SEO in A New World Ruled by Penguins and Pandas

By vishy | SEO

Jun 06

Today, I’m going to discuss various factors that you need to look at to ensure that you comply with the past, present and future Google Algorithm Updates – that seem to be getting rolled out with higher frequency.

Understanding what Google wants currently will ensure that your site remains protected from the current updates and algorithm requirements.

If your site has been already hit, by following the directions below you will stand a better chance to recover your site.

So, before you do a Disavow Tool submission or file a Reconsideration Request – please make sure that your house is in order by adhering to the items I discuss below.

The action steps below do not come with a 100% guarantee that your site will gain back it rankings or that it will not be hit in the future.

These steps will only better your chances of regaining ranks or being more safe in the future.

They are a result of hours of my reading and digesting online forums, blog posts and comments.

Do note that, a lot of the new mumbo jumbo does not apply to the very small micro-niches that Google’s algorithm has not (yet) targeted. Micro-niches where old school SEO are still commonplace and are in fact thriving. I am still seeing many of my clients holding ranks for these very small and obscure niches. However, do note that these niches exist in millions of variety and follow a “The Long Tail” phenomena.

Now, let’s get started…

panda-penguin-comparison-flat 

Topics That Will Be Covered…

  • Ensure Your Site has High Quality Content
  • Study Your Top Ranking Competitors
  • Ratio of your Total Low Quality Links to High Quality Links
  • Keep Building Links At A Steady Pace (Consistent Link Velocity)
  • Fix Your Anchor Text Keyword Links
  • Aim To Get A High Number of Contextual Links in Your Niche
  • DoFollow vs NoFollow Links
  • Site Page Crawl Errors and Missing Links
  • Promote Your Homepage AND Inner Pages
  • Social Signals
  • Three other factors you might want to check
  • Ensuring Your “Google Authorship Markup” is in place
  • Blog Roll Links and Sidebar “sitewide” Links
  • The Domain Authority Trick (Piggy Back on High Authority Sites)
  • Exact Match Domains (EMDs)
  • Linking Out To Other Authority Sites (Insulation Technique also known as Co-occurrence)
  • Guest Post Blogging (Real Guest Posts and Guest Blogging Networks)
  • Backlinks From Sites in Your Niche
  • Author Rank and The Hilltop Algorithm
  • Private Article and Blog Network Submissions
  • Article Marketing… still a viable tactic?
  • Directory Submissions… do they still work?
  • Press Release Submissions
  • Video Submissions
  • Niche Blog Comments and Niche Forum Posting
  • Create Your Own Niche Network of Micro Sites
  • Panda Related Factors (On-page Content)

Ensure Your Site has High Quality Content

I am starting the checklist with an item that is not actually related to Penguin – but because it is so very important, it needs to be mentioned right up front – so you ensure your site adheres to this.

Although Penguin primarily targets low quality backlink profiles that look unnatural – the fundamental building block for long term permanent rankings for an authority site is to have high quality content (this is a Panda issue).

However, if you are just building a site for short term gains and are ok with getting penalized if your site and blackhat backlink tactics get discovered manually or caught by the algorithms filter – you can build and rank sites with thin content.

Do not “over-optimize” your site content and structure…

Study the content of every page and ask yourself if you think your content serves a purpose?

Does your anchor text match the intent of the target? Do your pages exist because they need to or only to target one more long-tail variations of a term?

If you are thinking of re-optimizing.. .then don’t de-optimize your on-page SEO… re-optimize it into something better.

You should also check your on-page optimization using seoquake.com tool and compare yours to top sites in Google in your niche.

A word on keyword density: Currently you should be using your main keyword with a 1% keyword density and your other related LSI keywords with another 1% keyword density. Do not practice any keyword stuffing by inserting too many instances of your main keyword. It looks very obvious and spammy and can be detected easily.

Write for the user and not a machine. Insert some rich media content like videos and remove any excessive advertisement units. Link out to a Wikipedia page or another authority site in your industry that is not your competitor.

Write to an audience as Google is getting better and better at figuring out spammy quality articles that are stuffed with repeating keywords and over-saturated keywords.

LSI is even more important now. When you write you must use other related (LSI keywords) now with a higher frequency in your article and use your main keyword lesser than before. A great place to use LSI keywords in sub-titles and then you can write about the LSI keyword in the associated paragraph under the sub-title.

Note that – “Contextual writing” is playing a greater role now, and “backlinks” are playing a lesser role than before.

A word about spinning of content for off-page posts…

While some people will immediately say that you must stop spinning and posting spun content, I have a different view on this. Google will not currently differentiate high quality off-site posts with low quality posts. This is because the algorithm – although can detect poor grammar – 90% of the world writes with poor grammar.

Hence they cannot really use this factor too aggressively to penalize sites doing this inside their algorithm – because if they did, they would lose 90% of natural signals to their ranking algorithm, making it go off-balance.

