Link Building

Google Adds To Their Link Schemes Page

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October 9  |  Link Building  |   Ryan Clark

I recently noticed that Google has added some more rules to their Link Schemes page, so I thought I’d alert others and break down what I see that’s new. While I’m happy to see some more clarity in what not to do link building-wise, there are still a lot of unclear tactics left off the menu.

I can tell you from experience that not a whole lot of people have read this page, and as someone who does inbound marketing, you should. Google’s updates this year have thrown a lot of people for a loop, especially when it comes to building/attracting/buying/stealing links to your website. While I think a lot of it still has to do with anchor text ratios and not so much link types (yet), why bother building junk when you can attract gold?

Ok, So What’s New?

Buying or selling links that pass PageRank. This includes exchanging money for links, or posts that contain links; exchanging goods or services for links; or sending someone a “free” product in exchange for them writing about it and including a link

I may be wrong on this one, but there seems to be some new words added to this paragraph this time around, mainly the part about sending someone a “free” product in exchange for a link. Sending a product to the biggest bloggers in your vertical so they can give an honest review is a great way to get feedback on your goods. While you may get a link in your review, you should certainly be getting social media signals, pictures and hopefully video content from the reviewer. Google shouldn’t have any say in this form of marketing as it’s completely natural to me. I’d just make sure you don’t have the reviewer give you any special anchor text other than “view website/site/brand name” etc.

Using automated programs or services to create links to your site

This was a much-needed addition, as there are SO many people using automated scripts and tools to mass create links. You know the usual suspects like Xrumer, SENuke and Scrapebox. 99% of the “SEO Services” you find on webmaster forums are usually done with some sort of software and it’s ALWAYS spam. Even SENuke.com may need to change some of the copy on their website after seeing this one.


Questionable, to say the least…

Links that are inserted into articles with little coherence, for example: most people sleep at night. you can buy cheap blankets at shops. a blanket keeps you warm at night. you can also buy a wholesale heater. It produces more warmth and you can just turn it off in summer when you are going on france vacation.

This is fairly obvious and I imagine their AI can detect this kind of stuff by now… Well, at least in a timely manner. I wish I could properly do a study to see how many “robot made” articles have been published on open article sites and web 2.0 properties. If you run a forum or UGC-based site, you more than likely deal with this crap on a daily basis. For those still utilizing something like this in their strategy, it’s going to be a wild ride if your income relies on this method. While it may boost your rankings for a while, I’d certainly not want tens of thousands of “un-cleanable” links out in the wild.

Low-quality directory or bookmark site links

This is a another obvious hit on the list, although notice the choice word of “low-quality”; this still leaves a lot of room for interpretation. I know a lot of folks don’t like the idea of Google determining what is not of the utmost quality, but it’s their search engine so some sort of line has to be drawn.

We on occasion will recommend some directories for clients, it all just depends on the situation. There are a lot of city/location-based directories that are useful for the traffic, never mind the link. Let’s say, for example, that I’m a local car dealership – there are going to be options for links that are vertical-specific, and which also provide more value than just a link. A perfect example being Dealerrater.com, which provides real user reviews for each specific dealer.

As for social bookmarking, just stick to the most active sites by creating worthy content. There are tons and tons of bookmark sites made with Plugg or Scuttle, and that’s what you have to steer clear of. What’s the point of trying to keep thousands of ultra low quality pages indexed for a lousy link? Putting your time and effort into, say, good content and Reddit, would pay off to a much greater degree.

Redbull is a corporation that does a bang up job creating content, and they have a hot link on Reddit daily, most often multiple times! The end goal is to draw more “fans” into their brand and this is when you start experiencing the life beyond Google’s organic search traffic.

Links embedded in widgets that are distributed across various sites, for example:
Visitors to this page: 1,472
car insurance

I like to usually follow three rules when someone wants to utilize widgets as part of their link strategy. The first being that you should create something unique and useful, and not another loan calculator or phony badge. Second, you should most likely slap a nofollow tag on that link. Lastly, do not use a “money anchor text” for your link, just stick to a site/brand name link.

Widely distributed links in the footers of various sites

I’ve heard a lot of people come into trouble with themes for the likes of WordPress and Joomla. The problem here being a money anchor text as the link in the footer, and this is a clear manipulation of Google’s algorithm. If you’re a theme developer then I don’t see any problems coming from a tactic like this, just stick to nofollow and the site/brand link again. There’s nothing wrong with providing something awesome for free and getting something in return. If you’re not a web designer, I’d steer clear of developing a theme just for the footer links… There are better things you can do with your time and money.

