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A Brief History Of Link Building Strategies

In the early days of the Internet, link building was easy. There were no rules, and you could do anything you wanted to try to gain visibility. That has all changed, thanks largely to Google’s war on subversive link building practices and bad site content, but let’s take a look at what life was like way back then, in the frontier days of the Wild, Wild Web:

Link building strategies in the 1990s

Back in the mid-1990s, unscrupulous site owners quickly discovered that all they had to do to get high search engine rankings and therefore high visibility was to have lots of links to their sites all over the Internet. Although many honest folks tried to get links honestly by sticking with relevant link swaps, there were no rules, so the “bad guys” generally had a leg up over the good guys.

Google’s impact on link building strategies beginning in 1998

Search engines began to develop more complex algorithms that couldn’t be manipulated easily, but it wasn’t until Larry Page and Sergey Brin developed pre-Google incarnation Backrub and then Google, in 1998, that algorithms truly began to be used to put a damper on humans’ attempts to artificially manipulate site rankings through dishonest link building strategies like bulk link swapping.

In the early 2000s

Link building strategies began to really take shape in the early 2000s. The following once-popular practices have fallen on hard times thanks to Google’s Panda and Penguin (see below), but were great ways to link build until site owners’ abuses knocked them out of the running:

Directory submissions

Directory submissions were once considered a great way to provide quality links to owners’ sites, but as with previous link building practices, they fell out of favor thanks to site owners’ abuse and Google’s subsequent crackdowns.

Article directories

Article directories accepted what were supposed to be good quality articles from site owners in exchange for linking to authors’ sites. Again, although the directories began as a great link building strategy for authors, quality began to drop as unscrupulous “authors” decided that they could simply submit low-quality content, with an author bio box attached that linked back to the author’s site. In their heyday, free and paid directories sprang up everywhere, but as the article directories filled with junk instead of useful content, they lost value with users. Too many site owners were using them just to improve ranking (exactly what Google wanted to avoid), and as a result, article directories are now largely deemed “low quality” sites by Google (even previously vetted sites like Wise Geek). Article directory search engine links have largely been dissolved since Panda’s inception, making them useless in link building practices.

Reciprocal links

Reciprocal linking was historically the means by which to website owners would simply exchange links with each other in hopes that each would benefit from the exchange with increased visibility. Today, although non-organic reciprocal links are banned, they’re still used in practice as natural occurrences when bloggers link to external resources, etc.

Blogroll links

When blogging came into favor, bloggers boosted visibility by posting “blog rolls” of links to other blog sites that they endorsed or read. Again, although this is not a problem if done as a matter of true interest to the blog owner, as with reciprocal linking, it’s a practice that can be easily abused, and Google generally frowns on it.

Forum links

Forum links remain popular, whereby an anchor is optimized within a forum poster’s signature. Historically, these have worked because the more a particular user posts on a given forum, the more links will appear in that particular domain. Natural links within text are still valued, but anchor-optimized links within forums will likely be deemed artificial and eventually be banned.
Enter Google Panda and Google Penguin
Google Panda and Penguin continue to tighten link building strategy controls for site owners:

Google Panda

Introduced in 2011 and first updated in 2012, Google Panda’s purpose was to weed out so-called “content farms” with artificially high rankings but low quality or “thin” site content so that high quality sites would regain their deserved high page rankings, rankings currently being crowded out by content farms. Originally said to impact as much as 12% of the content on the Internet, the last public update in 2012 only affected approximately 0.7%. (As of March 2013, Google has stated that it will simply roll Panda updates into general algorithm updates and will no longer confirm them.)

Google Penguin

First announced in April 2012, Google Penguin is an algorithm meant to catch and thwart sites participating in”black hat” SEO techniques such as keyword stuffing, buying links, using invisible text, and deliberately duplicating content. Notably, sites that have remedied their spamming practices may be able to regain rankings, rather than being permanently blacklisted by Google.

Chris Countey is Senior Digital Marketing Specialist for Delphic Digital, a Sitecore certified partner in Philadelphia. Chris covers topics a wide range of inbound marketing topics.

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Copywriting After Google Panda Stuck Its Paw In

BarCampParis #7 by Google

BarCampParis #7 by Google (Photo credit: Franck Mahon)

Google Panda has changed everything. Following its release in February 2011, search engine optimization experts are now reconsidering their strategies. If you’re a digital marketing graduate or aspiring copywriter who isn’t aware of how Google has changed its search engine algorithm, the following guide may prove invaluable as more and more companies move away from traditional SEO tools in order to survive in an increasingly unpredictable information superhighway.