But, this does not mean you take short cuts. When you do the spinning – make sure you use a good spinner that gives you around 90% and above unique content spun versions AND that the spun content is decently readable (unless you are doing core blackhat and are trying to rank a throwaway site).

Don’t indulge in low quality spins that are 60% unique and produce gibberish, if you have a serious website you want to rank. Low uniqueness may get you caught in the filters… and pass down negative value from the pages that get detected, thereby hurting you.

So, understand that Google or any software program will not currently aggressively decipher super-spun content from regular content or even a good quality post from a mediocre quality post.

Use this fact to do core massive link building to your site only if you are comfortable with taking a hit.

 

Study Your Top Ranking Competitors

I keep coming back to this one again and again, in several areas of this report.

And, that’s only because it IS very important.

If you are building an authority site in your niche – you absolutely need to do your own research in studying the backlink profiles of the top ranking sites in your niche.

You need to rely on the real-world data surrounding the results for any keywords you want to rank for.

“Reverse Engineering” top ranking sites is one technique you can always use and follow in any niche and for any update that Google does.

This is the surest way to study what is working and what is not.

Copying your competition that is ranking high is the technique that will always work – no matter what Google does. Although it will require more insight and a higher level of intelligence (as compared to simple manual brute-force link building).

Yet, so many people completely ignore this tactic – and its probably because it does take a lot more effort in terms of intelligence, skill and experience levels.

Note: It appears that the Google algorithm update has been tweaked to behave differently across different niches and industries. The various variables are set to different dial levels – and, the algorithm definitely behaves differently for established brands and domains like Amazon or Wikipedia.

 

Fix Your Anchor Text Keyword Links

It’s going to take a little more than simply changing a few of your anchor links this time. You’re going to want to make it look as natural as possible to the search engines.

This means building a lot of links that have other related (LSI) keywords, generic keywords, random sentence or phrase links as well as image links.

Use a tool like MajesticSEO, Ahrefs or OSE to examine what your current anchor links profile looks like and compare it to that of the top 3 to 5 ranking istes in your niche.

If you have used your main keyword as the anchor text link in over 50% of your backlinks, chances that your site got hit are very high.

Google is giving sites a negative penalty for doing this, rather than devaluing the links. This is definitely the most dreadful thing they have done – and it does make some sense. Sites that are doing no SEO seem to be ranking on top, as their anchors look natural as they are not forced to be money keywords and therefore over-optimized and unnatural. You will need to copy this anchor distribution – so yours looks as natural as the top ranking sites.

With the Anchor text penalty – Google does not want you to “game” them so easily by using your main keywords in the backlinks.

This is ironical though – because it was they who defined what good SEO was in the first place and how keywords in anchor text links were how they measured PageRank and link juice being passed on.

A negative penalty is harder to recover from and requires you to fix things and then file for a reconsideration – that probably may not even happen. More on this later.

So, here is the new “rule” for you to follow while you are building your backlinks going forward…

What ratio you choose finally, also largely depends on what the current 3 to 5 top ranking sites in your niche are using.

10% – main primary money keyword
10% – related secondary & LSI money keywords including Long Tail Keywords.

20% – brand keywords (need to vary a bit by exact and sometimes with space if brand has 2 keywords), example – Apple, iPhone etc.

All the above “power” anchors should appear in mostly the contextual backlinks that have more authority and link juice. The ones below can also appear in contextual backlinks and other link types like Social Bookmarking, etc.

20% – plain raw URLs / 8 combo rotation

20% – generic anchors (like click here, visit our page, visit our online store to buy shoes, etc. Also make sure to use as diverse many as possible, and also use custom generics derived for the niche – like “click here to by blue shoes”. Make highly natural sounding. For tips access competitors backlinks profile in Ahrefs or MajesticSEO.

10% – niche specific and highly generic keywords (10%) … like “shoes”

10% – random full sentence links from the contextual posts

Also, include some image links when possible.

Basically as a general rule of thumb – you need to promote your main keyword, your brand anchors, universal anchors (general keywords), LSI anchors, and naked URLs, and images as the backlinks.

It is very important to note that you need to build a large fraction of random looking anchor backlinks.

 

Strategy For Already Existing Sites…

If you already have a site that has tons of backlinks, how do you decrease or increase your backlinks so they conform to the above distribution numbers?

So, should you already have a large number of backlinks with your main anchor text then you basically have 2 options to fix things…

  1. Delete unnatural looking links. To do this, you need to visit URLs having money keyword anchors and change the anchors or delete them altogether – until the ratio of money keywords looks more organic and natural. If you don’t have access to modify/delete the page (as may be the case with blog comments) then you will have to mail the webmaster asking them to remove or edit the links appropriately.

 

  1. De-saturation Technique – For this, you will need to make new anchor text links using other secondary LSI keywords, generic keywords etc. Use your main keyword only 5% of the time, in an effort to “dilute” the percentage of your main keyword. Remember, Google gives slightly more weight to new links as opposed to older ones – so hopefully, if you can dilute quickly – you might gain some SERPs fast.