Forum comments with optimized links in the post or signature, for example:
Thanks, that’s great info!
– Paul
paul’s pizza san diego pizza best pizza san diego

The easiest targets out there are forums and blogs, because the platforms are almost all the same, and they’re easily exploited via AI. Forums are great for marketing, but the last thing to worry about is a link! There are better ways of getting legit forum ROI by being a part of the community openly. Any large forums in your niche also have advertising options, so don’t waste your time trying to blast links on forums. This makes your business look bad, and it creates a giant mess you’ll eventually have to clean up… Assuming Google does come out with that link ignore feature.

Creating Amazing Content is Truly Worth It in the Long Run

I’m perhaps sounding like a Google fan boy right now, but if you want to play ball and get that free traffic, you might as well play by most of the rules.

The best way to get other sites to create relevant links to yours is to create unique, relevant content that can quickly gain popularity in the Internet community.

It is not only the number of links you have pointing to your site that matters, but also the quality and relevance of those links.

It all comes down to you wanting to continue that traffic flow, which hopefully is converting into sales. I think the worst part is that if you do get to the top 10 by spamming, you’ll have 9 other people analyzing your links and looking for a reason to report you. So, continue focusing on doing the things that make you stand out from all the rest; this is where you’ll find success in the long run.

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Stop Building Links And Start Attracting Them

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October 5  |  Link Building  |   Ryan Clark

Since the year is getting close to being done, I thought another large link building post is in order – although we could have called it “Attracting Links in 2013″ just as easily. To be honest, there isn’t a whole lot of new information out there so I’ll do my best to recap on everything that’s been working great for our clients. It has been the craziest year for inbound marketing companies, mainly due to all the hype surrounding Google’s Panda and Penguin updates. While I still see link spammers ranking even faster and higher post-Penguin, there is a clear and strong signal coming from the link profiles of brands that haven’t felt a pinch of the flightless bird.

For us here at Linkbuildr, not much has changed in regards to our strategies as our mentality has always been “Think Beyond The Link”. While our name suggests we just build links, that could not be further from the truth. We tend to focus on content marketing that attracts not only links but social followers as well, thus helping to establish our clients as leaders in their vertical.

I will go into what we see – and mainly what I think – but as with any advice from “SEO Gurus”, do your own research and check everything. I’m not always going to be 100% correct or even 80% correct, for that matter… I don’t know all of the secrets of Google’s algorithm (no marketers do), so all I can do is take note of what’s worked for us and focus on doing things that get great results for our clients.


Skip My Ranting And Jump To Part 2: What We’re Doing To Attract Links

What Link Analysis Has Taught Me

Those illuminated in the ways of ranking well know that large numbers of anchor text links have been the major reason a site will rank for said keyword. Not everyone will agree with me on this, but I don’t really care nor am I in the business of NOT ranking clients’ websites. You can go to any car insurance, payday loan or Viagra SERP result and see 2-page websites ranking in the top 10 that have gotten there in a matter of weeks. I literally just went to the first 10 Google SERPs for “payday loans” and ranking high in the results was spam… Actually half of the listings are there because of link spam. Remember how I also mentioned link spammers are ranking faster than ever? Check this:


Pardon my language but this is a complete f$#%ing joke. Penguin does absolutely nothing against this for at least a few months, and mission critical results needed by people are not being met. Matt Cutts and the search quality team obviously know about this and I imagine Penguin or another update will factor in new elements to put a stop to this. Perhaps my F-Bomb was a little harsh, as I imagine making the tweak to the algorithm so that it doesn’t bowl over a million other legitimate websites in the process is probably quite tricky, but still: this problem needs to be addressed by Google.

Stop Caring About Anchor Text Completely

Stop now… Seriously! Since our first week helping clients, we’ve always stuck to not caring at all about what anchor text they got. Our main focus is on creating amazing content that attracts links naturally. It’s not a cheap strategy and usually we like to think that “slow and steady wins the race” when it comes to building a brand. Obviously, a viral marketing campaign is going to flood in natural links from all types of places, and while that’s all fine and dandy, it’s not going to make you rank for everything after one go. That’s the type of content you need to be doing every month for as long as your business is running with its feet on the ground.

From my thousands of hours pouring over backlink data I’ve noticed one very important aspect to ranking really well and staying that way for years: anchor text ratios. Sites that are doing what Wil Reynolds from SEER has coined “real company shit” are not getting caught up in Penguin or any other link issue. This is what their link profile looks like, and if you go to any of the top 10 search results for any big keyword, you will notice this too. This is what a proper anchor text scenario should look like:

Not All Hand Built Links Are Bad

I’m quite active on all the SEO forums, LinkedIn, Reddit.com/r/SEO and other places and I see a lot of fear in regards to building links without earning them. 99% of the time these folks have been doing nothing but spam anyways, but definitely don’t think that just because you built a link yourself that you’ll get penalized for it.

