Link Building Strategies After Google Penguin

We recently posted an article on link building strategies post-Panda, but now with Google’s latest algorithm update in full swing it’s time to look deeper into link building again.  The Penguin update brought with it a barrage of bullets aimed at minimizing the influence of sites using black-hat SEO techniques, mainly keyword stuffing, cloaking, spamdexing, content duplication, and much more.  Once again, Google’s goal was to make sure quality reigns over quantity and SEO marketers have an even tougher task at building strong quality links. Below you’ll find a few key tactics you can adopt into your link building strategy.

Think PR, not Link Building

The Penguin update essentially made life worse for websites that try to beat the system rather than focus on the customer.  You may think that your website was spared because you “don’t do that”, but think again.  Even the best websites continue to garner links through tactics like not-so-subtle exchanges and blog commenting.  While those links aren’t necessarily bad, the concept is misguided and it’s exactly what Google is trying to prevent.

The typical goal of a link exchange or blog comment is to boost back links and enhance page rank.  What you should be focusing on instead is increasing exposure to your website, obtaining comments on your own blog through compelling content, and convincing other websites to link to yours through organic means.  That involves writing strong blog articles, gaining the attention of media outlets (social or standard), and keeping it fresh.  It only comes from thinking with a public relations mindset rather than using a link building one.  Use this strategy and not only will you will be rewarded with natural, high-quality links but more brand exposure and quality traffic from these placements.

Link Removal and Placement

Just as you go to the doctor for your annual checkup, your link portfolio needs a checkup too.  If you’ve been using tactics like heavy reciprocal linking or blog commenting, even if you haven’t received a link warning from Google, you should probably analyze your link portfolio.  The Penguin update penalizes sites for poor links both to and from your website, so it’s time to rein in your network of links and take control.  The first step is to gather all your link data using Majestic SEO, Open Site Explorer, or other online software.  The second step is to identify any and all high-risk links that could be downgrading your site.  For example, you can use Majestic SEO for free and receive endless amounts of link information just by entering any URL (homepage or other).  You can also check back-link history, generate reports, and compare subdomains to help you find, sort, and identify problem links.  The final step is to request link removal from the sites currently linking to yours and hope that webmasters follow though on your request.

Removing high-risk links from other websites is one thing; placing high quality links on your own website is another.  Since Penguin launched, the concept of placing links in footers and sidebars has become less important, if not downright dangerous to your link building strategy.  If you’ve got links to other sites because of an exchange, a page full of “resources” that are nothing more than your reciprocal link partners, or site-wide links in your sidebar or footer that someone gave you $30 for, it’s time to remove them.  Now the only true place you can safely place links is within your website content – in your blog posts, your product descriptions, your reference pages, and other standard content locations.  If it makes sense to link to another site for the readers sake, do it.  If it’s for any other reason, don’t.

It is a relatively straightforward move to alter links in your footer and sidebar.  The bigger challenge is finding consistent ways of fitting relevant high-quality links into your everyday material.  Some suggestions are adding testimonial and contest pages, increasing the frequency of blog posts, and adding videos, social media feeds, and other strong search engine-friendly content to your site.

Balancing Nofollow/Dofollow

If you have a link on your webpage and it features standard HTML formatting, search engine spiders will automatically follow that link to its destination.  We often call that a “dofollow” link, meaning that spiders do follow it and see where it goes, generally assigning some sort of value to that link.  Then awhile back, the idea of “nofollow” links came into play wherein a webmaster could update the code of certain links so that spiders would not follow it.  What followed was a heyday where websites were solely focused on having “high PR, dofollow links” and everything else was labeled nofollow.

Now Google’s Penguin update is fishing for these sites and giving them bad marks.  Why?  When a website builds links, it’s almost guaranteed that some links will be great, some good, and others not so good.  It’s just natural.  When the spiders come across a website that has only high PR, dofollow links it identifies that website as being manipulated and raises a red flag.  Hence, the idea is to balance nofollow and dofollow links so that it appears natural and still gives you the proper search engine boost you’re looking for.

To achieve the right balance, you need to look at links from both an incoming and outgoing perspective.  From an incoming perspective you have to think with a PR mindset.  If you’re commenting and linking from completely non-related blogs and sites, nofollow makes sense.  However a nofollow comment on a popular blog with a relevant topic should be re-evaluated – if it’s generating potential traffic and enhancing your brand, you want it in your portfolio!  From an outgoing perspective, you can simply look to your own blog.  If there are potential spam-like links or comments in your blog, you’ll want to consider changing them.  Finally, Google sees paid links (incoming and outgoing) as a detriment to your link-building strategy, so if you haven’t done it yet consider making these nofollow.  The rest is up to you, but as long as you think with a PR mindset and not a link-building one, striking a balance should come with ease.

The Importance of Anchor Text & Branded Links

Keeping a balance of nofollow and dofollow links is all about making your website look natural to Google and the other search engines, but it’s only part of the story.  Keyword-focused anchor text has also come under scrutiny and there’s a need to be natural looking here too.  In the past, many people manipulated anchor text to utilize keywords and generate stronger search engine results.  Since Google’s Penguin update launched, links using keywords where a company name or brand name should be listed have made Google and other search engines wary.  For example, if your current link in a directory of businesses says “Houston auto repair” when it should say “Jimmy’s Garage”, the smarter, more natural move is to change the link to “Jimmy’s Garage” which is the true location of the link. While no one link is going to kill you, the idea here is that if this example represents most or all of your links you probably have an unbalanced link portfolio.  If 99% of the 1,000 links pointing to your homepage say “blue widgets” and your business name is Acme & Associates you may have a problem.

This same idea applies to everything on your website.  When it comes to written content, type of keywords, amount of links, and everything else, the goal is to keep it natural (remember, think like a PR person).  While everyone continues to argue about all the details of what the perfect site looks like, you’ll be steering clear of penalties and climbing the search engine ranks by thinking with a PR mindset.  If people like your brand (on and off your website) and find it a valuable resource, then search engines will like it too and your link-building strategy will be a success! If you’d like to learn more about LeapGo’s search engine optimization strategies and services, please request a free SEO quote.