 

Of the two above, the second one is easier to do with lesser resources, time and cost.

As we said, there is no “one solution” and “one size fits all” here. You need to look at your niche and competitors and accordingly make the updates.

Of course, it is very important that you keep In mind that you need to now focus on building pages with higher quality contextual baclinks… and lesser low quality links – specifically if your density ratio of low quality links to high quality links is very high.

Also, make sure that your on-page SEO is also toned down if it is very aggressive currently. You should be doing the following, to ensure this –

  • Lower your Keyword Density to 1% or less
  • Make sure your keyword appears only once in your Description tag
  • Make sure your keyword appears only once in your Title and looks natural
  • Don’t excessively use keywords in the URLs of inner-page links. Tone it down a little and just make it sound and look natural.

A good free LSI keyword tool (that will help you generate similar keywords to your main keyword) can be found at http://lsikeywords.com/

 

Ratio of your “Low” Quality Links to “High” Quality Links

Penguin or Panda updates do not imply that you have to abandon building low quality links altogether.

When you build links you have to emulate how links appear naturally on the web.

That is how the Google algorithm is programmed to check the quality of your overall backlink profile and its link velocity as your backlinks are being built.

When these natural links appear they can be seen as being either high quality or low quality links.

To understand exactly how many such links you need and in what ratio – simply study your top competitors who are still ranking – and see what kind of link building activity they are engaging in.

Study how many low quality links they have and how many high quality links they have. Study their link profile and different types of linking activity very closely with a goal to try and emulate them.

 

Keep Building Links At A Steady Pace

The speed at which you build links over a period of time is called the “link Velocity”. This is one factor that Google does look at closely.

The Google algorithm is programmed to check when your links “appear” online in a so called “natural” manner with natural looking link velocity.

Never build your links too suddenly and aggressively at any one moment.

That is, don’t rush in and drop 1000 Social Bookmarks in a couple of days. It looks too unnatural, right?

Drip feeding a variety of links types of both high and low quality in a “slow and steady” manner is the best thing you can do. Just make sure you do not build a large fraction of low quality links as compared to your powerful high quality links.

Once you get started, and start seeing some results, slowly build up the momentum (link velocity).

Never jump in and start building links too fast and of one type only. It will do your site more damage that will take a long time to recover from.

The key is to mix up your high and low quality links – and drip them in slowly. And, keep rotating with and mixing up your backlink types keeping things as random as possible.

 

Aim To Get A High Number of Contextual Links in Your Niche

This one is a biggie. Google is rewarding sites that have contextual backlinks coming from sites in the same niche AND are of high (decent) quality.

If your backlink has surrounding content that is related to the backlinks and is of high quality and not just spun content, then you will get a large amount of trust being passed down from this backlink on the page – even if your backlink is not a money keyword anchor link.

Google is using “co-citations” to associate raw and generic links with the surrounding content and thus assigning the link juice for the specific group of keywords. I will talk about co-citations shortly.

 

DoFollow vs NoFollow Links

You need to make sure you keep a natural ratio of DoFollow vs NoFollow links across your backlink profile.

If you have only 5% NoFollow links – this will look unnatural to Google and could pass a “spam” signal to the algorithm.

Although only DoFollow links will ensure that link juice passes down, there seems to be no evidence saying that a Nofollow link will not pass down some link juice. This is something which is highly debatable as Google is not very clear on this, given that they want to remain as tight lipped as possible about key elements of their algorithm.

For the sake of this report and recovery, we will assume that NoFollow links will not contribute towards a Penguin penalty (but may still pass down some link juice). So, while evaluating links to fix, we can, for now, simply ignore all NoFollow links.

All in all, try and have at least 20% to 30% of your links to be NoFollow. You may want to look at the backlink profile ratios of your top ranking competitors to see what ratios are working best in your niche.

 

Site Page Crawl Errors and Missing Links

It is highly advised that your site has minimum dead links. These are not de-indexed links I am talking about. These are links on your site are no more valid anymore or pages that have moved or been removed by you.

Make sure you keep the number of such dead links to non-existent pages lower than 20%. We learnt that sites with greater than around 30% error pages (missing links) – were hit with a much higher probability by Penguin. So, do check this metric on your site. If there are dead links – just redirect them to your main URL with a 301 command.

 

Promote Your Homepage AND Inner Pages

It is very important that you promote both your inner pages as well as your homepage.

If you have several products listed on separate pages within your site – then you might consider promoting these inner pages that list your products more aggressively than promoting your homepage.

However, you need to strike a balance. See what looks natural and do just that. You could again look at your competitors who also have multiple pages and products like you do.

You can promote your homepage as a general listing on say Directory sites or while doing a Google Places listing – but when you are promoting your actual products – you need to aggressively link the inner pages that display their details.

The initial Penguin update supported sites that were also promoting inner pages, and punished sites that only promoted the homepage.