Before Panda

Here’s a little background info. SEO is very complicated, but two of the most prominent techniques are the use of keywords (search terms) and the building of links across a wide range of websites. When it comes to keywords, companies need to optimize them so they can climb to the top of search results and get enough people pouring into their landing page. This is common knowledge now which is why search engines have started cracking down on this kind of behavior  sites which rely on keyword-heavy anchor texts in order to generate traffic risk a Google penalty, leading to a sudden drop in page rankings. After all, content should be written for people, not for search engines.

The “Now” Google Panda Strategy

Under Google Panda, the rules have now been tightened so ‘content farms’ and other similar sites have undergone steep decreases in traffic practically overnight.

To separate the wheat from the chaff, some of the Google engineers’ new metrics include penalizing sites which have a high percentage of duplicate content and inappropriate adverts, as well as a low percentage of original content across a number of pages. It is not just about keywords anymore, but the distinctiveness and relevancy of those words and some sites need bigger revamps than others. For example, a company website can suffer if it has several pages of low-quality content, even if the webmasters are regularly updating their landing page with fresh material.

There’s nothing wrong with any of this but some well intentioned sites, including some who have had a strong web presence for years, are struggling to adapt in this new environment. They need some help so they can work their way back to the top again. This is where you come in.

The Future

The approach of stuffing pages with as many keywords as possible is already looking very primitive. It is surprising that it was tolerated for as long as it did. Copywriters today need to throw out their old manuals and produce real, creative content again, where the keyword is not awkwardly wedged into the articles at any opportunity.

Guest blogging is increasingly growing in relevance. Newly search engine optimized pages are moving away from spammy articles that promote products and towards more genuinely helpful advice. For example, there are many pages with titles like ‘How to Write a CV’ or ‘How You Can Stop Smoking’, which provide a proper service and their keywords are merely incidental. It also leads to more creativity as once you start thinking about how you can provide information which isn’t similar or plagiarized from elsewhere; Google Panda can classify the website as having high-quality content.

Admittedly, there are some subjects that can’t be written about creatively in a non-blog article. Copywriters should nevertheless try the best they can in these cases whilst the webmaster generates traffic through other avenues, like social media plug-ins.

If you’ve ever read a memorable guest blog online, which was so good that you re-visit the webpage to occasionally re-read it or see what else is fun to read there, then it is more than likely the author worked hard to produce a unique and captivating article, which led to a keyword afterwards without the search term being the main focus of the content – rather than the other way round.

Ian Phillips is a writer who believes that good quality Guest Blogging practices and Social Media links are both important steps to improving the overall standard of the internet. He recommends using unique and creative material to engage with and attract online consumers.

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How To Get Valuable Content On Your Website Without Using Articles

Street View Panda close up

Street View Panda close up (Photo credit: Todd Barnard)

We all know that since Google started their campaign of Panda updates, the need for valuable content has increased. The Panda updates have been happening regularly over the past 24 months and with every update, the need for unique content has increased. Even though we know that Google algorithm updates are going to be less obvious from March 2013 the push for decent contact is more important than ever.

In the past, when we talked about content it was articles. Article marketing and directories was a massive part of marketing a website, and so when we talked about content we talked about unique, keyword rich articles. However these days, the need for unique content is much more extensive.

Infographics

Many people can be put off of creating Infographics for their website because of the fact they don’t have any graphic design skills. However this is not a reason to be put off, because if you look online you will see that there are many different online tools that can help you.

A well designed Infographics is a great way of putting across all of your information in a small space. However perhaps the best thing about these is that they encourage people to share them. Going viral and getting people to share your content on their websites and blogs is essential when it comes to having a successful inbound marketing campaign.

Videos

It can be hard to know what videos to create, but if you can come up with something to promote your business then this can be great. I am sure we can all think of videos that have gone viral and catapulted a company to fame (dancing ponies anyone!). Even if you can’t come up with something of this magnitude it is a great idea to try and think of videos you can place on your website as people are likely to watch these and even search them!

Offer Free Resources

If you can write help guides and pages of advice on your website then this is fantastic. We are a nosey nation which means that we want to read as much about things as we can. By having lots of information, even via a downloadable e-book you are giving your customers exactly what they want. On top of that, if the content is valuable enough and has enough to say then people are likely to spread word and share it with friends – so it is another way of getting the name of your business out there.