Going back to anchor text abuse yet again, you’ll want to avoid picking any anchor text besides your brand/site name or something that makes sense… Don’t be spammy. This means you’re not influencing your own ranking for a targeted keyword. You may not get the best result (sorry to say), so working on everything other than a spam blast of anchor text links will be needed to earn it. While I may be just giving link spammers the idea to blast blog comments, forum profiles and junk directories with brand anchor text, it won’t work for long. I mentioned that Google knows their faults and as we’ve seen in a Google patent, that junk link detection is coming and it’s going to be nasty.

Depending on what type of company you are, what kind of products you have, and the type of content you’re producing, you need to figure out which unique link opportunities will most require your attention. I think the major difference between you going out and building low quality links and – say – listing your public company on Yahoo Finance is the reason why. Junk links blasted out in the thousands from private blog networks, blog comments and forum spam not only waste people’s time, but its soul purpose is to inflate your own rankings.

A tech startup should be listed in Crunchbase.com, a skateboarding company should be in a skateboarding directory, your iPhone app should be listed in app sites… See what I’m getting at? Now that I’ve explained that, let’s take a look at real examples so we all get a better idea of a proper and naughty hand (or robot) placed link.

Ze Robots Attack!

Automated link spam is a huge problem and mostly resides in two scenarios in the wild. Firstly, affiliate marketers trying to earn gobs of cash are always throwing down with the likes of Scrapebox, Xrumer or any service you’d find in a SEO/Webmaster forum. The second scenario, and the one that bugs me the most, are SEO companies who utilize these tools and other junk like paid blog posts on clients who have no idea what they’ve just paid for. That’s partly the fault of the company not doing its research beforehand, as well as Google displaying bad marketing at the top of the SERPS. If you do a quick search for “white hat link building” right now, all the ads are selling low quality services that will get you in trouble eventually.

** A note to the Google webspam team as of 09/21/2012 that if we get an unnatural links penalty for this I’m going to be pissed :)

I don’t want to out anyone so I won’t, but use our other site Luxury Branded as an example of Scrapebox and Xrumer at work. Why that site? Well, we first started it off running BuddyPress and soon learned that automated spam bots were too much to handle and we had to kill it and go back to standard WordPress. I started noticing huge jumps in our backlink profile when we had been doing nothing but content marketing. The worst part is that one of the spammers was trying to rank for “preeteen underwear model porn” that’s WAY ILLEGAL and so disgusting that I had to send our logs to the FBI cybercrime division.

Xrumer At Work

So the spammer’s member profile page had a bunch of spam links and dupe content dropped on our site, and from there they spammed that page all over the place. After that happened, we then noticed Scrapebox going to work and it was dropping comments all over the place to the member page and all the other spam hubs this person had set up. It was just the start of the spammer’s efforts, so they weren’t quite ranking just yet.

I tracked the spammer back to their “money site” and saw a shining example of link spam, although it was very diverse in regards to the types of links and anchor text being employed. I think it’s pretty safe to say they’re most likely a member of Blackhat World or Warrior Forum, as the link profile looked like a service you see offered all the time in those forums. Here’s some ad copy from one of those services:

Spammy Links

 
A Natural Link



 
I’ll continue on with a tech startup as an example, and since I’m not outing anything but a normal good link that will send referral traffic and some link juice, I’ll give the example company a natural link. I cannot think of a better place to get all the benefits of a mention for a tech startup than Mashable’s Startup section. On the front page today is Soldsie which launched on Wednesday (read our post on launch bait) and they got some huge coverage.

This kind of link has lead to them being re-blogged a ton, as well as receiving a plethora of social buzz which has shot their Twitter follower number into the thousands. It’s too early to grab a link graph even from Ahrefs, but we can take a look at who’s covered their launch via an easy and quick Google search. Either way, they’re off to a great start and business should be booming for them in the coming month, so kudos and good luck to the team @Soldsie.

Down the road I imagine they’ll be listed with a Wikipedia page, an Aboutus.org page, in Tech Crunch an all over naturally… Some of which they might have to build themselves. So long as they don’t try and influence their anchor text keywords, they’ll do just fine. You can refer to some of our older posts which cover tons of link building ideas that you have to do by hand, but you need to be a legit business to benefit from it. I recommend you read:


Read Part 2: What We’re Doing To Attract Links

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Launch Bait: Getting Links Right From The Start

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September 13  |  Link Building  |   Ryan Clark

One of the most important events for any business is of course its launch, and as we all know, it can either go really well or be a total flop. I love looking at new startups do their thing in the first few stages of existence and you can really learn a lot by looking at their link profile. The amount of links that are possible to nab in this time period will really help establish your new brand’s trust a lot quicker.

