Note: This article does not discusses internal linking. It only discusses external linking i.e… links from other websites to your website. While internal linking (links from one page of your website to another page) helps the search engines to crawl the pages easily, external links help significantly to determine “votes” for your site. The more votes the better ranks.
The most important factor in search engine rankings after content is the link profile of your website – internal as well as external. Content and external links alone are more important than all of the other factors combined that determines the rank of a website in the search results pages.
Which means if you focus most of your time in writing good content and get quality links from good websites online, you should see your websites getting top ranks in the search results. Of course if your niche is NOT very competitive your website may rank well even without any links pointing to your site. But otherwise if there is good competition for the keywords you are targeting, its very important that you acquire links for your site from sites relevant to the topic of your site/page and from good quality websites only.
IMP: If you buy links you are fine till you are caught. And this is what exactly Penguin 2.0 has done.
Before proceeding forward lets first understand what changes Penguin 2.0 algorithm of Google did to the ranking of websites.
Small note: Before the Penguin update, there was Panda update. Panda update targeted sites with low quality / spammy / rehashed / copied / scrapped / automated generated content. Panda update destroyed the ranks of the websites who used such low quality content. A website with even a few pages of bad content was pushed down the rankings.
Results: All the websites with low quality content have virtually vanished from the top 30-40 search results. In fact I don’t see them in the search results anymore.
Now lets discuss what Penguin did to the sites:
– Network of all artificially link building companies were de-indexed from Google. This effectively means that if you were buying links for your websites from one of these networks, the links were no more effective and did not count towards links to your site.
– Paid links were identified and again discounted. Sites buying paid links and to some extend sites selling paid links were penalized.
– Any links made to manipulate a site’s ranking in Google search results was totally discounted as a link.
– Link exchanges like a->b->a, a->b->c->a, or any other types were identified and the links discounted.
– Too many keyword only anchor text links were discounted.
– Any method of link building to inflate rankings were identified and discounted.
– Websites found participating excessively in all or any of the above were penalized and webmasters informed in the webmasters tool.
Conclusion – Penguin has destroyed easy link building strategies. So does it mean link building is dead? No, it still works and works well. But shady and easy ways of getting links are gone. Sooner or later your website will be caught and banned from ranking in the SERPs if you are still getting shady links.
So are there any ways to get quality back links from good websites to get the high rankings? Of course there are but you need to be patient. Real links come less often but bring in more value which lasts longer.
Here are some link building strategies that may help you to get genuine links that will help your site in getting top ranks:
1. Never cloak links for the bots of Google or Yahoo. If you cloak (sending different bots to different pages), eventually it may get caught and your site may be banned.
2. Do not follow page ranks of the site from where you want to get links. Page ranks are updated rarely. So the rank that you are seeing may be very old and not the real ones. You may be unnecessary chasing a bad page to get links.
3. All links are not equal. Some pages or websites are regularly crawled and indexed by Google. These are the websites that are given more value by Google. This also means that links from these pages carry more value that links from other websites that are crawled say once a month.
Please note that there is a time delay between crawling and indexing. Crawling means Google has downloaded the page into its servers and indexing means Google has indexed the page to be shown in the search results pages. Some websites takes months to get indexed and some few hours. For example news websites gets crawled and indexed in seconds, while a blog started by an unknown person may take months to be crawled and indexed.
To know when Google crawled a page is to go to Google and see the cached page. Google will show that date it was crawled.
If you notice the search results pages, you will see that Google shows the dates of the pages indexed. Its almost always better to target pages for links which were crawled and indexed recently. These will carry more weight than links from pages that were crawled and indexed months or years back.
4. Get links from niche directories: Quality directories like Yahoo Directory and DMOZ have tremendous weight in Google rankings. Yahoo is paid but it is still worth to get a link from their directory.
DMOZ is run by volunteers and it may take months before your website is included in their directory.
5. Youtube: This one is easy. Create a video of what your website does and upload it to youtube. Then write a description with a link to your website. How easy is that. But a word of caution – do not make a bad or unprofessional video. You will do more harm than good to your website in the long run. You are just not doing it for getting a link, you may get visitors from Youtube and you don’t want them to have a bad impression on your company.
6. Get links from quality websites: Google has made this easier for you. Just search in Google the keywords that you are targeting. Google will display a list of websites. The top 40-50 websites are what you need to target. If Google thinks these are the top websites for that keyword, then they are really good websites to get links. Remember getting links from related websites is important.
Visit these websites. Find their contact address and write on a notepad. Then write an email to every webmaster asking them to link to your site because their visitors may find your site good. Not every webmaster will give a link. But even if 10% give a link, you should be good. It also depends on how good your site is. If they think their visitors will benefit by visiting your website they may give a link. But frankly do not expect a lot of links through this route. People now a days fear to give links (or even get linked to their websites). One bad incoming link may trigger SPAM flag at Google and the website may be in trouble.
7. Google hates paid links. Never ever think of paying any website owner to get a link. Asking for a natural link because it will benefit their visitors is OK, but not a paid link even if useful.
Matt cutts the head of Google SPAM team recently released a video explaining how Google determines paid link. Watch the video to know more about it.
If you don’t want to see the video then you can read about it at searchengineland.com.
8. You can outsource link building: This one is a bit tricky. Big companies with big fat wallets do exactly this and it is OK in the eyes of Google because they are big companies. But we are small fish in a large ocean. We need to be careful. You can of course out source link building but you need to be careful. Ask the company you are outsourcing link building that how are they going to give your site links? If you are satisfied with the answers, if it adheres to all the rules laid down by Google on link building then please go ahead and pay for their services. Else you are better off trying link building on your own. But frankly the good ones are really costly. If a company is offering link building services for peanuts, stay away. They will only offer SPAM, auto generated, forum profiles or trash links. You will get your website banned.
9. Disavow Links: If you find some suspicious links to your website that you never asked for and if they look like SPAM, you should Disavow them in your webmaster account. But be careful with this tool. You do not want to block the good links coming to your site that give your site a boost in the ranking. I have seen webmaster Disavowing 100% of the links to their site when they panic seeing a drop in their sites ranking.
This could be a temporary ranking shuffle by Google, and you may get panic and Disavow all links. That is certainly a bad idea. If you are absolutely sure the link source is a SPAM, you should Disavow them.
Never Disavow links that are nofollowed. You are unnecessary working hard. All links of pages in Disavow will be treated as nofollowed.
10. Press Releases: if you are launching a product, press releases also help in getting traffic, spread the word around the web and get some links too. But do a press release if absolutely required. You should not do it to get links. It may not help.
You may also be interested in reading Best Link Building Practices 2013 and Beyond.