent Google from misinterpreting the link intention.

Hope this helps!

Kalena
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Can competitors harm your Google ranking?

My little tribute to the Beastie Boys

A client and I were Skyping this week and the topic inevitably turned to Google Penguin and the impending doom of link building *tactics*.

This particular client has been having issues with rogue affiliates setting up fake link networks in order to boost their sales for my client’s products. Despite repeated warnings and/or promises to clean up their act, some of these affiliates have continued using dodgy practices for years, managing somehow to avoid Panda, Panda II and even Panda III. But their house of cards came tumbling down with the implementation of Penguin and with it went over 30 percent of my client’s traffic.

The problem is that, ultimately, my client has NO CONTROL over the tactics used by persons linking to their site. If they spot dodgy tactics being used, my client can alert or even ban the offending affiliate, but what of all the affiliates spamming under the radar? And these are sites supposedly in favor of my client staying in business. Imagine if they were direct competitors? All the education in the world isn’t going to stop spammers using whatever tactics they can if they are rewarded for those tactics in cold hard cash. And who can blame them?

This is inherently the problem I have with Google at the moment. They still claim it isn’t possible for spammers to hurt innocent sites using SEO spam but guess what? There are many, many examples of exactly that happening. Heck, this guy is offering a $10,000 reward to find the persons responsible for link bombing his site. Do you think he’d offer cash if the issue wasn’t crippling his business? There are even public projects set up encouraging people to use SEO spam in order to influence the Google SERPs in a positive or negative way for political purposes. And what about super competitive industries like the PPCs – porn, pills and casinos? I can assure you that competitor sabotage is alive and well and flying business class.

Now I applaud that Google are concerned enough about the issue to roll out updates like Penguin to try and punish persons using obvious SEO spam. Comment spam is evil! they warn. Artificial backlinks are evil! they say. Use of these tactics is a violation of our guidelines! But then they say don’t fret if others build backlinks to your site. Don’t worry too much. Just concentrate on making your site the best that it can be.

Why oh why do they keep insisting that competitors can’t harm your site using those same methods? Asked the question, Can competitors harm your ranking?, this was Google’s reply:

Google works hard to prevent other webmasters from being able to harm your ranking or have your site removed from our index. If you’re concerned about another site linking to yours, we suggest contacting the webmaster of the site in question. Google aggregates and organizes information published on the web; we don’t control the content of these pages.

I look at these posts and this is what I’m hearing:

“Don’t be evil. Don’t do this, this or this. Doesn’t matter if your competitor tries that, they can’t hurt you. Oh look at these naughty spammers ruining your SERPs. We’ve got an update to fix that. What? Your legitimate site was smacked down? Not our problem. Don’t be evil.”

Well Google may not want to admit it but here it is: Can competitors harm your Google ranking? You bet they can.

 

 

 

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Q and A: How can I attract more inbound links to my site?

QuestionDear Kalena,

We have a plant seller nursery website that contains mostly product and contact information etc. How can I attract more links to my site?

Thanks in advance,
Trish

Dear Trish,

In order for your site to be considered ‘linkworthy’ you need to build some good-quality, industry-specific content that people in your niche market will find useful. If your site is purely product-based there are fewer reasons for other sites to link to your site.

Building links is all about obtaining online referrals. A good link building strategy considers internet users and website owners. The ultimate aim is to obtain more referrals for your site from other website owners and ultimately to get more customers to your site.

Think about the people that view your website (in your case plant growers and gardening enthusiasts) what would they find useful? What would make them want to revisit your site? A searchable database containing photographs and general information about the plants that you sell would be an appealing addition. Or an article library/blog - filled with gardening ideas, advice and resources could keep your customers coming back to your site again and again.

When it comes to attracting inbound links, content is king. If your site contains good-quality, industry-specific information, people will come to your website not only to buy things, but to find information. Also other websites may refer to information contained on your site in order to be associated with your quality content. In this way you will develop an authoritive presence within your industry that will attract good quality inbound links over time.

Sarah Parker
Parker Communications

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Q and A: Why have my Google rankings dropped for my key phrases?

QuestionHi Kalena

I’ve contacted you because I feel frustrated. Until last night my site was listed within the second page results in google with the key words “learn Spanish free”. Thanks to the SEO course at SEC and my work , I was proud to see results like this. However for some strange reason this morning (UK time) I am nowhere to be seen with this key words. I have checked other search engines (yahoo, bing) and I am listed there (3rd and 2nd pages). Would you be able to tell if I have done anything to upset google? And if I have what?

