Posts

You may have seen headlines proclaiming “Links are dead!” ever since the roll out of Google’s big algorithm changes, Penguin and Panda. However, it has been over two years since these changes started taking place, and there is still a heated debate surrounding just how useful links are in the hunt for high rankings. Google has remained largely mum on the issue, though their statements have largely suggested that links are only slightly less important than they were a few years ago.

Now, Matt Cutts has used one of his Webmaster Chat videos to address the question, suggesting for the first time that links may be going away (eventually).

The statement isn’t much of a shocker to the SEO community, but it is one of the first signs that links are being steadily devalued. Don’t get too excited however, you can expect links to be a significant part of SEO if Cutts is to be believed.

Matt explained that Google’s focus right now is on finding ways to parse out the content that will meet the expectations of expert users. Unfortunately, Google only has limited means of evaluating the content. This is mostly done by estimating the traffic, content style, keyword density, and engagement on a site, but links have always been used as a mark of quality. Thankfully, Google has also gotten better at judging which links are valuable.

However, as Google improves at understanding the natural language we use, it doesn’t have to rely on links as strongly. It can put more weight on the value of content and other factors expert users consider.

Cutts says it will be years before links go anywhere, but Google is slowly distancing themselves from links. It may be time to put up the headlines claiming links are dead and wait for the day when links finally don’t serve a legitimate person. We won’t reach that point for a while.

Page Rank

Source: Felipe Micaroni Lalli

Ever since the roll-out of Google’s Penguin algorithm there has been a substantial amount of confusion regarding the current state of link building within the search marketing community. Thanks to Google’s vague practices everyone has an opinion on an algorithm which few actually understand in depth. Everything we know on this side comes from what Google has told us and what we’ve seen from data and analysis in the two years since Penguin came out.

The fact of the matter is that link building in the post-Penguin climate is risky business, but it is important for your online presence. If anything, links are more potent for your visibility than ever before. The problem is the rules are stricter now. You can’t buy and sell wholesale links, and bad links can be heavily damaging to your traffic and profits.

If you acquire quality links, your site is likely excelling in numerous areas and seeing success in both web traffic and search engine visibility. However, getting the wrong types of inbound links is almost certain to result in penalties from Google. In fact, Jayson DeMers from Search Engine Land says it is often more expensive to clean up the mess from bad backlinks than it would be to just acquire good links to begin with.

So what exactly constitutes a bad link? A bad link is any which is gained through questionable methods or goes against Google’s best practices. DeMers pinpointed six of these link building tactics which are likely to cause you problems if you attempt them.

Paid Links – Buying or selling links in the post-Penguin market is the same as putting a target on your website’s metaphorical back. Your site will get seen and penalized. Google has openly stated multiple times that buying or selling links is a huge no-no, and even links from long ago can come back to haunt you.

Article Directory Links – Article directory links were once a staple of link building because they were easy to get and they worked. But, low-quality spun content and distribution software relegated to the spammy category. At this point, Google has outright penalized many article directories, and this practice won’t help your SEO anymore.

Link Exchanges – For years link exchanges were a highly popular form of link building. It almost seemed like common courtesy to practice the concept of “you link to me and I’ll link back to you”, but of course many began to abuse the system. Once it was compromised and turned into a large scale pattern of link scheming, Google shut it down.

Low-Quality Press Releases – A press release is still a popular means of announcing important company information to the public, but don’t expect them to help your SEO. Most free press release submission websites are entirely ignored by Google.

Low Quality Directory Links – There are still a small number of industry-specific directories that are great for helping certain industries gain good links and traffic, the majority of old, free directory sites have been de-indexed by Google, and the search engine has publicly denounced the practice. In general, you should be staying away from low-quality directory links.

Link Pyramids, Wheels, Etc., – Over time, many SEOs came to believe they could get around Google’s watchful eye by using methods to artificially pass page rank through multiple layers of links, obscuring the distribution patter. But, in May, Matt Cutts, Google’s head of Webspam mentioned how the new version of Pengion has been refined to further fight link spammers and more accurately measure link quality. While we don’t know for sure what practices Cutts was referencing, it is widely believed he was talking about link pyramids and wheels.

Recently, Google updated the link schemes web page that gives examples of what Google considers to be spammy backlinks. The additions are pretty notable as article marketing or guest posting campaigns with keyword rich anchor text have been included. Advertorials with paid links and links with optimized anchor text in press releases or articles were also added.