This again, is SEO 101.

It’s a basic strategy that you should be following. It is only natural for people to link to various pages of your site and not just the homepage.

So, go ahead and aggressively start promoting internal pages and if you are setting up a blog with regular posts – make sure you are promoting them as well with fresh backlinks.

Once you do this and mix things up – it will help tremendously in ranking your site for all your keywords and even other long tail keywords in your niche that you may not even have promoted or used anywhere!

That’s the beauty of gaining authority in a niche!

Social Signals

Having Social Signals elements integrated into your website is now something that you absolutely have to do.

Although Social Signals are not yet the most important ranking signal – there is a strong possibility that they will be highly significant in the near future.

Google will trust you more if you have Facebook Fan page with Fan following and with FB likes.

The same goes with Google +1’s and Twitter with active tweets and decent number of followers.

Sure, if you are just starting out the low numbers might look ugly… but you can always contact close friends and associates as well as your current customers to come join in the groups and the conversation.

Be sure to offer them some sort of value in exchange that they may not find elsewhere. Having healthy social signals sent out to Google will do wonders for your on-site credibility and trust signals.

There was a recent case study in a Webinar I attended recently that showed how one person took an absolutely new domain with 15,000 monthly exact searches to the Top 5 results within around 10 days time using purely only Social Media Signals boosting strategy. He purchased 350 Google +1’s, 1000 Retweets, 40 Facebook shares, 40 retweets and 30 G +1 shares to get to the top 5 in 10 days. We are not sure if this is do-able across all niches with a new site, as there still is a lot of confusion in the industry about this method when done via blackhat means.

However, having your Social signals in place and steadily increasing over time – is definitely something Google is looking at with more significance than before while ranking websites.

The trick again, is that you need to see the Social Signals of your top ranking competitors in your niche – and try and match them or beat them without going overboard and doing it too suddenly.

 

Three other factors you might want to check…

These 3 signals are gaining more strength in the ranking algorithm.

– Check your Bounce-Rate (should not be higher than 40%)

– Check the average time spent on site (3 minutes + is good)

– Check your site loading speed (it should load within 3 minutes)

 

Ensuring Your “Google Authorship Markup” is in place

Authorship Markup is a new technique that Google is now aggressively pushing. I’ve seen several of my client’s sites gain ranking jumps within a day of integrating this.

With this special configuration you are basically connecting all posts you make on your site to your Google+ profile address.

This sends a signal to Google that your post is indeed made by you and it is a verified post.

As you gradually keep making more and more posts and content and link it to your Google+ profile you gain more trust in the eyes of Google and you gradually become an expert – specially if you start guest post blogging on other authority sites in your niche.

This in turn ensures that you have good status and standing and when you make a new post – it gains some authority automatically as soon as you insert your markup code identifying yourself to the post.

It is very clear that Google IS giving more weight and “trust” to pages of content and sites that have this HTML markup tag embedded in them.

To take advantage of the Authorship Markup you basically need to do 2 things –

(a) Login to your Google+ account and add your blog or site to your “contributor” section.

(b) Then every time you create a new post, or if you want to verify that a post is done by you, simply put a link back to your Google+ profile. You can do this by creating a sort of author bio box that would look like this…

Connect with me on <A HREF=https://plus.google.com/u/O/UNIQUEGOOGLEPLUSID?rel=author”>Google+</A>

Just make sure you put your Google+ profile address and write something like this above line somewhere in your post – beginning or end fits perfectly.

If you are using WordPress then this process can be simplified with the plugin called “Author Sure”. While setting this up you will need a gravatar.com account with a picture and some description as well as adding some info in your “About Us” page of your blog.

Another advantage of doing this is that your Google+ profile image photo will appear in the ranking results of the page – which really makes the listing stand out from the others without photos, thereby generating a much higher Click-Through-Rate for your search result listing!

 

Create Your Own Niche Network of Micro Sites

This is a long term strategy, but with the current moves Google is making – this is something I advise everyone to start doing.

It may not be easy for you to find high quality private network of sites in your niche or industry. In such a case, it will probably be easier for you to start creating your own network of private sites.

If you start making your own private network of micro-sites, make sure the sites you make reside on separate Class C IP networks geographically scattered around the globe. The DNS info also needs to be different.

Also ensure that you hide your Whois information from the public or Google (there is an option to pay a little more and get private registration). This will not leave any common footprint for Google to guess that all the sites in the niche actually belong to one entity.

Make sure you have About Us, Contact Us, Privacy Policy pages in place across all of them and you don’t disclose that the sites are owned by the same person, openly.

The aim here is to build micro-niche sites in the same niche or sub-niches within the niche and slowly drip feed and add fantastic content to each of them over a period of say 3 to 6 months.

Once these sites have been around for a while and have gathered substantial articles that are each of very high quality – then and then only, should you drop an odd backlink to your site – but, again through a guest post type blog article of high quality.

