In very broad terms, SEO can be divided into two main categories: on-site and off-site. While it is possible to rank quite well by implementing only one or the other, it is of course ideal to do both. On-site SEO isn’t terribly complicated, and it is quite possible to master the concepts of on-site SEO in a relatively short period of time.
Off-site SEO, primarily link building, is another story.
First off, it is important to understand what Google is looking for, and that can be summarized in three points:
- Websites and content that are relevant for search queries,
- Websites and content that are fresh and current,
- Website that have natural, human-centric content.
Google search results are the product of one of the most advanced algorithms ever created, and Google has literally trillions of pages to examine and compare. With so many pages, it is safe to state that the Google algorithm is pretty dang good with semantic reasoning and pattern recognition.
When it comes to link building, it isn’t terribly difficult for Google to recognize when a website is blatantly gaming the system without adding any real value. It is for that very reason that low quality link building tactics (directory submissions, articles) have so vastly diminished in value.
When it comes to spotting spammy link building, Google looks for a few important things:
- What does the link profile of similar sites look like? (trust, PR, anchor text, follow/nofollow, domain diversity)
- Does your anchor text appear natural? (majority of brand and URL anchors, relatively few keyword anchors)
- What is the historic link growth of similar sites?
- What is the historic link growth of your site?
There is quite a bit more to the algorithm of course, but those 4 things play the biggest role in helping Google to spot sites that are spammy or that have engaged in artificial and/or paid link building. If your site gets flagged for spammy or artificial/paid link building, it may lead to a ranking penalty, or even to removal from the index in extreme circumstances. You don’t want that, do you?
So, how do you go about performing link building in such a way that it appears to be natural? By using a wide variety of link building tactics designed to mimic organic link growth.
For example, issuing a timely press release that coincides with a booming topic on Google trends is likely to result in quite a few inbound links, perhaps from high trust sites, and that type of sudden link growth wouldn’t raise any Google flags precisely because it was centered around a trending topic. It would also give you a nice QDF boost to boot (query deserves freshness.)
Another tactic is to make sure that you vary your anchor text between keyword rich anchor text and your domain name/company name. The average web user or webmaster is most likely to link to you with your domain name or company name as the anchor text, with a much smaller percentage using a relevant keyword as the anchor text.
To be on the safe side, make sure that you use your domain name as the anchor text at least 50% of the time when building links. If your domain name happens to be an exact match for your most important keyword, then you have an awesome exception to this rule.
One big thing to watch out for is too rapidly growing links. If your site has been up for 5 years, and you’ve acquired 200 inbound links in that time, suddenly adding another 200 links in the course of a few months is going to raise some red flags (assuming it doesn’t coincide with a trending topic, a new product release, etc).
If you are going to be building links, determine how many links your site has and how long the site has been up in months, and then divide the numbers. It is usually safe to increase that monthly link number by up to 100% each month. So if you’ve historically added an average of 6 links per month, aim for 12 this month, 24 the next, 48 the next, and so on (this is especially true if it coincides with a major site re-design, new product, trending topic, etc.)
You can get away with a lot more than that if your link building methods are social centric (Digg, Twitter, Facebook, etc), but that is a topic for another day…
Those are just a few of the tactics we’ve uses, though there are dozens more. If you have questions, please, contact us today.