Tag Archives: Search Engine Optimisation


Reviewing the rules of link building

Link building has become an increasingly dirty word over the last couple of weeks, months and years (depending how far back you look), and many digital marketers have began to simply ‘leave the court’ when it comes to the once quick-win strategy. This became particularly clear during Nottingham’s first ‘Drink: Digital marketing meet-up’ event late last month.

During the event, which brought together many of Nottingham’s digitally inclined minds, there was an overwhelming buzz around Google’s site-wide penalties applied through the now apparently nasty practice of link building. But is it really fair to assume that all link building results in site-wide penalties? And should digital marketers give up on the practice all together?

Over at Moz they seem to disagree (and I’m with them). Last Friday they released their weekly whiteboard Friday discussing ‘The rules of link building’. Cyrus Shepard used a brilliant analogy, comparing link building to a game of basketball. He considered Google to be the referee, giving people fouls and penalties. Some players (digital marketers) are getting frustrated and simply walking off the court (stopping link building all-together). As Shepard explains, link building is still a huge part of Google’s algorithm, and people are stopping because they don’t know the rules.

Whilst Cyrus goes on to explain five do’s and don’ts (which you should totally listen to) I’m going to sum it up in two words…

…’Be natural’

By ‘be natural’ I mean don’t try to scale up a natural link building exercise. Stick to the low quantity but high quality links that might take six to twelve months to develop – These are the types of link that Google won’t punish. Scaling this up will quickly become black hat SEO (in Google’s eyes, at least). Not asking for specifics (particularly anchor text) in your process will keep the process as natural as possible. Don’t forget Google’s strapline: “Don’t be evil”. Keep to this mantra and I predict there will be no site-wide penalties in sight.

A great way to stay natural is to focus on content distribution. By getting your content out to more people not only will you generate more natural links but you’ll also get your content viewed by more people, which is the end goal anyway. It’s also beneficial as you’ll receive higher quantity traffic (note quantity not quality) as the links to your site will be more relevant.

So, stay on the court and follow the rules – Not only for today’s game but tomorrow’s game too. After all, it’s good to win the game, but even better to win the tournament.


Is guest blogging still valuable in 2014?

I recently read Matt Cutts article on the decay and fall of guest blogging for SEO whilst searching for the effectiveness of the practice. It seems that there’s still potential for guest blogging, but it’s been exploited by many trying to achieve some SEO quick wins (namely getting as many backlinks to a website as possible).

The good – High quality, worthwhile and relevant articles

The general vibe from the SEO community seems to be that there is still potential for guest blogging, despite Google coming down hard on some of the ‘looser’ practices (and rightly so!). It really comes down to the quality of the article, and the quality of the website that you’re publishing on.

Articles written by thought-leaders and industry experts, which delve deep into the topics being discussed is a good first step to ensuring a good quality article. The article should be of high-enough quality to ensure it’s engaging and detailed enough to make people want to read the whole article (and add comments!). But it’s also about the relationship of the author with the guest blog site’s readership.

The article also needs to be relevant to the publisher’s site. A shorter, topical article will go much further than a long, irrelevant one. The quality of the site comes into play here too, with the “take anything” attitude sites falling foul of Google’s expectations. Why would you want to be associated with those sites?

The bad – Paid for links, spammy articles and keyword saturation

Paying for links, keyword saturated anchor text and non-influential articles are just three examples of poor guest blogging. As Matt Cutts demonstrates, there has definitely been a significant increase in the quantity of bad quality *spammy* guest blogs.

Ultimately, if you’re guest blogging in an attempt to get lots of keyword rich links back to your site, then you should probably consider stopping. Matt suggests in the article comments that adding ‘Nofollow’ is a good tactic, meaning the links won’t effect (negatively or otherwise) PageRank. That in itself doesn’t make the article useless – not by any means.

The ugly – Blog spinning and replicated content

And then things get really bad. Blog spinning (the practice of submitting a slightly varied article to 100’s of blogging directories at the same time) is, quite obviously, going to attract Google’s attention. As will submitting the same guest article to multiple sites. No longer are the blogs unique and of a high value!

So, is guest blogging still valuable in 2014?

From everything I’ve read – Yes. But not so much for increasing PageRank (though backlinks, at least). It seems that due to the increase of spammy articles emerging since 2012 Google has took a tough stance and has devalued those backlinks. That’s not to say that guest blogging isn’t a good practice, simply that it shouldn’t be seen as a ‘quick win’ to get links back to the site and ultimately increase PageRank.

What I (and Matt Cutts) is trying to say is that “Guest blogging is OK – for exposure, branding, increased reach, community, etc – but Guest blogging for SEO is not”.


What changed with Penguin 2.0?

Penguin 2.0 was released less than a week ago, and seemed to underwhelm a lot of webmasters despite the hype that surrounded it, despite being spam focused thus effecting a small number of (black hat) website administrators.

What changes were likely rolled out?

There’s a couple of likely updates included with Penguin 2.0. The main one, as discussed in WebmasterHelp’s YouTube channel was the improvements in finding ‘black hat’ web spam, and reducing the ranking of those results. This was in attempt to create a more comprehensive spam detection algorithm, which has more impact on ‘spammy’ websites.

Another key change (probably) implemented with Penguin 2.0 is the management of adverts (both text and display), in order to detect the associated flow of pagerank. Webmasterhelp’s video discusses the ‘obviousness’ that paid adverts should adopt, ensuring that users don’t think paid ads are organic content.

What’s in the pipeline for Google’s SEO algorithms?

There’s three key elements described in the YouTube video;

  • A new link analysis system orientated at better detecting content hidden behind links
  • A ‘next generation’ hacked website detection system, with the focus on user communication
  • Increasing the pagerank of ‘authority’ websites for individual industries and categories.

Of cause, this is all ‘things that have had some sign of approval’ (as mentioned in the disclaimer of webmasterhelp’s video) so it’s entirely possible, knowing the ‘fingers-in-pies’ approach that Google takes, that these may or may not make it into final releases in the summer/s to follow.