While I’m not going to be presenting too many new ideas in this post, I would just like to get you in the mind frame of where to start and where to go. We help a lot of new companies break out on to the scene, so we have a good idea of what works well and what doesn’t. We’ll also take a look at a couple of recent start ups and see not only how they did link wise, but also – most importantly - what they did.

If you can build a strong link base during the first 2 month window of your company/product launch, then you’ll have a way better chance at long term ranking success. Too many folks are concerned with getting x amount of anchor text links to rank well for a few key money terms, but for now just focus on getting as many natural links as possible and then worry about tweaking later(which is not really needed in this day and age anyways). So, what I’m trying to say is: don’t even really think about links for ranking now, but more so links for clicks and exposure.

Our Link Plan Of Attack

Perhaps the most important factor here is the ability to get links from coveted industry resources that might otherwise be too difficult to get on. If you’re going to launch a business, you might as well come out the gate shooting, so these tactics are where we usually start and we hit them hard within the first month. Sleep should not be a priority, so remember: you can sleep plenty when you’re dead…

Keep in mind that you’re also wanting traffic and brand exposure more so than a link for ranking benefits. Think of that latter as the gravy on top and you’ll be way better off. We recently had a client’s launch get mentioned on TechCrunch and Mashable, and those little text links alone sent over 80,000 visitors within a week from both. Not only that, but that lead to many other tech/startup blogs writing about our client and thus the links came flowing in.

Press Releases:

Press releases are the first go to place for us, and I imagine that’s what comes to mind for most businesses that want to reach out to the public. Press releases are great because they not only drive a lot of links from valuable sources, they can lead to related industry sites picking up that news as well… Or at the very least syndicating it. There are literally thousands of reporters out there looking for the next scoop, so do all you can to get your business or product in front of their eyes. I’m shocked at how little companies take advantage of these plentiful resources at their disposal. Make sure to check out our old post on advanced link building tactics to really get direct access to a lot of reporters.

What we like to do is have a different press release written for each of the major wire services for maximum exposure. Since press releases are going to get distributed the same across each network, you want to minimize the link juice loss by having a unique one for each place. If you have a good amount of coin in your launch budget, then make sure to take advantage of these wire services:

- Prweb.com
- PRnewswire.com
- 24-7Pressrelease.com
- Marketwire.com
- PRlog.org
- eReleases.com
- I-Newswire.com
- RapidPressRelease.com
- Send2Press.com
- MyPRGenie.com
- Mashable.com/submit

Social Outreach

This online social world has made the business life both easier and more difficult. While it’s easy to reach out and connect with amazing people and companies in your vertical, it’s sometimes hard to shout over everyone else. If you’re truly offering something amazing, unique, or just plain interesting, then your chances for a social screaming match are looking good. The tactics below are nothing new, nor are they easy to accomplish, so you’ll have to roll up your sleeves to get results; just remember that we’re trying to attract links, not to go out and slap a bunch of low quality junk together.

Industry Portals

Every industry has its fair share of portals, news sites and forums, and you’re absolutely going to want a link from them one way or another. Getting listed may be as simple as buying a press release distribution through their site. You may be even luckier and find out that sources like PRweb are already including your target portal site via a pre-existing partnership. You’re going to need to do some digging around and figure out just how to get your news on there, get interviewed, or at the very least talk them into sending out a tweet for ya!

Target Blogs In Your Vertical

These days, blogs are the gateway to mass exposure and I would be lying if I said not to even try and buy some exposure. There are stealthy ways of going about this, but it is also risky. To me, it’s no different than buying a press release because you’re not buying for the link. Your company will need/want that exposure, and Google can kiss my ass because if our client wants to get it any way they can, we will do that for them. When it comes down to it, there’s no way they’re going to tell if you’re getting interviewed, getting an infrographic published or providing them with a guest post. The fact is, even though a blog might accept a guest post, we often find they still want payment.

Take Care Of The Usual Suspects

There is a lot of easy and “non-threatening” links you can build for yourself that won’t get you caught up in the Penguin penalty box. For most of my readers, you’ll know what to do, but if not I’d start with:

- Getting the usual links like twitter/facebook/youtube/foursquare/yelp
- Reading this, this and this.
- Listing your company in Twitter directories
- Buying tweets
- Buying into the usual authoritative directories like crunchbase/botw/yahoo dir/manta/company.com
- Profile Building on tech sites/startup sites/venture sites

3 Real World Examples

I’ve picked a few startups and/or new businesses that have launched anywhere from 6 months ago to just within the past 30 days. This will give you a good idea of what can happen if you do things right. As I started earlier, there is no better time to get editorial news links than during the initial launch of the company. While you can do stunts and come up with press release bait later, it always seems so much easier to get something written about you when you’re fresh on the block.

