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Kristi Hines

Google Panda Update: Say Goodbye to Low-Quality Link Building

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A while back, I wrote about how to get the best high volume links. Fast forward eight months and Google has made two major changes to its algorithm -- first to target spammy/scraper sites, followed by the larger Panda update that targeted "low quality" sites. Plus, Google penalized JCPenney, Forbes, and Overstock.com for "shady" linking practices.

What's it all mean for link builders? Well, it's time we say goodbye to low quality link building altogether.

'But The Competitors Are Doing It' Isn't an Excuse

This may be tough for some link builders to digest, especially if you're coming from a research standpoint and you see that competitors for a particular keyword are dominating because of their thousands upon thousands of pure spam links.

But here are two things you must consider about finding low quality, high volume links in your analysis:

  1. Maybe it isn't the links that got the competitor where they are today. Maybe they are a big enough brand with a good enough reputation to be where they are for that particular keyword.
  2. If the above doesn't apply, then maybe it's just a matter of time before Google cracks down even further, giving no weight to those spammy backlinks.

Because, let's face it. You don't want to be the SEO company behind the next Overstock or JCPenney link building gone wrong story!

How to Determine a Valuable Backlink Opportunity

How can you determine whether a site you're trying to gain a link from is valuable? Here are some "warning" signs as to what Google may have or eventually deem as a low-quality site.

  • Lots of ads. If the site is covered with five blocks of AdSense, Kontera text links, or other advertising chunks, you might want to steer away from them.
  • Lack of quality content. If you can get your article approved immediately, chances are this isn't the right article network for your needs. If the article network is approving spun or poorly written content, it will be hard for the algorithm to see your "diamond in the rough." Of course, when a site like Suite101.com, which has one hell of an editorial process, gets dinged, then extreme moderation may not necessarily be a sign of a safe site either (in their case, ads were the more likely issue).
  • Lots of content, low traffic. A blog with a Google PageRank of 6 probably looks like a great place to spam a comment. But if that blog doesn't have good authority in terms of traffic and social sharing, then it may be put on the list of sites to be de-valued in the future. PageRank didn't save some of the sites in the Panda update, considering there are several sites with PageRank 7 and above (including a PR 9).
  • Lack of moderation. Kind of goes with the above, except in this case I mean blog comments and directories. If you see a ton of spammy links on a page, you don't want yours to go next to it. Unless you consider it a spammy link, and then more power to you to join the rest of them.

What Should You Be Doing

Where should you focus your energy? Content, of course!

Nine in 10 organizations use blogs, whitepapers, webinars, infographics, and other high quality content to leverage for link building and to attract natural, organic links. Not only can use your content to build links, but you can use it to build leads as well by proving the business knows their stuff when it comes to their industry.

Have You Changed Your Link Building Strategy?

With the recent news, penalties, and algorithm changes, have you begun to change your link building strategies? Please share your thoughts in the comments!

Editor's note: This column originally was published on March 8, 2011, and comes in at No. 2 on our countdown of the 10 most popular Search Engine Watch columns of 2011. Over the final two weeks of 2011, we're celebrating the Best of 2011 by revisiting our most popular columns, as determined by our readers. Enjoy and keep checking back!


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