By Rob James
A few years ago, it was common practice for businesses and Search Engine Optimisation marketers to use automated link building to increase links to their sites, with the aim of boosting a website’s PageRank in Google. However, with Google clamping down on “black hat” SEO strategies in their Penguin and Panda algorithm updates, automated link building isn’t going to do your business many favours; instead, it’s better to focus on “white hat” and organic SEO to get the most out of search.
Primarily, automated link building is all about quantity, whereby you run software and join directories to multiply the number of backlinks to your page – blog comments, and filling blogs with low quality repeated content could also enable a single website to generate large numbers of links. However, while this might be an effective method for building up a page’s ranking, automated link building is less invested in getting good quality links from relevant sites, and has been increasingly punished by Google.
The main problem that Google has with automated link building is that it can effectively represent a form of spam – multiple links from low quality sites, or spamming comments boards with links, and posting content with awkwardly placed content distorts the actual relevancy of a page for users. In this context, your business may have a high search ranking, but not one that’s necessarily made up of the right kinds of associations.
Google’s Panda and Penguin algorithm updates were consequently designed to prevent PageRank, the main Google algorithm, from being manipulated. Panda has received 24 updates since February 2011, and crawls pages for low quality features and links to duplicate content – the emphasis with Panda is on duplicated and “thin” content, where the use of links isn’t contextually motivated, and closer to spam.
By comparison, Google Penguin, introduced in April 2012, comes down even harder on automated link building through directories – if you have a portfolio of links that are mostly from link farms and other low quality sites, then Penguin will ignore or rank these links as less relevant. It’s not perfect, but it means that Penguin is going to punish your ranking if you have too many links from low quality pages.
So, what kind of actions can you take to improve your SEO without automated link building? The most straightforward method is to focus on creating original content, and on getting high quality guest posts on blogs and pages that aren’t going to get singled out by Penguin – while there are ongoing questions about how effective Google can be at identifying the right pages to disregard, it’s clear that businesses will have to spend more time on creating great content.
It’s also important to optimise existing content and pages, and to ensure that your HTML and CSS on pages is clearly set up to ensure that they can be picked up by search engines; moreover, businesses can do their SEO a big favour by investing in social media content, which can be easily shared and recommended via social toolbars and buttons. The more organic links that you get from high ranking, trusted sites, the higher the chance will be that Google will increase the value of your own website.