It’s safe to say that Google’s Penguin update was a turning point in the SEO world. Until April 20, 2012, links pointing to your website were not a big problem for webmasters. But now, if you have unnatural links pointing to your website, your rankings may be affected. Businesses most affected by the update were those that sold or bought links as well as sites which built spammy link profiles using the exact same anchor texts each and every time.
Last year’s Penguin 3.0 update confirmed Google’s seriousness about low-quality backlinks. The chances of your site being de-ranked for having paid or automatically-created banklinks were high. If you wanted to avoid losing your digital footprint, you had to remove them via the Disavow Tool provided by Google or contacting the webmaster of the site.
In a video, Google’s former head of search spam, Matt Cutts, stated that over time backlinks will become irrelevant. He also encouraged webmasters to stop guest blogging because the practice was dead. When webmasters and search engine marketing specialists started bombarding him with questions, he reversed his decision and stated that webmasters should refrain from investing in spammy links because it will get them blacklisted. According to him, Google was now focusing more on determining if a web page meets expectations of an expert user.
Unfortunately, there is a great deal of uncertainty when it comes to SEO. Google has not really given us definitive criteria of what they are looking for in good websites. This confusion has led many people to make assumptions, which may or may not be true. One such misconception that is floating around on the World Wide Web is Link-Building is dead.
I am here to tell you that Link Building is not dead. Anyone who is in the business of building links should proceed with caution because any poor or low-quality links can send red alert signs to Google.
Below, I explore 5 link building mistakes you should always avoid and 4 steps to properly build links:
- Links to Bad Sites
Never link to sites that have garnered a bad reputation for spam, duplicate content and any other actions that are contrary to the guidelines specified in the Search Console (former Google Webmaster Tools). Such sites include link farms and article directories.
- Buy/Sell Links
The whole purpose of backlinking is to use content as bait for backlink; meaning you earn the link with your blood, sweat and tears. Search engines only love natural links and if they find any links that are contrived; they will penalize you and your website.
- Backlinks from only High PR domains
Keeping a mix of high and low page rank domains yield better results. If you build to many high PR links, it may not look authentic in the eyes of Google. There is no straight answer from Google, but to be on the safe side it is recommended to only target websites with a page rank of at least 2.
- Tons of links built in a short spam
The goal of link building is to earn the trust of websites and naturally earn a link in exchange for good content. Creating too many links in a short span of time could cause Google to remove your site from indexing. Slow and steady strategies win the race.
- Links that turn bad
You might have done all the background check of the sites. But at times, the decent site you had linked with would suddenly turn ugly, placing indecent and objectionable contents. So, do a thorough check, if the outbound links are unbroken and also where they lead to. Periodically do a link detox and monitor the bounce rate to ensure your visitors are engaged.
4 Step Process to Proper Link Building
What kind of websites do you want to discover?
To make sure they’re high quality, look for sites that are:
- Highly authoritative: Websites that are experts and are worthy of building relationships with.
- Trustworthy: Would you want to be seen on a website that was full of link and other spam? There should be a ratio of 1 link per 100 words.
- Popular with competitors: Who’s linking to your competitors? You most definitely want them to link to you too.
Tools that can help with your research
Use your research to grow a list of high quality websites with whom you would like to build long-term relationships with.
- Connect with website owners via social media.
- Use a CRM Software tool to not only keep track of all of your messaging and outreach efforts, but to organize all of the potential relationship’s contact information, and any other notes
- Remember the end game: a link on a great website and a relationship with the site owner.
What do you need to know about the potential link and relationship you are pursuing?
- Date of first outreach
- Date of follow up: You never want to be too forward or needy.
- Type of link requested or acquired: Are you writing a guest post? Did you comment on a blog? Did the link happen organically?
- Website domain: Yeah, you might need that one.
- Website owner’s contact info: Can’t build a relationship if you can’t get in touch with them.
- Conversation notes: If you’re talking to a ton of people, keeping detailed notes on the conversations you’re having will save you from a world of embarrassment later. Trust me.
- Follow up
Once you’ve done your research, performed your outreach, organized all the data, hopefully you will have heard back from some site owners and will be well on your way to building great relationships with them.