Go real slow and steady with this. Don’t do too many “blogroll” type links on all the micro sites in your network … do it in a few only.

Most of your backlinks should appear within authoritative articles in these micro sites.

Again, when you link to your site make sure you follow the random anchor text patterns I have discussed previously to keep things looking as natural as possible to Google.

Target to register around 20 domains and create your own private network of niche/sub-niche micro-sites over the next 30 to 90 days… slowly drip feeding content into them.

You can purchase High Page Rank expiring sites with a High PageRank via GoDaddy Auctions or by using a tool like PR PowerShot, KD Auctions, or a web tool like Register Compass.

It is quite possible that you find a PR4 site for $10… which is a steal!

Once your domains are purchased, I suggest you use WordPress CMS to build them. To centrally manage all the sites (and without leaving a traceable footprint for Google) – there are some very good tools like WPmanage.com that will allow you to control all the sites through one interface.

Once you have around 15 to 30 blog posts across all the sites, you can start building your backlinks to your sites’ pages – slow and steady.

 

Blog Roll Links and Sidebar “sitewide” Links

Sitewide links have become dangerous if they exist in large numbers and are present on sites that have low Domain Authority and Page Rank.

They are safe if they occur on authority sites in your niche that have decent PageRank.

If you have excessive sitewide links on low PR spammy sites – chances that you will get a penalty are now very high. So, be very careful with this one – and do not overdo it.

Search engines do not count each site wide link separately. But, you need to make sure that if you have many sitewides that exist on low quality sites with low authority – you remove them. If you cannot remove them, simply do a domain level Disavow Tool command while submitting your Disavow Tools file. We will get more into this later on.

The Domain Authority Trick (Piggy Back on High Authority Sites)

Domain Authority is playing a more important role now. We are seeing domains with higher authority ranking higher up in the SERPs more frequently.

We are seeing more and more user-generated web pages that are hosted on Web2.0 property sites ranking higher up in the SERPs.

So, you might want to create and host satellite pages on providers like Squidoo, Hubpages, Weebly, Tumblr, Wetpaint and even Youtube.

You can then promote these pages and they will rank with a higher chance. Hence you can literally “piggy back” on these sites to get to the top. I have included a database of these Web2.0 sites – but you can also use a tool like Rankwyz.com to quickly and automatically drip post content to these sites if you do not have the time to do it manually.

 

Exact Match Domains (EMDs)

Many EMD sites took a hit when Google rolled out the EMD Update on 27th September 2012. This update effected .6% of Google search results.

The importance of an EMD has been declining over the months. IT did have a lot of power but this has diminished over time.

However, you should take careful note that it still works if you do things carefully – although it will not work as quickly and powerfully as it once did – but its not yet a 100% dead strategy.

If you are building a satellite page and trying to rank it high – I saw a couple of posts that favoured this technique. If you can get an exact match satellite page subdomain – it could potentially help you rank faster. For example http://yourkeyword.blogger.com

EMDs are still powerful in some niches and not all niches have been hit. Here is an extract from a popular SEO guru’s website (link to full article below)…

Exact-match domain names are (still) your friend! They can be ranked with a lot fewer links and apparently have a much better chance of not getting penalized for anchor-text over-optimization. This includes the “lesser” domains (.info, .biz, etc.), as well as domain names with the keywords separated by dashes (e.g. work-from-home.biz).

If you want to see which niches they still work in and to what extent, check out the full article with complete data and details at – http://www.jonathanleger.com/anchor-text-optimization-how-much-is-too-much/

Even after the EMD Update, we are seeing many EMDs ranking easily. Although Google has toned down the link juice they would give an EMD by virtue of the EMD keywords being the money keywords AND Brand keyword simultaneously – there is still some bonus link juice EMDs get over other sites trying to rank for the same keywords.

 

Linking Out To Other Authority Sites (Insulation Technique also known as Co-occurrence)

When you are building contextual backlinks – that is backlinks on pages with great content like Guest Blog Posts, Web2.0 sites, etc. it is important that you link out to a Wikipedia page as well as maybe a couple of other authority sites in your niche (without of course linking to a competitor).

This is known as the “insulation technique” or “co-occurrence” by Rand Fishkin over at SEOMoz (now Moz).

Google will see your other authority outbound links on this page and as a result will automatically assign higher “trust” to this page. This would result in your backlink carrying and passing on more link juice.

Some people are creating “Link Lists” and “Top Resource Links” pages on Web2.0 sites – with the aim of gaining Page Authority and passing down some good link juice to the linked sites.

 

Guest Post Blogging

There are basically two ways to go about making Guest Posts. You can take the long route of searching out the top sites in your niche that are looking for Guest Posts. Or, you can find private guest blogging networks – where people take a small fee to allow you to immediately post your content on to their sites. Both methods have their pros and cons, and I suggest using both the methods in balance.