Tacocopter.com

I should mention firstly that Tacocopter turned out to be a hoax, but that doesn’t mean I still don’t crave it, nor does not work for me to get my message across. I don’t doubt that services somewhat like this will eventually be legal and doable, but for now let’s take a look at how a unique business idea got the attention of the Blogosphere. Keep in mind that if you can get one post on what I like to call a “key launch target”, you’re going to see a domino effect.

The Internet is going wild for Tacocopter, perhaps the next great startup out of Silicon Valley, which boasts a business plan that combines four of the most prominent touchstones of modern America: tacos, helicopters, robots and laziness.

The news of Tacocopter.com was so exciting that it made headlines around the world and even got a spot on The Colbert Report and RT.com. I first heard about it on its Huffington Post news article and if you want to see what I mean by “key launch target,” just check out these share numbers from that one post.

From there, it spread like wildfire to all the top tech news blogs as well as big media outlets like The Guardian and Forbes. If you take a look at Tacocopter’s link profile now, you’ll see a natural link set that most businesses will envy.

Theoutnyc.com

The Out NYC is a “straight friendly” urban resort aimed at the gay and lesbian crowd, but it’s hip to all! I chose them because they launched a few months ago and it serves a niche market… I like that! Whomever was in charge of their marketing did an amazing job and reached out to all the right channels. The right PR company can really go a long way in getting the word out, and with that comes the links!

The hotel opened at the start of the year, so they’ve had a lot of time to do their launch marketing efforts and I can see how much of an impact it had. It is perfect for this post because it can be worked into the large vertical of “travel”, as well worked into the sub niches of “gay/lesbian travel” and “general gay/lesbian news”. This gives you a lot of angles to work with and the potential for links and brand buzz is great. Here’s the link graph from the first few months after their launch:


Image Credit: Ahrefs.com

As you can see, that’s a whole lot of natural link building taking place without anyone actively seeking out a link. They of course got the goods from places like Fodors.com, Trip Adviser and Travel Weekly. To break it down into the sub-niche of “gay travel”, they got hundreds of links from gay/lesbian news and blog sites…. Hell, they even got a mentioned on FOX News. You can see over 11,000 mentions about The Out NYC by viewing this SERP result.

From here, we can see that an MSNBC Travel article on them led to thousands of other travel sites picking up the news and of course providing links. Here’s a brief sample of their editorially-given links:

- http://www.wnd.com/2012/03/gay-hotel-in-nyc-opens-for-business/
- http://www.businessinsider.com/the-out-nyc-gay-hotel-photos-2012-1
- http://itineraries.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/03/01/10541161-gay-hotel-the-out-nyc-open-for-business-in-new-york-city
- http://travel.usatoday.com/hotels/post/2012/03/new-york-gets-first-gay-focused-hotel-out-nyc/649455/1
- http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2109620/THE-OUT-NYC-New-Yorks-straight-friendly-gay-hotel-open-business.html

Not a bad start!

Fancy Hands

Last but not least is an NYC based startup called Fancy Hands which aims to make personal assistants accessible for anyone. They tackled their startup marketing quite well and could have most likely drummed up enough business from their Mashable post alone, but they got a much larger reach in the end. The main reason I picked them as the third in my list is because of how they got a lot of links and startup buzz simply because they’re an NYC based company. For example:

- http://nytm.org/made-in-nyc
- http://thenextweb.com/microsoft-ie9/2012/06/01/new-york-tech-scene/
- http://www.timeinc.com/pressroom/10nycstartups.php

Every business is going to have their sub-niches to work out links and buzz from, so make sure you identify what those are. Since Fancy Hands had such a unique product as well, it certainly helped them get exposure on the usual tech blogs. What I love about getting a mention on sites like Tech Crunch or Mashable is the fact that all the smaller tech blogs will pick up the story and cover it as well. I just picked a random chunk of their link profile thanks to Open Site Explorer and you can see what I mean:

All in all, they had an excellent launch for their company, and having an innovative product should help lead them down a successful path as well. Their link profile is definitely worth diving into for a better look at who and what picked up their news at launch. This can lead to discovering the actual “time path” of how their news/buzz started and how it spread throughout the blogosphere.

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Google Penguin Recovery Case Study

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September 12  |  Link Building  |   Ryan Clark

Lucky for us, we’ve never targeted anchor text or sought out links from questionable sources for our clients. Since the Google Penguin updates started we’ve had an *insane* amount of new clients seeking our help and since we only take on a dozen clients at a time, we were not able to take a lot of the extra work. We did, however, have one  brand, very well known in its vertical, pursue me quite aggressively for help until I finally caved. The majority of other sites coming to us for help were more of a headache to try and sort out, and this well known brand had one important thing going for them – they didn’t need to be building the types of links they had!

