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Link Building In A Post-Penguin SEO World

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Googleโ€™s Penguin update struck months ago, but many webmasters and SEOs are still struggling to master link building in the new ecosystem. What does Google consider to be a good link?

Letโ€™s Get One Thing Straight: SEO And Links Are NOT Dead!

Many webmasters who saw their link building tactics stop working came to the conclusion that SEO and link building are dead. This happily not the case.ย SEO and link building may be a bit harder, but even the โ€œlittle guyโ€ can still build rankings in Google search results.

Itโ€™s All About Real, Natural, Quality

Google has been telling webmasters for years to focus on the user, not the search engine algorithm. Until recently, though, Googleโ€™s algorithms didnโ€™t really match what they were saying. Google said to focus on the user, but kept ranking sites that did the exact opposite. The Panda and Penguin updates were both significant changes to reward websites that use user-friendly strategies, and to penalize websites that use low-quality strategies intended primarily to gain rankings.

Do What Real Companies Do?

Google wants to reward companies who gain links because they are doing awesome stuff for the community, the user, and the web. (Not companies who gain links because they spend lots of money and time buying or building links.) As Wil Reynolds has memorably said, โ€œDo Real Company Stuffโ€ (although on occasion he uses a 4 letter word in place of stuffโ€ฆ). In other words, use tactics that build publicity, happy users, and a good brand, not just links.

What Is Real Company Stuff?

  • Build a brand
  • Engage with customers (build relationships, sponsor contests, etc.)
  • Publish awesome content
  • Deliver a great product service (your customers may promote you themselves!)
  • Share expertise and data
  • Engage with journalists and press
  • Create/sponsor local or industry events

What Is Natural?

One of the metrics used in Penguin (and other recent algorithm changes) is anchor text optimization/density. In general, if a website has a high percentage of backlinks that use keywords as anchor text, the website is using low quality link strategies. Why? Two reasons:

  • Webmasters naturally tend to link using the brand name, website url, or navigational texts (click here, etc.) far more often than they useย keywordย anchor texts.
  • The best links are generally links that are naturally given from other webmasters, where you arenโ€™t the one initiating or controlling the link.

For more on what a natural anchor text distribution looks like, seeย Anchor Text Optimization Case Study: Whatโ€™s Natural?

What Strategies Should I Use?

If you ask yourself the following question, youโ€™ll be well on your way towards understanding which types of link building strategies you should be performing.

Does this strategy focus more on providing benefit to the user, or more on getting a link?

Focused on benefit to the user:

  • Creating/sponsoring local and industry events*
  • Participating and sharing your expertise on a few related blogs and forums
  • Publishing great content on established blogs in your industry
  • Creating amazing content and promoting it (via social, PPC, email newsletter, etc.)
  • Submitting to niche directories with tight editorial control that people actually use
  • Doing something really cool that journalists and bloggers will cover

Focused on getting a link:

  • Buying links with keyword anchor text on related or unrelated sites
  • Lotโ€™s of blog comments or forum links with keyword anchor texts
  • Submitting mediocre articles to sites few people actually read
  • Creating mini-sites and networks to link to your site
  • Submitting to directories that are mainly there just to give/sell links
  • Submitting a boring press release to 100โ€ฒs of press release sites

* Use caution, as this could technically still be a paid link.

In some cases, a strategy can be good or bad depending on how you use it. For example, blog commenting. If youโ€™re using it to interact regularly on a few relevant blogs to build relationships with bloggers and get traffic, it can be a good strategy. If youโ€™re focusing on dropping keyword anchor text links across dozens of blogs, it may not be such a good idea.

United States (US): New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Phoenix, Philadelphia, San Antonio, San Diego, Dallas, San Jose, Austin, Jacksonville, San Francisco, Columbus, Fort Worth, Indianapolis, Charlotte, Seattle, Denver, Washington, Boston, El Paso, Detroit, Nashville-Davidson, Memphis, Portland, Oklahoma City, Las Vegas, Louisville
United Kingdom (UK): London, Birmingham, Leeds, Glasgow, Sheffield, Bradford, Liverpool, Edinburgh, Manchester, Bristol, Kirklees, Fife, Wirral, North Lanarkshire, Wakefield, Cardiff, Dudley, Wigan, East Riding, South Lanarkshire, Coventry, Belfast, Leicester, Sunderland, Sandwell, Doncaster, Stockport, Sefton, Nottingham
Canada: Toronto, Montreal, Calgary, Ottawa, Edmonton, Mississauga, North York, Winnipeg, Vancouver, Scarborough, Quรฉbec, Hamilton, Brampton, Surrey, Laval, Halifax, Etobicoke, London, Okanagan, Victoria, Windsor, Markham, Oshawa, Gatineau, Vaughan, Kitchener, Longueuil, Burnaby, Ladner, Saskatoon
Australia: Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide, Gold Coast, Canberra, Newcastle, Wollongong, Logan City, Geelong, Hobart, Townsville, Cairns, Toowoomba, Darwin, Rockingham, Launceston, Bendigo, Ballarat, Mandurah, Mackay, Bundaberg, Bunbury, Maitland, Armadale, Rockhampton, Adelaide Hills, South Brisbane, Hervey Bay

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