Real Guest Post Blogging via Community Outreach

I call this “real” because this is the true way Guest Posts should be done. Its resource intensive and costs a bomb if you outsource it – but the results are far reaching.

However, not every site and niche is required to use this for of Guest Post Blogging and many niches can just skip this method in favor of the alternateive method of doing Guests Post Blogging via Private Niche Guest Blog Networks.

That said – if Guest Post Blogging is done in this manner – this technique is easily by far is the most valued technique in SEO.

Many people do not use this method as it is somewhat time consuming taking up a fair amount of resources to achieve just a single contextual backlink.

This method requires you to first write a single article that is highly authoritative and of fantastic value, and basically something that anyone with a website in your niche will want to publish on their site on an exclusive basis. It needs to be of highest quality and must be unique.

Then you simply make a list of sites and blogs that are in your niche by searching Google or using tools like BuzzStream to find others in your niche writing about similar topics. A single backlink of this high contextual quality in the same niche is more powerful than probably 10,000 poor quality links appearing on general sites.

Since the link comes directly from a blog in the same niche and the backlink is surrounded by relevant content on the page AND since this content matches the content throughout the site – this type of backlinks is given a very high backlink potency.

Every one wins in this sort of arrangement. You get your backlink from a related site in the same niche, the site gets unique content that does not appear anywhere else (and hence a jump in its authority) and the reader gets to see unique content. You can even perhaps, cut a deal and pay the other site for posting your content – if they are initially not responsive in putting up your post for free, and if you really want to get your backlink on the domain.

If you are having trouble connecting and going through the effort of contacting niche authority blogs, there is an alternate shortcut solution.

Guest Post Blogging via Private Networks

You can do fast and effective Guest Post Blogging with articles written at 1 cent per word rate, if you have access to some of the small and private guest post blogging networks “out there”.

These are not easy to find and you usually have to find a broker to get inside these networks. Each site on these networks is niche related and usually has decent enough content to survive a manual review by Google (if it does happen to take place).

These sites charge a small fee per post. Some of them guarantee the sites to have specific PageRanks and I have seen sites with PR4 and above. Some of the blogs in these networks are kept super private and are not available for you to see, until your post actually gets published. Others, allow you to see the sites and choose the one on which you can post.

Of the two types, obviously the former is safer as the list of sites is not exposed to a potential Google Webspam team member working under cover! J

The Guest Post Blogging tactic has many facets and it can be covered entirely in a separate post, which I will get to shortly. This will include various tools and techniques to get Guest Post Blogging done right – as well access to some of the worlds most powerful Private Guest Post Blogging Networks.

 

Backlinks From Sites in Your Niche

What one does in this strategy is to try and get backlinks carefully placed only on sites in the same niche.

It requires a lot more “effort” and “skill” – and may not be possible for everyone to do and in all niches.

Google automatically gives these backlinks more authority and value – because of LINK RELEVANCE.

If your backlinks are found  in a cluster of sites that are part of your niche only – it is quite possible for you to rank high very quickly.

You need to build all the different backlinks in “same-niche clusters”.

So, you may target to get backlinks blogs, directories, forums, portals etc. that are in your niche and on sites that have RELEVANT content.

Building Your Own High PR Private Niche Network

If you are struggling with this, a brute force method and a long term solution is to build your own (non-detectable) private network of niche specific High PageRank sites – on which you can then gradually drop un-obvious backlinks.

This again is somewhat blackhat, but if you do it carefully it won’t harm you. You need to just build a large number of industry specific sub-niche sites as blogs and write great content for all of them. Then occassionally slip in a few links to your sites from a few posts. This method will take up a lot of time, resources and money – but it is a fantastic method with long term heavy positive results.

 

Public Article and Public Blog Networks

Note firstly, that this is different than Private Guest Post Blog Networks discussed above.

I won’t say much about this technique, as you may be already probably aware that during one of the Panda updates, some of the large public article and blog networks like BuildMyRanks (BMR) and ArtileLinkNetwork (ALN) got de-indexed overnight.

Do keep in mind that because this was sudden de-indexing, the link juice from all sites on these networks suddenly dropped to zero.

Everyone who was relying on these networks to pass down link juice, and more so those who ONLY used this one tactic – got hit pretty bad.

You probably got affected severely if you depended largely on only these networks for a large fraction of your link building.

The key take away lesson here is that you should never put all your eggs in one basket and this holds true even when it comes to building link types. Never ever depend on one technique alone to bring in your rankings. Have as much as variety as you can – as long as its safe.

Compare this to a negative penalty like with Penguin…  which gave your backlinks activity a negative score and immediately tanked its rankings as a vast number of backlinks started to pass down large amounts of negative and “toxic” link juice.

So, are Private Blog Networks Dead?

Private Blog Networks are not dead. Quite to the contrary, they still work. As long as the networks and small and private, and they are not compromised to be detected by Google – they are safe. So, go for networks that are selective, private and small. Also, build across a variety of networks and NEVER depend on only one network OR just this one link building tactic for your SEO.

