With recent Panda and Penguin updates, the emotions of online marketers ranged from mild anger to abject fear. For the most part, the only websites that Google penalized were those that practiced “black hat” tactics, but there were a handful of cases that were just plain weird. Despite all the hub bub, not much has changed. You know the drill. As long as you engage in ethical link building strategies and focus your energy on original, well- written, highly relevant content, you will fair well in popular search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo.
In the melee, several questions regarding anchor text and ethical link building have come to the surface, particularly exact match anchor text. Most of websites that experienced a loss in rankings over-used keyword rich anchor text. For those of you who do not know what that means, basically, if their website sold widgets, they linked the word “widgets” back to their home page too many times from other websites. Just picture all those times you have been scrolling through some comments and run across a commenter by the name of “Denver Real Estate”. Yeah, those guys. People like that got taken out of Google’s index recently because of stuff just like that.
If more than 70-80% of their backlink profile consisted of these types of links, chances are they got sandboxed after the new Panda / Penguin updates. Keyword rich anchor text, also referred to as contextual linking, is literally one of the oldest tricks in the books. It was only a matter of time before Google got hip to the game and cut the spammers off from their trickery. It’s what they do. They are Google.
Why Real Content Marketers Are Smiling
For the vast majority of content marketers, none of this was a big deal. Using branded anchor text (either personal name or company name) is best practice for those of us producing content. We want to link our names in our backlinks so people can find our blog content easier in search. We often link synonyms, related terms, or even parts of a sentence to illustrate a point with other sourced information. A diverse link profile is natural when you create original content. Those of us who have been building our links article by article, comment by comment, profile by profile, embraced these new algorithmic changes in Google, because it only means good things for our web properties.
Finally we get a break! All those countless hours spent formulating useful comments on other related blogs were not in vein. All those hand written business profiles and local citations will actually help the good guys out there who didn’t cut corners. Even better, those links would count even more now! Some dread these new updates, but us content marketers are smiling ear to ear.
Content Marketing IS The New Link Building
Content marketing is an ethical link building strategy in and of itself because you earn your links with quality content. Who and how you choose to link to within your content is completely up to you, unless of course you are posting that content on another persons web property / blog. Guest blog posts come with stipulations, such as the number of times you can link back to your money website, affiliate links, word count, tone, etc… but that is an entirely different animal I will have to expand on in a future post.
Aside from the backlinks you can get within your article, people will actually link back to your content if it is helpful or relevant to them. Imagine that? FREE backlinks from quality websites! Woohoo! Real content marketers have known of this paradigm for years and it’s no surprise why the savvy internet marketing professionals spend their time developing quality content, not building links.
Using Social Media for Ethical Link Building
Social media is a great way to get high PR backlinks that conform with Google’s guidelines. Your social media accounts, such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, offer valuable opportunities for ethical link building. For example, on your own site, you can create separate pages for each of your accounts, such as one for your Facebook page, one for your Youtube, one for your Twitter. Whenever other people link to your social media page from their website, you can ask that they replace the link to your social media profile to a URL of a page you created for that account on your site. For example, www.yourwebsite.com/youtube – or – www.yourwebsite.com/facebook. That way, it directs traffic and link juice to your website, not Twitter.com, Facebook.com or Youtube.com.
Another useful tip for ethical link building is to utilize Google Alerts as well well as other social search and social listening tools to notify you when someone is talking about you or your brand. Hopefully, they are saying something nice and engaging with your content in some positive way. If you can tell they really like it, you should simply ask them if they would link back to your article from their blog, home page, etc… More times than not, you will find people will happily link back to you if they value your content.
This is currently one of the easiest ways to get quality backlinks that will not get you in trouble with Google. The quality of your results hinges greatly on whether or not you are able to create good content and follow up with people at just the right times. It’s important to catch people in their need states, while they are seeking the information you are offering… which leads to my next point.
Context is King
In this environment, forging relationships with other bloggers is more important than ever if you expect to have a highly relevant link profile (i.e. fair well in search engine results pages). For instance, if you came across a blog owner who has a blog in a related or similar niche, you might ask them if they were interested in letting you do a guest blog post on their blog. In return, you could offer them a chance to post an article to your blog. Each of you can get an authoritative and contextually relevant backlink and all is good in the universe.
I cannot stress this enough, but one of the most important aspects of ethical link building is forming solid relationships with potential link partners. It is easier and more ethical to gain links through trusted partners rather than strangers who may not be familiar with your brand or even have a website that is relevant to your niche. Relationship building takes time, but by curating these partners as well as the content you link to and from, you will end up with high quality sources of consistent links. Now more than ever, the places you associate yourself with (the places you link to and the places that link to you) can directly affect your rankings, so context is very, very important now. King even.
High-quality content marketing attracts natural links, plain and simple. It’s not easy creating good content or developing link partners. If it was easy, everyone would have a hover board and live in Beverly Hills. On the bright side, by using ethical link building practices, you will never have to worry too much about upcoming algorithm updates affecting your site’s rankings. This will of course save you a mountain of grief, self doubt, frustration and paralyzing fear, which in turn will save you years on your life. That’s a sound investment of time if you ask me.