Bearing the Brunt of Google Algorithm Updates
As inbound links directly affect Search Engine Page Result (SERP) ranking, online marketers see link building as a crucial factor in any SEO campaign. In the past, their main aim was to generate as many links as possible and they were rewarded too. However, the Penguin and Panda updates cast their shadow over this optimization technique in the year 2013. The objective of these updates is to improve the way Google returns search results to users providing them with the most relevant results. Here is an appraisal of how link building was affected in 2013.
Indiscriminate Link Creation – A Bad Tactic
The practice of generating numerous links for your site indiscriminately by purchasing links, spamming comment with links, and link exchanges has become virtually dead in 2013. Google has made it clear that any link that intended to manipulate SERP ranking will be considered as part of the link scheme (that can negatively impact a siteâ€™s ranking). So these traditional link generation tactics are not only ineffective now, but also pose a threat to your website. Googleâ€™s SERP is now crowded with image results, news results, advertisements, results from social networking sites, map listings and so on; quite unlike the earlier ’10 blue links’ SERP. Indiscriminate link creation was made highly challenging in this scenario, as you didnâ€™t know for what the links were being built.
The best link tactics today is removing all manipulative links (links from a domain not indexed by Google, links from virus infected sites, links coming from link networks, paid links and so on) from your site and focus on relevant links. You can go to ‘Links to Your Site’ section of Google Webmaster Tools and click on ‘Download latest links’ (as given below) to get a complete backlink profile which will help you determine which links need to be removed.
Relevant links tactics include targeting link outreach, creating fresh and extensive articles, and broken link building (can dig up high authority and relevant link opportunities).
Content Marketing More Effective and Popular
As Penguin and Panda set out to heavily penalize link spamming, content evolved as an effective link generation tactic in 2013. We can even say that it replaced the techniques of link exchange, paid directories and link networks. If you look at Google Trends (as shown below), you can see how content marketing assumed popularity in 2013.
Traditional link generation focused on doing something to acquire maximum links to your web page, while content marketing focuses on creating content that is specific to each group of users and providing it to them at the time when they are ready to imbibe it. This is a non-manipulative technique to attract links and adapt well to Penguin and Panda.
However, content marketing is effective to gather link juice only if the content is optimized with words and phrases that users generally search for (proper content optimization that does not involve keyword stuffing) and structured in such a way that the user finds it comfortable to read. It should also attract social signals and respond to the searcher’s goal and behavior.
It’s Link Earning that Counts, Not Building Links
The concept of building links has given way to earning links in 2013. Now, the objective is to create something that is worthy to be linked to, instead of trying to convince someone to link to you. This notion proved to be effective in 2013 even in the case of one-to-one actions including resource listings (long exhaustive list of a particular topic which helps searchers to save time finding the information). Google wants links to appear naturally in your site now and organic link earning thus remains as a viable link generation tactic.
The following techniques are very effective to earn natural links.
- Focus on Providing Newsworthy Content – Writing about a breaking news story before anyone else will give you the authority of that news and others will naturally link to your article. News about your latest products or services and in-depth / authoritative content can also attract natural links.
- Create Visual Content – Images and infographics can make your content attractive and interesting for users to link to. You can optimize your images and propagate them through Pinterest, Reddit, Flicker, Tumblr and other venues to build exposure and earn more links in a natural way.
- Utilize Social Networking Sites – Social signals such as ‘Likes’, ‘Retweet’, ‘Comment’, and ‘Pin It’ are a great way to attract natural links. You can attach social share buttons to your content to prompt users to share it on Facebook, Twitter or other social networking sites (as shown below).
It is also possible to post your content on social media sites and earn more links (as shown below).
Releasing an e-Book and mentioning influencers are also good for organic link earning.
Public Relations and Media Outreach
Link outreach is very important for any type of link generation tactic irrespective of whether it is to bloggers, webmasters, experts or journalists. Establishing an instant connection with someone by writing an e-mail has become imperative for link builders. Attracting traditional news outlets (public relations and media) for mentions and links is the motto for link outreach in 2013. Guest blogging may not be as effective as it was earlier, though it will make its way to 2014.
To attract journalists, you must make your content newsworthy and attention grabbing. Here are some effective PR strategies to enhance link outreach.
- Monitoring editorial opportunities (which include article subject matter, authorâ€™s name, authorâ€™s contact details and deadline) will provide you with extremely valuable information and all you have to do is to pitch it appropriately. You can search the target site to find out if there are any editorial opportunities listed or use Google site with commands including Editorial calendar, Editorial opportunities or Guest opinion articles.
- Events including conference and trade shows provide you with the opportunity to set up interviews with PR people directly and earn links. If you are planning to attend an event, start looking for potential interviews. You can sign up for event mails, visit the event page, follow the event hash tag or check out event sponsors for that.
- If you canâ€™t attend events, you can use Google Alerts, Trackur or some other web monitoring tool to gather the latest news from the web, scan those articles daily and create action items for each article such as leaving a comment on the post, sharing the post via Twitter and sending an e-mail to the author which will help you establish a connection with the author and earn links.
- Though reporters are largely using social networking sites to share their stories, donâ€™t follow each and every tweet. Instead, search for those journalists that are relevant to share content with, and follow them.
- Use PR-focused tools to make better decisions. Seek and Shout is a latest effective tool from Cision for media relations. It can help you seek products for review, research material for upcoming news articles and find experts to interview or talk about your latest content, campaign or product.
Over-optimized Anchor Text Included in Link Schemes
Google included press releases, guest posts, advertorials or articles with over-optimized anchor text among link schemes in 2013. Following is the example given by Google for content with over-optimized anchor text where all links point to ‘www.example.com’.
Your content canâ€™t earn organic links any more if it is over optimized and stuffed with keywords. It is also best to engage in guest posting and article marketing at a moderate level.
In short, we can say that the practice of manipulating a siteâ€™s ranking with inbound links has become somewhat obsolete in 2013. The SEO community is now looking forward to making their content worthy of being linked to, attract as many social signals as possible and establish contact with PR people to improve link outreach.