Of course these three ideas are just a start – whatever type of content you can add to your website can really help. That said this shouldn’t distract all of your efforts away from articles and content. Well written and interesting text on your website is essential and something that you should spend plenty of time on making sure that you get things right.

195 SEO are a UK based inbound marketing agency providing a top quality social media marketing service to small to medium sized businesses.

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Good SEO is all about getting Creative: Are you?

Google Chrome

Google Chrome (Photo credit: thms.nl)

SEO in 2012 looks quite a bit different than SEO in years past. SEO, prior to recent algorithm changes like various Google Panda iterations and the introduction of the Penguin Update to Google’s algorithm was fairly straight forward: build links with targeted anchor text on high PageRank pages and wait for rankings to climb.

Today, SEO requires a more unique and creative approach. Those who lack creativity are destined to rank poorly for their keywords, or worse, end up penalized by one of these recent algorithm updates.

SEO Is An Up and Down Process

Even those who stay “white hat”, which means they follow search engine guidelines, are playing a guessing game. For those who do play by the rules, they are still forced to adjust if, and when the rules change and algorithms are updated.

Google, the only search engine most people care about, has made at least one change per day to their ranking algorithm since 2010. Most of these are never noticed, but they add up to a sizable shift in how search works from year to year.

SEO Needs To Get Creative

SEO has always required a certain level of technical know-how and creativity in acquiring links. Today, technical ability is still important, but creativity is becoming more of an attribute required for success.

Those who lack the ability to think and plan in an out of the box kind of way are going to get lackluster results.

Some creative elements for an SEO strategy are, but are not limited to:

  • Social outreach with related individuals and sites to gain mentions and links
  • Blogger outreach through commenting and emails from one webmaster to another
  • Guest blogging with brand building and engagement in mind, rather than links (but still get the link)
  • Creative on-page content like videos and infographics that people will share to build further exposure (and again, links)

Finding The Right Connections

PageRank (PR) is a metric to determine the value of a link. A page with high PR is seen by Google to be more popular and valuable than one with lower PR. While interesting, it is next to useless for most situations. Relationships with other webmasters and a target cusotmer base hold more value than PR.

Better ways to find places and people to engage with are to find the right social networks for a given market, and to use tools like Compete, Alexa and SimilarSiteSearch. Enter keywords or a competitor’s site address, compile a list of the related sites, and begin looking for the best opportunity for outreach.

Lowering Defenses

Eventually, gatekeepers will filter emails, ignore Tweets or gloss over blog comments. To deal with this, SEO’s need to be persistent in reaching out to the most influential within their market, and offer value in return for the engagement they are seeking.

Keeping Relationships Warm

The goal is to make more money for your site or a client’s site. The best ways to do this is to consistently engage on every available channel, and to offer value repeatedly without asking for much, if anything, in return.

Measuring Results

Because there are so many places to reach out to influential people and customers alike, results can come quickly. Increasing the value proposition of a website, while aggressively pursuing social engagement, webmaster outreach, and on-site development can result in a flood of links, mentions, and traffic.

Each site will be different, but most should know whether their creative approach is working within an eight week time frame.

@JulianaPayson on Twitter is content manager of the InMotion Hosting Blog. InMotion Hosting is a Los Angeles Web Hosting company with a 100k+ audience of web-professionals and webmasters who buy Business Hosting services. If you have interesting content to share that could be valuable to InMotion Hosting’s Newsletter audience, or if you are interested in collaborating and taking guest or research content, please reach out to Juliana

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Can Good User Experience Lead to Better Search Rankings?

Undoubtedly, on- and off-page optimizations are currently the hot topics in the Search Engine Optimization (SEO) world.  These strategies are important and undeniably improve search engine rankings of websites.  Another important way to boost search engine rankings is to create good user experience for the visitors of a website or a blog.

What Constitutes A Good User Experience?

Search engines want their users, the searchers, to have a good experience on websites and blogs that are shown on their results pages.  This ensures that the searchers will continue to use the same search engine in the future.

While good user experience is subjective and not easily measurable, search engines are getting very good at figuring out which sites offer effective user experience versus ones that are mediocre or poor.  This is especially true since the infamous Google Panda update.

How to Create Good User Experience

Although there many ways in which to create a good user experience on a website or a blog, the following 3 areas will likely provide the most return on effort invested in improving the user experience.

Site Design

The first impression of a site will either be an invitation for visitors to come and explore the site or be a complete turn-off, in which case they will leave immediately.  A professional website or blog appearance is vital in making a good impression.

