As I am writing this the SEO world is grappling with Google's Pengiun 2.0 update. Penguin 1.0, which was pushed out last April, had a dramatic impact on the way site owners and SEOs went about the business of link building. Although the signs had been pointing in that direction for some time, Penguin was Google's way of telling site owners that the number of links your site has doesn't matter nearly as much as the quality of those links. And if you were playing the numbers game for too long in an attempt to trip up the algorithm you had to pay for it.
Since last April site owners have been running scared from link building, so worried about making a mistake that could hurt they're website they ended up not doing anything! Which, to be clear, isn't necessarily a better alternative. And with Penguin 2.0 on the horizon site owners are scrambling to review their link profiles before any skeletons come out to haunt them. At the end of the day, the most important question you need to ask yourself about your link profile is; Is this a good link or not?
Now "good" is a fairly subjective term (and don't expect Google to define it for you either. If they told you what was "good" the spammers would have an easy time finding a work around) but there are certain qualities a "good" link has that site owners should be on the lookout for.
First and foremost, a good link needs to be relevant to your website and your niche. It doesn't really matter if you get a link from the most trusted B2B marketing strategies website around if you're a dog groomer. Sure, it might look great to say you got a link from that particular site but what good is it really going to do your SEO in the end? The best links are links that can actually drive targeted traffic to your site and expose your brand to potential customers. And when you look for a link that can drive traffic chances are you aren't building that link for link's sake, which is a good way to ensure won't run afoul of Penguin. A dog groomer would be much better off getting links from pet-related sites and leave the B2B marketing sites for the B2B marketers!
An authoritative site doesn't always have to be the biggest site around, although a link from a top industry site or blog is always a great opportunity. Small sites can have a lot of authority, especially when the person or blogger behind the site is a well-respected and trusted figure in your industry. An authoritative site is going to be trusted by the search engines because that site has a proven track record for producing great content aimed at the searchers and not just as way to rank in the search engines. Links from authoritative sites are oftentimes much harder to get, but that tends to mean they are also much more valuable in the long run. You want your site and your brand to be connected to authoritative sites because it can help increase your own online authority and value to both your audience and the search engines.
And last but not least, a good link has to be surrounded by the right kind of context. Imagine if I had hyperlinked "dog groomer" above and linked to my local dog groomer. Yes, I used the right anchor text and the link is coming from an authoritative site but this post is not about dog groomers, it's about link building. The context of the content surrounding the link has nothing to do with the link itself. You see this happen fairly often in blog networks, where for a fee you can buy links with certain anchor text. The network owner will just scour the hundreds of blog in their network until they find the words you want and drop in a link, regardless of what that post is actually about. This could definitely get you in trouble with Penguin.
At the end of the day, the best way to tell if a link is "good" or not is to ask yourself if you would ever link to that site. If you're not willing to link out why on Earth would you want them to link in!
Nick Stamoulis is the President and Founder of Brick Marketing, one of the premier full service SEO firms in the United States. With over 12 years of experience Nick Stamoulis has worked with hundreds of companies small, large and every size in between. Through his vast and diverse SEO, search engine marketing and internet marketing experience Nick Stamoulis has successfully increased the online visibility and sales of clients in all industries.
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