This is a guest contribution from Rizvan Ullah.
Many people have been affected by the chain of Google Panda updates which began to roll out in February 2011. With an influx of information readily available, it’s become more important to provide only the best results for those using Google while skimming through search results. Google has said numerous times that their mission has always been to be the best search engine providing users with solutions to everyday problems, questions, references, etc. However, people are finding clever ways to manipulate the search results affecting the quality of information presented within the search results.
Since much of the manipulation occurs by using deceptive link-building techniques, Google Panda was engineered to find ways to detect these factors and eliminate the websites using them. Just to give you a better understanding of Google’s efforts, they have been focusing on eliminating black hat techniques from February 2011-to-now where they rolled out the latest update recently.
Going forward you can rest assure that Google will continue to tweak their search algorithm to perform better providing more “high” quality results. I’ve always been a strong believer that the success of your website and/or blog has to do with providing “high” quality resources to your readers and using authentic link building techniques.
From my experience, there have been five crucial link building techniques that have stood the test of time and continue to provide high quality traffic to my blog WITHOUT being penalized by Google algorithm updates.
Let’s get started…
1. Google Ranking Criteria
I’m very surprised at the amount of people that don’t read through what’s changing within the search algorithm because you’ll learn a lot about what direction Google is heading in. If you understand Google’s changing “ranking” criteria, it’s very simple to stay on the clean side of things. First, each time there’s an update, you can find over 50 resources that will provide you with a breakdown of what’s changed. You’ll notice Google Panda 1.0 when it rolled had tweaked a few things which are still relevant today. For example:
- Eliminating low quality content websites which provide little to NO value to the reader. They compare “value” by comparing the user engagement usually pulled out of Google Analytics.
- Eliminating websites which contain “thin” content pages. Much of the problem seen was that people would often create one high quality content page hoping to use that as their ranking page. All other pages on the domain would be low, or poor quality content.
- Eliminating aggregated content websites which distribute content published on other websites or duplicated content. If you are building links from within duplicated content that can impact your rankings within the SERPs.
Since Panda 1.0, this has been the focal point on which Google is trying to improve their search results. Anyway, once you understand the direction in which the search algorithm is heading, you can start to take a proactive roll to ensure that you stay away from specific things.
Read over the Google’s Panda Trends to get a better understanding of how things are changing and what criteria you should follow when incorporating a link building strategy of your own.
2. Diversity In “Everything” Is Good
Thinking that eating salads is the only way to lose weight is the same as thinking “article directories” provide the only real authentic link building juice. However, if you sniff around and do research, you’ll uncover 5-6 awesome techniques that are legit and will provide value to your SEO efforts. The problem is, if you stick to only one method, then Google might think you’re NOT important enough. However if you find the line in between, you’ll be surprised at the value added. It’s true what they say, it’s not always about quantity but quality, and this applies to link building as well.
Over time, I’ve narrowed it down to 3-4 methods which have proven to be very effective…
One of the best ways to generate targeted traffic to your blog involves utilizing the traffic of top bloggers within the industry. As experienced bloggers get busier and are unable to create content regularly, they often rely on others to produce content for them. Guest posting opportunities is a great way to get your experienced noticed and you’re rewarded with a link back to your personal blog.
Follow these quick guest posting guidelines…
- Find “guest posting” opportunities on relevant blogs
- Make sure the content is high quality since it can lead to more guest posting opportunities.
- Link to your relevant content within the post and make sure that link is relevant to your guest post.
- Contact other bloggers directly to build a personal relationship with them. This can lead to further guest posting opportunities increasing the chances of link backs, traffic and user engagement.
After the recent Google update, people are beginning to question the power of article directories. However, for me, they are still a vital link building strategy if utilized correctly. Here’s an awesome strategy I use:
Only publish content on the best article directories. Look for high PR, DA and PA websites which ONLY publish high quality content. It’ll be a great idea to choose websites which are moderated closely and only publish you’re content once within each article directory. Google has said numerous times it’ll penalize websites which have external and/or internal links from duplicated and/or aggregated websites.
High Quality Content:
When I first starting writing content, I didn’t pay any attention to link building and instead wanted to publish the best pieces of content available on the web. I figured if I published the best content, Google will automatically rank my page higher because it was in-depth and provided the ultimate solution to my readers. You know what…I was right!
When I look through my report, I’ve noticed I’m ranking for keywords WITHOUT any link building efforts. It was amazing what happened and I contribute my rankings to two things…
First, high quality content creates user engagement because I had more social shares then any of my competitors which ranked my content higher than them. When people tend to share your content, it increases the chances that people who own blogs will link back to your content.
