Digital Industry Females: Link Building Techniques to Combat Pesky Penguins

Last night I attended my first Digital Industry Females event and I must say that it delighted on every level! There was a great talk, great atmosphere and great company (not to mention the free drinks and nibbles!).

The speaker was Judith Lewis (Head of Search, Decabbit), a regular speaker on the circuit and someone who I’d been looking forward to hearing for some time. Her topic was Link Building to Combat Pesky Penguins – now regular readers will remember that we published an ebook a few months ago entitled ‘Link Building in a Post Penguin World’ which includes tips from a range of top SEOs.

Since last April with the Panda and Penguin updates the role of link building has been under a fair amount of contention, as the method in which links were understood and gained had to be re-interpreted. Judith stated that although there has been this alteration link building will never die, as it is too much part of Google’s algorithm that it would be far too large a job to change (even for Google).

Judith’s slides began with a warning message – which I must admit had me a little concerned (being a sensitive Northern soul) but there was no real cause for concern. There were a number of things that might shock staunch white-hatters but I will breeze over those aspects here.

Judith talked through the important factors to consider when undertaking link building:

-You must plan your linkbuilding. You simply have to have a strategy in place.

-Keep a close eye on your link profile, remember that you want it to appear as organic and natural as possible, so it’s important that you monitor this.

-To keep your link profile looking natural you need to ensure that the rate that you acquire your links is sensible. If you suddenly gain tens of thousands over night Google will know what you’re doing and you will be penalised. So maintain a balance in your link acquisition rate, and only ramp it up very gradually.

-The largest proportion of your links should be brand related.

-Similarly you should diversify your link profile – ensure that they’re from a good range of sites; they’re not all from blogs or forums etc.

-Your anchor text should also show a good diversity, you should try and use at least 3 words in anchor text rather than single words. This is the only way to ensure that your link building campaign will have longevity.

A fair amount of the talk referenced the recent Interflora furore – if you aren’t aware of this where have you been!? Basically they had been incredibly stupid in their link building campaign, which in turn will affect everyone else trying to carry out link building. Judith said that she wanted to kneecap those responsible for this – though she thought that this was too good for them! Interflora were idiots because:

-They’d set up an obvious link farm.

-They were over-doing advertorials. Using some is fine, but they need to be good quality ones with sensible links. Judith’s rule of thumb for advertorials is that you shouldn’t go ahead with any that you wouldn’t be prepared to host on your own site. They should ideally have around 500-600 words and add value to a community, i.e. not simply content for the sake of a link!

-They had loads of footer and sidebar links, these are awful and frankly do more harm than good.

-Many of their links were idiotic single keyword links (she showed some examples of them simply using the word ‘Rose’ – not very natural looking).

-They published obviously spam comments on their blogs and advertorials, simply to make them look more real (as though they were getting engagement)

-They must have been warned, but bloggers only started getting emails asking them to remove links after Interflora were penalised. They could have taken action earlier to potentially minimise the damage to their site.

Pigs get fatter, hogs get slaughtered. This is probably my top takeaway from the event. It’s a great lesson that you can get away with a small amount, but if you’re too greedy with links you’re likely to be penalised.

Some of her other more general tips included:

-Read SEO by the Sea, learning about patents let you see where Google are going and understand where the algorithm might be going in the future allowing you to plan your strategy effectively.

-You really need to be on social media sites. Links from here only pass value for about 3 days, but it’s important for community building. Google+ is huge and an important factor to consider in your general SEO practice. Beyond are currently carrying out research into the amount that Google+ can affect your ranking. Judith believes that the factor that has most influence on your rankings is not the number of followers/likes that you have, but rather the level of social engagement.

Judith warned that if you’re unsure about using any of these techniques you should be very careful, as you can burn your site and potentially your brand; just look at Interflora! If you want more advice feel free to contact us, or Judith herself. She also recommended Manual Link Building as a great service that she uses for her link building campaigns.

I would definitely recommend that you join this group – though naturally it’s not for everyone, i.e. men 🙂 You can read more about the group and its planned events here.

By: Anna Champ

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