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Link Building

Good Organic Backlinks – Straight From the Mouth Of Google

By | Link Building, SEO education, seo seattle | No Comments

organic website backlinks for seo

So Google Penguin 2.0 just happened around a month ago and we don't need to worry about backlinks anymore, just social media, right?  Wrong.  Building backlinks may not be the Wild West anymore where the biggest or baddest links win, but link building is still an integral part of your Inbound Marketing strategy. 

Backlinks from anywhere on the web are effectively a vote of confidence for your website, but they are all not treated equally.  The inbound marketing parade of former SEO black hatters (now basically content spammers) advocates quality content and lots of it (so do mainstream inbound gurus) and this will then draw in natural, organic backlinks, or so they say.  But what are natural organic backlinks?

Well, I suppose the alternative is unnatural, inorganic backlinks (what the black hat guys use).  So why does it matter that we have organic link profiles for our sites and how do we get them?  Simply put, unnatural backlinks are those that were created in whatever way (with software usually, but also manually) with the intent to manipulate pagerank and thus, rankings. This is explicitly against Google’s TOS and they have unleashed the Penguin and Panda (and others) updates to combat this attempted manipulation.  So the quick summary on why you don't want unnatural links pointing at your website is that Google either has or will develop a way to detect these and consequently, devalue them at the least, and devalue (or de-index) your website at most.  In other words, it would be stupid and shortsighted to build these.

 

So what are organic backlinks and how do we build or get them?

asking for backlinks to our websiteIf you can't build backlinks really, or at least not the kind you want, then how do you get them pointing at your website?  One answer that has been around for years and is still effective and touted by the inbound marketing masses is link baiting.  Creating content on your website or sharing it online with links embedded in it allows others to share it, repost it, tweet it, or any number of other actions.  From this, you get backlinks and a lot of times, traffic. 

This strategy obviously takes time and investment.  Instead of buying or mass creating links, you are in effect, creating content for others to share.  So what are some of the link baiting tactics that can help build organic links to your site?

 

Tried and tested link baiting strategies for creating natural backlinks

Service or Product Creation

Create a product or service and release it on your website and social channels.  By making something useful that others can learn from or that helps them with what they do daily, you will be a magnet for backlinks and sharing of your service or product.

List Creation

This is a little old school, but you still see it every day because it taps into our psychology.  Create a top 5 list or 10 things you didn't know about list.  Make 6 tips for _____ list.  People love lists and will share them incessantly online and socially.

Periodic Newsletter

Writing a newsletter once a month, once a quarter, or even once a year that has valuable information in it (and links to your website) can lead to people not only reading it, but sharing it online.

Tutorials and Teaching

Much like lists, people love instructions.  They love to be told what to do and how to do it (although they think they don't). Creating a helpful tutorial on something that solves a problem that others have is a very effective way to attract organic links to your website.

Social Media & Networking

Duh. If you aren't sharing your pages and posts and other links to your online properties on your social accounts you are missing a large opportunity.  My blog post traffic doubles by sharing one link to a new post

Research & Study

Have you had to solve a problem for work or for your website that you had to learn how to solve?  Sharing this solution with others can bring attention and appreciation.  Additionally, intentionally researching a topic and sharing it for the sake of link baiting works just as well.

Controversy and Opinions

It may not be putting your best foot forward, but it works.  Why do you think we all watch TV and who do you think buys those magazines at the checkout stands?  People who love to read, hear, and share controversial or juicy topics and opinions.  Create your own and see (hopefully with good taste).

 

Link baiting as a powerful form of marketing

While link bait is just that – content meant to attract organic, natural backlinks – it is also really about marketing.  The higher quality content and link bait you create the stronger the effect both in attracting links and in attracting actual visitors and visibility.  It's not just about links; it's about your brand.  How are you seen by others and what do you produce that reflects this?  Are you being well received and shared? 

A donut shop may not have the reach (or budget) of a design firm, but they can create a piece of content that goes viral, getting them links, social exposure, and media attention, all for their brand.  The great equalizer of the internet allows for the potential of a level playing field.  To make the field level however, you need to produce unique and quality contributions that others find relevant to their situations.

