Today, we have an excellent guest post from Paddy Moogan. Paddy has worked online for about 5 years now, the last 2 have been as an Online Campaign Manager for Pin Digital, an Agency who are based in Warwickshire. He manages and runs SEO and PPC campaigns for a number of large E-commerce clients as well as B2B websites in the UK. Paddy often talks about his experiences in SEO on his blog as well as talking about his other passion in life, travelling. Over to you, Paddy!
It’s around this time of year that we see plenty of blog posts containing predictions for the future of our ever growing industry. Amongst posts that can be common are articles claiming SEO, or specific SEO techniques, are dead or dying. These posts usually pop up around New Year, or when there is a new Google product release or some kind of tweak to their algorithm.
The most popular case of this recently was the introduction of personalised search for all of Google’s users, signed in or not. The theory goes that if Google is showing different results to everyone based on their search history, then SEO’s can no longer rely on keyword rankings to show they are doing their job. I respectfully disagree – no SEO should be using keyword rankings as a basis to show they are doing their job. To me, it is our job as SEO’s to increase the amount of traffic to a website along with improving the number of conversions and overall conversion rate.
One consistently blogged topic I see are posts claiming various link building techniques are dead. Funny thing is that every time I see a blog post saying that “old school” link building techniques are dead, I smile to myself as I’m sure some other SEOs are doing who know they still work. The reason they are said to be dead in general, is that there are more buzz-worthy things that SEO bloggers want to write about to make them look like they are on the cutting edge of SEO. The fact is that ANY link building technique can be argued as being dead, if you do them wrong then they will seem like they are dead. If you take the time and put some effort into doing them right – most still work.
The following techniques have been pretty much written off by bloggers at some point over the past few years so I wanted to review why and suggest why I think they will work – and how to make them work.
You need to bear in mind good link building practice – does not rely on any single technique to get links. You need a variation on the type of links you require and where you get them from. Personally I have a brain storm sketch on my office wall of every link building technique I can think of, I then pick out which ones are most applicable and practical for the client and dedicate time to each one accordingly.
Reciprocal linking is dead – long live reciprocal linking
Why they say reciprocal linking is dead – It’s very, very easy for the search engines to spot reciprocal linking and devalue those links accordingly, why do they devalue them? Because the implication is that the link has been given not because of merit, but because of getting something in return – the reciprocal link. Therefore the link isn’t as valuable. Some say it means nothing.
Why they are wrong – If you linked to a news item related to your industry on the BBC website, then a few months later you strike some kind of partnership with one of their departments and they linked to you from the same website, would you tell them no thanks? No? But it’s a reciprocal link and they say reciprocal links are dead! The fact is, you have both linked to each other’s pages for legitimate reasons and not with the sole intention of getting a link back. Often a reciprocal link can indicate a relationship that is perfectly acceptable. Think sister companies, overseas domains, partnerships and new products launched on separate domains.
The correct way to handle a reciprocal link
The correct way to do reciprocal linking – if you are going to exchange links with another website, take some time to take a look around their website to assess the quality of it. Don’t just take a look at the homepage and think it looks ok. Do a quick analysis of the site using some of your SEO toolbar tools to see if the site is indexed, cached recently, has unique content and doesn’t freely link out to tons of other websites as well as yours from one single page imaginatively named “links.html”. Perhaps use the mozMetric “mozTrust” and “domain mozTrust” to get an indicator of the quality of outbound citations the domain makes and therefore the overall trustworthiness of the site.
When you do link to them, don’t just put a single link with a word or two next to it. Write a brief review of the website and why you have decided to link to it. Explain why it is a useful resource for your visitors; you can include an image or a screen-shot too.
You can even write a dedicated page for the link so that you don’t end up with one single page full of external links which is very easy for the search engines to spot and recognise a reciprocal linking scheme and devalue the links accordingly.
Practical Tip – Reciprocal links can help get a new domain crawled, indexed and trusted a little more quickly, especially if you can put the reciprocal links in place to a temporary holding website before the “big” site goes live.