Furthermore, I have checked all key phrases that have brought me visits before and I am nowhere to be seen within google index. (I used to appear on the first page with these key phrases). The only time I am in google listing is when I search the words “Spanish aid” ( the name of my domain) or the full URL of my web pages. I am also appear in google listing with the  word “Spanish colours” under Images. I find this extremely weird as it seem that google has penalised me for something I don’t know of. As I said on my previous email I was progressing and I was happy that I was learning an seeing positive result, now it seems that I have taken a big step back. I hope you can give my an explanation as at the moment I am banging my head against the wall.
Thanks a lot for your help

Thank you
Luis

Hi Luis

Fluctuations in your Google rankings are completely normal. Sometimes, they’ll make a slight tweak to their ranking algorithm which can result in other sites ranking above yours and/or lowering your previous ranking for certain keywords. But this doesn’t mean you’re suffering a penalty.

See some previous blog posts about this, particularly:

Why is my CMS based website only ranking for the home page

Why does my website not rank high on search engines?

Your site is still in the Google index and you rank #1 for your brand name so you haven’t been penalized. I could see nothing wrong with your content that would trigger any alarm bells with Google.

However, the big problem with your site is the low Google Toolbar PageRank score (1/10) reflecting the very low number of incoming links pointing to your site. Has your PR score always been 1/10? If it has recently dropped from a 2 or something, that might partially explain the ranking drop. While a higher PageRank score is not a pre-requisite to high rankings, it can be a key indicator of your site’s link popularity, which in turn has a strong influence on your ultimate keyword positions in Google.

The more links you have pointing to your site from related sites and using relevant keywords in the anchor text of the link the better you should rank for those keywords. The best thing you can do for your site right now is to build links pointing to it and to add new content. That will gradually improve your PageRank score and your link popularity – then the rankings will follow.

If you’re still worried, you can take the steps outlined in these posts:

How do I fix ranking penalties?

Why doesn’t Google index my entire site?

Kalena

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SMX Melbourne : Designing a Bullet Proof Link Building Campaign

This is a summary of the presentation given by Ian McAnerin, CEO of McAnerin International Inc. at SMX Melbourne last month, about how to design a bullet proof link building campaign.

Link History

Twelve years ago, pre-Gooogle, search engines just analyzed content in order to rank sites, says Ian. Linking wasn’t part of the ranking algorithm. Google put paid to that by making links part of the equation. Suddenly, SEO became a lot more difficult.

Ian explained Term Vector Analysis (TVA) and Citation Analysis and how they influenced the concept of links. TVA is how keywords appear on a page (relevance). Citation Analysis is the influence of keywords on a page (authority). Google was built by students who were using citation analysis on a daily basis. Keyword density isn’t used by search engines. However, it is kinda similar to term vector analysis, which IS used by search engines.

Every web page stored in Google has a term profile containing number of times a keyword is used, density, proximity, position etc. Google then looks for clusters of terms that appear in proximity to the search phrase and finds the Representative Average to display in the SERPs. The process of TVA is excellent at figuring out informational pages such as Wikipedia pages.

The problem is that TVA can’t give search engines the entire picture – it’s difficult for them to tell the difference between spam and awesomeness. This is how search engines worked up until Google. Then Google came along and threw links into the equation. The more links you had to the page, the higher rank you would have in the SERPs.

Typically, the better writing, the worse the SEO, because good writers use flowery, descriptive language.

Types of Links

Now, to rank, you need three kinds of links:

1) Authority (aged)

2) Relevance (current)

3) Buzz (social)

So you need a combination of old and new links. Therefore you need to be constantly building links!

Stinking Linking – reference to articles by Mike Grehan about the prob with aged domains and links.

Link Quality

Link page quality is measured by:

  • PageRank of the page
  • cached
  • nofollow
  • number of other links on page
  • topic

Remember that it’s the PR of the PAGE that’s important, not the PR of the domain or main site. So if someone is offering you a link and bragging about having a PR4 on their home page, but your link is going to go on a inner page that has PR0, there’s no value there.

Page sculpting is not as influential now. No point no-following all your links on a page as they all leak PR anyway.

Sources of Links:

  • Seeds – Yahoo, DMOZ
  • Directories and connections
  • competitors (meet then beat)
  • articles and blog posts
  • widgets
  • reviews
  • case studies
  • contests and publicity
  • profiles
  • social media
  • internal linking campaign
  • link reclamation
  • pick up the phone!

Ian suggests starting any link campaign with your own site. Make sure you are cross linking internal pages. Then go and do link reclamation – check your 404s in Webmaster Tools to see if anyone is linking in to pages that no longer exist and ask them to update.

As an idea to attract links, Ian suggests holding a contest e.g. school laptop giveaway – put the rules of the contest on your web site and then the school / parents etc link to your web page for the rules.

Anchor text is virtual content. Rule of thumb is, if you wouldn’t spam your web site with the same keyword phrase, don’t do the same with your link building. Mix and match the anchor text linking to your pages and ask people linking to you to do the same.

Deep links are the best links. Don’t ask everyone to link to your home page! You’ll get better crawls and better rankings and your audience gets a higher quality experience if you inner pages are well-linked. Plus the crawler starts at inner pages that it might have missed before.

Tools for Link Building:

Link Don’ts:

  • Use Free For All (FFA) links
  • Off topic links
  • Non-editorial
  • Obviously purchased links
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