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Thread: A few link-building best practices, post Panda/Penguin

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    A few link-building best practices, post Panda/Penguin

    All the recent changes have everyone in the SEO world in an uproar. Within hours of the detection of a new algorithm release, we're bombarded with posts promising "7 Ways to Recover..." or "How to Penguin-Proof your Site". Sorry, but it's impossible to make any sort of decent judgement of what has happened to your site's rankings, much less how to recover its previous rankings, that quickly. Don't fall for every piece of link-bait advice offered, regardless of the source.

    Folks tend to confuse correlation with causation too often, and particularly now, with both Penguin and Panda to consider as possible issues, that can lead you to take erroneous actions that will make your situation worse, rather than better.

    The first piece of advice I would offer, is above all... take a deep breath. Think it through and analyze your situation, before doing anything. Knee-jerk reactions are NOT the order of the day!

    Second, never - I repeat, NEVER, submit a reconsideration request unless your site no longer appears in the index for a vanity search (ie: http://mysite.com). The odds are great that if your site dropped several positions, it is due to dampening of the value of inbound links, rather than a "penalty". A reconsideration request (and the attending changes you might make to your links prior to its submission) simply signal to Google what additional sites they should look at as possible link-sellers/networks. Never telegraph that information, when it's avoidable (and it usually is avoidable).

    One of the biggest issues we're finding with our clients is in their link profiles. Penguin seems to be heavily focused on examining links, in terms of sources, anchor text and of course, relevancy. There are some things you can do that should be helpful in recovering, and particularly in preventing future issues:

    Vary your anchor text. If your widget site has 20%+ of its inbound links anchored as "blue widgets" or "red widgets", that's not "natural" in the search engine's eyes. We've found that the more diversification present in anchor text, the better, in avoiding algorithmic action. An exception to this when the anchor text is "widgets.com" or simply the link, without anchor text, such as mywidgets.com. We've seen profiles of 40%+ without anchor text, that were unaffected.

    Vary your linking site types. Don't overdo the links from forums, blogs, directories or any other type of site. "Natural" linking means a wide variety. I've seen profiles that exceeded 80%+ from forum signatures on sites that got tanked. Removal of the signature links on those forums resulted in an almost immediate recovery. Spread your inbound links as much as you can, across a wide variety of site types.

    Vary your target pages. Site-wide links should be few and far between. Linking to your homepage is something that should be done very sparingly. Aside from the fact that fresher, more focused content found on inner pages can be much more relevant, the algos seem to be picking up on the heavy focusing of inbound links to upper-tier pages, as well. I say "seem to be" - that's correlation, not causation.

    One of the things that Google is suggesting is that if you suspect you've been hit and you have "questionable" links, you should remove them. Good luck with that. If they're on blog sites of people you know, maybe... if they're in forum signatures that you control, certainly... if they're on directories, possibly... otherwise, the chances of tracking folks down and getting them to take action are slim. We've been lobbying Google to enable a means for webmasters to report "ignore this link", so that it will be removed from the batch of ranking factors, but if or when that will happen is anyone's guess. Do what you can, and build new safe links to help dilute and diversify.

    This obviously isn't a definitive list... no such thing exists, especially when things are still in a state of flux. Some sites that are guilty of blatant link-buying may seem to have escaped notice, while some innocents may suffer. It's the same with every major update, and Google is aware of this. Their post-release efforts are heavily focused on finding those things and remedying them. It helps them make the new algo better. Nobody likes it, but like the occasional hailstorm or earthquake, it's just something we have to learn to live with.

    EDIT: Another point in diversifying your link profile: Don't concentrate on acquiring only links that are not nofollow. Again, this isn't "natural" in Google's sight.

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    I have a site that Penguin crapped on and the homepage has been buried. Though some of inner pages are still ranking. So, it appears that the penalty isn't site wide. At least in my case. In addition, I'm noticing that a high percentage of the search results are inner pages. It actually appears that most of the results are either brands ranking on the homepage or inner pages.

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    I've heard others say the same, bogart. A lot of SEOs are saying that Google seems to have been analyzing much more on a page by page basis, again, where last year they seemed to be taking a site-wide view. Personally, I think it's a little premature to say with any certainty. If in fact their algos were beginning to look at a site as a whole (and I agree, the indications were strong that they were), that would constitute a major shift in their algo structure. To reverse that would be a torturous undertaking.
    But as usual.... who knows?