Below are some of the design elements that contribute to making a favorable first impression and ultimately creating a great user experience:

  • Browser Accessibility.  Depending on their location –at work, at home, en-route, etc. – and devices used, users may be accessing websites using different browsers.It is important to test your website or blog using different browsers to ensure maximum compatibility.  There are some features that don’t appear as expected in some of the browsers, particularly the older ones.  Make use of browser testing tools to test websites.
  • Supporting Pages.  Supporting pages are typically the About, Contact, and Sitemap pages.  These pages are considered standard, helpful for visitors, and should be included on websites and blogs.

Depending on the type of site, there may be other pages as well such as Terms of Service, Disclosure, Resources, etc.

These particular pages should generally be available from all pages of the site.

  • Color Coordination.  Use a consistent, complementary color scheme throughout the site.  The color scheme employed should be easy on the eyes and aesthetically pleasing.  There are many website and blog themes available for all types of platforms.  Some of the premium WordPress themes are especially good in their design and usage of proper color schemes.
  • Theme Dimensions.  Most websites and blogs have pages that are 960px, taking up about 65% of the screen on regular viewing devices such as desktop and laptop computers.  Others are slightly wider, taking up 80%, and then there are some that occupy 100% of the available screen space.The wider styles give a feeling of spaciousness.  If you intend to use 2 sidebars on most of your pages on your site or have a lot of information and large images, then the wider style might be a better choice.

Irrespective of which width you decide upon, it is important to stay consistent throughout the site.

  • Mobile Responsive Design.  Many website and blog visitors are using mobile devices such as smart phones and tablets to access information.  For certain businesses, such as restaurants, information directories, entertainment venues, coffee houses and the like, mobile access to their website has become a mandatory requirement.

Site Content

Visitors to websites and blogs are looking for quality content.  What exactly is quality content?  Even though this is a subjective topic, quality can be attained by: –

  • giving visitors exactly what they are looking for
  • helping visitors understand something that they want to learn
  • helping visitors make a purchase decision
  • assisting visitors to enhance or fix problems with a product or a service
  • creating content that is free of spelling errors and grammatically correct

Presenting content that is highly relevant to what site visitors are searching for is critically important.  This is where proper use of SEO techniques, such as title and description meta tags, is necessary to create the best possible experience for users of the site.

Use of images and video, where appropriate, will aid in creating content that will be more understandable and will add to creating a great user experience.

Site Content Organization

If you have excellent, quality content but it is not structured and organized in a way that makes it readable or accessible, then you may as well not have bothered writing it at all.

Below are some recommendations that will facilitate a good user experience for website and blog visitors: –

  • Article Categories.  Keep the number of major informational categories, i.e. buckets into which site content belongs, to a minimum, manageable number.  Five to ten categories is usually a good range to aim for though this will depend on the type of website or blog.  Generally, smaller number of categories will keep visitors focused and keep them from being overwhelmed.
  • Ad Usage.  Excessive use and/or poor placement of ads, especially banner ads, are known to dissuade users from staying on the site.  Try and keep ads “below-the-fold”, i.e. area of the web page that is only viewable after scrolling.
  • Internal links.  Strategically place links to related content so that visitors of the site can be directed to other useful content that may help them with their task.This will take some thoughtful planning for each article created on the site, but is fairly straightforward to do and it will create a better user experience for site visitors.
  • Navigation.  Navigation menus should contain links to main pages of the site, to premium content, and to categories of articles.  The main navigation is usually best placed at the top of each page and/or in the sidebar.  Less used links, for example, Terms of Service, Privacy Statement, etc. can be moved below-the-fold, perhaps in the footer area of the page.Once again, the important thing is to keep the navigation menus consistent throughout the site.
  • Opt-in Placements.  Most of the time opt-in forms are better suited for interior pages rather than the home or front page.  New visitors to the site don’t necessarily want to see a big opt-in form or a pop-up opt-in if they don’t know what the site is about and especially if they have not yet found the information that they are looking for.

The exception to this general rule would be if it’s an optimized landing page, especially designed to capture emails or to present offers.

While standard SEO strategies are extremely important and should be practiced diligently, crafting quality content that truly helps visitor in some way will result in more sharing of the content and will attract links from other websites and blogs.  This then will inevitably lead to even better search rankings.

Author byline: Nilesh Peshawaria is an entrepreneur, project management consultant, and a WordPress expert.  His main blog is wpconnected.com where you’ll find tips, tutorials, and reviews on premium WordPress themes.