 

Right from the mouth of Google himself: Matt Cutts talks about link bait

This is from a Q & A video session from 2009, but all still holds true.  Imagine that. Google knows what works.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Google Algorithm Penalty Or Negative Link Velocity?

By | Link Building, SEO education, seo seattle | No Comments

Google Penalty or Negative Link Velocity?

SEO in some ways is a moving target.  Best practices and effective strategies seem to change quite rapidly.  Not just with independent SEOs and agencies, but with industry leaders as well.  Not that Rand Fishkin was ever spamming the internet with thousands of fiverr profile links, but he does notice and then report on what no longer works and what is around the corner and in many ways, is just as much in the dark as anyone else.

With that stated, obviously people in the SEO industry should have a better understanding then business owners and novice SEOs right? Well, you would think so, but this isn't always true.  I recently read a piece in a major SEO publication about a client’s site being hit by a Penguin 2.0 penalty and what could be learned.  While the piece was thorough and well written, to me it had a glaring error:  The erroneous assumption that fluctuation or loss of rankings around a major Google update is a penalty.

This assumption is something I hear frequently, but mostly from clients and webmasters who "know SEO" and come to me asking for help recovering from a penalty.  What I find is that they moved from the top of the first page to the bottom, or from the bottom of the first page to the somewhere on the second page.  This isn't a penalty folks.  But if it happened in the vicinity of a penguin algorithm change, it could be related.  So what is it?  Most likely negative link velocity and yes, it's correctable.

 

What Does A Google Algorithm Penalty Look Like?

matt cutts giving algorithm penalty

I try to be informative and educational in my blog posts, but I always need to remind the reader (because I remind myself) that no one knows definitively how everything works with Google – including penalties.  Well, except for Google.  Because of this we can only talk about trends and patterns based on experience. 

So here are the two main penalty types we see from Google.  I'm not talking about exactly why these happen (is it Panda or Penguin), just the consequences:

 

Google Algorithmic Penalty

A negative adjustment down in the rankings for your website after Google has run an update.  Based on the change to the algorithm, your website has less favorable indicators and metrics and consequently is lowered in ranking in the search results.

Consequence:  Generally a drop of at least 3 pages (30 positions) in the search results and often times more like 10+

Google Manual Penalty

A negative adjustment down in the rankings for your website after a Google employee has reviewed your website and deemed it to be against Google's TOS.  You may get an unnatural links warning message in your webmaster tools, you may not.

Consequence: Usually a drop of at least 10 pages (100 positions) in the search results and often times your site will drop out of the top 500 results.  Additionally, a site can be de-indexed by a manual penalty.  This results in a website not showing up in Google’s index, even by directly searching for it.

 

Google algorithmic penalty graph example

The image above is taken from Google Analytics and shows the impact on traffic from an algorithmic Google penalty.  A manual penalty could look the same or worse.

 

Negative Link Velocity Impact On Rankings And SEO Health

It's a natural thing for sites to have loss of backlinks.  Whether you built them yourself or others were linking to you, sites go down, pages get deleted, it happens all the time.  The rate at which you build links is called link velocity and its theorized that Google takes into consideration both how fast you build links in general, as well as how fast you build them in relation to your competition.  In other words, there are link velocity metrics for websites, keywords, and possibly even industry verticals. 

So link building is not just about getting ahead of others in terms of quantity and quality, but also about maintaining what you have built to date.  Both of the Google updates, penguin and panda, can directly affect your site without directly penalizing it.

Penguin and panda can and do de-index websites and backlinks as well as de-value them.  This means that if you have a fairly large number of links coming from sites that all of a sudden become de-indexed or devalued after an algorithm update, you lose some of your foundation and consequently can see a drop in rankings.

 

negative link velocity example

 

 

If you go to Majestic SEO Site Explorer or any link analysis tool and check for lost backlinks after an algorithmic update, you will usually see a grouping of negative spikes.  That is, a loss.  Depending on the quality and quantity lost, this is most likely the reason you have seen a small drop in the rankings. 

