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How can I ensure Google’s latest Penguin update doesn’t destroy our link-building efforts?

On 22 May 2013, Google rolled out another Penguin update in order to cut down on web spam. The update targeted three key ranking factors in particular:

  • Target Keywords
  • Backlinks
  • Social Signals

google penguin update imageThe update has fuelled the ongoing, ‘Is link building dead?’ debate even further as Google looks to crack down on back links from disreputable sources. The update has hit large retailers and e-commerce sites particularly hard due to the nature of these sites and the large numbers of resulting back links.

However, this should not be a reason to stop link building altogether; after all, sites that rank number one on Google for particular keywords often have a large amount of back links- the difference now however, after the Panda update, is that Google will be placing more emphasis on the authority of these links.

Link building is not dead, it just requires a tweak in your strategy.

Conducting a link audit

Your first move, if you want to protect your search rankings, should involve conducting a link audit. To do this, you will need a Google Webmaster tools account and preferably a paid subscription to a back-link checker, something like SEOmoz or Majestic SEO.

The back-links that Google Webmaster will disclose are only a sample, if you want to protect your site from the latest Penguin update you are going to need to remove all the back-links that don’t coincide with Google webmaster guidelines. This is best done using a back-link checker.

The important thing to remember when conducting a link audit, is that there is no magic formula for success, each link will be affecting your rankings in its own way so there is no ‘quick-fix’ so to speak, the best practice is to go through each link manually and assess it according to a range of criteria such as:

  • Checking links appear as part of a domain that is indexed in Google- This is basic but important. Sometimes, when a site leaves the development stage, the robots.txt isn’t altered to allow Google to crawl the site.
  • Checking links don’t appear on the same page as unrelated or spam links
  • Links that appear on a Gray bar – Whilst Gray PR doesn’t necessarily mean that the site has been penalised, it probably won’t be doing your site any favours especially if Google has yet to index the site.
  • Links from link networks – if a group of websites shares the same IP address, the chances are they are derived from a link network, Google will penalise for link networks.

Using Online PR techniques to build relevant back-links

Relevancy and authority are key aspects to building a Google-friendly backlink profile. Providing free tools and downloadable content is a great way of encouraging relevant back links to your site.

Furthermore, introducing an Online PR or editorial strategy will help encourage relevant link building opportunities. As a link builder, you will probably already be providing daily ‘scans’ for your clients relating to industry competition, articles written about the company, and general industry news.

This is a great way for you as a link builder and the client to spot new outreach opportunities for link building. However, it is important to take the industry ‘scan’ one step further if you want to encourage relevant links.

Try to get into the habit of leaving a comment on blog posts you read relating to the your industry or your client’s industry - share the post via Twitter or, even better, email the author.

There are plenty of Online PR tools on the web that will allow you to search for relevant content, post pitches and find reporters and industry bloggers looking for stories- ‘Seek or Shout’ is a great one!

What techniques is your business using to ensure high quality backlinks? What is or isn’t working for you? We’d love to hear your thoughts.


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