So how did this brand go from killing it in sales to literally 1-4 sales per week? Well about two years ago as the company was scaling and the owners decided to push the online marketing angle a lot more. They did what most businesses do and headed to Google to search for a reputable SEO company. They did make a choice from the various firms that were ranking well in the SERPs at the time and signed a year contract with this firm. Sadly this was their first mistake as they let this reputable company take their SEO efforts, both on and off site, into 6th gear for almost two years. While they got reports back with what was done, almost nobody in their marketing department had any idea that what they were getting was piles of spam.

Penguin hit them like a ton of bricks, and while you shouldn’t rely solely on free Google traffic for your business, we know that it’s a hard thing to get away from. As you can see from the anchor text levels above, they had a major focus on the big keyword in their vertical and not much else. In fact, they only had 3 site/brand styled links in their entire portfolio. We all know that link spam still works just fine and they were in sales heaven for a long time so they never questioned their SEO’s methods.

When I dived into their link profile I was thrilled with the fact that only about 400 links were pure garbage. A lot of the other troubled companies emailing had thousands upon thousands – not a mess easily cleaned. What I found was the usual stuff: forum profile spam, low quality blog comments on random blogs already spammed to death, crap article marketing, low quality directories and, of course, blog network posts. To say the least, this “SEO” company has ruined their business  and deserves a kicking in the bollocks!

Penguin Symptoms

This brand was knocked down to floating within the 5th-7th page region for their top 3 main keywords, which resulted in 5000 UV’s a day being reduced to just 50-80. That’s a huge drop that no one wants to experience! We ruled out Panda, as they’re an ecommerce site with all unique descriptions, tons of reviews on product pages, a lot of social votes and all around sound on-page SEO.

They were still ranking fine for the long tail, sadly this is what was trickling in the small amount of traffic. They started seeing a lot of shuffling in their SERPs on the 25th of May and by the morning of the 27th, it was clear that the weekend was a bad one. The date, combined with how their top keywords were thrown past the fifth results page, confirmed for me that this was definitely a Penguin hit. I should also mention that they received no manual penalty at all via their Google webmaster tools.

Removing the junk!

The main reason we never offered a link removal service was mainly that we don’t have any clients getting into “link trouble”. Secondly, it’s extremely time consuming. We only take on a max of a dozen clients at a time and we don’t outsource anything so our time is limited. Thankfully, there are services out there for nothing but link removal. I know a lot of my colleagues in the industry scoffed at the idea but I sure as hell won’t be emailing people to take down links! Here are a few that I’ve heard do a good job:

Deletebacklinks.com

I recommended this service first as they have partnerships with a lot of directories and you can tackle a bunch of low hanging fruit quite easily. As you can see, for our client we didn’t have a whole lot to remove but that’s 3 emails we didn’t have to send!

Linkdelete.com

This service we didn’t use but it has a really great interface in addition to a reasonable pricing structure. If we decide to help out another client in this area, I will definitely give them a try. If you’ve used their service, please let us know how it went in the comments below and I’ll add them to the post here.

Rmoov.com

This is another tool we didn’t try but I know it’s being used quite a bit lately. It’s a tool that allows your to import a .csv list of links and Rmoov will pull the contact data in for you. They also have customized email templates for harassing these webmasters! You can also email from their system and Rmoov will send reminders to them automatically – that’s pretty slick. To top it off, they’ll keep that spreadsheet up to date and provide reports on how things are going. Here’s the pricing:

RemoveEm.com

This is perhaps the most well known service of the group and it’s who we hired to handle the tedious link removal work. Remove Em has two options: You can either do the self-serve method and get to work, or there is the full service option, which we opted for. It costs anywhere from $10-20 per link removal and that depends on how many links you have to remove. I imagine it’s on the cheaper side if you have a lot of links to remove. There is also a $1000 setup fee as they’ll have to sort your links and your campaign which takes a good amount of time.

A lot of these services say once the bad links are gone your rankings will return to normal. This is, in my opinion, no where close to the truth. Once the links you had propping you up are gone, expect to not rank as well. Makes sense, no?

Path To Penguin Recovery

While there hasn’t be a Penguin 1.2 launch yet, we did start to see movement breakout beyond the fifth page for two of the most important keywords. I told our client to wait until the next run of the algo to see if we managed to shed the junk and create some real authority. The Linkbuildr approach to building links is to do as much natural attraction as possible, although not every link is going to be “editorial”. For example, if our client should be listed at Crunchbase.com, we’re going to make that happen.

Stop worrying about anchor text!

This is the one mantra we’ve employed here at Linkbuildr since we started consulting 5 years ago. Your website, and I mean every different page, should be easily read by both the search engines and your users and be clear on what exactly is going on. If it’s confusing, over optimized or junky looking then why should either bother? With that being said, if that part is spot on then you shouldn’t need mass amounts of targeted anchor text to rank for your desired keywords.

