Much of marketing, especially SEO, has shifted from a game with very few rules to a game that Google is fairly strictly refereeing. With their old tactics eliciting penalties, many marketers are simply throwing in the towel.
In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Cyrus Shepard calls a time-out and shows us the new strategy we need to come out on top.
Rules of link building:
Beware links you control
First of all, I want to start off with some things that we want to avoid when link building. If we look at what Google has been targeting, there are usually two common factors in links that they target. They are, first of all, links that you control. When we see Google crack down on guest blogging networks, on widget links, signature profile links, they all have that one element in common: that you control the anchor text. That’s exactly what Google is looking for. I predict any new link penalties that happen in the future will also follow this pattern. It will be links where you control the anchor text.
Be cautious with links that scale
The same thing goes for links that scale. Again, we’re talking about widget links, author bio boxes. When you combine these two together, those are exactly the kind of links that you need to be extra special careful with and not scale, not do too much anchor text manipulation because they will always be subject to those penalties.
Link value = traffic quality
One thing to always keep in mind that when we’re looking at links and how we judge them, the value of the link equals the quality of the traffic that it can drive you. Meaning that this is kind of how Google judges links. It’s not necessarily the quantity of the traffic that the link can drive you, but the quality. If you run a mechanic shop and you want good leads from those links, you would want other mechanic shops or auto part stores to link to you. A link from an SEO blog probably doesn’t have a lot of value because it’s not very relevant.
Focus on distribution
One thing I would emphasize doing is shifting from actively building links to more of a focus on distribution, because the more eyeballs that are on your content, the more natural links you’re going to earn.
Don’t ask for anchor text
One rule that I’ve been following for years, I got this from Eric Ward, the very famous link builder: Never ask for anchor text. When you’re doing outreach, when you’re talking to other people, when you’re guest posting, asking for the anchor text is going to raise a lot of red flags. That’s what kills it for you, because when you start asking for anchor text, your brain starts working. You think, “Well, I need this keyword. I need this keyword.” You create patterns. You create over-optimization. No matter what the temptation is, if you don’t ask for anchor text, you’re going to get a much more natural link profile.
Don’t link externally in the footer
A couple of other rules that I see people violate all the time that Google has made painfully clear in the past few months: Don’t link externally in the footer. Just don’t. I’m not going to go into the reasons. Just don’t do that.
Avoid site-wide links
By the same token, except for navigation, avoid site-wide links. This is something that we’ve known for years. If someone links to you externally, site-wide, in the side bar, that’s ripe for Penguin-style links.
Again, these are best practices. There are always exceptions to the rules. But, generally, following these rules is going to help you out even if you have to break them sometimes.
Keep doing link building!
On the “do” side of things, one thing that I want to emphasize is do link building. Don’t give up just because Google is imposing these rules and penalizing people. We still need the people who are actively out there building links. They still have a huge opportunity to win. So don’t give up on this as a part of your practice.