In the last lesson, we talked about how you can create a number of assets, including WordPress installs, Facebook pages, Twitter profiles, Blogger blogs, and number of other websites and social media accounts you might need to build a strong reputation online. In this lesson, I will teach you how to develop your asset linking strategy, which will help your SEO tremendously by helping you interlink your websites to increase your Google PageRank.
As we touched on in a previous lesson, it’s really important to get your linking strategy correct. Google is very good at ferreting out people who try to use linking strategies to game their system. One of the most important factors Google uses to determine where your page should rank is the number of backlinks you have to your site. This means that you have to be cautious when creating backlinks through social media profiles or any websites you own because there is a right way to do it and a wrong way. If you do it the wrong way, Google will penalize you in search results and may even deindex your website, which means that your website won’t show up in Google search results at all. This could cost your brand a ton of traffic, and since we obviously don’t want that, we’re going to teach you how to link to your websites in a way that improves your search engine rankings.
Red Flags to Asset Linking
Now, there are many dangers to asset linking that you should be aware of. These have come about thanks to Google’s recent update called Panda 3.4. This update devalues your backlinks when you commit the following actions:
- Linking to your site with the same exact anchor text from a number of sites
- Having a high velocity of links going to your site (a large number of links in a small time period)
- Trading links with websites that do not have a high Google PageRank
All of these actions used to be common practice in search engine optimization, but have more recently fallen out of favor because Google devalues these links and these backlinks do not help you rise in the search results.
What Google is looking for instead is a natural progression of growth on your website. This means that Google wants to see backlinks that come slowly over time from a variety of websites using a variety of anchor text. Remember, Google’s goal is to produce the best search results for people, using an algorithm. They rely on information that comes from people, like backlinks, to weigh heavily in their algorithm and count as a human vote for the credibility of a website.
How To Create a Natural Backlinking Strategy For Your Website
I can teach you how to get backlinks to your site in an authentic way that looks natural to Google’s search engine algorithm. We have a three-step process that will help you build these links without getting penalized in Google:
Step 1: Create a Map of All Your Online Assets
In part six of this series on reputation management, we talked about creating your company assets like “[company name] reviews.com” or “[company name] reviews” as a Facebook page or as a Twitter account. The first thing you want to do is group all these assets according to the keyword used to create them. For example, under your “reviews” grouping, you’ll put all of your assets that target the keyword “reviews.” You’ll also group all the assets that target the keyword “[company name] [your city] .com,” and so on. We recommend that you do these groupings in an Excel spreadsheet so you can stay organized.
Step 2: Choose a Focal Point in Each Grouping
The #1 rule in creating an asset linking strategy is that you can’t have all of your sites pointing to each other. There must be one main site that all the other sites are pointing to. So in each grouping, you need to choose a focal site that you can link all the other sites to.
The focal point for your grouping is usually going to be your main “.com” asset. For example, your focal point for the “reviews” group would be “[company name] reviews.com.”
All of your focal point assets are going to eventually link to your main company website. This creates a three-tiered hierarchy of links, which we have found is the safest way to influence Google search results without looking unnatural and setting off a red flag.
Step 3: Link All Your Assets in Each Grouping to the Focal Point in Each Grouping
Lastly, you want to go to each site and put a link to the focal point of the grouping that site is in. This is going to increase your Google PageRank and will let Google know that this asset is the main one. Google will give this asset the most weight in the most credibility in its search engine results. Furthermore, all of these assets on sites like Quora, Facebook, and Twitter are going to lead to your focal points, which are each going to point back to your main company site.
Remember that you don’t want to link these assets too quickly to one another. You need to link them all up over a period of several days or even a few weeks, because this is what looks most natural to Google. This is how people link to websites in real life, and we want to mimic human behavior.
Pitfalls to Avoid When Creating an Asset Linking Strategy
Before I set you loose with this asset linking strategy, I want to caution you against some of the recent updates that have caused companies short or long-term positional drops without warning. The best way to link to your site strategically and naturally is to know the things that Google is looking for when trying to ferret out over-optimized sites.
1. Acquiring Excessive Links in a Short Amount of Time (Link Acquisition Velocity)
You want to keep track of your site’s link acquisition velocity because not only could you make a mistake and link too quickly, but your competitors could also attempt to use this tactic to get your website delisted from Google. You can check your site’s link acquisition velocity using one of two tools:
Also, don’t think that you can try to avoid this pitfall by gaining links from authoritative sites only. While you want to gain backlinks from sites with authority, if your website suddenly spikes with authoritative backlinks it may still send a red flag to Google. You can check this by using a link profile tool created by Tom Anthony.
Finally, though it may be tempting to buy backlinks in order to increase your search engine ranking quickly, these rarely end up being worthwhile. First of all, Google does not allow paid links of any kind and if they find out you’ve purchased backlinks for your website, you will be penalized. Second, these links are rarely worth it because, while they might drive some traffic, it will likely be of low quality.
2. Excessive Site-wide Links From Websites that Link to You
Site-wide links are the ones found in a blog roll, sidebar, header, or footer. These types of links show up on every page of your website, which comes up in Google search algorithm as a website linking to you excessively. You can check who is linking to you with a site-wide link using Google Webmaster tools. Go to your site on the web and click on links to your site. You’ll be able to see the people who are linking to you most. If anyone is linking to you more than 20 times, they are probably linking to you with a site-wide link.