The sky is not falling, just your backlink count. None of this should be confused with negative SEO and trying to bomb another website with massive link velocity and spammy links by the way.  That is a whole different topic and one I don't care to go into.  Needless to say, link velocity and its impact on your rankings is important. 

So when you were in the "A" position for Google Places and dropped to "D", you weren't hit by a penalty.  When you were in position 7 and now dropped to 10, it's not Google Penguin, it's your links – or lack thereof.

 

So What Is A Healthy Link Velocity?

There is no magic number of links that you should aim for or stop building at.  Many people talk about link "drip feeds", or the practice of gradually doling out links instead of building them all at one time.  In reality, what is natural is what makes sense.  A press release may gain you hundreds or even thousands of links in one week.  Similarly, if you build websites and put a site-wide footer link on an ecommerce site with thousands of pages, you'll have thousands of links when the site goes live.

So my answer is always build them naturally – whether this is on your own or through an SEO link building service.  You can't beat natural link building and Google isn't stupid. If you focus on quality, it won't matter if you build 10 per day or 10 per week.  Of course, 10 guest blog posts in one day isn't natural, so use common sense.

If you really want a parameter for what you should be doing, look at your competitors.  By scrutinizing the websites in the top 10 results for your targeted keywords, you can learn at what rate they acquire new backlinks.

A solid link building plan to acquire diverse, relevant, and authoritative backlinks is one key element of your online SEO plan. Understanding that you have not been hit by Penguin when you drop or fluctuate 3 – 5 places should help you to stick to that plan without deviation.

 

6 Metrics For Assessing A Website’s Link Building Worthiness

By | Link Building, SEO education, seo seattle | No Comments

Assessing The quality of a potential linking website

The current cool aid for all of us to drink as link builders and SEOs is the "link bait" flavor – and rightfully so.  Creating quality content or content that others will share and link to or embed on their own websites is a powerful and natural way to build quality backlinks.  Link development is still a viable means for attaining important backlinks as well and a targeted SEO link building campaign can achieve massive results, even in competitive niches. And while we cannot always control who links to our website, we can control which sites we develop and build links on. 

The days of quantity and power in link building are over.  Now we must look for relevancy and authority as measured by various aspects of the Google algorithm.  But how do we apply this to the sites we are looking at building links on and what are some of the most important metrics to judge a site by?

 

Relevancy

The Relation Of A Website's Niche, Page, And Text Content To Your Primary Keyword

While none of the metrics I list here have a certain order, I would tend to list relevancy towards the top.  When assessing a link building opportunity, looking at the relevancy and relation of the overall website to your website, or at least, to the page you are linking to on your website is of key importance.  Better yet, a link from a relevant website, from a relevant page on that website, wrapped in contextually relevant content.

 

Trust

How A Particular Page Or Website Is Seen By Its Peers And The Internet In General

On one hand this is a bit of a more obscure metric and on the other hand it is not.  You can look at tools for trust like MozTrust or SEO Majestic's trust flow measurement and these give you a good idea of the quality of inbound links (and therefor trust) that are coming into a particular site or page.  While trust is somewhat vague and does blend into some of the other metrics, it is increasingly becoming one of the most important factors in a websites strength of ranking.

 

Site Age

The Age Of A Domain That You Are Building A Link From

There are varying opinions on the importance of domain age when it comes to ranking. In my own experience, I have seen time and time again that older domains perform better in general.  I have also seen that backlinks from older domains seem to carry more weight at times than links from newer sites.  While not a deal breaker, the age of the domain or webpage (the older the better) is something I take into consideration when developing backlinks.

 

Social Media

Does The Website Have An Established Presence In Social Media?

This is something that relates to the next metric and gives an indication of its validity: is the website a real business? Having at least social presence, if not an active social presence, is an indication that you are dealing with an operational website.  A website that has its own purpose and activity and not just a site for links or a content black hole.  A link from a website with social presence holds more value and reflects the authenticity of that website's existence.

 

Real Business

Is The Website You Are Developing A Backlink On An Actual Business?

It's funny that we have to look at this question, but it is increasingly important.  In Google's push to rid the internet of spammy websites, it has become increasingly important to have links to and from other websites that are real businesses. Does the website have a brand, a logo, a phone number or address?  Do they show up in Dmoz or other directories?  In the same way you want to show Google that you are a legitimate business with a good reason for having and internet presence, you want backlinks from other websites like this.