With all the new additions, it can be hard to keep up to date with what Google is labeling spammy backlinks or backlink schemes. But, Free-SEO-News’ recent newsletter simply and efficiently lays out the 11 things that Google doesn’t like to see in backlink campaigns.

  1. Paid Links – Buying or selling links that pass PageRank has been frowned upon for a long time. This includes exchanging money for links or posts that contain links, sending ‘free’ products in exchange for favors or links, or direct exchange of services for links. It is pretty simple, buying links in any way will get you in trouble.
  2. Excessive Link Exchanges – While exchanging links with relevant other websites in your industry is absolutely normal for websites, over-using those links or cross-linking to irrelevant topics is a big sign of unnatural linking. Simple common sense will keep you from getting in trouble, just don’t try to trick the system.
  3. Large-Scale Article Marketing or Guest Posting Campaigns – Similar to the last scheme, posting your articles and guest posts on other websites it perfectly normal. However, doing it in bulk or posting the same articles to numerous websites will appear to be blogspam to Google. Also, if you do guest posts just to get keyword rich backlinks, you will see similar penalties. Only publish on other websites when it makes sense and offers value.
  4. Automated Programs or Services to Create Backlinks – There are tons of ads for tools and services that promise hundreds or thousands of backlinks for a low price and very little work. While they may do what they say, Google also easily spots these tools and won’t hesitate to ban a site using them.
  5. Text Ads That Pass PageRank – If you’re running a text ad on another website, you have to make sure to use the rel=nofollow attribute, otherwise it appears to be a manipulative backlink.
  6. Advertorials That Include Links That Pass PageRank – If you pay for an article or ad, always use the rel=nofollow attribute. Simply put, if you paid for an ad or article, it won’t do you any good and can bring a lot of damage if you don’t use the attribute.
  7. Links with Optimized Anchor Text in Articles or Press Releases – Stuffing articles and press releases with optimized anchor text has been a strategy for a long time, but Google has shut it down recently. If your page has a link every four to five words, you’re probably looking at some penalties.
  8. Links From Low Quality Directories or Bookmark Sites – Submitting your site to hundreds of internet directories is an utter waste of time. Most links won’t ever get you a single visitor and won’t help your rankings. Instead, only focus on directories that realistically could get you visitors.
  9. Widely Distributed Links in the Footers of Various Websites – Another older trick that Google has put the squash on was to put tons of keyword rich links to other websites in the footer. These links are always paid links and are an obvious sign of link schemes.
  10. Links Embedded in Widgets – It isn’t uncommon for widget developers to offer free widgets that contain links to other sites. It also isn’t uncommon for these developers to reach out to site owners and offer to advertise through these widgets. However, Google hates these links and considers them a scheme. I’d suggest against it, but if you do advertise through these widgets, use the nofollow attribute.
  11. Forum Comments With Optimized Links in the Post – It is very easy to get a tool that automatically posts to forums and include links to websites. It is a pretty blatant form of spam which won’t get any actual visibility on the forums and the links are more likely to get you banned than draw a single visitor.

There’s a pretty obvious underlying trend in all of these tactics that Google fights. They all attempt to create artificial links, usually in bulk. Google can tell the quality of a link and all of these schemes are easily identifiable. Instead, focus on building legitimate quality links, and use respected tools such as SEOprofiler. It will take longer, but you’re site will do much better.

All backlinks are not created equal. Everyone knows that. But, with the number of linking opportunities out there and the number of backlinks a site is expected to have, inexperienced SEOs tend to take a quantity over quality approach that can end in penalties from Google.

Vetting your backlink sources isn’t hard, but it takes a bit of extra time for sorting through the massive number of sources at your fingertips. Think of it as choosing sources for a paper you had to write in high school or college. You’re expected to have a certain number, but your grade, or in this case your site’s ranking and reputation, can be hurt if your sources aren’t reliable sources.

But, do not fear young SEOs. If qualifying your potential backlink sources still seems vague or daunting, Sujan Patel from Search Engine Journal created a list of seven questions you can ask of your link opportunities to ensure that you’re only spending your energy on links that will help your site. Having a ton of backlinks is counter-productive if none of them have any value.

Link building is still considered a staple to SEO, despite what any bloggers may say. Yes, Google has clamped down on those using questionable quality links or outright spam to try to boost their rankings, but if you have been building a quality link profile, you likely never had problems with any of the countless Penguin updates.

