The last 12 months has perhaps been the most dramatic in history in the world of SEO. Google has rolled out a whole raft of algorithm changes, most named after cute furry animals such as ‘Penguin’ and ‘Panda’- no doubt the boffins at Google will be looking to name their next algo change ‘Kitten’ or ‘Puppy’. Don’t let the ultra cute animal monikers fool you though; these changes dramatically hit a whole raft of websites, relegating many to the lower divisions of the search engines.
There’s no doubt that Google’s algorithm is becoming more and more sophisticated. In the past, many webmasters were able to establish high rankings on the back of dubious linking strategies- these included obviously spammy or ‘black hat’ links. Many other sites established impressive rankings simply through a high volume of anchor text rich links. And whilst it is certainly true to say that many sites are still flourishing using such tactics, Google is rapidly catching up with them. Nowadays, it’s much harder to fool the ‘Big G’! And as I hope to establish in this post, you really don’t want or need to fool Google anyway!
So, what kind of link-building strategy should you employ nowadays in order to establish your site in the search engines? Based upon my own personal experience and research I would put forward two main principles that should guide everything that you do in this arena. The first principle is that there are no shortcuts. It’s essential to focus on high quality, manually built links. This means avoiding automated link building services. I’m sure you know the type I mean- those services that offer to spin and submit your article to 1200 plus article directories. This type of activity is neither natural nor a positive signal of the quality and relevance of your site. I’m afraid this means you have to roll up your sleeves and be prepared to put in the work.
The second key principle is to build a natural and diverse range of links. In other words, don’t put all your eggs in one basket. To illustrate this principle let me use another metaphor. When building a house, builders firstly create a wide and deep foundation. Without this foundation the house will have no structural integrity, and will be at risk of collapse. The same is true with link building. If your strategy is founded on only 1 or 2 types of link, and Google subsequently devalues one of these (e.g. articles submissions) then your site’s rankings are likely to ‘fall apart’. Your site is literally like a ‘house of cards’ without a solid foundation.
A far more sensible strategy is to build links of many different kinds, from blog commenting, press releases, guest blog posts right through to directory submissions and even relevant forum comments. Not only does this mean you are spreading any potential risks, you are also building a far more natural link profile.
Of course it’s not just the kind of link you should consider. It’s also very important to ensure you have diversity in your anchor text, and also ensure that you build links to not only your homepage but also deeper pages as well. When it comes to anchor text, I normally ensure that at least 50% of the links I build use brand terms, such as the site name or even full URL. Think about it- this natural diversity is what Google would expect to see from a site marketing itself in an organic and natural way.
Mark Chambers works for Espan, a specialist SEO and PPC Management company that provides a high quality service targeted at SME's.