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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B2B and Paid Search: Is It Effective?

B2B And Paid Search: Is It Effective?

Does paid search, often referred to as SEM (search engine marketing) and PPC (pay-per-click) work for selling to other businesses? Should a B2B company invest in PPC and if so, what are the critical elements for PPC that are needed to generate an acceptable ROI?

PPC Is Effective In Generating Leads and Sales

In a recent large group study of both B2B and B2C companies, PPC was found to be a very effective lead generator. Additionally, the study reported that B2B firms are heavily invested in PPC marketing. The study found that, on average, B2B companies were investing up to one quarter of their total marketing budget on PPC. Also, the study showed that even when a firm had the top position in search results, users still clicked and converted on paid listings nearly 40% of the time.

While PPC Is Effective Organic Is Still Very Important

Organic Search did drive higher performance for branded terms than PPC, however, the opposite was found for non-branded terms (i.e. general keyword phrases used to describe the product without including the name of the product or company). PPC achieved a 78% click share versus the 22% for organic on non-branded terms.

But, Do People Really Click on The Ads?

Search Lab, a prominent search engine research firm, conducted a study and found that 28% of searchers clicked on a PPC listing. Also, they found that only 41% of people tested in the study actually realized they were clicking on an ad when they clicked on the PPC listing.

Another study showed that the click-through rate on PPC listings increased by 60% in 2012 when compared to the previous year. In 2011, the top 10 PPC listings used in the study received 17% of clicks in 2011. A year later, the same top 10 received 28% of clicks.

What Do I Need To Do To Make Paid Search Work for My B2B Business?

Many SEOs do believe that PPC works better for B2C than for B2B. However, if you’re a business seeking a solution to an issue within your company, you might be curious if the ad has compelling text that seems to answer your question. To make PPC effective for your business follow the quick bullet points below:

  • Focus on long-tail keyword phrases to avoid irrelevant clicks
  • Use “exact match” and “negative keywords” to avoid attracting the wrong kind of customer to your business
  • Make your paid search ad text appealing and credible (i.e. no “Buy NOW!!!” stuff)
  • Make sure your ad directly answers your typical customer’s problem or question
  • Make sure that the landing page on the other end of the ad is well designed and relates to the text in your ad
  • Make sure the landing page answers your prospective customer’s questions and offers a Call-To-Action that will generate sales leads.

Using paid ad space for B2B can be a bit more challenging than B2C. There is no one right way to go about it. Test, experiment with different combinations of text, landing pages, keywords to find what works best for you and what helps you bring in the most customers. Also, make sure to link your AdWords account with your Google Analytics so that you can have quantifiable data on what’s working and what isn’t. Do this, and you’ll find that paid search can help become a great lead generator for your business.

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Instagram The Holidays

instagram the holidays

With the holiday season knocking on our door, it’s not just holiday shoppers scrambling at the last minute this holiday. If you’re still looking for a last minute boost for your holiday rankings, you’re not out of luck yet, but your window of opportunity is closing quicker and quicker. One great and easy way to help with your holiday marketing is to use social media. Instagram is a great way to not only show off your products but also a great way to help engage potential and current customers. So without further ado, here are some of our last minute tips to give your holiday marketing a boost.

Holiday Themed Profile

One great and easy way to help your customers ring in the holidays is by updating your profile with a holiday theme to it. Check out how Ben and Jerrys did it. Three things to keep in mind with updating your instagram profile for the holidays: Update your company profile with holiday themed sentiment; but keep it short and sweet, Your bio is the most important part of your profile for your mobile viewers, and if you have a holiday landing page, update your profile link to point to it.

Any Questions?

Asking questions is always a great way to get people engaged on your pages. Throw in a dash of holiday themed questions to your Instagram posts. Make sure to include seasonal images that are cute, relevant to your customers, and, as always, make sure that it relates to your products or brand. Also, when asking the question, make sure to use a very personable tone to help deepen customer engagement.

Use Video

Instagram video is a great way to get your message across this holiday season. You can use them in a variety of ways too. Use them to cross-promote a contest, or just to advertise any sales or products that you’re featuring for the holiday season. Keep them brief though (10 seconds) most Instagram users aren’t looking for long videos while they’re on the app. To help, use stop-motion to help generate a fast-paced feel for the short video. For a good example, check out Target’s recent post for tree-trimming.

In-Store Photos

Because of the inherently mobile nature of Instagram, don’t be afraid to take candid shots to show off the inside of your store(s). You can post cool shots of your customers at in-store events, or photos of your staff getting ready for a big sale that you’re going to have. You can also post photos of specific stores, to make it so that your in-store customers will how what the photo is, but others might not. This can create a feeling of belonging with your followers who “get” the photo. Check out what Macy’s is doing with their Santaland announcements for different stores.

It’s not too late to still do some last minute holiday marketing for your business. Act on these great tips, and get a little extra in your holiday stocking this season.

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