Pop quiz: What's the biggest challenge with getting your site ranked high in Google and making sure it stays there?
If you said keeping one step ahead of the changes Google makes to its algorithm, give yourself an “A+.” The search engines have become very smart over the last 5 years. They can sniff out the SEO stuff they don't like faster than ever.
That means the search engine optimization methods you use need to be above the board at all times. Otherwise, you will eventually get nailed as algorithms are updated.
One of the most important components of SEO is link-building. That's going to continue being the case for a long time. As we've talked about in the past, there are good links and there are bad links. The good ones will keep your site in Google's good graces. The bad ones will eventually become worthless, or worse, trigger a penalty for your site.
So, how can you tell the good from the bad? That's what we're going to cover today. I'm going to show you how to create links for your site that will stand the test of time. Build links the right way and you won't need to worry about penguins, pandas, or any other animal in the future.
Avoid Footprints When Building Links
Google likes to keep things natural. It wants its algorithm to work in a pure search ecosystem where the good stuff rises to the top and the bad stuff is forgotten. Of course, its algorithm is far from perfect. There have been holes the size of Kansas that SEOs have exploited since folks started asking, “What the heck is a google?”
That's how unnatural links were born. These are links you control. Google doesn't like them because it has no way of knowing whether they signify anything valuable on the other end. It's like a used car salesman telling you what a great car he wants to sell you. There's a trust problem.
The problem with bad links – from an SEO's perspective – is that they leave footprints. That makes them easy to track, identify, and dismiss. And that's why folks with thousands of links showing the same anchor text recently found themselves not ranking for their “money” keywords. Google tracked the footprints, and pounced.
To build links that Google will like in the future, you need to give up control.
How To Build Links You Don't Entirely Control
There are lots of ways to build natural links that are within your control. For example, you can vary the anchor text. You can also spread out the domains that link to you. But that type of stuff is a lot of work, even with the software that is now available to make it easier. More to the point, the links are still controlled, and thus unnatural. Google will eventually identify them despite your efforts to appear natural.
In the past, we've used press releases, link wheels, and lots of other methods to generate links with the anchor text we want. The problem is not the method. The problem is the footprint. It's hard to fake.
Instead of building links using your preferred anchor text, try building them by allowing other people to take control. Let's use an example.
Suppose you've created a fantastic report and have uploaded it to your site. You want it to rank well in Google. The old approach was to start building links with your target keywords in the anchor text. You'd use article marketing, press release distribution, guest blogging, link wheels, directories, and so on. The new approach is to focus your energy on getting the word out about your new report. Then, encourage others to link to you with whatever anchor text they choose.
You can still use the same methods you used before. The difference is that you're letting other people dictate how to link to you. That gets rid of the footprint. It's far more natural.
You may be thinking, “If I can't control my anchor text, how will Google know to rank me for my preferred keywords?” That's hardly a problem. The links themselves send the ranking juice. Google is now smart enough to know what your site or page is about. When folks search for the things covered on your site, you'll rank well as long as Google is confident other people have faith in you.
Linking For The Future: Making Sure Your Links Last
Let's recap. SEO is definitely here to stay. Links are also here stay. The methods to build those links haven't really changed much, either. But the manner in which you use those methods has changed a lot. It's all about getting rid of the footprints.
You can try to fake it by varying your anchor text and broadening the list of domains that point to your site. Or, you can build links naturally, becoming a part of Google's pure search ecosystem. The latter approach is a much better way to ensure you survive and thrive in the search engines for the foreseeable future.
What are you currently doing to make your links appear natural in Google's eyes? Have you had any success in using those methods? Share your experiences with us in the comments section!
About the Author: Tara Geissinger is an SEO and content marketing expert by day and triplet mom by night. As Co-Owner of the online visibility firm, SEO Content Solutions, and online press release distribution firm, Online PR Media, Tara has helped thousands of businesses get more visibility online. From helping Macy’s optimize their product descriptions to working behind-the-scenes with some of the largest SEO and marketing firms in the world, she is one of the best kept secrets in the online marketing niche.