For new sites, understanding where and how to begin building a link profile can be a bit confusing however. The most important tip for building up links is to start broad. While links tightly connected to keywords have a much bigger effect on rankings, they only improve your rankings in very specific searches.

Instead, you should be trying to create a broader relevance. This makes you rank higher for all keyword combinations rather than the few specific keyword combinations. Once you start seeing broader improvement, you can see what specific keyword combinations are doing the best, and which ones need your focus.

Peter van der Graaf explains how to begin your hunt for a better link profile over at Search Engine Watch, where he explains how to identify quality link partners and how to shift from a broad link profile to specific keyword focused links once the time is right.

Building a backlink profile is considered a staple of SEO techniques, but eventually you may have to do some cleaning up, especially now that Google has introduced multiple algorithms to clamp down on the use of low-quality links.

If you’ve seen a sudden drop in traffic or rankings lately, it is likely you were hit by one of these algorithms. You may have received a notification of being penalized, but unless it was a manual action, it is highly likely you got no warning that you were hit by the changes. Either way, one way towards repairing the drop in traffic is to do some pruning on your backlinks, and removing low-quality links that are pointing to your site.

Cleaning up your links is neither fast nor easy. It takes time and patience, but with effort you can restore your site’s health. You can’t just go in and cut out random links hoping to solve the issue. Attacking the problem broadly could cause more problems, and pruning backlinks is considered a last-ditch effort according to SEO.com. “You should exhaust all of your other efforts like updating your content, building higher quality links and producing good content to promote and engage users before you consider removing bad links.”

After you have tried all these methods and determined whether your website was hit by a penalty or an algorithm update, then you can create a strategy for fixing your backlinks. Neither problem can be fixed automatically. If you received a manual penalty, you will have to do everything you can to fix the issue identified, and submit a reconsideration request. Algorithm updates, on the other hand, require changing your methods and waiting to see positive growth for your site.

If you are ready to put in the work and time to try to properly repair your site, and you’ve already tried everything else, then it is time to really get your hands dirty. SEO.com has a full tutorial for cleaning up backlinks, and it walks you through every step, including suggesting tools for analyzing backlinks.

Andre Weyher worked on Google’s Search Quality/Webspam team for two years, according to his LinkedIn profile. Recently, he spoke with James Norquay, a digital/search marketer from Australia, offering insight that possibly could help search marketers and web marketers understand Google’s SEO strategies.

Since Matt McGee published his initial report on Weyher’s comments on Search Engine Land, Google has released a short statement denying Weyher worked on webspam engineering or algorithms, but Weyher stands by his statements.

According to Weyher, everyone on the search quality team covers a specific “market” and his was content quality and backlink profiles.

Speaking about the Penguin update, Weyher says, “Everyone knew that Penguin would be pointed at links, but I don’t think many people expected the impact to be as large as it turned out to be. At this stage a webmaster is out of his mind to still rely on techniques that were common practice 8 months ago.”

He emphasizes the shift to anchor text ratios, which has been a frequent piece of SEO advice following the Penguin update. His statement could confirm Google’s perspective on anchor text ratios.

If Weyher’s statements are to be believed, they could be a source of great insight into Google’s SEO strategies. However, even if you take Weyher’s words as truth, he would have been just one member of Google’s huge team, which he confirms when he says in his defense of the original interview, “No one within Google knows the entire picture apart from maybe 1 engineer, 1 level under Larry Page.”

 

 

Anyone that has built a website from scratch knows how much effort it takes to build an audience, raise your traffic and generally get your site known about. So, what happens if suddenly all that traffic disappears? All of that work can be undone in a single moment. Why does this happen? Usually it is because of mistakes you never knew you were making. Here are 7 common mistakes that could make your website fail.

