Archive for November, 2012

Link Building Versus Link Earning: What’s the Difference?

Friday, November 30th, 2012

If you’re still spending your time building links to keep your website relevant and ranking high, it’s time to stop. There are better ways to improve your SEO and link building is not one of them. In fact, link building can earn you a trip down in rankings now, rather than up.

According to Rand Fishkin, link building is out. But link earning is in. We agree with Rand, so here are some important things you need to know about earning your links.

The Downfall of Link Building

If there is one thing Google has taught us in 2012, it is that they do not like link building. The Penguin algorithm update last spring penalized sites that were abusing link building. Later on, exact match domain links were penalized and even more recently, article links and directories have been hit.

Obviously, Google wants us to stop link building! No more buying links. No more acquiring links artificially. No more actively seeking out and adding links. Instead, we are being pushed towards link earning.

Content is Key

Link earning is a welcome change for ethical SEOs who want to promote great content. Content creation has always been the best way to gain backlinks from relevant websites, but it wasn’t a nice and easy way to increase your links like buying them was. So, many webmasters skipped the content part of gaining links and went straight to buying them. Now they find themselves with a lot of links, but very little content and it’s hurting their rankings.

How Do I Earn Links?

Now the question becomes how do you earn links? The main idea is to earn backlinks from authoritative sites based on content that you create.

Here are a few techniques that have proven successful with the search engines.

  • Natural links earned through partnerships and cross promotion. This kind of link earning occurs very naturally such as when one company mentions the other via a blog post, article or other type of content. Contrary to the old techniques of reciprocal links and link exchanges, these links are not contrived, nor are they anchor text links to specific pages.
  • Social media and social sharing. You may find an article that you want to share with your network. So you share it. With any luck, it will get passed on by others and you’ll start getting links back in a very natural, organic way because readers are interested in what you have shared. You’ve now earned your links simply by sharing information.
  • Earn links with content. If you create content that others want to share, embed or link to, you can earn links. Become an authority in your industry and create great content that can be broadcast socially or via blogs, articles, press releases, etc.
  • Submit to curated lists and directories. Just submitting your links to any old directory won’t earn you any links. But if you submit to certain directories, it can pay off. The key is to find a directory that is curated or maintained and updated regularly. This could be something as simple as a Yelp list or a BBB directory or something as high-profile as a “Who’s Who” directory in your industry.
  • Be a guest blogger or writer. This will only work if you are a guest blogger on very particular sites and blogs. You want to do this for sites that are viewed as authorities in your industry. They’re pickier about who they let on the blog, but if you can land one of those guest posts, it can pay off tremendously simply because of where you blogged – on a well-respected, authoritative expert site for your field.

Link earning has the potential to not only improve your site rankings, but perhaps more importantly, transform your site into a respected authority. Think of earned links as testimonials. When you earn a link, an outsider is linking to you and saying to the online community, “This site has the information I need and trust. You should look at it too.”

As you earn more and more links in this completely natural manner, you’ll see your site rise in the rankings and wonder why you didn’t start earning links sooner.

Making Sense of Google’s New Disavow Links Tool

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012

Webmasters who’ve had trouble getting rid of bad links can get some help from Google with its new disavow links tool. Below is a brief overview of this new tool, including how to determine if you need to use it.

What Is The Disavow Links Tool?

The disavow links tool is a way for webmasters to tell Google which inbound links they do not want associated with their site. This is important because of the way Google algorithms count links coming in to a site in their ranking algorithms. Since the Penguin launch April 24, 2012, some webmasters saw their site ranking drop because of artificial, bad or low-quality inbound links to their site. Since then, webmasters have been trying to get rid of these bad links as a way to regain their rankings. The problem is, sometimes the site that is linked to yours isn’t responding to removal requests, or willing to get paid to remove the link (I’ve seen reply from webmasters offering to remove the links for $10 – $99). Unfortunately, if none of your attempts work, you’re stuck with the link.

Here is where the Google disavow links tool comes in. By using the tool, webmasters can communicate to Google the links that they cannot get rid of on their own and that they do not want counted towards their site rankings.

Who Needs It?

According to Google, “A typical use case for this tool is if you’ve done link building that violates our quality guidelines. Google has sent you a warning about unnatural links, and despite your best efforts, there are some links that you still can’t get taken down.” It is also a viable tool for sites that are impacted by ‘negative SEO’ or bad link building practices

The important part of the statement above is “despite your best efforts.” Google wants to see a solid effort on your part to remove the links before the disavow tool is ever used. Remember, the disavow links tool is just a request to Google that they ignore those unwanted links coming in. That means Google does not have to honor your request. In fact, there is a chance the company won’t honor disavow requests if the site under question hasn’t tried to remove the bad links on their own first.

So don’t look at this new tool as a quick and easy way to remove unwanted links from your site. It isn’t. It’s exactly what the name says it is, a tool to help you in your efforts to clean up your links.

How Do I Use It?

Using the disavow links tool is actually very simple. Just login to your Webmaster Tools account and click here then select the website for which you want to disavow links. Next, click on the Disavow Links function and upload a text file containing the addresses of all the links you want to disavow.

Screenshot from Official Google webmaster tools blog

A day or so later, submit a reconsideration request and in it mention using the disavow tool. After that you’ll have to wait to see if your rankings are affected. It may take several weeks before you see a change. Just be patient and, in the meantime, keep an eye on those inbound links. Eventually your efforts will pay off.

For more helpful tips on using Google’s disavow links tool, check out this Q&A session with Google’s Matt Cutts.

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