The internet is a dynamic and ever changing landscape. As webmasters we barely get use to a set of web based rules, before the major search engines change their algorithms, bringing with them a new set of rules. The extend of these changes was never before as noticeable as when Google released Panda and Penguin.
These changes caused severe panic when some websites literally disappeared from the search results. It has been some months since Google launched these updates, with the effects still being felt by webmasters, still scratching their heads on how to recover.
We all hated Google for the updates. The reality is that we should have expected it. For years Google have said that they do not like unnatural or spam linking. Their view was that webmasters which engaged in these practices deprived other webmasters with good content from getting noticed in the search engines. The practice also devalued the quality of the data presented in the search engines, which intern reflected badly on Google for presenting irrelevant information in the search results.
Google always maintained that good quality content is king and that bad linking strategies are bad.
Going forward there are couple of things to need to acknowledge;
- There will always be bad neighbourhoods where people will try beat the system. In these bad neighbourhoods bad backlinking strategies (spamming) will always happen. To be sustainable you will have to have a risk management strategy to eliminate or reduce risk coming from these neighbourhoods.
- Good content is king (I have said that already….Maybe I am onto something)
Create quality content
Our primary aim is to always create good content – content which is sufficiently good that people will want to link to your content. Creating quality content should be your primary focus to ensure the sustainability of your website with link building as a supporting activity.
Quality content should be supported by optimizing your content for your keywords prior to going to the next step of building backlinks. See articles listed under the SEO page
(See my posts: Backlink Strategies – Where to find backlinks that highlights content which other like to link too )
At some point in time Google and the others may choose to completely discontinue the use of backlinks as a ranking criteria. I do not anticipate that backlinks will disappear in the near future as a key factor to determine the importance of a page – you will thus require a SEO friendly backlink strategy.
Google’s preference is that backlinks to websites should grow organically (by itself). There is however a flaw in that argument. New websites with no backlinks will never perform well in the search engines and can’t be see by others. To overcome this problem webmaster still have to employ backlinking strategies other than the organic growth system.
This brings us to the debate on “what is good” and “what is bad” backlinks.
To answer that we need to look at the sources of the backlink (the page on which the backlink is located). When looking at a potential page to link from more than often it can be seen if the link would add value or could be interpreted as a spam website (a website which have been created for one purpose only and that is to automatically place backlinks on). Some webmasters that owns legitimate websites either doesn’t know how to moderate backlinks or are just too lazy to moderate backlinks may also be included into the bad neighbourhood. Spammers are good at finding such sites and will abuse the lack of knowledge or laziness to create backlinks. Often the content or comments on such sites appear to be disjointed, may not make sense, or is just written badly. All signs that the content have been spun.
The problem faced by webmasters is that they do not always know which websites fall into a bad neighbourhood as some of sites in the bad neighbourhood is often very sophisticated and looks legit. Getting backlinks from such sites will harm your site in the long run.
This raises the question of how to deal with the bad sites.
This brings us to the first rule for a SEO friendly backlink strategy.
Create a safety layer between your site and potential bad links.
(See my posts: Backlink Strategies – The Key Characteristics of a Quality Backlink - essential for a good backlink strategy)
Create a multiple layer strategy
Primary Backlinks Strategy Layer
The most important part of this strategy is to create a website layer below your primary website. This layer will filter and adsorb the bad vibes coming from bad websites.
For this strategy to work you must have full control over this layer. The best way is to set up “dummy” websites with similar theme as the content which can be found on your main website.
The purpose of these websites is to act as a sacrificial filter to protect your website.
These websites will link to your website from backlinks you have placed on them. Since you have control over these sites you can create quality, on topic content, placed within the main body of the page, with backlinks of your choice. Everything you need for a quality backlink.
The only thing these site would not have is authority. This you can create by pointing backlinks from other websites (with unknown neighbourhoods) to the “dummy” sites. The authority created from these links will then flow through to your main site.
The real advantage of these sites is that if a site from a bad neighbourhood points to the “dummy” site and your “dummy” site gets penalized for the bad backlink then it is easy to cut the ties with the “dummy” website, protecting your main website from being penalized. All you then have to do is replace the lost website with new ”dummy” site to replace the lost backlinks. ( Copy the content from the “infect” dummy site to a new site and shut down the “infected” site). You will have to spend time to rebuild backlinks to the new “dummy” site.
Setting up the dummy sites does not mean that you have to spend money to register a new domain name. Free blogs hosted by WordPress would suffice for this purpose (It does give more legitimacy to the process if the “dummy” site sits on its own domain).
A couple of guidelines when setting up a “dummy” sites.
- Don’t over due this strategy (create to many websites) as you need to maintain these sites (create fresh content from time to time to maintain and grow the authority). Five sites would be sufficient to start off with.
- The site will have to have at least five pages to gain the trust of the search engines
- Don’t place more than four links on any of the pages pointing to your main site (More may appear like spam). This equates to 20 quality links if you created 5 “dummy” sites consisting of a single page..
- Create different pages on the “dummy” website each with four links (at least five pages). This will multiply your link building process significantly (in this case by 5 which adds up to 100 quality links pointing to your website)
- Point the backlinks to different pages to give it a more natural look. (Always point one backlink to your root domain)
- Use different anchor text in each link. (Do not use your main keyword more than 20% of the time)
- Use different alt tags in images pointing to your website. (Include your main keywords into the alt tags)
- Place some of your affiliate links on the “dummy” websites. Each one of these websites should be a legitimate site and if thought through should be a little niche sites which could be optimized for long tail keyword phrases. This will multiply your money making potential.
Secondary Backlink Strategy Layer
The second layer of this backlink strategy is to create backlinks to from known trusted sources. These backlinks are pointed directly to your main website. This done in not to dilute the backlink quality by pointing it to another site first.
An example of such links would be backlinks derived from article sites such as EzineArticles. These sites are well known and is trusted by the search engines (Note: Google have reduced the significance of article submission site with there latest algorithm updates). The nice thing about these sites are that you have full control over the content, the anchor text, and the position where the backlinks are placed.
Depending on the rules of these sites used you may be able to get up to four backlinks. (Point them to different pages in your website – make sure one points to your root directory) You may choose to point one of the backlinks to one of your “dummy” sites to give it authority.
This backlink strategy is expandable. If you wish you may create a next layer which will point to both your main site and the websites within the first layer.
NOTE: For this system to work the backlinks should always point in the direction of the main website. DO NOT link between the websites which falls within the same layer and more important, DO NOT point backlinks to websites which falls in a layer which is lower down in system.
Lastly: Do not make use of article submission site which place the articles with multiple sites. Google is actively busy de-indexing sites which participate in bulk submissions or devaluating backlinks which comes from such sites. If you are not sure about the quality level of a site point the backlinks to one of your sacrificial site.