Directory links are dead – long live directory links
Why they say it is dead – There are a ton of bad quality directories out there which only link to websites in return for payment or a reciprocal link. Therefore these links are not given on merit either, they are given in return for something. Google doesn’t like this and even took the step of altering their webmaster guidelines to show it. So when Google sees a link from a directory to your website then that link passes little or no value.
The Correct Way to get Directory Links
Firstly you need to think about the type of links you need to get, anchor text passing links or PageRank passing links.
Submitting your website to a few select, high quality directories does have value in being able to pass PageRank, get your website crawled more and pass anchor text – although a high quality directory will insist on linking using your official website name or company name. So it’s good for getting some branded links which as we know, are very important.
You can also get anchor text value by submitting to a large number of lower quality directories who are not so fussy about you having to use your official website name in the link. Instead you can use a nice targeted keyword. Word of warning – this is a slightly risky strategy to use with a new website which hasn’t accrued trust yet from Google. So you need to assess your own website and see if you are able to fire a few lower quality links at it and not incur a penalty. Also be sure to check the directories you submit to are of a good enough quality to submit to and are not banned or penalised by Google.
Article links are dead – long live article links
Why they say it is dead – As with directories, I’ve found the search engines seem to have discounted links from some article sites over the past few years. Many website owners submit low quality, poorly written articles to directories that do not have very high standards and will accept anything. Also, Google are getting good at running analysis on what part of the page websites get their links from. Traditionally article links come from the footer of the page, so if Google sees a load of links from the same place, they can spot this and possibly devalue them.
Why they are wrong – Google still value and crawl new content, as long as it’s good quality, unique and published on a trusted medium. This seems to be a problem for a lot of SEOs. It is still possible for good quality articles to acquire incoming links which build into PageRank over time, I’ve seen this many times. Just take a look at the number of incoming links to deep pages of Ezinearticles to see examples. Another criticism of article distribution is the amount of duplicate content often generated as a result, despite this not being ideal, Google can still pass value from duplicated links from this content.
The Correct Way to get Article Links
I still believe it’s worth investing time in article marketing and have good quality content written with the view of submitting it to an article directory for a link. If we go back to a previous question of what type of links you require, article directories are ideal for getting anchor text links. So look at your resources and see how many short, quality articles you can get written and formulate a strategy to target some of your keywords over time.
Find some well known article directories which have high PR and get their other articles indexed and cached regularly. You can also do some Advanced Queries on Google to find niche directories specifically related to your industry.
Also – who ever said that article marketing has to take place on external sites that you don’t control?
Asking for a Link is Dead – Long Live Asking for a Link
Why they say it is dead – no one just gives you a link anymore; every webmaster out there is SEO-savvy and will always be protective of giving links out. They will always ignore your emails/phone calls as they don’t want to be sending traffic away from their hand-built, personal website to your nice shiny website so don’t bother asking.
Why they are wrong – because not everyone online sees things in the narrow minded ways as some SEOs do. These are the same SEOs who are sold on the belief that you should never link out to other useful, informative websites from your own website as they may lose traffic or even worse lose PageRank! Website owners do link out if you give them a good enough reason to do so and approach them in the correct way.
The Correct Way to Ask for a Link
To be honest this is an entire new blog post in its own right but I’ll try and cover a few key points here. The bottom line is that your target webmaster didn’t intend to give you a link, they may never have even heard of your website. So you are onto a loser from the start, you need to win them around on a personal level to get the link you want.
Building links is as much about building relationships and I’m seeing more and more instances of SEO’s acting more like public relations people when dealing with external webmasters. Try to approach them in a good, courteous manner and make it hard for them NOT to link to you. I find that sitting down and making a list of link targets, along with a brain storm of what will provoke them into giving us a link helps a lot. It also helps to make a list of the resources you have at your disposal to get a link.
SEO is by no means dead; it is in my opinion a growing industry that is only going to get bigger. Sure our parameters and our responsibilities are changing to reflect changes in users and the internet, but we will always be required by companies looking to use the internet as a marketing channel. A few years ago it could have been argued that it wasn’t an SEO’s job to get the conversion, simply the traffic, who would say that now?
Link Building is by no means dead. Old techniques can still work but the way you use them needs to adapt to change. New techniques and ideas are emerging all the time which require testing and experimentation. But a back to basics approach can and does work – if you do it correctly!