Building Links for the Future: What Does Natural Look Like?

by GuestBlogStar on August 27, 2012

Two months after Google’s Penguin Update hit the “unnatural” looking websites, many webmasters are still wondering how to build links for the future. It’s clear that Penguin has set the new standards, and, by the looks of it, the new rules are here to stay. What they did makes sense when you look at the bigger picture: providing searchers with the best possible results instead of spammy one page websites that manipulated their way to the top of the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages).

link building keyword cloud

To get back to the top or to climb the Google Alps today,  most small niche websites will have to change their approach and become more authoritative by adding unique content, by engaging people to share it and to interact with it in forms of on-site comments. Proper on-page SEO becomes increasingly important, because you want to tell Google that your website is clearly focused on the topic and keywords you’re competing for. But many non-tech-savvy webmasters who don’t know a first thing about title tags and headings will be rewarded if the content they produce, and the user experience that content provides, are recognized as worthy by Google.

The idea behind this is that great content will naturally attract links and social shares. That’s what should keep the non-techies in the game. But the major question for people who realize that their great content needs additional “push” is how to make their link building look natural – until their websites reach the level of visibility needed to attract natural links. The good news is that there is a pattern in what natural looks like; the bad news – it varies from industry to industry.

First and Most Important: Find the Pattern

Competitive Link Analysis – You don’t have to look far: take a handful of your most important keywords and analyze the top spots in Google for all of them – their link profile will tell you what Google believes to be natural for these particular keyword phrases. You’ve probably already done that when you’ve first started with your website, but now it’s time to take another close look at these data; the websites holding the top positions after Penguin are the ones doing it right. Quite possibly, some of them are there by accident and aren’t optimized for your chosen keywords, which makes them easy to outrank.

link graph social

Color Can Help Identify Patterns in Link Profiles

Take the data you’ve gathered: the types of links, anchor text distribution, amounts of links by type (and not to forget the websites linking to them, your potential link sources) and see if you can discover the pattern, for each keyword phrase. That’s the road you should take.

General Rules of Thumb For Link Building Now

  • Get (or make) links from relevant websites. If not the entire website, then make the page you’re getting the link from relevant – especially easy to do with guest posts, because then you’re practically creating that page: even for unrelated niches you can find a way to connect the two topics, making the page relevant for both yours and the website you’re posting on.
  • Be careful with the anchor text. It appears that exact match domains (EMDs) will do well with exact match anchors. It makes sense: coca-cola.com has to rank for “coca cola”, and for now, there’s no way for Google to know if your keywordrich.com domain is a real brand or just a website trying to rank for “keyword rich” phrase – well, that is if you have a decent looking website, of course. But even if you own an EMD, don’t go overboard with exact anchors. You can use them in a significantly bigger percentage than a brandname.com website can, though.
  • The most powerful links are the editorial ones (edited by a human) and in-content (aka contextual) ones. Guest posts (such as this one) are the perfect solution for both, but micro sites (free blogs and other Web 2.0 properties) can still raise your site’s link profile; but instead of building one page micro sites, go with several pages, and don’t point all the links to your main website  — that isn’t natural.
  • Mix in whatever you can: different types of links, different anchors, different pages linked to. Don’t build just the authority of your home page (also not natural), but do some deep linking too.

Arm yourself with analytic skills and patience, and you’re good to go. The Penguin was not the end of the world – at least not for most sites — and if you get used to doing things the right way, you won’t have to fear that a future change in the algorithm would ruin your business.

Jeff Gross is an Internet Marketing expert with an active interest in the ever changing world of SEO. He contributes to many blogs, where he mostly writes about SEO and social media marketing. He also runs an SEO Company called nPromote.

Other links on link building: Link Building 101.

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