Link Building in 2016: Is It Still Worth The Effort?

Link Building 2016

2016 isn’t the first year that predicted to be link building’s swan song and most likely won’t be the last year predicted either. However, link building has become much more nuanced and has come a very long way from the era of spam and botted links from the pre-Penguin days. Today, I’m going to share with you my perspective on link building and why it should still be an integral part of your digital marketing strategy.

Link Building: A History

When the web was young, and Penguin hadn’t hatched yet, link building was almost like the wild west of the internet. It was riddled with black-hat SEO tactics from super-spammy links built on sites meant to be a repository for links and bots inserting links into website’s comments or forums all over the place. Quantity mattered more than quality, and that was the way of the web until Penguin showed up. Now, I’m not saying that Penguin has eliminated all of the spam, but, the majority of the shady link spam industry has been penalized or devalued into oblivion, and has helped clean up the link building industry tremendously.

Links have always been an important ranking signal, and will continue to be, especially since they were a core element to Google’s original search engine algorithm back in the early 2000′s. This algorithm is what separated Google from the rest of the search engine pack, making their results better than their competitors. Today, links continue to be a powerful ranking signal because Google continues to invest in links as votes of confidence about a website.

There was, however, a hitch in their plans. With the “hatching” of Penguin in 2012, digital marketers began to move away from link building. Some of the reasons cited were that Penguin devalued link spam, making link acquisition harder, they made link spam “high-risk” since spammy sites were punished severely, Google’s vagueness on the details of what caused Penguin penalties made people fearful and uncertain, which lead to doubt and a glut of misinformation involving links and what would trigger Penguin to attack.

These factors helped to create a perfect storm of misinformation. Many SEOs saw content marketing as their new golden goose, a replacement of link building with link earning. A build it and they will come sort of strategy where high level content would be created and naturally attract links. However, unlike Field of Dreams, the links never came.

Content Marketing is Good to Do, But Link Building isn’t going Anywhere

First off, let me say that content marketing is a very important part of any digital marketing strategy, and shouldn’t be shunted off by any means. However, I wouldn’t pool content marketing with link building and SEO. The theory of link earning, as preposed by the shift from Penguin, is based on the assumption that high-quality content will organically gain links through social engagement (i.e. re-tweets, Facebook/LinkedIn shares, +1′s, etc.). However, it seems that this isn’t the case.

Back in the Fall of 2015, Moz and BuzzSumo conducted a study, analyzing over 1 million pieces of content and their shares and the links they earned. From this study, they came to the conclusion that there is no discernible correlation between social shares and links. The sample size was mostly composed of highly shared articles that had already proven popular in the niches that they were published in.

These findings indicate that while some content may be viral hits and be shared far and wide across social media, that does not naturally translate into links, either to the piece of content or to the content’s home site. While compelling content is an integral piece to the link building process, it is not the be-all-end-all of link building, manual effort is still necessary to take advantage of content’s link opportunities.

Links Will Continue To Matter in Digital Marketing

Links are one of the foundational ranking signals on the web. As long as you need to market your business, you’ll need to include link building as part of your digital marketing strategy. Regardless of how any search engine tweaks or modifies their algorithm, links will continue to be a cornerstone of the web, not because of how Google values them, but because of their own inherent value to the web itself. Links are what we use to navigate the vast sea of the internet, without them, it would be extremely difficult to find anything we were looking for. Ignore links at your own peril, because if you do, you’ll be missing out in search and in turn, missing out on some great marketing opportunities.

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Link Risk Management is Critical to SEO Success

link risk management is critical to seo

Penguin is, without a doubt, one of Google’s most impactful algorithm updates to date. First rolled out in 2012, it penalized thousands of websites in its first run. Site owners became vigilant against suspicious backlinks and became driven to get rid of any link that might hint at being spammy.

Since then, webmasters have been kept on their toes by Penguin’s rollouts as Google continues to improve their definition of what is and is not a good link. One way to determine whether or not your link profile contains good links is to be aware of your link risk and managing it effectively.

What is Link Risk Management?

Link risk management is a process that came about from the continuous changes to linking and SEO ranking factors. SEO has become more than just a way to win traffic and get better visibility; it’s the way to maintain and improve the quality of your digital assets (i.e. your website).

Instead of waiting for a penalty from Penguin to occur, link risk management is about insuring your traffic and it’s resulting revenue from being affected by Penguin roll-outs in the first place. It’s easier and better to be proactive and prevent damage than to map out a response once a penalty has been placed against your website.

