Link building for your website gets trickier with each passing year and each Penguin algorithm update. The tough part, is that even if you have been abiding by Google’s mandate to acquire links naturally, performing completely ethical webmaster outreach to secure backlinks for your site, you may still put yourself in harm’s way (if you’re not doing it right). Penguin seems to get more sensitive as it grows and refreshes. While it appears to be making improvements, this sensitivity can even hurt websites that have not bought into any link schemes whatsoever. With the algorithm expected to update more often in the future, online businesses need to be extra cautious when it comes to building “natural” links. Today I’m providing you with some honest advice on how to tread lightly when securing links around Google’s algorithm, making sure that your website remains safe and SEO-prosperous in 2015.
5 Best Practices for Balancing Your Website’s Backlink Profile in 2015 and Beyond
1. Websites Linking to You Should be Relevant to Your Content
When your content is great, websites that offer commentary on the topic addressed by your content will eventually link to it. These websites are thus relevant to your offering (and in turn your consumer base). Google looks for this match between topical websites and your own. It is natural for these sites to link to yours and because of this Google is far less likely to be suspicious of any backlinks pointing to you. On the other hand, if Google sees a spike in backlinks from websites that do not semantically match the nature of yours they have reason to be suspicious. Your link prospecting should focus solely on websites that cover the same general type of content, or have a section in their website that addresses news related to your content in a less direct way (e.g. a local news site that has various categories).
2. Healthy Combination of DoFollow, NoFollow, and Implied Links
Your website’s link builder has downloaded the Firefox NoDoFollow tool and is on the hunt for purple-highlighted links (indicating a DoFollow link) on the pages of websites they hope to acquire links on. That’s great. However the obsession with avoiding pink highlights (indicating a NoFollow link) has them creating an unnatural backlink profile for your website. If links were acquired naturally and through ethical outreach then many of them would be hosted on pages that have NoFollow links. In fact, it is common for some of the most important online news resources out there to use the HTML rel=”nofollow” element on their external links. These online resources know that they have something of great value and don’t want to be bombarded with backlink requests. If Google sees that you only have DoFollow backlinks they know that they were acquired by your website, and will become suspicious as to how they were solicited. If it was indeed your content that brought the attention of webmasters (how it should be) then there would be a natural balance of those that allow both DoFollow and NoFollow links. In addition to the above, you should be perfectly happy to accept when webmasters provide you with implied links (brand mentions that don’t link) as that has become a part of a recent Google Panda patent filing. If I had to provide an optimum ratio I would suggest a 60/20/20 (DoFollow/NoFollow/Implied) balance. This ratio would tell Google that you are acquiring links the right way.
3. PR 4 Average is Nice, But…
Link builders are also too obsessed with PR values. They have set themselves a strict mandate to only acquire links on websites with a PageRank of 4 or higher. In a perfect world only websites with a strong domain authority and PageRank would find your content so appealing that they could not help but link to it. But this is no perfect world. Webmasters from all “walks of life” are looking for content to reference within their own. Some of them have just started websites or have been maintaining a blog without any regard for SEO. Some of these sites are amazing sources of topical news, even if they have a PR of 1. It is absolutely natural that these sites, in addition to PR 4+ ones, will link to your content. While you indeed should do all that you can to introduce your website and its valuable content to webmasters with a strong domain authority and PageRank you should not turn away offers to provide your site with linked attribution when the host site is still in infancy. If the content is a good fit (as per item #1 above) then the backlink is a good fit, regardless the PR score.
4. Anchor Text Should Be Completely Natural
Let me once again address perfect world scenarios for this item. If you are an online Realtor in Huntington Beach CA, the best form of anchor text to encase the link pointing to your website would be “Realtor in Huntington Beach CA”, of course. But humans (webmasters) do not choose to link to content resources in this way. They still use your brand name, or anchors such as “click here” and “this site” (and the like) when placing a link to your site within a set of words. However, when links are acquired the anchors are often excessively manipulated to match keyword targets. If Google sees that anchor after anchor is a combination of exact-match keyword strings, or a close semantic fit, they once again become suspicious of your backlink profile. The best course of action here, when performing webmaster outreach for your content, is to let the webmaster write the anchor as they naturally would without your “editorial” influence. In the end, this will create a truly balanced anchor text profile.
5. Acquisition Should Be Spread Out Naturally Over the Year
Lastly, your outreach and acquisition should be spread throughout the year, as your content is. Assuming that you are indeed posting new, original, engaging, and informative content on a regular basis through 2015 then it is natural that webmasters would find and reference this content through the same publishing flow period. Your content is the driving force. When it is published, find webmasters who may be interested in it and let the backlinks build in a linear fashion through the annum. If Google sees spikes in the appearance of backlinks (as can occur when a “link builder” is brought in for a quick-fix) within certain pockets of time, they know that something is amiss and your backlink strategy will misfire.
Follow the steadfast advice above for 2015 and beyond and your backlink profile will serve you well in boosting your own PageRank, in addition to your referral and organic traffic.
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