Tag Archives: Link Building

It’s not Google’s fault that your business entirely depends on the search engine

Don't depend just on Google

When people feel bad about their rankings suddenly changing due to erratic algorithmic changes at Google it is understandable because businesses incur losses. Something that might be inane and simple organizational restructuring for the search giant might be a matter of life and death for a particular business. I have personally experienced total disappearance of my website from the search engine listings around three years ago (April-end 2011 to be precise) and I can totally relate to what must people feel when their links suddenly disappear from the first page or the second page for no fault of theirs.

First, Google never advises people to base their businesses solely on the search engine. The search engine is a good way of getting qualified traffic but it is a search engine after all run by a private company that is only going to worry about its own bottom line. People at Google will never make changes that bring them losses. In fact search engineers and information architects at Google must be working round-the-clock trying to figure out how to maximize the company’s profits. If in the pursuit of this maximization someone’s business is ruined, well, too bad.

But you know what? Google is not a natural phenomenon. It’s not that your business was hit by an earthquake or a flash flood or a lightning and you couldn’t do anything about it. Yes, if it is a major source of traffic you might be hit initially but if you have already been trying to build other resources for qualified traffic then there is no reason to worry. The problem is, sometimes we focus just on a single thing, like put all the eggs in a single basket and if you’re doing that, then even if your business does not depend on Internet traffic, it is operating on shaky ground because you never know when circumstances change.

Take for instance guest blogging. In a recent blog post I explained how to pitch for a guest blogging assignment and I also mentioned how guest blogging is being frowned upon by the search experts at Google for obvious reasons. There is a thriving community called MyBlogGuest for guest bloggers and suddenly Google has decided to penalize not just the website but also all the participants. And this is exactly the sort of response from Ann Smarty, the founder of MyBlogGuest, that should instil confidence among those who don’t want to allow Google to arm twist them into following its every single guideline. The people who are complaining are mostly the ones who had completely left it up to Google to decide how much traffic they should get.

Why is Google penalizing every method of getting back links from other websites? Guest blogging after all is a perfectly legitimate way of getting qualified links to your website or blog. You write for another blog and as a gesture of appreciation, they include a small bio of yours that contains your link; what’s wrong in that? There is nothing wrong in that. You need to remember that Google’s revenue comes from AdWords – it’s a PPC (pay per click) program. If you’re not good at improving your search engine rankings and if you have money to spend on marketing, this is a good way of getting immediate traffic. So naturally, if you don’t have other sources of traffic, you need to depend on Google, and if Google doesn’t allow you to naturally get those links from other websites, the only option left for you is to invest in its AdWords program. Obviously it is going to penalize those businesses that try to get traffic from other links.

Attaching the search engine rankings to the way you get links is just a ruse. Google cannot directly tell you that don’t get links from other websites because the only way to get links is through AdWords. It does that through downgrading your natural search engine rankings, something every business aspires for. So either improve your natural search engine rankings by strictly following Google’s recommendations and guidelines, or invest in the AdWords program if the only thing that matters to you is traffic from Google.

What can be other options? Of course I don’t advise you to go against Google’s guidelines because you can generate massive traffic once you have cracked the ranking problem and gotten your website to the first page or even the second page on Google. This is something that works for me:

  • When it comes to creating content, make your own website or blog the priority. Create as much high-quality content for your own website or blog as possible. The more high-quality content you have, the better are your prospects at improving your search engine rankings naturally.
  • When you get links from other websites (and you don’t want those links to adversely affect your Google search engine rankings) request the owners of that website to use the rel=”nofollow” tag (this tells Google that you are not using the link to improve your search engine rankings). Google does not penalize you for incoming links if these links have this tag. It also doesn’t penalize your ranking if these links are coming from well-reputed websites like New York Times, Washington Post or the Huffington Post whether the use the “nofollow” tag or not.
  • Focus on networking, equally. As a small business word of mouth matters. Getting random traffic from search engines may give you a psychological boost, but it isn’t necessary that it will translate into good business. On the other hand if you establish personal contacts with different people it will fetch you more business. Establish a good presence over LinkedIn, Twitter and if possible, also Facebook. In the past year 20% of my business has come from LinkedIn and Facebook (strangely, there have been queries from Twitter, but so far, no project).
  • Spend some money on marketing. A great number of things on the Internet are available for free, and this has given rise to a negative mentality that you can do well without spending much money. Invest money getting a good website and hiring a good content writer – regarding hiring a good content writer, I’m not just saying this because I’m a professional content writer, the way you express yourself on your website really makes a big difference. Even PPC programs like AdWords can give you the much-needed initial push. I’m not saying start spending money senselessly, I’m just saying get out of that mentality that on the Internet you don’t need to spend money and everything can be achieved pretty much free of cost. It’s an illusion. Even people promoting open source software applications make money by providing support for those applications.
  • Develop your own mailing list. Email still rules the roost when it comes to promoting your services although spammers throughout the world have totally tarnished its image. But it really works. These days, aside from providing professional content, I have also started writing for a few news publications and for that I started a new mailing list for people who would like to get notified whenever I publish a new article. The click rate is 16-20%. This is very impressive. It means if I have 100 subscribers, 16 people are reading my articles from that mailing list and if I have 1000 subscribers – on the Internet this is not a stretch – then 160 are reading my articles straight out of that mailing list. 16-20% is not easily achievable, but even if you can achieve 4-5% you no longer have to depend on Google traffic.

I may have not covered everything above, but what I’m trying to say is, don’t just solely depend on Google because this strategy is dangerous in any environment. Work on building multiple streams even if you feel that you are diluting your effort.

So how much effort and money do you invest in guest blogging?

Guest blogging, as Matt Cutts says in this blog post, isn’t as good an idea as it used to be a few years ago.

Guest blogging is done; it’s just gotten too spammy. In general I wouldn’t recommend accepting a guest blog post unless you are willing to vouch for someone personally or know them well. Likewise, I wouldn’t recommend relying on guest posting, guest blogging sites, or guest blogging SEO as a linkbuilding strategy.

Being lazy, being possessive about what I write and being highly distracted (and of course there was also this fear of rejection faced by every author) I was never much into guest blogging although it always hung over me like a heavy weight. People were doing wonders with guest blogging. People made entire careers out of first guest blogging and then blogging.

Let’s be frank. There are very few bloggers and webmasters who guest blog simply to add value to the blog or online magazine where their content is published. In most of the cases guest blogging is done to get quality back links because when you publish your writing on another blog or website, they also publish your profile with a link back to your website or blog. Fair enough.

In a recent blog post titled After content marketing, definitely focus on networking I stressed upon the point that it is not wise to solely depend on Google and other search engines for qualified traffic. You should develop your own traffic sources. If and when I indulge in guest blogging, it will be more for expanding my presence rather than getting back links.

Guest blogging gives you recognition. It helps you build audience for your own blog or business website. It gives you the much needed initial thrust. In fact, it would be wrong to say that I barely invested in guest blogging. In the early days of business I submitted scores of articles (those days I used to develop websites so my articles were on this topic) to many websites and most of my traffic came from their and this gave me a big boost and I’m still benefiting from that effort.

What type of content should you publish for an effective link building campaign?

Link building is an important part of improving your SEO because it helps Google gather all the “real” recommendations and validations and then evaluate your website or blog accordingly. You can call it ranking outsourcing. Google, and also some other search engines, realized that it is very easy to manipulate search engines because after all they are a collection of algorithms, and whenever you have algorithms, you always have people who can beat them. So they started taking human help. In order to improve your rankings, it is important that more and more people link to your website in appreciation of the content you have published.