While it’s still just as easy (post Penguin) to spam the junkiest links for a couple anchors and rank within a few weeks, don’t bother. If you want your business to stick around for years to come, do it right the first time and enjoy the long term benefits.

For those that do a lot of link analysis like I do, you’ll have noticed that sites who’ve ranked for years have one thing in common link wise, a link profile that looks like this:

  1. domainname.com
  2. www.domainname.com
  3. brandname
  4. brand name
  5. http://www.domainname.com

By now you should be getting the fact that I think Penguin had mainly to do with anchor text ratios. It has been the most common factor, in my experience. It’s also a pretty simple algorithm to determine for Google and a strong indicator of manually built links. I have seen spammy sites ranking well with junk links but their anchor text levels mirrored to what you see above. I don’t think this will last, as I imagine Google is testing ways to determine what’s a junk link and what isn’t.

“Really Ryan?”

Sure, why not?! How hard would it be for Google’s algorithm to determine that your link profile consists of 300 forum user profile pages, 150 blog comments and 400 directories. Cut those numbers by 2/3′s and you still have a crazy bad link profile that’s nowhere near natural.

What it all comes down to? Set your brand/company apart from the rest by doing the things that make you stand out. This never fails and lets you have fun being creative. Take a look at your competition, make a big list of the things they’re doing and then set out to do them better. No one is going to notice or care about another identical company coming into the vertical, not really offering much else. I am, by no means, referring to just link building. Think beyond the link and offer amazing customer service, mind blowing content, digital media and highly engaging social media that shows your customers who you really are.

Stop Building Links And Start Attracting Them

This, this and this! If you’re link profile consists of the junk I’ve mentioned and no editorial/earned/natural links what-so-ever, then I’d be afraid. For the client we’re helping out in this case, they had less than 5 links that were given naturally so they wanted to know what we could offer.

Starting in June, we kicked off a content creation machine that would be taken over by their team beginning January 1st. This gave us a lot of time to create, try and test what worked for them in their niche. For this we chose to “think beyond the link” and tackled marketing efforts that would also bring in social followers and build brand awareness. To do this we put them on a steady diet of:

  • high quality blog content on a bi-weekly basis
  • one piece of link bait on their blog every 2 weeks pushed hard through their social channels
  • iPhone and Android shopping apps with tons of unique features
  • an iPad app for shopping as well as a built-in magazine with their own unique content
  • press releases from all the major services over time for whenever they launched something
  • Facebook contests/give-aways, which brought in hundreds of links and thousands of social followers
  • interviews in a couple podcasts from within their niche
  • guest blogging on high quality sites from within their vertical
  • two really stunning and useful infographics
  • crowd sourced interviews on their blog with industry leaders (got them links and social followers)
  • sniffed out broken links on authoritative and old pages and built content to offer a good, laser targeted replacement
  • got authoritative bloggers in their niche to review their products in an unbiased manor, and then give the product away to one of their followers
  • awesome video marketing
  • showcased customer pictures and videos and offered coupons for sending the media in

This is not for everyone, as you can imagine the budget for this client was tens of thousands of dollars for a 6 month time period. Not everyone has that, but for those that do and don’t market heavily in a competitive space, they are going to fall far behind. I think it’s safe to say “slow and steady wins the race” when it comes to building a natural link profile, but it takes doing the unique things to get there.

Client Results

While they haven’t had a full recovery, we’ve managed to bring them up to the 2nd and 3rd pages for all their keywords. I don’t think we’ll see a full recovery until the Penguin algo rolls out again here any week now. Traffic levels are back up quite high thanks to the constant content marketing and social media traffic – by this time next year they won’t depend heavily on “free Google” traffic for their business. This is key!

Building up a huge social follower base is also ultra important. The client has over 20,000 Facebook Page fans as well as nearly 8000 Twitter followers and about 100 new ones per day. They’re engaging customers and addressing issues such as delivery inquiries and bad experiences right out in the public eye. The best part of having that many followers? The next time they have a contest, publish some link bait or add a new product they have a huge reach.

Now let me ask our readers this; How many of you have heard, seen or experienced a “Penguin” based infraction? Lets hear about it in our comments below.

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Link Spammer Complains To Google About Spam Not Working

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August 13  |  Black Hat  |   Ryan Clark

I just caught this while helping out companies on Google’s webmaster help and thought you folks might get a laugh out of this one. There are sadly way too many “SEO’s” who have 0 clue as to what’s against Google’s TOS in regards to building links. This bloke is definitely lost at sea as you’ll quickly figure out from reading his post:

Hi,
 
I’m doing only white hat SEO for my site www.e07.net but it is caught in Penguin update and it has given low ranking, it should be on top for the keyword “forum posting service” it is on the seventh place.
 
