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Google SEO 'Strategy' for 2014 - Is link building completely dead?

11:23 pm on Jan 22, 2014 (gmt 0)

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I'm hoping the experts here will be able to help me with this one.

I run a small business, created website in 2001 and did everything myself, learning the basics of web design and SEO along the way. I've always done OK (the usual ups and downs in the SERPS), but nothing to drastic...well not until Panda / Penguin!

I've always been 100% white-hat (although did go through a period of purchasing a few links on directory sites when there were in fashion).

I have since been hit fairly hard for a few of my main keywords. We haven't been notified of any penalties in Webmastertools so it's obviously something my end.

Since the drops, I have done the following:

1) Redesigned my site to be responsive
2) Cut down my 'links' page to about 5-6 companies that I recommend and benefit my clients
3) Used Google's Disavow tool to remove what I think look like low quality links
4) Moved to a faster, dedicated server
5) Improved my site's internal navigation - this included deleting / redirecting old articles and removing some that weren't 100% relevant to what I want to rank for

After all this...the result - MORE of a drop!

I give up! We're being told we can't gain links through Guest Blogs, link building is old-school...so what's left? What can I do to try and improve things in 2014?
12:39 am on Jan 23, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Sorry to disappoint but IMHO link building isn't dead. Link manipulation continues to be under attack by Google's spam team but quality link building is still going strong.

I suggest you think more about building links for generating traffic directly to your site and less about building links to manipulate Google rankings. It is not easy but then again no one ever promised that SEO would be easy.

Guest blogging is still viable if you realize that it is about reaching highly relevant audiences that will be interested in your expert information and not about submitting identical articles to off-topic websites that have no real audience. Matt Cutts even says "There are still many good reasons to do some guest blogging"

For a less risky future I suggest you think more about quality over quantity and genuine marketing over manipulation. Good luck!
1:45 pm on Jan 23, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Link attracting still works.
8:59 am on Jan 24, 2014 (gmt 0)

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I think Google said the disavow tool takes up to a year to work.

I agree with netmeg.

I bet analytics can shed some light on your problem.

I hope you're using more than one.
3:10 pm on Jan 24, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Put what GoodROI said together with what netmeg posted and you have a general overview of the direction some link building can take. My focus of this kind of link building is on building awareness of your site/product in the minds of those likely to recommend it, either by word of mouth, social media, or links. Now more than ever the Industry is considering it. The sticking point is measuring direct impact. You can track new links from counting clickthroughs (referring sites in your analytics), but you can't rely on a list of sites contacted to see if you created the links because many of the sites won't have been contacted.

There was a recent article on some blog. I won't link to it because I think it's also kind of lame. In it the author relates that he doesn't build links. The reason he doesn't build links is because he only consults for big brands who don't need link building. Now, you can call it lame that he only consults on easy site architecture jobs for big brand clients with bags of money that he can then namedrop on the Client List area of his site to attract more money bag clients. And it is kind of lame but it's nice work if you can get it, right?

But what I enjoyed about that article is that the author does have an idea for attracting natural links and it's what GoodROI, netmeg, and I have been talking about in our different ways, and goes way back to what Google originally used to advise way back around ten years ago: Make something good and tell others about it.

About eight years ago I interviewed the guy who founded the Flying Spaghetti Monster site and posted the interview on my martinibuster.net blog (which I took offline). No doubt some SEO types didn't understand why I chose to interview someone who had no SEO experience, a person who engaged in zero SEO activities. So why should you as an SEO be interested? His site had a PR 7 and I wanted to know what he did to get it. People like that have more to teach you about marketing than a hundred posts on Matt Cutts' blog. That's why! The interview is offline but I published the text of it privately because it is useful to understanding the nature of attracting Natural Links. The gist of the interview is that the Flying Spaghetti Monster latched onto a popular trend (always a good way to attract links) and gave away cool and funny web graphics for people to reproduce and pass along. His server load for hotlinked images was something along the lines of forty gigabytes per month. And he profited, with zero SEO. That's food for thought, instructional, and inspirational. Which is why I interviewed him and republished it privately. With a few exceptions, there is more to learn about what to do from sites like Venganza than there is to learn from reading Google's official blog.

The big hang up with that approach is measuring ROI. I discuss this in my newsletter and published some of it on Facebook. Here's an excerpt:

The ROI of search advertising is directly measurable. The ROI of television advertising cannot be directly measured. The kinds of activities useful for attaining natural links are closer to the television advertising model in the sense that they cannot always be directly measured... The impossibility of direct measurement is not a problem inherent in the process. It's a problem imposed upon the process from without, by Internet Marketers and clients who are accustomed to measuring ROI and choose to make it a problem.

Getting back to the blogger who only accepts money bag clients with easy jobs, what put him on that track was:

1. Creating a useful product for web developers
2. Constant outreach to those likely to need his product
3. Constant outreach to those likely to need his consulting
4. Wrap it all around a brand

That's a huge topic in itself. But it's becoming a necessary part of attracting long lasting natural links. Brand is one way of several viable approaches that can all be mixed together. But focusing on brand, I've been reading an interesting book called Zag, that talks about this issue. In Zag the author states that there are several aspects of building a brand and in Zag he devotes the entirety of the book to one of these aspects, differentiation. While I found myself quibbling with the book here and there, the overall ideas are inspirational. What I mean by inspirational is that it expanded my view to apply some of the insights in my own way. Give it a read. It's applicable to the new Internet marketing paradigm we find ourselves in.

Out of the box
I dislike how link building and crappy link building is thought of as the same thing. It's not. Article directories and all the other "scalable" strategies are making that water down the drain sound. It was scalable and directly measurable. The demand for measuring results through search marketing metrics have resulted in these spammy kinds of link building strategies. That's a box SEO has put itself in.
6:50 pm on Jan 24, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Great post, martinibuster. I still think link building is fine, but the particular strategy toward it has shifted from saying, "Hey, I have this resource. Would you mind posting this link on your site with this anchor text?" to "Hey, everyone, I have this great new resource. Hope you like it!"

The latter, of course, is pretty much how marketing has always been done, perhaps with more of an emphasis on "you NEED this resource NOW."

Not exactly that wording, maybe, but link building is now more about promoting what resources you have created and letting the other party decide where and how to link to it.

All that and just good customer service can go a long way in helping your business.
7:12 pm on Jan 24, 2014 (gmt 0)

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That's a great post, martinibuster
7:34 pm on Jan 24, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Thanks for the positive feedback! :)
4:19 am on Jan 25, 2014 (gmt 0)

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If link building was dead how come Google place such emphasis on penalising sites for inbound links?

I still think at the core of Google results is inbound links but what they are creating is "link paranoia" and seem to have the attitude any link created is potential spam.

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