Leave it to Google to quietly make some big changes on a Friday afternoon in the summertime that could completely upset how you go about your SEO program. On Friday, July 26th Google updated their Webmaster Guidelines (specifically the Link Scheme page) and outlined exactly what is and is no longer acceptable as a link building tactic. Does your SEO fall in line with the new rules?
Here are four things Google has added to the DO NOT do list when it comes to link building:
1. Large-scale article marketing or guest posting campaigns with keyword-rich anchor text links
2. Links with optimized anchor text in articles or press releases distributed on other sites.
3. Low-quality directory or bookmark site links
4. Forum comments with optimized links in the post or signature
So what do all these changes mean for your link building strategy?
1. Add Nofollow Tags To Any Links From Guest Blogs
According to Search Engne Land, Googles John Mueller, said in general, it is best you nofollow links in stories you write, especially when those stories are guest blog posts for the purpose of link building. It makes sense after all"if you wrote a guest post you are probably the one that put the link in there, so its not natural. Most site owners arent looking to manipulate the algorithm but Google does have to crack down on those spammers that use guest blogging as their go-to link spam tactic. Ive spoken with many SEO experts in the past who have hypothesized that Googles would do something about the amount of guest blog spam out there but they werent sure how or where the line in the sand would be drawn. Erin Everhart of 352 Media pointed out its going to be so hard to police and monitor. I think theyre trying to do that with Authorship, and its probably cut down some of the spam, but how would Googles bots differentiate my author box on Mashable to someone elses just doing it for a link?
Erin raises a great point"plenty of site owners and SEOs use links from guest posts to build their brand and authority, as well as drive traffic to their site, and not as the means to artificially build link juice. How can Google determine the real purpose behind each link? But its better to be safe than sorry and protect your link profile and website as much as possible. The nofollow tag is a good way to do just that.
2. Use Only Branded Or Natural Anchor Text
Natural anchor text probably wouldnt be just a keyword. Look at the few outbound links Ive added to this post so far. Erin Everhart is a person (branded anchor text), According to Search Engine Land is both branded and includes a reference phrase. Google has added to the DO NOT do list is a whole phrase"its natural. When someone links to your content naturally chances are they dont use your preferred anchor text, they just link however it makes the most sense to them. Going forward with your guest blogging and online PR its important that you steer clear of keyword-rich anchor text and used branded or natural anchor text phrases as much as possible. Again, you may not be trying to trick the algorithm but at the end of the day its a math equation that is judging your website and you either fall in line or you dont.
3. Only Use Social Bookmarking Sites That Drive Traffic
There are probably dozens of social bookmarking sites out there. Most of them dont have a huge user base and so those might get flagged as low-quality by Google. Take a look at a years worth of analytics data and see which social bookmarking sites have driven traffic to your site. StumbleUpon is a great source of traffic for many sites, folkd is probably not. Bookmarking can help jumpstart the social push and Ive seen bookmarking influence how quickly a blog post gets indexed by the search engines, but a link for a links sake is what could push your link profile over the edge into the red zone. If a link can generate traffic youre probably in a much safer spot than a link that is just a link.
In my opinion links are still very important for your SEO campaign, but now, more than ever, you have to focus on EARNING those links, not just building them. Your content marketing and social media marketing campaigns are only getting more important as Google continues its war on link spam. Keep your eyes peeled for opportunities to earn real, natural links and generate real, natural buzz because of your authority and expertise.