 

Author Rank and The Hilltop Algorithm

Google is slowly moving more and more away from using Page Rank as an indicator of trust for the amount of link juice a specific page is able to pass down to the pages it links out to.

Although Page Rank is still a very important factor in calculating the link juice and rankings data – we are seeing some initial steps and a movement towards “Author Rank”.

In 2003 Google bought the Hilltop Algorithm Patent. This algorithm has formed the base of a new kind of link graph where real trusted voices of people in a niche (the experts) link out to other related sites in the same niche without themselves having any association with the other sites.

With this, the more inbound links a site gets from “experts” in the niche – the more authority that site gains. And, more juice flows to the site – if the link is from an expert author who is located closer to the center of the link graph. That is, who is somewhat of a “celebrity” within that niche.

Further, with Google+ and Gmail, Google is now able to get a clear footprint of how real accounts that are operated by real people look, as compared to accounts setup for the purposes of passing fake social signals.

They have a clear pattern matching system in place. And because, these social signals cannot be gamed and will be the future of SEO.

Gaming social signals is almost impossible and even if possible it is very expensive. If Google had purchased Twitter (when they had the opportunity to do so) this goal would have been achieved much faster.

So, we can all take a sigh of relief !

Until the algorithm switches over to primarily using Social Signals for its core search engine – it’s primarily a backlinks game.

We CAN all continue to do SEO and “play” the algorithm out for now and in the near future.

But, once the algorithm moves away from backlinks towards Social Signals – SEO is going to be a LOT harder to do!

 

Article Marketing… still a viable tactic?

Its absolutely important that you focus on only the high quality and popular Article Sites to start with.

Some of these sites are – ezinearticles, goarticles, articlesbase,  articlesnatch and ideamarketers. You need to stop massive submissions to lower quality Article Directories – specifically, backlinks that link directly to your main website.

You can, for now safely build mass article submissions as part of Tier 2 links only… no direct Tier 1 backlinking in large numbers!

 

Directory Submissions… do they still work?

They work but not in large numbers. You can get hit if you submit very quickly to low Domain Authority directories that are spammy in nature.

Submitting too quickly, to hundreds of low quality directories can and will get you into a quick manual penalty.

I have seen so many noobs make this mistake.

So, please stop all mass directory submissions immediately! This is one signal Google is penalizing hard. It worked earlier – but not any more.

You need to focus on submit to only a handful of directories that are the top directories and then to directories that have some PageRank and are related to your niche only.

Make sure you cover all the top Directory sites like BOTW, Dmoz, Yahoo, Business.com etc. – some of which are paid.

Here Are My Top Ten Directory Listing Recommendations

[1] Best of the Web (Paid – $149.95 USD, Renewed Annually; or $299.95 USD, One Time Fee)

[2] Gimpsy – Active Sites for Active People

[3] GoGuides

[4] Google Directory – Powered by the ODP

[5] JoeAnt.com

[6] ODP – Open Directory Project – dMOZ

[7] Skaffe – The International Directory

[8] WebSavvy Directory

[9] Yahoo! Directory (Paid – submission review $299.00 USD, Renewed Annually)

[10] Business.com (Paid – $299, Renewed Anually)
 

Press Release Submissions

Consider doing one or two Press Releases every monthly or quarter.

Press Release are good and work very well if done right, and give Google “good” signals for your domain.

Google recognizes your domain to being in the “buzz” once its on news websites and new wires.

It tells Google that your business is real, and your site will gain more trust with this.

You will even get a boost in your trust, when just your site or brand is written about in the press release – without any live anchor link even. This is called a site or brand “mention” and it goes a long way in passing down quality signals to Google.

Also, when you do a press release distribution, you will mostly get an anchor link that will be of your sites raw URL or a domain.com type backlink. Do not worry, this is still very healthy and cannot harm you.

Just make sure the Press Release is of very high quality and real with a decent “story” or “event” (reason). Don’t just blindly promote your site or products.

There are many free and paid Press Release and News Wire distribution services that you can easily find online.

 

Video Submissions

Google owns Youtube. You need to make them happy by ensuring you at the very least have some videos on it.

Look at your competitors and see how many videos they have, and try to have about the same number of videos as them.

Make sure you optimize each video and the channel you setup. You can include a URL link within the description. I will discuss Video and Youtube SEO in depth at a later time, but for now – just be aware that this is still growing strong and can get you some good link juice and organic traffic.

 

Niche Blog Comments and Niche Forum Posting

Try and drop intelligent comments or forum thread replies on related blogs and forums in your niche and industry.

Identify the top blogs and forums and participate in live discussions to provide valuable feedback and not just filler responses. When you post on a niche blog or a niche forum – you need to make sure that your comment is relevant and of high quality.

You don’t want to be associated as a spammer on these sites – so its absolutely important that you post a comment that is related the blog post of the forum thread.