    I'm sticking for the time being with the theory that much of the impact being felt is a result of dampening/filtering of inbound value, rather than a re-ranking because of the nature of links directed at the site. If you're hit, the impact certainly feels like a penalty, I'll grant. I'm just a little anal about calling things by their right name. Thanks for chiming in! I hope you recover your rankings soon.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Doc View Post
    I've heard others say the same, bogart. A lot of SEOs are saying that Google seems to have been analyzing much more on a page by page basis, again, where last year they seemed to be taking a site-wide view. Personally, I think it's a little premature to say with any certainty. If in fact their algos were beginning to look at a site as a whole (and I agree, the indications were strong that they were), that would constitute a major shift in their algo structure. To reverse that would be a torturous undertaking.
    But as usual.... who knows?
    If you do a search on the keyword i.e. "breast cancer symptoms" all the top results for at least two pages back are inner pages. It looks like it's going to be hard to rank a homepage on a pile of keywords. This update may spell the end for micro niche websites and a basis for authority sites and brands.

    Quote Originally Posted by Doc View Post
    I'm sticking for the time being with the theory that much of the impact being felt is a result of dampening/filtering of inbound value, rather than a re-ranking because of the nature of links directed at the site. If you're hit, the impact certainly feels like a penalty, I'll grant. I'm just a little anal about calling things by their right name. Thanks for chiming in!
    It appears to me that in some cases Penguin is applied as dampening/filtering of the inbound value of backlinks. However, in other cases it's a penalty and the target no longer ranks for the keyword. But instead another internal page shows up buried 10 pages back.

    Quote Originally Posted by Doc View Post
    I hope you recover your rankings soon.
    It will be cheaper to build new sites than trying to fix sites that Penguin has crapped on.

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    And if you get the opportunity to get your anchor text and url placed into a blog post of a blog that is 100% indexed by google, a blog where a lot of the posts are on the first page of the serps, and you can get this opportunity for free?

    Be like 99.99% of webmasters and turn it down!

    That way you will have to get more links other ways to make up for this one link you turned down.

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    Quote Originally Posted by iowadawg View Post
    And if you get the opportunity to get your anchor text and url placed into a blog post of a blog that is 100% indexed by google, a blog where a lot of the posts are on the first page of the serps, and you can get this opportunity for free?

    Be like 99.99% of webmasters and turn it down!

    That way you will have to get more links other ways to make up for this one link you turned down.
    Assuming you vary your anchor text so that your link profile appears to be comprised of naturally occurring links (rather than bought/contrived), then that sounds good, as far as it goes. However, if the blog offering the link is a ladies' wear blog, and my site is peddling blue widgets, I'd pass. Relevancy is even more important today than ever before, and indiscriminate linking from pages in unrelated niches can do a lot more harm than good.

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    True.
    But a general topic blog?
    One that is not in any niche?
    Good for any website to be in it.

    Just had interesting discussion with someone about getting such free advertising.
    His concerns made no sense.
    Like, only if my link is the only link in the blog post.
    Well, I said then you would have to pay to get your own blog post.

    See, too many webmasters hunt for negatives (or they make up their own negatives) so that they can feel good about themselves in not taking up a free link offer!

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    The problem with link penalties is that you can't control who links to you. What's to stop your competitor from using negative SEO by linking to you from low quality sites?

    Read more: Google Creates Massive Growth in the “Negative SEO” Industry

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    Quote Originally Posted by iowadawg View Post
    True.
    But a general topic blog?
    One that is not in any niche?
    Good for any website to be in it.

    Just had interesting discussion with someone about getting such free advertising.
    His concerns made no sense.
    Like, only if my link is the only link in the blog post.
    Well, I said then you would have to pay to get your own blog post.

    See, too many webmasters hunt for negatives (or they make up their own negatives) so that they can feel good about themselves in not taking up a free link offer!
    I don't necessarily agree that it's "good for any website to be in it", dawg. That would require assuming that we "know" that the algorithms can and will make the distinction that the linking blog is "general", rather than taking the much easier route of determining that it isn't in the same niche as the target site. I'm not prepared to gamble my livelihood on such an assumption.

    And the only things that make me "feel good about myself" (at least in this context) are making my client's site rank and avoiding the pitfalls of any unforeseen updates.

    ---------- Post added at 20:44 PM ---------- Previous post was at 20:42 PM ----------

    Quote Originally Posted by bogart View Post
    The problem with link penalties is that you can't control who links to you. What's to stop your competitor from using negative SEO by linking to you from low quality sites?

    Read more: Google Creates Massive Growth in the “Negative SEO” Industry
    There is absolutely nothing to prevent that, bogart. We can only hope that Google is working on a way to control/overcome that.

    As Will stated, negative SEO has been around a long time. Google just made it a hell of a lot easier.

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    Now that would be rough, to have someone put your link in say, 500 adult sites!
    Boy, that would ruin a few mommy blogs for sure.
    Just don't piss off your competitors!
    But then, if your ranking drops because of bad links, then do the same to your competition!

    Again, if you do not like to put your links in a blog post, that again is up to you.
    I force no one to advertise in my blogs.
    Even when it is free!
    For again, without even knowing the blog, you are making a negative assumption to protect yourself and your clients.

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