Link building used to be an easier element of an SEO’s job prior to Google’s Penguin updates. Similar to the first Penguin update released in April 2012, Penguin 2.0 (released May 2013) strengthened Google’s definition of link spam and what it considers manipulative link building practices.
Updates by Google make all SEO’s reevaluate their strategy. It’s a time to reflect on rankings and see where improvements can be made. But what if your website is brand new and you’re just starting a link building campaign for the first time?
Getting Started the Right Way
One of the first things you need to do is gain authority and credibility. Contacting a website about a potential link opportunity before your own site is established is a tough sell. Whether you’re running a blog about fitness or a website related to medical information, make sure it’s presentable. It should have well written content, an “about us” page, and a contact page. Design is equally important. It’s ok if your site is in the beginning stages, but other websites want to know they’re making a relationship with a quality website.
In the same way that you want to look presentable to other webmasters, you should be selective with the websites you contact as well. Penguin made it easier for Google to evaluate the quality of the sites that you have links on. Building links on sites that aren’t labeled as quality by Google standards will cost you in the long run.
In a post-Penguin world, any link building campaign should start with the following questions:
- What keywords or phrases will you target?
- What websites are relevant to yours?
- What makes a website high quality?
- How should anchor text vary?
- How does guest posting work?
- How important is PageRank?
Answers to these questions are numerous and finding what works best is part of the SEO process.
Developing a Game Plan
Creating a link building strategy is important, but keep in mind it will always be evolving. What works today might not be so effective six months from now. One technique that has proven to be effective in recent years is guest posting. This link building technique requires writing content and having it published on other websites. Your link in embedded in the content or within the author biography.
The key to guest posting is being selective with the sites that you allow to publish your content. Consider the site’s domain name, PageRank and most importantly content. Relevancy is a big deal to Google so make sure the content being published on the site is similar to your niche.
We touched on PageRank (PR) there and it’s an element of link building that can’t be overlooked. Building a link on a site with a high PR (3 and up) is ideal, but focusing on high PR sites will only limit your link building effort as time goes on. A link on a PR 1 site is still valuable and mixing it up is always recommended.
Varied anchor text is another important factor that rolled out with Penguin updates. Let’s take the phrase Orlando SEO as an example. Here we have it linked to our main SEO page with the hope of improving that page’s PR and overall strength. However if we want to keep Google happy it would be smart to have additional phrases linking to the same page. Examples would be “SEO in Orlando” or “SEO company.” Google believes too many links with the same anchor text is unnatural.
Google’s algorithm for evaluating websites is always evolving. Some SEO’s take risks and use outdated practices that are frowned upon by Google, but the quest for short-term gains is never recommended. Our SEO strategies are changing all the time and the only thing that is certain is that more change is ahead of us.