Don’t delete all your links yet! Google’s crackdown on links only reinforces their importance.
The recent Penguin updates from Google have given link building a bad name but the last thing you should do is stop cultivating links to and from your site. Google is cracking down on links because links are essential to how the internet functions. By encouraging websites to improve link quality, Google hopes to improve user experience across the web as well.
What is Penguin?
For those of you who aren’t familiar with Penguin, this is a Google search algorithm update that targets manipulative SEO practices. Some legitimate websites were adversely affected because of exact-match anchor text in their content (too many links on the site are attached to the same keywords), or a low quality link profile (their links come from low quality sites). These websites found their search engine rankings dropping and a noticeable decrease in web traffic and business. As a result, webmasters and SEOs have been a little wary of links ever since.
However, that doesn’t mean you should stop building links. Without links, you wouldn’t be able to navigate from page to page. You wouldn’t be able to point your readers to related articles or reference pages or share cool content with your friends. Without links, the internet wouldn’t function at all! The Penguin update doesn’t mean you should ignore links, only that you should focus on building quality links.
What constitutes a quality link?
There are two types of link: links that originate from your website, and links that connect to your website from an outside source. Links on your website should be relevant and their anchor text should be descriptive. For example, if you run a bakery, your links should relate to your store and your products. Furthermore, your links shouldn’t all be attached to the same keywords. For instance, if every other link on your page is “fresh bread”, it starts to look like spam to search engines. Instead, change up your anchor text. “fresh bread daily”, “hand-kneaded bread”, “bread hot out of the oven”, “specialty pastries” etc. This shows Google that you have a variety of relevant content, and are not simply gunning for a keyword.
Links that come to your website from an external source are harder to manage since they are outside your control. Having a lot of links from low quality spam sites will tarnish your website’s credibility for search engines and lower your rankings. After all, would you trust a site whose link you found on “paydayloan.com”? Probably not, and neither does Google. That is why a site with a bad link profile now has much lower search engine rankings. A lot of these websites probably paid for a link building campaign at some point, but ended up with links from poor quality site.
What to do about external links or backlinks outside your control
For starters, don’t buy links in bulk from companies that promise to boost your web traffic. Good links are not easily bought, and offers like that will almost certainly get you in trouble. Also, buying links usually causes a sudden spike in the number of links coming to your website. This looks suspicious to search engines, and can cause your rankings to drop as well.
Instead, you want to cultivate links from high quality, authoritative websites. Authority sites are websites that provide good information that you can trust. Examples of authority sites are news sites, local city or government sites, industry sites, or even reputable blogs. These sites don’t always show up at the top of your search results (because of manipulative SEO practices that Google is trying to eliminate), but they invariably provide useful content that you can use.
A few ways to get links from these sites include providing good content yourself, or simply asking. If you consistently provide useful information about your industry, you begin to establish your brand as an authority in the field. Once you have proven to be a trustworthy source of information, then authority sites may start linking to you on their own! If you do have some good content but are still low on links, it never hurts to ask.
Links are essential to the internet, and they are not going anywhere despite the clamor raised by Penguin. That means you should not give up on links either. Focus on improving your own website’s quality, cultivating good links, and providing the best possible user experience so that your website survives whatever algorithm updates the search engines dish up.