It’s been nearly a year since Google rolled out its Penguin algorithm change, one which targeted a number of “spam factors,” including sketchy link building and keyword-stuffing tactics that deceived search engines in the past.
Incredibly, some businesses have failed to acknowledge Penguin. Some have been penalized. Others cease to exist in searches. I’ve talked with some business owners who continue to purchase links, or have outsourced their content marketing efforts to companies which in turn “share their content all across the web.”
A quick fix won’t repair the damage, which could mean the future of your business is at stake (online at least). Take SEOmoz founder Rand Fishkin’s advice: we need to “stop link building and start link earning.”
Identify harmful links and have them removed
If you’ve worked with an SEO in the past who may have paid for links or used other link schemes that violate Google’s guidelines, it could very well affect your ranking (quite likely, actually).
One of the first steps you should take when attempting to crawl your way back to respectability is to identify potentially harmful links on your website using Google’s Disavow tool (or Majestic SEO’s Site Explorer or Remove’em). A detailed look at your website’s link portfolio using SEOmoz’s Open Site Explorer can also provide you with a quick idea of the type of links you’ve acquired in the past.
Google cautions that its Disavow tool is an advanced feature that should only be used if you know you have “a considerable number of spammy, artificial, or low-quality links pointing to your site, and if you are confident that the links are causing issues for you.”
Google’s Webmaster Central Blog explains how to use the Disavow tool in detail.
Again, this is no quick fix. Even after you’ve removed unwanted links, it may take weeks for Google and other search engines to crawl and salvage your website. If you’re unsure what steps you should take, contact a dependable SEO company.
Time to earn links
The same shady tactics that worked in the past are not going to improve your website’s ranking today. Fishkin, and the majority of webmasters (hopefully all of them), stress the importance of acquiring links by earning them rather than buying them.
Your goal is to provide visitors with useful information. If you create great content, links and social shares will come naturally. Back in October, Fishkin discussed the link-earning equivalent of past forms of old-school link-building tactics (I’ve embedded the video below). This is how you should think of link building from now on.
Link exchanges—Cross promotion: This sort of mutual agreement, otherwise known as a link exchange, happens a lot. Today, however, successful online businesses are constantly creating excellent content for their readers, customers and fans.
No longer is it about dropping links on specific pages just for the hell of it, but more so where they’re useful. If you’re a wedding planner and a local photographer recently wrote a fantastic blog about the scenic advantages of having a wedding in the fall season, it may be a great idea to link that content to your own blog.
Email blasts—Social sharing: Instead of badgering your entire contact list with junk content, create interesting content and share it with your friends, followers and circles. If others find that content interesting, they’re more apt to share it with their friends, followers and circles.
Buying links—Earning links: If search engines didn’t exist, would you pay some silly website $50 to share your link? No. So don’t do it. Earn links instead by creating relevant and engaging blogs, videos, tutorials, infographics, Q&As, etc. that others will in turn share on their blog or website.
Hey, look! SEOmoz produced something very helpful and interesting and gee golly I wrote an entire post about it.
Leaving links on forums—Participating authentically: Stop trolling the Web and leaving links on forums or open comments. All news sites, blogs, social media networks, etc. include a space for readers and visitors to engage in discussion. Instead of merely dropping a link, take part in the discussions you’re passionate about and fellow members of those networks or websites will notice you—and perhaps link to your content in the future.
Link building of the future
It is important that you fuel your Web presence with a sufficient amount of useful and engaging content. Removing harmful links and integrating a solid content marketing strategy may take some time and hard work, but it will be worth it in the long run.