Benefits of link building

As mentioned above, search engines like Google want some sort of validation. If many people are linking to you, the search engines assume that you must be publishing great content. This is one reason.

The second reason is that link building creates multiple traffic streams for you. Once you have traffic coming from different sources you no longer solely have to depend on search engine traffic.

Finally, it helps you reach out to more people and people begin to recognize you as an authority figure.

Pitfalls of link building

Link building is a double-edged sword – it can work in your favor and as you must have seen after Penguin and Panda updates, it can also bring disaster to you. It all depends on with what intention people link to you.

So while you’re working on your link building campaign, make sure that your links don’t come from spammy websites because this can totally drop your search engine rankings instead of improving them. Another indication that you may be running a less than legitimate link building campaign is suddenly lots of links coming to you within a few hours or a couple of days. This can also adversely impact your search engine rankings.

From where does content come in and why it is important

As I have repeatedly written on this website don’t create content for just link building and SEO. Your content should provide information about your business or organization. It should explain what your products and services stand for and how your customers and clients benefit from them. The compelling and great traits of your website content are:

  • It addresses concerns of your prospective customers and clients
  • It establishes you as an authority
  • It provides information about your business or organization
  • It turns your website or blog into a specialized source of information
  • It gives Google and other search engines more pages and blog posts to crawl, index and rank
  • It helps you create buzz on social media

Quality content leads to legitimate link building

Since the basic purpose of taking backlinks into consideration while ranking your website is to know how valuable your content is, the most natural way of building back links is creating that valuable content.

Suppose you sell Samsung mobile phones from your website. Do you merely list your inventory or do you also regularly publish blogs and articles explaining why people should purchase these mobile phones, what their salient features are, how they fare better compared to other brands and how various problems can be solved once people start using these phones. Explain to them how they can increase the battery life of their mobile phones, how they can upgrade their operating systems, from where they can get useful apps, how they can make various configurations, and such. This way, whenever someone wants to link to a website containing comprehensive information on Samsung mobile phones, he or she will know it’s your website.

Instead of approaching bloggers and webmasters to link back to you just so that you can improve your search engine rankings (it never works), create enough quality content to encourage them to link to you on their own. This is the real way of link building.

But how do they know about your content? In order to link to your content, first of all they have to find it.

This is where blogger outreach and social media interactions can help you. Initially, when you don’t enjoy good search engine rankings (due to various reasons) it will be difficult for people to find your content and then link to it if they appreciate it. Interact with more and more people on social media, on blogs and on online forums. Don’t just wait for things to happen. You will have to create a schedule. You may even have to hire people to increase your level of networking and interaction. Whenever you create a new blog post or a new article on your website, post it on Facebook, Twitter and Google plus. Encourage people to read it. Pitch your links whenever you think it makes sense (again, don’t spam people’s timelines and blog comment sections).

Link building with content writing

Link building got quite a beating after the first Google Penguin update but it is still considered one of the most effective ways of improving your search engine rankings, especially when it is hinged upon quality content writing and well-meaning content marketing.

Why do you need link building?

In case you have been living inside a cave (nothing wrong or extraordinary about that) Google uses incoming links to your website in order to rank it. The more high-quality incoming links your website or blog has accumulated, the higher are going to be it’s search engine rankings. It’s kind of a validation and that’s why linking needs to take place only for the value you provide and no other purpose (for instance, paying websites and blogs to put your links on them).

Link building and content writing

So how does content writing help you in link building? As Google says, people should link to you based on the value you provide. How do you provide that value? By providing valuable and useful content. Why would people link to you if you publish high-quality content?

Writing comprehensive blog posts and articles isn’t everybody’s cup of tea, nonetheless, people want to maintain blogs and websites and they want to publish content on them for the sake of engagement, link building and better search engine rankings.

