If you’ve been following the many updates Google has been making to its search engine, then you are keenly aware that “panda” and “penguin” do not represent search engine results pages for these two animals solely. Rather, Panda and Penguin represent code names that this search engine has used for some of its recent updates, changes that affect PageRank, how Google views links on your site, your choice of keywords and other factors. I certainly do not pretend to know all of the ramifications these changes have on websites, therefore I visit Search Engine Land and WebProNews to attempt to wrap my mind around these changes.
Earlier this year I was heavily involved with writing guest posts, putting together more than 24 articles in just over a month. I’ve been accepting guest posts across my blog network for several years, although I’ve pulled back considerably with this blog. My strategy is evolving — I am not writing guest posts at the moment, but I am carefully curating posts and changing what appears on the sites I manage with some important changes to linking.
So, how do you know what works now and what can get you into a heap of trouble? The trouble part seems to be evolving, but it has long involved paid links that do not include the “nofollow” attribute. I made that mistake recently when I realized that the links on one of my site were missing that attribute. When clients began to cancel their links, I realized what was going on and updated a related “nofollow” plug-in. I permit following or “dofollow” within related articles as I generously link out, but nofollow is the rule elsewhere.
What works now may not work if you’re reading this article in say, January 2013. In May 2012, I’m reasonably confident that the following practices are still good. I like Jon Cooper’s Link Building Strategies – The Complete List, as he gives specific answers and concise tips at that. I can also recommend that you follow what some of the experts are saying including Chris Crum who seems to have his pulse on the current search engine changes including Penguin.
Here are some things I am recommending that my clients do or continue with:
Blogging — The easiest way to update content on any small business website is to have a blog. Your core pages can be html or you can have your entire site based on a content management system such as WordPress. I prefer the latter as it affords many SEO benefits with its many plug-ins and overall site layout. Articles should not be spammy and should impart useful information. Targeting posts of 400 words or more is wise and you must certainly avoid keyword saturation.
Internal Linking — I am not changing my policy of linking back to other articles I’ve written on my sites, but I am looking at how I do that. Oftentimes, I’ll link after the article with a “See Also” link. From this point on, I’m much more likely to point to another article within the body of the article such as this building links article from Duncan Heath. Go natural!
External Linking — When it comes to guest posting, I’ve long allowed contributors to have two links to their site within the “author information” section at the end of the article. I will still keep the author section, but I prefer to see one related link within the body of the article. The jury is out here, but I’ve been reading what others are doing including Ann Smarty of MyBlogGuest. Ann hasn’t changed MBG’s rules, but she recently articulated her position and shared this information on her blog. Ann discusses FUD — fear, uncertainty and doubt — when it comes to strategic linking.
Expert Reference — Where I am most knowledgeable is with the auto industry, as I operate Auto Trends Magazine, an online news and information source. I update this site frequently, averaging two new articles each day. I avoid many of “me too” stories that others often feature, preferring to dig deeper or look for a back story to cover. Easily, I spend 2-4 hours per day writing for this site, time worth spending as I speak to people on the phone, solicit questions by email and perform my research. This approach has paid off as I will sometimes be referenced by an automaker in an article or ad. If you have demonstrated expertise in a particular area, work on building your relationships and cover your subject with authority.
Press Releases — I recently revived my PRBeam.com website as a way to reach customers who need small business assistance. Matt’s Musings is a small business or freelance writing site, but I am doing most of my marketing from the PR site. One key selling point I’m using are press releases. Also known as news releases, I am working with customers that want to share their news with media. This means helping to write high quality stories that can be shared and might possibly lead to an interview from a reporter. At minimum, a news release will provide a backlink to the intended site and can quite possibly help that client with his or her SEO efforts.
Like everything we do online, our strategy is evolving to keep up with what the search engines do. In this case, what Google does.
I’m examining some of the other suggestions people have made to gauge importance. Likely, we’ll each be busy trying to adjust and, hopefully, working toward a successful linking strategy.
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