Skating on Thin Ice? Some Penguin Proof Strategies
The recent Google “Penguin” algo update has left countless webmasters and SEOs left with no rankings and no traffic. Penalties have been dealt across thousands of verticals, with many appearing to be random or no helpful or providing improvements. Chat of webspam having risen to top rankings is abundant and many are wondering what the point of the update was. Little has been said, but you can get the gist of it here.
Many are speculating that the update is targeting aggressive linking strategies and sites that aggressively build links with exact match anchor text. Sites that have been found to have a high ratio of links to the homepage vs. subpages and with just a few variations of “money anchor text” are the ones that fell victim to the update. Sites that also have extremely spammy back link profiles and had too many reciprocal links, paid links, comments, paid posts, etc were also hit heavily.
Many are speculating that Penguin is the beginning of the end of SEO, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. SEO needs to change and evolve. Just because what you did successfully in the past may not work now, it doesn’t mean that you weren’t doing good SEO or that it suddenly is a moot point. Building natural links, creating great content, and optimizing sites for user experience is still what is going to drive traffic and conversions to your site.
Whether or not your site has been penalized, moving forward in your SEO efforts is going to require change. Old techniques will no longer work, and links, content, user signals, social, and site specs are going to rule the rankings. Let’s focus a little on links and what you can expect and hope to build to help boost your rankings in the SERPs.
Attributes of the links that are pointing to your domain were some of the most heavily scrutinized ranking signals targeted by this update. Links that no longer appear “natural” might come as a surprise, as they seemed to work well in the past. Here are some link attributes that I’ve found will likely get you penalized:
- Too much exact match anchor text. Diversifying your links and getting anchor text other than money terms will help you balance your profile and add authority to the domain overall. No natural profile has a heavy concentration of money anchors, in fact, it will likely have very little.
- Links in spammy locations on the page (footer, header, any stand-alone anchor text in the sidebar). These links scream paid.
- No co-citation (links surrounded by text). Co-citation is valuable because when Google crawls a link, it will often give weight and value to the site the link is pointing to not only for the anchor text but also for the text closely surrounding the link, as that is likely related and relevant. For example, “This mountain biking website is awesome!” The site will get credit for the link “website,” but because it is next to the words “mountain biking,” Google assumes that the site has something to do with mountain biking, and will give the site credit for that word as well.
- Poor diversity of link destination (too many homepage links, none to subpages). This is self explainatory, it’s vital that you have an equal balance of links to the homepage in addition to subpages. In many instances you will have more links to your homepage, but subpages should account for around 60% of your linking profile.
- No in-content links. Having links that are “stand alone” on the sidebars of sites and not in blog posts, in body content, or other parts of a site that contain an article or story is indicative of paid placement.
- No “trashy” or “junk” anchor text. Sites need to have a high number of junk anchor texts. These vary, but junk can be anything without money terms. Typical texts include “click here”, “find more information”, and “website.”
Now the Hard Part – Building Those Natural Links
Link building….what a chore! Who wants to site around and send hundreds of emails to webmasters begging for links? Nobody. That’s why people who are smart and do it well don’t do that kind of stuff. They use their time wisely and utilize incentives to maximize return on their outreach investment. Here are some easy link strategies that will build you natural links quickly and in a short amount of time.
- Guest Posts. I don’t see this ever going out of style. Finding a topic that you are an authority on and writing a post for a blog that focuses on that topic is one of the easiest and quickest ways to build an authority link back to your site. Writing convincing and authoritative content is key. Pick something you really know about and go after that. Other sites in the field that write about the same topic are going to easily smell a fraud and will call you out on it. Write something that is different and provides value and you are sure to get it published with a link back to your site.
- Scholarships. This is my favorite strategy as it is the easiest way to get super high value links back to your site. Find a college major that relates to the topic of your site and make a scholarship for it. For example, if you work with houses or mortgages, make a construction or finance scholarship and send it out to the financial aid offices of colleges that offer degrees on those subjects. Many will link to you and you will end up with dozens of high quality .edu links. Be a nice person and do actually give out the scholarship funds, however, as scholarship scams are illegal.
- Interviews. Doing interviews with those who are well-known in your field or industry will get you tons of great editorial links. No matter what kind of site you have or what vertical you are in, there is somebody else who is well-known and who has a bigger following than you do. The best part about experts is that they love to talk about themselves, and are usually very willing to answer a few questions. This can go on your site, creating new, unique content for you, and likely earning a backlink from the site of the person you interviewed. In addition, they will usually share the interview on their social networks, and any traffic that you receive will be qualified and relevant. A great way to get new content and links.
- Visual Content. Infographics are an expensive investment but usually pay for themselves many times over in the amount of links and exposure you get. Find an interesting and timely article that relates to the topic of your site and hire a great designer to help you create a visual experience that will make people want to link to you. The best way to maximize this is to get placed on social sharing sites like HolyKaw.
- Broken Links. Nothing beats going through a “resource” or “links” page and finding broken links. You can use a link checker tool to go through and check every link and then email the webmaster about the broken links you “happened to find.” Suggesting an additional, helpful resource (your site) when telling him which links are broken is likely to get your link added when he or she goes in to fix the broken ones. Tip: Link checker only works in Chrome, which IMO is the only browser you should be using anyway.
- If you still need more tips on getting awesome links, check out Jon Cooper’s link building post. It’s honestly the best one anywhere.
In the End…..
When all is said and done, it all comes down to making sure that your sites don’t look fake. Simpy vary your anchor text and build links naturally. If this means one week you only build a few good links, so be it. Don’t focus so much on quantity as much as quality and varying your anchors and all will be well.
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