There are many content aggregation and curation websites and blogs. They don’t want to write content themselves; they want to link to external blog posts and articles, insert couple of paragraphs of their own, and then publish them on their websites and blogs. This way they don’t constantly have to scramble for new ideas. They don’t even have to hire content writers in order to create original content because instead of having to create content, they are aggregating good quality content from other websites and blogs. They want to become a resource, creating further link building opportunities for themselves.

This can work to your benefit. If you can write content they are looking for, they are definitely going to link to it, creating lots of back links in the process.

Of course regular content writing doesn’t just straightaway lead to back links. For example, you may feel discouraged after publishing 20-30 blog posts or articles without getting any back links. Link building doesn’t just happen; unless people find the content written and published by you, how can they link to it?

Herein comes content marketing. Write enough content and then make it easier for people to find it. One way of achieving this is keep on writing on your own blog and then letting the search engines index your content randomly and then presenting it to their users according to their own judgment. This works in many cases, but it may require lots of writing, even to the extent of creating 300-500 blog posts and articles before people begin to even notice you.

A better option is, aside from creating those 300-500 blog posts, disseminate what you have written and published through as many channels as possible. These days you have Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, LinkedIn and various other platforms and channels where you can promote your links so that they begin to get noticed by people and some of them may start linking to them. Even search engines these days list content from social networking websites on their natural search engine result pages. So constant content writing and then sharing your links on social networking platforms can create lots of link building opportunities for you.

One of the most widely used link building methods through content writing is guest blog posting. When you write for other blogs, they include a small bio of yours in which they also include a link to your website, blog or one of the inner pages. Since you should only guest blog for reputed blogs, this can bring you great link building benefits.

In the beginning this may seem a bit difficult because it is upon the sole discretion of the owner of the blog whether he or she wants to publish your blog post or not. It will help you to first understand what sort of content is published on that blog, what sort of language is used and what is the general flow of the content appearing over there. You can also spend some time interacting with the stakeholders of that blog via Twitter or Google Plus because then they will be more eager to publish your blog posts.

What is guest blogging?

Guest blogging is one of the best ways of making your content available to a wider audience, getting high-value link-backs for your website and blog, and consequently, increase your search engine rankings. Many people make it an integral part of their overall content marketing and SEO strategy.

There are millions of blogs out there on various themes and niches. If you are a web design company you will be focusing on web design blogs or at least blogs publishing content on related topics. If you’re a fashion designer then you will be looking for a blog talking about fashion or clothes, or accessories.

Guest blogging is writing blog posts for one of these blogs. Some of the blogs are very popular. For instance, Digital Photography School is one of the best-known blogs on photography and there are many professional as well as amateur photographers who aspire to write for this blog.

When your posts are published on one of these well-known and high-traffic blogs, via the resource box (that briefly talks about the author; what’s her name, what she does, link to her website or blog and probably her twitter handle) they also publish your profile. Through this profile people can come to your website if they want to. Guest blogging in such way helps you in following ways:

  • It highlights your content and your abilities in front of a wider audience. Suppose on your own blog you just get 100-300 visitors every day. But on a famous blog your blog post will be read by 10,000-50,000 (even more) readers in a single day.
  • It boosts your search engine rankings. Search engine algorithms, before ranking your website need to know how many genuine blogs and websites are linking back to you. If they link to you it means your website has valuable content and valuable content is what the search engines are looking for. It’s kind of a validation when people link back to you. Since they won’t just link to you they need a reason. One reason might be finding a valuable blog post or an article on your website and then linking to it from within one of their own blog posts or articles. The other reason is, when they publish your article they link back to you through the resource box.
  • It sends direct traffic. Since your link is published along with the guest blog post many people will be clicking the link to check out your website.
  • It sends indirect traffic. If your guest post becomes popular other bloggers and web masters may link to it from their own blog posts and this will send you further traffic.

So this is how guest blogging benefits you. Famous blogger Leo Babauta is known to have garnered 15,000 RSS subscribers for his blog in a single month by publishing his content as a guest blogger on scores of high traffic websites and blogs.