 

Backlink Profile

Does The Backlink Profile Of The Page Or Website You Are Linking From Reflect Authority?

The link profile of a page you are considering developing links on is a good way to assess the worthiness of building those links.  While it used to be all about PR and OBL numbers, the quality of the inbound links coming into a particular page is of key importance.  A page with trusted inbound links – no matter the domain authority or PageRank – is almost always going to have more trust than any other page.  Looking at the site age, social presence, trust, and relevancy of the sites that are linking to the page you want to develop a link on is an excellent way to assess the inbound link profile.  I'll take trusted links all day long over inflated PR links that will adjust down in the coming Google updates.

 

Putting Your Link Development Strategy Together

If you look at the points I've mentioned as rules, you might have a hard time developing a sustainable link building program.  They are meant more as guidelines or a reference when assessing the value of a link.  Obviously business citations on directory sites aren't going to have some of the qualities I've listed, but they will have others.  Link Development is about
outreach, relationships, networking, and good old fashioned creativity.  As long as your website is operating under similar principals to this post, you will have no problem finding solid link building opportunities.

 

 

 

 

 

 

High PR Dofollow Blog Lists For Commenting – May 2013

By | Link Building, SEO education, seo seattle | No Comments

high pr do follow blog commenting list may 2013Whether you are a seasoned SEO provider or a business learning the ropes, it seems to be increasingly difficult to find ways (or at least believe in them) to positively effect your search engine rankings.  The latest Google Update, Penguin 2.0, has seemingly drawn deeper lines in the sand for what is and isn't acceptable in Google's eyes.  This has left an increasing amount of SEO consultants, agencies, and affiliate marketers adopting the party line and persuing a solid Inbound Marketing campaign – and rightfully so.  The old ways are no longer effective on their own and can easily get your site penalized or at least, negatively impacted, but does this mean that link building is dead and techniques used in the past are no longer viable at all?  The simple answer is hell no.

Effective Link Building For 2013 – What Works and What Doesn't?

Apparently Google has devalued a number of different types of links in their ranking algoritm during the last year and most recently during the May Google Penguin 2.0 update.  In fact, one of the examples of links that SEOs and Inbound Marketers where going crazy over and now possibly carry less significance, are infograpnic links. Now I am not Google and I don't know exactly which links carry value and which don't, but the point is that nothing is sacred with Google – even in the world of so called white hat link building or SEO.  Because of this, your strategy for link building should be the same as it is for content marketing and social media exposure and signals: authentic, quality contributions.

Link building isn't dead, far from it.  Since Penguin 2.0 hit, I have helped clients naturally develop all sorts of links and we have watched their rankings and traffic increase as a direct result.  There are proper foundations of onsite SEO that need to be laid in addition to a solid social presence and content strategy, but in the end, just like they always have, links are still moving the needle. 

The difference may be however, an increased need for quality content surrounding and related to the links you build.

Quality Link Building: The Content and Reality Factor

Whie tiered link building and other forms of grey and blackhat SEO may still be effective in the short term, they won't be around for long.  This doesn't mean however that the same types of links, namely blog comments or quality profile links, or social bookmarks can't be used naturally and in an effective way to pass pagerank and create positive "votes" for your site or page. 

In fact, if you look at the link profile of some top tier sites across various industries who are obviously SEO savvy, you will often see some of the top incoming links to their site (measured by Page Authority) coming from blog comment links.  Some may be dofollow and some nofollow, but links from these sites – especially followed links with high PR can literally bump up your page overnight.

What you also see with these sites with high PR and PA links pointed at them is that they aren't using spammy anchor text or obvious optimization in their comments or links.  They use their name or brand to link to their site.  In other words, they are linking naturally as themselves.  The comment they leave isn't "Great post, I agree" – it's an actual contribution to the post that was written and the thread of the comments.  In fact, some sites that allow commenting will allow dofollow links from their posts, but only after you have commented more then 2 or 3 times and been approved.

