Over the past five years Google have really cracked down on unethical SEO practices. When Penguin 1.0 first hit the scene Google claimed that it would destroy all illegitimate linking strategies; however, the algorithm was far from perfect and many genuine websites suffered from decreased rankings and even complete removals. While it’s taken a few years for Google to get on the right track, the search engine is now focusing on the quality and relevance of links rather than the quantity and keywords. Fundamentally, Google’s main priority is quite simple; to better the Internet by ranking the highest quality content on the web.
Some SEO experts claim that backlinking no longer holds precedence in Google’s ranking criteria. However, it now holds more weight than ever in that a poor link profile can seriously hinder your website’s capabilities. This guide explains how you can create a link profile that not only abides by the current rules and regulations, but will survive anything that Penguin throws your way.
Clean up spammy backlinks
Before you start your new ethical link profile you must clean up your waste. Unfortunately you may have acquired poor quality backlinks in the past without even realizing it. Begin by assessing your links and trying to remove anything that doesn’t make the grade. This includes: links you paid for with exact match keywords, links from blog comments or forums, links from poor quality or irrelevant blogs, links from flagged websites, and links from keyword-stuffed content. In addition, remove anything that comes from a link wheel or network of websites.
If you run into problems trying to get webmasters to remove the links or if they are coming from websites that are clearly no longer in use, use Google’s Disavow Tool to ensure they aren’t included in your link profile. However, don’t go crazy and remove everything on a whim. Make sure you know exactly what you don’t want before you start.
Clean up your outbound links
Outbound links don’t hold nearly as much weight as backlinks; however, they’re still very important. If you have any links that seem a little shady, don’t take any chances. Delete spammy links from your blog comments; remove links that are published on guest posts and don’t offer any worth; and make sure any links you decide to keep lead to high-quality resources.
Contrary to popular belief outbound linking isn’t a bad thing. If it’s used properly it can really add worth to your content; however, the target website should always be highly relevant and reputable. Linking to a personal blog or e-commerce website simply won’t cut the mustard and could have adverse affects.
Only publish ethical guest posts
Note the word “ethical.” Ever since Matt Cutts published The decay and fall of guest blogging for SEO – a blog post announcing that Google were cracking down on guest posting – SEO experts have been cowering in fear and trying to find alternative ways of amassing backlinks. While there is certainly truth in his statement that guest posting has gotten “too spammy,” many people have taken his words out-of-context. What Matt Cutts was trying to emphasise is that guest posting purely for backlinks is bad, but guest posting for exposure and credibility is good.
Just like having an article published in a newspaper or magazine, years ago it would’ve been an honour to have your work published on a blog; however, now that most blogs have practically turned into content mills there’s no longer that sense of prestige that goes with it. If you are guest posting you should focus less on the stats and more on the reputation. While domain authority and page rank can help you decide what blogs to target, relevancy is far more important and should always take precedence. Stop trying to use mathematical formulas and just go back to basics. All you need to do is read a few posts to know whether it’ll provide a decent home for your content.
Diversify your link profile
It’s never a good idea to rely on one specific type of link. If you primarily guest post start thinking about other avenues, such as broken link building and high-quality directory listings. Again, remember to keep everything as relevant as possible. Without relevancy your backlinks will essentially be worthless.
Avoid link wheels, content mills and paid listings, and try to attain both a mixture of “do follow” and “no follow” backlinks to make your link profile look as natural as possible. Target social media and communicate with experts in your niche that have a dedicated following. If you can get them to vouch for your work and share a link to your website others will follow suit. Also think about targeting highly relevant websites that aren’t specifically blogs and ask them to include a link to your site on their “links” page. If you don’t have a diverse link profile and Google starts penalizing the one link practice you’ve been using, your website will never survive.
Mix up your anchor text
Using your target keyword as the anchor text is considered bad practice. A few years ago this was all that mattered, but ever since the first Google Penguin update this has been seen as spam. However, since a good link profile should be diverse and look natural, getting a few keywords in there could be highly beneficial providing you don’t abuse the system.
Most SEO experts recommend using a ratio of 80/20; 80% of anchor text should consist of the business name or URL and 20% of anchor text should consist of keywords. Don’t just link to your home page either. Relevancy is key; therefore, if the content from your backlink is more suited to a specific page or blog post, link to that instead.
Attract links, don’t ask for them
This is without a doubt the most difficult task of all. Anyone can write content, publish it and get a backlink, but not everyone can actually encourage others to voluntarily give them link juice. The key to success is, however, fairy simple; just provide quality content. Unless your website has a resource that’s genuinely helpful and worth sharing, people won’t give you backlinks.
Even if you run an e-commerce website or are trying to sell a service, publish something that genuinely contributes to the Internet. Find a topic within your niche – such as a buyers guide – that hasn’t been covered elsewhere and make sure it’s the best resource available. Don’t be afraid to think big. If you’ve done your research properly, with a little promotion the links and shares should come swarming in.
Sadly, Google keeps everything under wraps and you can never predict when they’ll make changes. Sometimes the hit comes so suddenly that traffic and rankings will literally vanish over night. However, with ethical SEO practices there’s no reason why your website won’t survive. While it can take more time to build a good link profile and start climbing the SERPs, the peace of mind alone is worth the wait.