  1. Pointing All of Your Backlinks Into Your Home Page – Link building is an essential part of any website’s SEO and doing it well means improving your search engine performance. The most common mistake with backlinking is directing all of your links back to your home page. Search engines think it is strange if all of your backlinks point to your homepage and will penalize your search rankings and your traffic. Instead, spread your link distribution and point backlinks to different pages within your website.
  2. Unnecessary Clutter – If you’re getting a lot of traffic, it’s natural to want to maximize your profit by monetizing your website. But be careful if you try to do this. Many add unnecessary clutter to their page while trying to monetize content, which changes your pages appearance and the way the public interacts with it. Too many advertisements and other clutter, will soon send the public elsewhere.
  3. Giving Too Much Content at Once – Content may be what the public is seeking on the Internet, but giving them too much of it in one place can be a bad thing. You want to keep your audience comfortable. Don’t make them feel overwhelmed by putting too much information in a single page. If you are going to be giving lots of content at once, split it across several pages so you will keep visitors’ interests.
  4. Amateurish Design – If you want your website to be respected, don’t put the design in unexperienced hands, even if they are your own. No matter how good your content is, if the design is off putting, you still won’t get visitors. It’s easy to find good website templates for cheap and there are always designers for hire. Don’t risk your reputation on a shoddy design.
  5. Being Disorganized – Visitors will always want their experience with your website to be as easy as possible. This seems simple, yet many still provide confusing and disorienting sites that frustrate their visitors. Those visitors won’t care about what content you are offering if they can’t find it easily.
  6. Trying to Advertise Before Your Content is Finished – Search engines will notice if you try to push for traffic before your website content is finished. Search engines favor content that is geared towards their audience and no audiences favor unfinished content. It seems amateurish, and you are focusing on the popularity and money before you have a proper product to offer. Instead, get some great content before you start trying to attract the public.
  7. Going Plain Text – It’s simple: people get bored quickly. Failing to add graphics, means your audience will get bored almost immediately. Give your visitors something to catch their eye everywhere you can. Keep them interested.

These ideas may seem like common sense, but websites continue to make these mistakes every day. Avoid them or one day you may notice your traffic has gone somewhere else.

 

For some other more information on how to keep your website running smoothly, go to Sathishkumar Varatharajan’s article at designrhub.

Google Webmaster Tools has always been a way to see some backlinks to your pages on a site you control. They’ve recently made a change to give you a “link download option” where you can download a full list of backlinks to your site and include a column for dates each link was discovered.

This way you can check and see how old your oldest links are as well as what links have surfaced recently.

To find this option, go to your site inside Webmaster Tools, click on Traffic->Links to Your Site. Then from there choose “More >>” under either “Who links the most” or under “Your most linked content”. On the following page you have three options:

  1. Download this table
  2. Download more sample links
  3. Download latest links
The new option is the third in this list. This is where you can get a full list of all the sites Google has listed that link to you, plus the date this was discovered.

You can see pictures and other details at Search Engine Roundtable.

One of the overlooked parts of SEO is coming up with good backlinks.  Now any professional search engine optimizer knows very well that you NEED backlinks to get your site up in the listings.  But how many realize that exactly which backlinks you choose to use makes a huge difference?

This is where Page Rank comes into play.  If you’re trying to rank for a little search engine like, say… Google – you need to consider their rules in the game.  Google uses Page Rank to estimate how good a page is.  Good for consumers, good for business, good for quality overall.  This is done by estimating the amount of traffic the site sees, in addition to the sites that link to this site in question.

The way SEO comes into this equation can be explained through an analogy.  Referrals.  Say you are looking for a good doctor, to help you get over a nasty infection you got after you got a little overzealous making sushi and cut yourself.  If you had no idea where good doctors where, how would you find them?  Most people would ask a friend, or a colleague.  Someone they trusted.  Now if Jim Bob the back alley narcotics dealer mentioned to you this nice doc he knew that had great prices and could slip you a little extra pain relief (wink wink nudge nudge), would you trust him?  But if Mr. Oxford, the CEO in charge of the chain of banks in town – if he recommended the doctor he used, one that costs a little extra but is very effective, friendly, and knowledgable – which of the two would you choose?

This is a little like how Google does its Page Rank and how you can excel with SEO.  If a site has a backlink from some unrelated page (say, a site about lawnmowers has a link to your dog food page), that just doesn’t make a lot of sense and doesn’t carry much weight.  But if you have a link from a well-known source (i.e. Wikipedia) for a related keyword (i.e. DOG FOOD), Google looks at that and says, “Well now.  This page has a high quality site linking to it, with a related word.  It MUST be high quality, as well.”  And then your site jumps in rank.

This is very much like a referral system.  If a great source gives good referrals, you learn to trust them.  So if your page has good referrals with related keywords, you’ll move up much more quickly in rankings.  If your page has bad referrals with random keywords, your rankings may not move much – and in some cases, they may even DECLINE.

So keep this in mind when you’re trying to get some good backlinks for your site.  Don’t just go hunting for every single backlink you can get – higher quality ones are worth far more than a huge number of low quality ones.