Ok, Here's The Actual List Of High Quality Do Follow Blogs You Can Comment On

So I just had to get in those previous paragraphs as a caveat before actually posting some blogs.  Some of these are well known, others are less, but this is updated as of May of this year (2013):

PR 3 Dofollow Blog List:

  1. www.technicallyeasy.net
  2. www.internetninja.com/au
  3. www.thebitbot.com
  4. www.productivewriters.com/
  5. www.barrywise.com
  6. www.geeks4share.com
  7. www.blazingminds.co.uk
  8. www.missnexus.com
  9. www.giglogo.com
  10. www.hotblogtips.com
  11. www.magnet4marketing.net
  12. www.pqinternet.com
  13. www.probloggingsuccess.com
  14. www.extramoneyblog.com
  15. www.sbabzy.com
  16. www.bloggingtipstoday.com
  17. www.josylad.com
  18. www.mywpexpert.com
  19. www.seommotips.com/
  20. www.freebloghelp.com

PR 4 Dofollow Blog List:

  1. www.everydaygyaan.com
  2. www.bloggodown.com
  3. www.gradmoneymatters.com
  4. www.kid666.com
  5. www.randomhacks.net
  6. www.benspark.com
  7. www.famousbloggers.net
  8. www.cravingtech.com
  9. www.stayonsearch.com/
  10. www.steverenner.com
  11. www.uncommonphotographers.net/
  12. www.tips4pc.com
  13. www.stephanmiller.com
  14. www.renegadewriter.com
  15. www.blogchef.net
  16. www.performinsider.com
  17. www.thebadblogger.com
  18. www.becomeablogger.com
  19. www.motivatingmom.co.uk/wp/
  20. www.howtospoter.com/

PR 5 Dofollow Blog List:

  1. www.bluehatseo.com
  2. www.searchenginepeople.com
  3. www.seobythesea.com/
  4. www.seo-hacker.com
  5. www.myrecycledbags.com
  6. www.midasoracle.com
  7. www.newcritics.com
  8. www.quickonlinetips.com
  9. www.growmap.com
  10. www.forthelose.org
  11. www.engineering.curiouscatblog.net
  12. www.comptalks.com
  13. www.earteasy.com/blog
  14. www.blog.2createawebsite.com
  15. www.blogussion.com
  16. www.thevirtuallasst.com
  17. www.lauraroeder.com
  18. www.carlgalloway.com/
  19. www.zigpress.com/
  20. www.nicktraffictricks.com

PR 6 Dofollow Blog List:

  1. www.weblogtoolscollection.com (This is the one I mentioned turns your dofollow links into nofollow after 2 or 3 comments I believe)
  2. www.w3blog.dk
  3. www.socialtimes.com

PR 7 Dofollow Blog List:

Well, actually I'm going to keep these under wraps for now.  There are some edu blogs and a couple others on the PR 7 list, but the list is short and I don't want it over-exposed.  If you are really interested, shoot me an email.

Remember, you should not be commenting for SEO, you should be commenting for yourself and for the Blog.  If you happen to hyperlink your name or brand because the site gives you the opportunity, well then this is an excellent bonus.  Stay focused on spreading quality and your links will only help.

 

 

 

 

No Follow Links From Social Media Sites Beneficial?

By | Link Building, SEO education | No Comments

NoFolDo No Follow Social Links Impact SEO?low links are common practice for a number of blogs and social sites.  The ability to add the rel=”nofollow” tag makes it so no link “juice” from the pagerank passes via that link to it’s destination page.  There are many different reasons to do this, but the point of this quick post is to go over the question of whether NoFollow links are beneficial for SEO.  And the answer is yes and no.

Because NoFollow links do not pass pagerank and according to Matt Cutts do not have an impact on rankings, the simple black and white answer no, there is no benefit to using them for SEO.  But we wouldn’t be good SEO consultants if A) we stopped and didn’t analyze other possible benefits and B) we always listen to Google.

On the point about NoFollow links and how/why they don’t help SEO, here is a piece from a LinkedIn conversation on the topic:

Just because Google shows NOFOLLOW links in WMT does not mean that they “help” your site’s rankings in any way. What is shown in WMT is simply a sample of links to your site “that Google knows about”. They intentially mix those that don’t count (like NOFOLLOW) in with your good links in the sample so that you cannot reverse engineer their algorithm and cannot simply look at WMT to see what they count or don’t count.

