Hey, Robot! How many links have you built today!!?
150 directories and 10 article submissions, sir!
Pity Robot! You are very slow! You need to aim higher!
Order recorded… More Speed – More Links!!!!
Years back, this was the conversation between link builders and their clients or managers.
Assuming that I started link building back in 2005, building links was all about brute force. Any robot could have been hired for the job. However, robots are robots and they didn’t last long.
Although we managed to baffle them for a while, Google soon figured out how to deal with these robots. First, they sent the Pandas in February 2011.
It was a war. Ranking drops were seen all over the world, but we didn’t give up!
To fool Panda, we started getting more duplicate and spun content on our sites to induce authority. When Google found out, they sent the Penguins. It was a slaughter. The robots could no longer survive. Many either perished or submitted to Google.
There were rumors spreading about the death of SEO. However, SEO wasn’t dying, it was evolving into something better – something more refined. And this evolution changed me, from a Robot to a Strategist.
Whether robots still exist and whether their strategies work, continue to be a mystery, but link building continues to play a crucial role in ranking your business. Link building these days is more of a trial and error method because different strategies need to be interwoven to get websites ranked.
Each business is different and so is their targeted audience. The working of the search engine algorithms continues to be a mystery and strategizing your efforts will require patience, a creative mindset, and a sharp eye.
Over the years, a golden rule has evolved that has come to define what is spammy and what’s allowable for the search engines- ‘Does it provide value for the end user?’
5 Major Moves by Google against Manipulative Links
#1 Link Schemes Ambush
Google doesn’t entertain paid links! Low-quality links earned by article distribution or guest posting, web 2.0 blogs, low-quality press releases, directories, and other link exchange schemes turned out to be the major targets here.
Many popular websites got hit down by Google due to these link schemes. During 2007, the famous Washington post got penalized for selling links.
What more to say, Google has even penalized itself for buying links! In 2009, Google penalized ‘Google Japan’ for buying links for promoting a Google widget.
The Nofollow attribute was introduced for the 1st time in 2005. This was to discourage link abuse.
Back in the days before Penguin, a blog comment was all that was needed to get a link from a blog.
The nofollow attribute was defined to curb spam and gave webmasters a way to discourage spammers. Google was making its intention clearer- Thou shalt not get free juice here! 😛
#3 Content Metamorphosis
I call this an era of Content Metamorphosis (a transformation period). Content has been king since content spinning and plagiarization took their last breath in 2011. Readable, shareable content is what’s needed, and earning natural links through natural linking is the way forward.
Readable, shareable content is what’s needed, and earning natural links through natural linking is the way forward.
# 4 Google Webmaster Penalty Notifications
Introducing penalty notifications in the search console was another major step taken by Google. Earlier, Google used to send email notifications to webmasters when affected with a penalty. A new section called Manual actions was added under the “Search Traffic” tab in mid-2013.
The reason for the manual spam action of the site will also be shown eg: thin content, keyword stuffing, unnatural outbound or inbound linking etc. In the case of, say, a partial match duplicate content penalty, Google will show the affected URLs as well. This helps the site owners to clearly identify where and how they might be going against Google’s guidelines.
Often site owners have to file the disavow multiple times to get rid of penalties. Google always encouraged manual link removal rather than uploading a disavow file with a large number of links. The negative side of this is that while contacting site owners for link removal, some of them don’t respond to the request and some others ask for money. Link cleanup is currently something that’s done by default by most agencies before they start link acquisition.
#5 Exact Match Anchor Text Cleanup
Exact match anchor text links were seen as a way to boost rankings for specific keywords in the Pre-Penguin era. Since Penguin, a diversified backlink profile is what’s safe. Also, since the Google Hummingbird update, the focus should be not on ranking for specific keywords, but on specific sub niches and broad keywords.
Also, since the Google Hummingbird update, the focus should be not on ranking for specific keywords, but on specific sub niches and broad keywords.
The Only Golden Rule to Quality Link Building!
Now, those were the ways to identify ways that no longer worked. Finding what works currently is the next step.
Let’s introspect the links we have built and ask this simple question.
“Is it beneficial for the user or the website to which it is directed to?”
If the second part weighs more than the first, then yes, it won’t be valued or will soon lose value.
Google has been constantly updating its algorithms and sending its web spam soldiers for clean up. Now, link building is no longer a task that could be swiped over to a robot. It’s been 4 years since Panda, and 3 years since Penguin. My typical meetings these days consist of assessment of content strategies and outreach campaign reports, and drinking a whole lot of coffee( that habit stayed). It’s a challenging path, but again, a world without challenges would be a boring one! I would thank Google who out of ignorance bestowed a soul to a robot.