In the wake of Google’s Penguin and Panda updates, the SEO community was rocked with cries of “Link building is Dead!”. You could almost hear the sound of webmasters and SEO professionals collapsing at their keyboards.
After living with the Penguin and the Panda for over a year, just what is the state of link building for search engine optimization? Is it gone for good, or, to paraphrase Mark Twain, “have reports of link building’s death been greatly exaggerated”?
Most of the SEO industry is at a standstill and not sure whether to build links moving forward. Well, I’m here to tell you that you absolutely must build links – all search engines are driven by links. I could end the post here, but let’s dive into explanation, some new, and some pretty common.
Link Building – A Few Misconceptions
We’re really all sick of hearing about Penguin and Panda. We get it, right? Don’t build links and make sure your content is stellar. This is so far from the truth, and even Google’s Matt Cutts was quick point out, “Links are still the best way that we’ve found to discover how relevant or important somebody is…”, in an interview with Eric Enge.
Now, this is the head of Google’s webspam team speaking. The man who unleashed the Penguin and the Panda updates in the first place. So surely we can all relax and breathe a little easier? Well, yes and no. While link building remains an important part of SEO, and is still one of the best ways search engines have to index and rank web content, the good old days of building links willy nilly are gone.
Google is targeting certain types of link building strategies, and it’s these strategies that webmasters must avoid, or risk the manual and algorithmic penalties that Google can unleash at any time.
Link Building – What to Avoid
What Google hoped to eliminate with the introduction of the Penguin and Panda updates was the unethical practice of spammy link building schemes. That’s it. to put it simply, stay away from any “quick fix” link building tactics. For years, webmasters and website owners spent a lot of their time exchanging links with other websites and buying links for the sole purpose of increasing page rank.
These link building schemes had little to do with offering value to the online user, and existed only to create as many links as possible in hopes of gaming the search engine algorithms and advancing a website’s page ranking. These are the types of link building strategies that Google wants to discourage, and post Penguin these are the link building techniques that will be rewarded with a stiff penalty. So, as we head into spring of 2014, it’s time to re-evaluate the following link building habits:
- Buying links, or exchanging goods or services for links – Done right, this could be highly valuable to increase your rankings. Bloggers know that their high page rank and domain authority content sites are desirable and have every right to make a business for link placement.
- Link exchanges, or cross linking with other websites for the sole purpose of building a link tree that will increase page rank – These tactics should be taken behind the barn and shot.
- Inserting links to a website in low value online directories – Most directories are junk. You will know the good ones, and make sure they are relevant to your niche.
- Guest posting or guest blogging with the sole purpose of inserting keyword stuffed links in the copy – Again, you know by now which are high value based on social shares and/or domain authority.
4 Tips for Link Building and a Safe and Happy Tomorrow
So, now that we know what unethical link building strategies are being targeted by Google, what should we concentrate on in the future? Four basic link building principles apply in the post Penguin and Panda world:
- Quality Content – It’s been said over and over again, but it bears repeating. Creating high quality content that offers value to the online user will naturally attract quality, Google approved, links. This will also create “link earning”. If you continue to press forward with high quality content, it will eventually get noticed and your link building will go into auto-pilot mode.
- Less is More – In the new world of link building, less is definitely more. A few links from a small number of high quality websites is much more valuable than a large number of links from low quality spammy sites. It’s quality over quantity that will win the link building race. Focus on deep links when pursuing high quality sites.
- Keep it Relevant – Google expects your inbound and outbound links to be relevant. In other words, those links should connect with other websites that have a direct, and natural, connection to your niche industry. For example, if you’re running a wedding planning website, linking to a catering service makes sense. Linking to a fly by night pharmaceutical company does not.
- Invest in Social Media – Social media platforms will take on more and more importance over the next few years. While Facebook ‘likes’ and ‘shares’ don’t necessarily count as links, they do offer a way to spread your message, improve your brand’s visibility, and draw attention to your primary website. Content shared through social media naturally improves a website’s online visibility, and will carry more clout than a hundred low level black hat links. Use tools like Buffer or HootSuite to schedule posts in advance.
The world of SEO keeps changing, and while it may be frustrating at times it’s up to webmasters and SEOs to learn to roll with those changes. So when people tell you that link building is dead, take a deep breath and don’t panic. Link building isn’t dead by any means.