WMT has historically always shown NOFOLLOW links as well as links from URLs on other sites known to be penalized by Google. Neither of these types of links will help your rankings. So the meer fact that they appear in WMT is really irrelevant.

NOFOLLOW links from any site (regardless of whether they are blogs, wikipedia, or social profiles) have no direct affect on Google rankings. Their affect on SEO and rankings is only indirect…

IF (big IF in most cases) the links actually drive traffic to the site AND (big AND in most cases) those people following the link in turn decide to link to you somwhere else on the web with a FOLLOWed link THEN (and pretty much only then) you may reap SEO benefits from such links… but again, it’s indirect. The NOFOLLOW link itself does not help.”

So the point of this snippet from the thread is that there is no direct impact on rankings and SEO from NoFollow links and in a sterile world where we speak like robots and everything is black and white, I agree.  All poking aside, I wouldn’t spend my time all day every day building nofollow links or paying others to do so with the hope that those links themselves would increase my rankings.  But, Just a question, isn’t an “indirect effect” still an effect?

Here’s another angle from the discussion that has a bit of a nuanced perspective:

“I’m not sure how much value they have from a pure link standpoint, but I do believe these social signals play a role in the overall algo. Of course, no one knows for sure except the engines. I have a local real estate agent I work with, for the past several months he’s been lingering at the 4-6 positions for about a dozen top terms for his local/industry. We decided to shift focus from link building to social media for the past 3 months and he’s now ranking #1 for 6 of those 12 terms, with no other link building efforts. I have no idea if this is a direct correlation to the social media activity we began, but I do know the rankings have shot up after several months of no movement, despite an active link building/content campaign.”

Yes! Agreed.  Social signals are effecting how sites rank in many cases and even if we don’t know exactly how and what specific role they play in the algorithm, there is a positive correlation.  Here is my response from the thread agreeing with the above point and extrapolating:

Similar to Gary’s experience, I have a client who is in an extremely competitive local niche and in terms of their DA, link profile, content, onsite optimization, etc., they shouldn’t really be on the first page of the SERPS – especially in terms of their backlink profile. Now, add in the social signals we’ve been building and creating – primarily on Twitter and Facebook, and they have a solid position at 5 or 6.

Both times we’ve stopped the social signals for around 4 weeks they drop down to the bottom of page one or top of page 2 – which makes a big difference in their traffic obviously.

Yes, no one can unequivocally say what and how no follow links and social signals impact the algorithm, but experience does tell me that there is a relationship. Yes, Google has mentioned that there is no impact of Nofollow links on rankings, but A) to be quite honest, a complex algorithm that is 100% proprietary and secret summed up by Matt Cutts in short videos doesn’t make me feel certain. At the very least, as has been mentioned, there is an indirect relationship – even if it’s just that these Nofollow profile links allow people to traverse them and visit our sites – which is supposedly a metric that the algorithm does take into account – traffic.

As part of a practice for many of our clients, we’ll build out a base of social profiles that are branded and include links to their sites. At the very least it’s real estate and potentially, a path back to their site – especially if they are sharing content on them.

Most social profile links are Nofollow, BUT, here’s a tip. Some of the RSS feeds from the profiles of these social sharing sites turn Nofollow links info Dofollow links.

The bottom line for me is a natural and organic link profile which does include nofollow links. If you were in a competitive niche and you ranked well, but had no nofollow links, I wouldn’t be surprised if G cut you down at some point.”

So to sum it up without dragging it out, yes, social links – even if they are Dofollow – seem to be beneficial to SEO.  Although possibly a more accurate statement might be: Dofollow links are beneficial to Inbound Marketing.

You can read the entire discussion here from LinkedIn.

Oh and by the way, the social sharing site that turns Nofollow links into Dofollow links in their feeds of your user profile is………Diigo

Last but not least, here is Matt Cutts looking like a chubby buddhist talking about NoFollow Links.  Related and not related to this post: