History is recorded moments in life. People’s thoughts, either great among others or just great in their own shadow. Every glimpse of life at that just moment, deserves to be treasured. So just “Keep That Thought”…
Pratik Dholakiya, January 24, 2014
If there’s one thing everybody thinks of when they hear about Google penalties, it’s link removal. Even though Penguin isn’t technically a penalty (it’s an algorithm update), it’s certainly no exception. Unfortunately, there are so many posts about link removal that it’s easy to forget there’s much more to recovery than that.
If you tried to recover from a Google Penguin update by simply removing links and hoping that the penalty will be lifted, the reality of the situation is that the links that were helping you rank are gone. Removing them might help the recovery process, and you certainly should remove as many negative links as you reasonably can, but this isn’t the key to success.
One victim of Penguin approached my company. Like many other legitimate businesses with a similar fate, they had been misled about SEO practices. After 8 months of work, we were able torestore their previous traffic levels. They fully recovered in July 2013.
Here’s the thing: there was no Penguin update in July 2013.
After some discussion, the client decided to take on the link removals. They wanted us to do something a bit more important: help promote their site.
This is the key to Penguin recovery.
By focusing on link building and link attraction techniques that put the focus on referral traffic, leads, and branding, we were able to fully recover their site with just about 80 high quality links, some of them naturally attracted by resources we put on the site, others built from high quality blogs.
You read that right. Roughly 10 high quality links per month for eight months recovered them from Penguin.
I believe that most SEO professionals have recovery all wrong. While link removal may help and is often necessary, what Google really wants to see is a site promoted and grown in a way that doesn’t revolve around search engines.
A successful SEO campaign is designed to be profitable even if the search engines ignore your actions. Our client’s recovery from Penguin, even without a Penguin update to help it along, should be more than enough to persuade you that this stuff works.
So, how can you approach content marketing as an SEO strategy that’s strong enough to recover from Penguin? Here are seven tactics.
A linkable asset is, fundamentally, something that people will link to easily with little or no prompting. It is a resource on your site that people will link to naturally. Any brand that hopes to make a name for itself should have at least one of these resources, and typically more.
Linkable assets tend to have two or more of the following properties, elevating them above just “content”:
Here are a few examples:
This kind of activity was instrumental in our client’s recovery. For example, we worked together with our client to create three infographics.
However, the absolute most overlooked linkable assets in existence are tools and applications. Perhaps the most instrumental thing we did with our client was produce a series of financial calculators. These have been incredibly useful not just in attracting links, but in attracting the kind of natural user behavior that search engines love to see.
Our experience has shown us that few things help in recovery, or safeguarding against penalties, than natural search behavior. When visitors keep coming back, you know you’re on the track to recovery.
Keep in mind that the absolute most successful websites on the net are built around tools, whether it’s Google, Facebook, Amazon, or Wikipedia. It’s tools that make these sites click.
One more thing that works extremely well are original surveys and research. These work extremely well in almost every niche. I’d recommend looking into SurveyMonkey if this kind of thing interests you.
In addition to building linkable assets, you should switch your blogging strategy over to one of pure customer acquisition. You should be SEO conscious while you do this, but the whole point is to design an SEO strategy that will be successful even without the blessing of search traffic.
The point is to build up an email list and use it to make a profit without relying on search engines. This allows you to profit even while Penguin is still affecting you. The SEO results that follow from this are mostly integrated into your referral traffic strategy, with the exception of a few technical things like keyword research.
If a link wouldn’t be worthwhile if it were nofollowed, it’s not worthwhile at all. I’m talking about links that:
If the links you build aren’t doing any of that, they certainly aren’t valuable for immediate business purposes, and they most likely won’t be valuable as long-term sources of SEO value. They are also very risky as links to build while you’re suffering from a Penguin demotion.
To be clear: I’m not saying that if a link doesn’t meet these criteria, it’s worthless or it needs to be removed. Most natural links you attract won’t fit this criteria. That’s fine and should be expected. Just understand that you shouldn’t waste time building these links. Attract them naturally, but don’t go out of your way to acquire them.
When it comes to link building, 10 high quality links are worth more than a thousand crappy links.
So, how do you earn links from platforms of this caliber? Yes, guest blogging as a tactic has been covered to death, but there’s no denying its power. Here are some ideas:
At the same time, keep in mind that guest posting isn’t the only way to build links from influential platforms. It’s possible to achieve it with just outreach if you have a linkable asset to promote, as long as you remember it’s all about them:
Notice that these three strategies all have two things in common:
Also keep Robert Cialdini’s six principles of influence in mind while you’re doing outreach:
Another marketing strategy is giveaways. Rob Ousbey wrote a great post about using giveaways to earn links for Moz. Here’s some advice:
Marcela De Vivo also shared some killer suggestions:
It’s important to remember that giveaways ride a thin line. Google considers exchanging a free product for a link a “link scheme.” Facebook has strict rules about how contests can be used, which is why it’s important to use a third party tool like Rafflecopter. Considering that you’re doing this to recover from Penguin in the first place, it’s important to stay completely above board with this.
As with everything else, try to run your contest in a way that will prove profitable even if it doesn’t result in any SEO value. This is obviously good for ROI, and it offers the most sustainable SEO benefit when it does work.
When it comes to external SEO, your fundamental goal is to be talked about. While content, tools, linkable assets, and outreach can go a long way, nothing brings quite the potential to the table that a good old-fashioned PR stunt can.
When it comes to public relations, it’s no longer about what you say. It’s about what you do. This is what separates a truly successful press release from just another document that gets copied throughout the web, and ignored.
Remember, you shouldn’t expect links from press release sites to help your search rankings. Google hopes to treat them essentially the same as advertisements. If you’ve already been hit by Penguin, there’s no reason to push your luck.
It’s difficult to say much about publicity stunts, because the whole point is that they are low-cost,creative was to get attention. Telling you how to be creative would probably be counter-productive. The key is to do something that is worth talking about in the news. Here are a few examples:
Again, the key aspect of a PR stunt is that it is newsworthy. This is where the value of the PR sharing sites comes from.
In addition to stunts, you can also use PR sites to promote any particularly useful linkable asset on your site, especially tools. If you choose to do this, make sure to provide journalists with a very friendly press page, including any images they will need and any information they will require, as well as contact information. You want to make it as easy as possible to talk about you.
This is huge. So many of us are focused on earning links from guest posts that we forget that those posts are actually valuable for the sites we post on.
Once influencers start posting on your blog, things get easier than you would ever imagine. With the right influencers on your side, a Penguin penalty is almost a joke.
This is essentially how Social Media Examiner grew a list of over 124,000 in about two years, and attracted 450,000 visitors a day (and made about $1.7 million in their first year). Founder Michael Stelzner simply reached out to influential friends. By his own admission, these people knew more about social media than he did. His strategy was simply to get all of these experts together, who already had their own existing networks, and have each of them contribute an article a month.
This is what made Social Media Examiner a resounding success. It only took a few months for them to be ranked as one of the top 100 small business blogs in the world. (They are now in the top 10.)
Now, we may not all have as many influential friends as Michael Stelzner had, but we can certainly cultivate these kinds of relationships. It’s also worth keeping in mind that influencers only need to fit two basic criteria to meet your needs:
You almost don’t even need to ask for links in situations like this. After they’ve written the post they will naturally want to promote it, especially if it meets a high standard of quality (and it better).
Here are a few ways to let others do the content marketing for you:
The influencers that you work with are likely to share their post with their network, and they will almost certainly attract natural links and attention.
If you’ve been hit by Penguin, the last thing on your mind should be anchor text. Any time you build a link, use either your brand name, or just highlight the part of the sentence that will give users the most context. Data from the Open Penguin Data Project suggests that anchor text is typically the third strongest predictor of whether you’ll get hit.
If you’re aiming for recovery, you should outright avoid exact match and even partial match anchor text. Use your brand name, give context, or simply post a bare URL.
If you’re still suffering from things like the Penguin update, it’s important to realize that link removal isn’t enough. It’s time to focus on referral traffic, build up a following, and design SEO conscious campaigns that are smart enough to weather any storm.