While Google’s Webmaster Tools is probably the quickest way to check on this, it doesn’t always report on the backlinks that Google actually sees. If you want to get more information, you can use a third-party service such as:
- Majestic SEO
- Open Site Explorer
Keep in mind, however, that these sites are not trying to replicate Google’s behavior, and may also provide significantly skewed data. This can happen when Google removes a site from its index but the third-party tool still reports those links. Most of these third party tools do not account for deindexed websites and will simply provide you with all the information about all the websites that link to yours.
Another problem with site-wide links is that they look like link exchanges. A link exchange is when someone links to you in return for you linking to him or her. Google frowns upon this backlink method, though they don’t ban it completely.
Often, link exchanges get you into more trouble than they are worth because you are linking to a website that may not be high quality, which hurts you, and you are gaining a link from a website that might not be sending you high quality traffic. We recommend avoiding link exchanges with anyone who does not have a highly relevant site to yours.
3. Similar Anchor Text in Every Backlink
Humans who are not coordinating their efforts to link to a particular site would naturally use different anchor text in every backlink. Google gets very suspicious when it sees a number of sites that link to one website with the same anchor text. This means that in your linking hierarchy, you want to use a variety of anchor text phrases that are related to your keywords.
A great example of a company who had this problem is JCPenney. They tried to game the system by getting unrelated websites to link to them using a single keyword phrase as anchor text. The New York Times found out how JCPenney had gained such a high ranking in Google so quickly and outed them in the press. A Google employee named Matt Cutts ended up deranking them because they were in violation of Google’s webmaster guidelines.
You can check the anchor text of all your backlinks by exporting anchor text data from as many different sources as you can find. We recommend:
- Majestic SEO
- Open Site Explorer
First, export the anchor texted you find from all of these sites and put it into one spreadsheet. Then, you want to start filtering the data to get one cohesive data set that makes sense for what you’re trying to understand. We recommend filtering out the following:
- Duplicates – Since you are pulling from multiple tools, you’re likely to find duplicate data
- Dead links – Google doesn’t use these because they are from sites that used to link to you but currently don’t
- No follow links – Google doesn’t follow these and they are unlikely to cause over-optimization issues
- Site-wide links – Google counts a link from a domain to a particular page on your website once, so you should too
- Links from websites that have been de-indexed by Google – Since Google is not looking at these, there’s no point for you to look at them either
From there, you can use Excel to classify different anchor text variations and spot weaknesses in your backlinks. You’ll need to use your data analysis skills and may want to create a couple graphs to help you see patterns in the data. You also want to look for any keywords that have an excess of backlinks associated with them.
Advanced Techniques For Ranking Higher in Google Search Results
Now that we’ve gone over all the mistakes people make, I want to share with you a few advanced tips that will help you make your link building look natural.
1. Using Junk Anchors
In the real world, not everyone is going to link to your website using optimized anchor text. In fact, a number a people are going to link to your website using phrases like, “Click Here!” Or “Read Now.” This is the type of text that people use when they are creating calls-to-action within their text. You can actually rank faster in Google search results if you include these types of junk anchors in your optimization.
A bonus reason to use these junk anchors in your copy is that they help increase conversion for the click-through rate of the link. Since your goal is to drive as much traffic to your website as possible, this advanced tip can help you improve your traffic results.
2. Using Semantic Keyword Phrases
Semantics is the study of meaning and interpretation in words. You want to use semantic keywords when linking to your content. By using semantically equivalent words in your keyword phrases, you can better describe to Google what your website is about.
The classic example of semantic keywords is “lemon.” Does it refer to a color, a fruit, a scent? In this case, it refers to a defective car. So instead of using “lemon” as the anchor text, you would want to use longer phrases like, “how to spot a lemon on the used car lot.” Then, you’d want to come up with semantically equivalent phrases, like “how to spot a defective car on the used car lot.”
If you’re interested in digging deeper into this topic, Brian Clark of Copyblogger has provided a simple guide to semantic keyword research on his website.
3. Using Brand Mentions as Anchor Text
Typically, when humans link to each other they use names and brands within the anchor text. For example, if Neil Patel wanted to something I’ve written on Reputation Hacks, he would probably link using an anchor text that read something like, “I came across this awesome article on search engine optimization by Jun Loayza of Reputation Hacks.” because people like to give credit where credit is due, Google often rewards brand mentions within the anchor text. Link strategies that do not include brand mentions signal to Google that someone is trying to game their system.
4. Gaining Social Links on Social Media Websites
Google’s #1 goal is to create search engine results that are relevant to as many people as possible, so it is always looking for ways to incorporate social proof into its algorithm. That’s why gaining attention from humans is so valuable to search engine optimization. You want to get as many shares for your content as you can cross social media outlets like Facebook, Twitter, Delicious, StumbleUpon, and many other social sharing sites.
You can increase social sharing by putting links to share prominently at the bottom of all of your content and by asking your readers to share the content within your blog posts. You can also create great content that social influencers find valuable and want to promote to their audiences. We’ll go into much more detail about how to create excellent content in a later lesson in this reputation management guide.
Creating a Long-Lasting Linking Strategy
While this asset linking strategy may take a little longer to generate results in Google search, I guarantee that it’s the best way to teach Google about your website. We’ve seen companies go overboard when creating online assets because they immediately start linking each asset to all their other assets. This helps get as many links as possible, but it also creates a link exchange, which looks unnatural and sends a red flag to Google. We have seen this backfire many times and have watched companies lose all the rankings because Google has delisted them from search engine results.
It’s worthwhile to take your time and create a hierarchy of links with your linking strategy. This will position you for long-term success.
Thanks for reading this part of the guide and if you have any questions, you can email me at Jun [at] ReputationHacks [dot] com.