Next, Having written content which is 2000+ words provided more leverage allowing me to diversify my keyword portfolio. I was able to increase the keyword density and include LSI keywords (latent semantic keywords). Matt Cutts, head of Web Spam at Google has said having LSI keywords within your content will enhance the flow allowing you to add more related long tail keywords. At this point, when Google indexes my content, it picks up on keywords both “targeted” and “related” improving my chances of ranking for of them.
People have been interacting on forums long before sophisticated search engines like Google were created. User forums were the first ever information hubs which provided a Q&A interface. They are still very effective in providing solutions and if you can create a solid profile for yourself, you can benefit from the traffic. Once you’ve gained credibility, you’re given the opportunity to set up a “signature” located below your forum posts. Many of these are “do-follow” counting as a link back and can generate enormous targeted traffic.
3. Relevance is Important
After Google Panda, relevance is beginning to play an even more important role in link building. Google understands the importance of providing information which is organized and relevant to its users. The challenge is to be able to do this effectively especially with so many people using manipulative strategies that have worked in the past. Previously, it was about getting high authoritative links from high quality websites. It’s recently changed to getting high authoritative links from “relevant” high quality websites.
In the future, when building links, it’s important to pay close attention to the content on their website. It’s even more important to pay attention to the sites linking into the site you plan on building a link from. Consider link building a chain effect, meaning, finding websites not only relevant to you but a group of websites relevant to each other.
4. Anchor & Related Keywords
There have been many questions regarding “anchor” text and the correct way to use it within your content. Google has adopted a new strategy where head and/or anchor text no longer holds as much value as before. Google uses latent semantic indexing to relate phrases together so phrases like “small business web hosting” are the same as “corporate web hosting plans”. How come Google made this change?
People have been changing the way they search for information. They use long tail keywords and are becoming more specific. Google being able to relate phrases together allow them to provide more specific search results from a variety of search phrases. It increases the natural flow of the content and provides a more specific user experience.
What can you do?
It’s time to start mixing up your keyword phrases so that things look more natural in your content. For example, include both “targeted” and “related” keywords in your content to increase the diversity of the links. There are many tools that can generate variations of keywords from your “targeted” keyword. The easiest is to use Google search bar…
For example, when you type in the phrase “building a website”, Google automatically displays several related searches right below. Make a list because you can include them when creating your content.
5. Don’t Follow Competitors, It Can Hurt You!
We all love competition because it keeps you motivated and it can provide you with valuable information. You can use tools to find the “link” profile of your competitors and use it to build your own backlinks. However, things are beginning to change and carving out your own identity is the way to go. Many of your competitors have been around for years and some might have used link building techniques that might be considered “black-hat” or flagged by Google. If you use these strategies today, it can have a huge impact on your rankings often causing a decrease of 30%-40% and/or even getting you banned from the SERPs (search results).
After Google Panda 4.1, it’s important to build your own brand which includes using strategies outside the box.
Many times link building is NOT what to do compared to what to do which is why you should try different things and stick to the ones which work well. For example, guest posting on relevant blogs can produce amazing results driving “targeted” traffic to your website. Next, you can decrease the websites you use to build links from i.e…
- Focus on high authority websites with high PR
- Focus on websites with higher than normal domain and page authority
- Focus on websites which are relevant to your blog and/or website
- Only build links from the best article directories
- Only build links from the best forums
Before, the focus was on building links from as many websites no matter what their link profile, PR, reputation and relevance. Now, however, it’s time you tweak your strategy. Start to pay close attention to the websites you publish content on or build direct links from. You’d be surprised how many of them can harm your efforts just because they have a poor link profile and are known as lower quality websites.
Just remember to think outside the box and try things which your competitors are NOT doing. This can help build your brand and add value to your blog in such a way that it will increase your rankings within the long-run. Here’s a great example:
Recently, I started to experiment with PBN (private blog networks) which consist of creating smaller “high” authority websites. The twist is that you purchase websites and/or expired domains which have already built their authority but the owner forgot to renew them. What’s does this provide for me…
- A relevant domain with an established PR
- A website with an established domain and page authority
- A website which can provide awesome link power right from the start
It’s a great way to streamline the process of building a website from the beginning and one with a solid reputation. There is a strict criteria that needs to be followed when building these websites however if done correctly, they can provide awesome ranking power for years to come. I’ve been performing a PBN case study and the results have been pretty impressive. However, the point I’m trying to make is you need to try things that others aren’t. You need to tweak different strategies so that it’s both beneficial to you and does NOT raise any red flags with Google. Private Blog Networks are perfect as long as you’re adding value and NOT spamming.
Rizvan Ullah is the founder of Ranktactics, which provides internet marketers with tutorials on traffic generation, social media marketing, product reviews, and case studies. Learn how to create a profitable blog step-by-step from the ground up. Get started by reading his expert roundup post on effective link building techniques. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.