I don’t know where I made the mistakes.
 
Thanks

Yikes… While 7th place is no penalty, his site will surely end up much worse over the next few weeks. I know most of you forum owners most likely want to punch this spammer in the face so settle down… one more will bite the dust soon. A quick look at the site’s link profile shows more ignorance as they’ve just been spamming forums with a couple of targeted anchor texts. This is exactly the kind of stuff Penguin is automatically looking out for in its hunt – not to mention ALL the links are of one type.


 
So this brings me to another point. If you’re hunting around for a service provider to attract links for you, do your homework on them. A lot of folks have no idea what to do and where to start, so knowing what’s going to cause your business trouble in the long (or short) run will make your life a whole lot easier.

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Infographic: Four Faces of Link Building

3 Comments
July 31  |  Link Building  |   Ryan Clark

Here’s another gem from my good e-friend Shelli over the pond in the UK who is always pushing creative content to drive links…something we’re all about here at Linkbuildr. I think I’m a mix of the hustler and the social person although they didn’t have lazy sob as an option :)

The Four Faces of Link Building
Infographic Design by ShellShock uk

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Link Spam In The Wild – Post Penguin

1 Comments
July 10  |  Link Building  |   Ryan Clark

Penguin has been in play for a while now and everyone is afraid to build links, well, except for the people who have dipped their toes in the post-penguin water and know what still works. It all depends whether you’re wanting your business to last in the SERPs for a while or just a short stint. The link spammers out there who target the usual big money keywords are still at it and are ranking in the top 10 faster than I’ve ever seen before. I’m not here to out anyone, nor would I, but we’ll take a look at real link graphs and keywords they’ve managed to dominate within a month…. yes in only a month!

There has not been much of an actual clean up of the SERPs in my opinion, so feel free to add a rebuttal or troll me for saying that in the comments below. In the 7 years we’ve been “building” and “attracting” links for clients, the one thing I can say is that slow and steady wins the race. The people hacking the SERPs are not doing it with any secret sauce of links, either; It’s full on junk links from junk sites and it’s quite embarrassing in my eyes for Google. I will give them some credit if the Penguin algorithm should eventually snap them out of the undeserved rankings within the next month. Within that time though, they most likely have a second and third site in the works and they’ll be right back to laughing all the way to the bank. The other spammers have noticed this as well and it’s still an all out payday for people with “turn and burn” websites.

Without specifically outing anyone, we’ll take a look at a few heavily spammed keywords just to showcase what’s still going on and what to avoid. Are posts like these productive? Maybe. Are posts like these cheap link bait for us? Maybe. Either way, I like to know what’s going on out there from all types of hats and stay informed. Keep in mind that the SERPs for each keyword are going to look a little different for everyone, but from what I’ve checked, multiple sources can confirm everyone I looked at was ranking top 5 for the term at hand. All of our backlink data was happily acquired through Ahrefs.com.

Search Term: Viagra

This first site shot up past Viagra.com for a while in my checking of the SERPS, which was pretty shocking. I won’t tell you if they’re still ranking or not but one thing is certain, they made it VERY high up for this search term quickly and easily. I’m keeping my eye on how long it last(s)(ed) and I suggest you folks do as well for the link spammers in your vertical.


Search Term: Bad Credit Loans

One of the other notorious keywords out there that’s heavy with competition and always an interesting peek into other types of link spam. The one thing I’ve noticed here is that the link volume seems to be a lot less, implying that Google is still giving a lot of weight to keywords in the domain name.


Search Term: Payday Loans

Just about every link spammer has a hard on for this keyword term as it brings in serious coin for affiliates. It’s always a hot bed of spamtivity and here, as well, I’m seeing the same time frame for quick ranking. Again, there aren’t as many links blasted as the Viagra term, but here we had another keyword domain in play so there’s that pattern again…


It’s a pretty fascinating world these “turn and burners” live in and while it’s not for me, it provides the other side with interesting details and facts. It seems the Google algorithm still has a long way to go and I don’t think we should be so quick to say “links are dead”. I’m still a big fan of doing the amazing things that make you stand out in your niche, which brings in everything you want as well as “natural” and quality links from sites that are relevant. If you’re one who does a lot of backlink research you’ll have no doubt noticed that the sites that have seen no drops and steady rankings have those great links and their anchor text levels are far from gamed.

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Bad Credit Personal Loans In Google

2 Comments
April 28  |  Black Hat  |   Ryan Clark

The other day I wrote about the hilarity still showing up for buy Cialis still in Google even after all these “quality” updates. While I can see how Google’s toned down the power of having a lot of specific anchor text links, there are clearly problems still. So right now for the search term bad credit personal loans is showing one silly result. This is a very competitive term and this type of crap shouldn’t still be showing up, right?

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