Link Building Evolution

There was a time when building massive backlinks was considered as the end-all and be-all of improving a page’s ranking on Google. The strategy worked so well that it bordered on gaming the system, and gave rise to a lot of blog and backlink networks. It worked so well, in fact, that Google themselves took notice and started implementing changes to their algorithm in order to weed out unethical backlinks. The search engine giant also deindexed many websites participating in the practice (resulting in some large backlink-building networks to abruptly go out of business).

Fast-forward to today: many of the webmasters hit by Google’s heavy hand have since made new sites (or have since recovered, after complying with best practices outlined by Google), but Google is readying another refresh of their algorithm and has announced that they will be updating on a monthly basis afterwards. People are left wondering: does does link building still work?

Fortunately, link building strategies still work. At least, the right types do. Google didn’t clamp down on backlinking strategies itself – rather, it clamped down on unfair backlinking strategies designed to game the system. It’s just a coincidence that majority of websites back then used unfair strategies, and were therefore hit. If you want to continue your link building practices without getting penalized in the future, you have to consider the following:

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Write Useful Content

It’s a common talking point among webmasters that content is and always will be king, but it’s surprising just how many people still choose to pad their pages with useless and poorly written content. Talking about content may seem out of place on an article about building links, but think about it. Google is specifically going after sites that get massive links even though they’re not really worth linking to – sites that don’t have useful content. Basically, before you start link building, make sure you have something linkable first.

Don’t “Buy” Backlinks From Non-Reputable Services

As a matter of fact, unless you can be sure where the backlinks are coming from, don’t buy backlinks. Google is specifically targeting backlink networks and even though some of them managed to skirt past Penguin without getting penalized, it’s only a matter of time. Think of all the backlink building networks that went out of business during the first Penguin update, as well as the sites that were deindexed after that. Build backlinks naturally, by creating your own quality sites and/or writing decent enough content that other people will find it necessary to link back to you.

Use the Disavow Tool

If your site has been around for quite some time, chances are there are already numerous low-quality sites that are linking back to you. Use the Google Webmasters Tool to find out which ones of the sites are linking back to you, make a list of the ones that look suspiciously thin or poor quality, then submit their URLs to Google via the disavow tool – this results in the search engine not taking the sites into account when ranking your page.

Prioritize NoFollow Links

One of the biggest parts of the Penguin algorithm is the contingencies on limiting the passing of “link juice,” or preventing low quality sites from gaining rankings from massive link farms. The penalties are sometimes handed down for both the linker and the linkee, so to ensure that you aren’t penalized as linker, make sure to tag your links as nofollow so that it won’t pass linkjuice.

Find Alternative Sources of Traffic

This is a strategy that is akin to solving the Gordian Knot: instead of trying to constantly adopt and evolve your link building strategies based on Google’s whim, why not find other sources of traffic so that when (not IF) the search engine implements an algorithm that brings down your ranking, you won’t find your traffic suddenly falling down to zero. There are a lot of venues available for driving traffic – ones that don’t rely on search engines such as social media, forums, and even newsletters.

Granted that none of these alternative sources of traffic can match search engine traffic, but they work well as a buffer of sorts so that you’ll still have traffic while recovering from a Google slap. Or if you’re really good at getting them running, all of them combined can give you traffic similar to search engines.

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