The post must be intelligently done and make sure you don’t hire overseas $2/hr Virtual Assistants to get this job done right – as they probably won’t get it right.

Never ever aim to rush and post in large numbers. Lurk around blogs and forums and read a lot before you even make your first post. Get familiar with the community and the rules. Then drip post and participate starting real slow.

The aim is to build legitimate links with meaty content that contributes to the discussion – so that your link sticks in the long term. These links are very good if they stick. If the blog or forum operator closes the comments or thread at a later date – then your backlink is permanent and the OBLs (Out Bound Links) on the page will remain fixed and won’t get diluted. This will ensure a decent level of Link Juice for you.

A good way to post intelligently on a forum thread is, for example, to say…

“@user – I like your comment, but note that I feel that @user2 blah blah blah has a better opinion. My opinion is that blah blah blah… and by the way, if you are looking for xyz related item then check out ww.xyz.com”

And you can slip in your RAW URL or Anchor Text Link here – depending on what the forum rules are!

Some forums will not allow you to insert any link whatsoever unless you make 10 posts, for example. So, you will really need to participate well and put in decent amounts of resources to start getting the ability to insert your backlink.

Another place to get your backlinks is in your  signature area that appears below your post. Again, most forums will require you to interact more before they allow you to add your signature link profile.

So, this is a tedious way to get the backlinks… but these backlinks are very powerful as they give you RELEVANT backlinks that convert into better link juice for your niche. They also allow you to network and get known with others in your niche – and form new relationships with others in your niche community.

The same goes with Blog Comments. Make sure that the comment you submit is related to the main post or is a response to another user’s comment. Again, you can insert your anchor URL in the “name” area, or as a raw URL or anchor text link in the post itself – if the blog allows it. Make sure your comment is good and meaty and then your backlink (if in the comment) – stems out of your comment and is related to it in some way, rather than just looking like a spammy link insertion.

It is important to note that in both cases, Forum Posts and Blog Comments – to never use your money keywords! Always, just link with the anchor as your name, your brand name, or domain. Never use your money keywords as anchors for this. Not only will your thread post or blog comment be deleted or disapproved by the moderator – but Google is also penalizing sites for overdoing this one.

Finally, although you could drop some blog comments on general blog topics, specifically if you find a high PageRank page – this is definitely not advised to be your “only” blog commenting strategy.. and it is blackhat. So, mix things up… and make sure to drop comments across a variety of blog posts and of varying Page Ranks – if you must.

All the above measures do not mean that your sites will not get affected. If you follow them, it will greatly reduce your chance of being affected.

If you want to get a quick glimpse of what your backlink profile looks like, you can use a tool like LinkDetective.com to get a chart like the one shown below –

linkdetective

23 Panda Related Quesations To Ask Yourself

Amit Singhal, Google’s Head of Search, published a blog post with 23 questions you can ask yourself if you feel you have been hit by the Panda update which rolled out internationally in May 2011.

Those questions include:

  • Would you trust the information presented in this article?
  • Is this article written by an expert or enthusiast who knows the topic well, or is it more shallow in nature?
  • Does the site have duplicate, overlapping, or redundant articles on the same or similar topics with slightly different keyword variations?
  • Would you be comfortable giving your credit card information to this site?
  • Does this article have spelling, stylistic, or factual errors?
  • Are the topics driven by genuine interests of readers of the site, or does the site generate content by attempting to guess what might rank well in search engines?
  • Does the article provide original content or information, original reporting, original research, or original analysis?
  • Does the page provide substantial value when compared to other pages in search results?
  • How much quality control is done on content?
  • Does the article describe both sides of a story?
  • Is the site a recognized authority on its topic?
  • Is the content mass-produced by or outsourced to a large number of creators, or spread across a large network of sites, so that individual pages or sites don’t get as much attention or care?
  • Was the article edited well, or does it appear sloppy or hastily produced?
  • For a health related query, would you trust information from this site?
  • Would you recognize this site as an authoritative source when mentioned by name?
  • Does this article provide a complete or comprehensive description of the topic?
  • Does this article contain insightful analysis or interesting information that is beyond obvious?
  • Is this the sort of page you’d want to bookmark, share with a friend, or recommend?
  • Does this article have an excessive amount of ads that distract from or interfere with the main content?
  • Would you expect to see this article in a printed magazine, encyclopedia or book?
  • Are the articles short, unsubstantial, or otherwise lacking in helpful specifics?
  • Are the pages produced with great care and attention to detail vs. less attention to detail?
  • Would users complain when they see pages from this site?

I hope you enjoyed this post, as much as I enjoyed making it!

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About the Author

" Do, or do not. There is no try." - So that's my favorite quote (for now at least). I dabble in all things tech, although I work a lot with SEO, Internet Marketing, eCommerce, eLearning, SAAS... yada yada yada the list goes on. If you like what you read, just sign up. You never know what secrets of the universe I reveal when I'm down a couple of spicy woks.

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