Link risk management consists of common tasks completed when necessary by SEOs:

  • Recovery from manual or Penguin penalties
  • Protection from negative/black-hat SEO and poor quality inbound links
  • Legitimate link-building practices

Recovery from Penalties

Webmasters that have been affected by a manual penalty understand how difficult the recovery process can be. Organic traffic is usually the primary source of traffic to a website, and to lose that can mean lost revenue that can seriously hurt the business. Recovery from these penalties is possible, usually through the disavow tool available to webmasters through the search console. In practice, the process takes a long time; patience and continuous effort is necessary. There are four parts to recovering from penalties:

Backlink Review

Usually, you can only get a portion of your backlinks from Google’s Search Console. To get a more complete picture, tools such as SEMRush or Raven are necessary. Using these tools, you can download a spreadsheet of your total links and review them for quality as well as if they’re relevant to your website.

Link Analysis

When analyzing your links, the first thing you need to do is have a understanding of what makes a good link. This can be found in the recently released search guidelines as well as in Google’s webmaster guidelines, both of which can be found on Google’s website.

Link analysis gets more difficult as the number of backlinks increases due to it being a manual process. You have to check each link and note where they originate from. Spammy and irrelevant sites should be noted for further action (see below). Sites, especially those that have paid links, will have an inordinate amount of links to get through. However, this process can be partially automated to help ease the burden of this arduous process.

Disavowing and removal

Once you determine your list of bad backlinks, the next step is to try getting them removed. You should first try and reach out to the webmasters from where the bad links originate from and have them remove them from their site. Barring that, you can disavow them by adding them to your disavow file for the Search Console. The disavow tool notifies Google that you don’t want those links considered during their assessment of your site.

Waiting

Finally, after performing all of these actions, you have to wait for Google to respond. If you’ve received a manual penalty, you’ll need to file your reconsideration request to Google and then wait for them to re-review your website. This process can take anywhere from a few days to a few months depending. Unfortunately, if you’ve been dinged with a algorithmic penalty, such as Penguin, you have to wait for the next update to roll out, and with Penguin’s infrequent rollouts, this could take quite a while.

Recovery is possible, but it takes time and effort, and can be a very stressful process for webmasters and SEOs. Even when you’ve recovered, it’s not assured that you’ll regain your original rankings. Meaning, your site may still be stuck in obscurity even after the penalty is lifted. But, with an experienced SEO helping oversee the recovery process, you will have more of a fighting chance to restore your original rankings.

Protecting from Negative SEO

Proper link management is pivotal to ensuring your site stays out of Penguin’s radar. As we just said, recovery can be a long and arduous process. This means that webmasters and SEOs need to be proactively assessing their backlink profile rather than taking a wait and see approach when the next update is rolled out.

When assessing your backlinks, new links should be identified and assessed for their relevancy and if they’re spammy. It’s easier to keep track of links as they come in than to wait and analyze them en masse.

Consistently monitoring and assessing your backlinks is important for a few reasons. One, recovery from previous penalties does not preclude you from future ones. Your backlink profile changes daily, primarily due to unscrupulous webmasters who introduce spammy links in an attempt to extort honest webmasters. Finally, negative/black-hat SEO happens all the time, someone with expertise and motive can ruin your standing with Google, given the chance.

Legitimate Link Building

Finally, in addition to the above, you must continuously work towards increasing the number of high quality links you have. Partially, this will help add credibility signals to your website, but, Penguin also is interested in the ratio of good links to bad. In the past, webmasters did not want/need to take time to build high quality, relevant links. Today, you have no choice but to find links organically.

Curious to see how we can help manage your link profile and make sure you stay penalty free? Give us a call today!

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5 Things To Think About With Mobile Landing Pages

Mobile Friendly Landing Page Blog Graphic

With us now more than a month into Google’s “Mobile-Friendly” update the writing is clearly on the wall to make sure your customers can reach your content anytime, anywhere. Just to give you an idea how important it is to make sure your landing pages are mobile friendly, last year, eMarketer did a study predicting that smartphone usage was going to break the 2 billion mark. Additionally, earlier this month, Google released a statement saying that mobile has surpassed desktop usage for search. So with that in mind we’ve put together 10 of the best top practices you should consider when updating your landing pages to meet your audience’s mobile needs.

Start Here

Building a mobile site from the ground up is pricey and takes up a lot of time. The best way to get started to see if you need a mobile solution is by tracking your analytics and finding your customer’s pain points and see where the drops in conversion on your website are. Once you’ve found these points, you’ll know where to start focusing your efforts. Two of the key things you should keep an eye on when tracking your mobile conversions are buying patterns and traffic.

Short and Sweet

When designing your mobile landing page, you’re going to have a lot less room to work with than you get with desktop pages. Headlines are going to need to be short, I mean really short. Consumers are more fickle than ever as well, don’t even try to use a click-bait style title (“This happened, but what happened next brought me to tears”) or you’ll have more bounces than a trampoline in the summer time. Four words or less is what you want to aim for.

Organization is Key

When designing how the content will sit on the page, make sure your call-to-action is instantly visible. You have to see the page from the customer’s perspective, would you spend minutes at a time trying to pinch and scroll around a page to try and find something? Neither will your customers. One good method to try when condensing your material for your landing page, is “vertical chunking.” Think about how you can describe what you’re offering in 3-4 sentences.

White Spaces Are Friends, Not Wasteful

I know I’m spinning a line from Finding Nemo here, but the concept sticks. You must resist the urge to fill every pixel of white space on your pages with imagery or text. If you try to do this, you’ll have so much going on that the customer will get confused and lost on what they’re trying to do and will probably end up with them leaving. If you are going to use a template during the design of the landing page, remember – white space is your friend, not waste.

Mobile Landing Page Examples

What NOT to do with a Mobile Landing Page

Time Is Money

On mobile, you only have seconds to pitch what you’re offering to your customers, and I mean that literally. When it comes to mobile, speed is everything. I know I’m preaching to the choir where this is concerned, but it can’t be repeated enough, the longer your customers have to wait for a page to load, the more likely they are to leave. When coding for a mobile landing page, try to use streamline technologies like HTML5 and jQuery, these will help improve your page load times. Additionally, keep the number of HTTP requests to a minimum, this will help further improve your page’s load time. Lastly, remember not all mobile connections are the same. Some may be using Wi-Fi while others might be on a 3G or 4G connection. Aim to design the page to load quickly on the worst of connections and they’ll be like lightning on the faster ones.

What other tips and tricks do you have for building the best mobile landing pages. Let us know in the comments below! Want help getting one built for your business? Our marketers are inbound certified and can help you get your landing pages off the ground! Shoot us an email or give us a call!

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8 Simple Tips For Improving Landing Pages

There’s no question about it, landing pages and the forms that come with them, are two of the most important elements when it comes to lead generation. Without them, your marketing department would be extremely limited in how they could convert website visitors into leads, and eventually potential conversions. Landing pages help us direct site visitors to pages that have the ability to capture leads more successfully than forms on other web pages. Additionally, they help focus visitors on one specific offer or product, eliminating the distractions of everything else on your website.

However, converting visitors into leads, even with landing pages, is easier said than done. There are quite a few best practices when it comes to setting up and optimizing landing pages. So here’s a few tips to help improve better converting landing pages.

 Make Sure All Critical Elements Are Included

Landing pages are used to convert visitors into prospects. This is done mainly by having them complete a transaction or collecting contact information. In order for either of these to occur, you need to include these critical elements.

  • A headline
  • Sub-headline (optional)
  • At least one supporting image
  • A form to capture the visitors’ information **Very Important**

Remove the Main Navigation

Once you have a visitor arrive at a landing page, it’s your job to make sure they stay there. So if there is anything to distract them, this can lead to them abandoning the landing page before they even convert! One of the best ways to make sure that the customer has nothing to distract them is to remove the navigation bar from your landing pages. This will help them focus on the page because there’s no place else for them to go.

Keep Your Message Consistent

What we mean by this is, make sure your call-to-action is the same as your headline of the landing page. If people click on a CTA for something you market as free only to find out that there’s a catch, they’ll immediately lose trust in you. Additionally, if the headline reads differently than what the CTA is, the customer might become confused and think that the call to action was linked to the wrong page. You can eliminate both of these issues by making sure your landing page is consistent in its messaging.

Less Is More

All of us probably remember the KISS method from high school and college, “Keep It Simple Stupid.” That same philosophy should apply to your landing pages. A cluttered landing page with lots of text and information will result in your visitors being confused, distracted, and (even worse) overwhelmed. Instead, keep the page very simple by using just enough text and imagery to get your point across.

Encourage Social Sharing

Don’t forget to include social sharing buttons that would enable your prospects to become brand ambassadors for your products. To limit clutter on your landing page, only include social buttons that you know your audience would use. Additionally, make sure to always include an email option because some people have different sharing preferences than others.

More Landing Pages = More Leads

This is pretty simple, the more content, offers, and landing pages you create, the more opportunities you have to generate leads for your business. More landing pages also means more targeted content towards your different buyer personas, which can also help increase your conversion rates.

Reduce Fear With Proof Of Protection

In today’s world, people are more protective of their personal information than ever before. No one wants to be the victim of identity theft, and websites that seem completely safe and legitimate might be hiding a dastardly bug or exploit in their system that leaks this sensitive information. Luckily, there are a few different features you can add to your landing pages that would help reduce this anxiety.

  • Adding a privacy message that indicates visitors’ information will never be shared or sold.
  • If your form requires sensitive information, include security seals, your BBB rating, or certifications so visitors know their information is safe with you.
  • Adding testimonials or customer logos is a great way to assuage your customers by showing that other companies/individuals have trusted you with their information

Short and Simple

Sometimes when people see a long form, they don’t fill it out because it looks like it could be time consuming. If your form requires a lot of fields, make it look as short as possible. Reducing the spacing in-between fields and aligning the titles to the left of each field instead of above it makes the form seem shorter.

What tips do you have for better conversions with landing pages? Let us know in the comments below!

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