The New Year is fast approaching and that means once again we have to reevaluate our link earning strategies for 2015. With the recent roll out of Google’s Penguin 3.0 algorithm update (and hopefully more iterations throughout the year) link builders will have to keep monitoring their backlink profile. With that said, ultimately link builders must remember that the main idea of this practice is not just building links for Google’s crawler bots, but to provide value to users.
Although gaining new backlinks has become more difficult and potentially harmful in 2015, by no means does this mean this practice is dead. There are still many strategies that are viable for buildings links and protecting sites from penalties. Below we will outline some of the quick link-earning wins for 2015, and some of the best ways to avoid being removed from Google’s SERPs completely with a manual penalty.
Easiest Way to Gain Backlinks
- Leverage Partnerships
If there is a company you have worked with in the past or are currently working with, it would be wise to leverage your network for links. There are many sites that have a “partners” page or a “testimonial” page where they can provide a high quality backlink to your site. Since you already have an established relationship with the site you may even have the ability to choose a landing page and specific anchor text.
- Sponsor a Scholarship
Link builders are always struggling to obtain new authoritative .edu links, but gaining those links can be much easier said than done. The best method for gaining .edu backlinks has always been creating a scholarship, and unfortunately this still holds true today.
In 2015 we are able to put a minor twist on this method that will hopefully lead to a higher quantity of links along with a higher quality. Limiting your scholarship to specific majors or schools within your industry will improve the relevancy of your link and help build a relationship with that program. Limiting your scholarship can help you compete for the best placement on a page versus other scholarship links that were created solely for SEO value.
- Unlinked Mentions
I guarantee that right now there is a website talking about your company without properly linking back to your site. I see this more often than anything in link building and correcting this practice can be an easy win for your backlink profile. Reclaiming unlinked mentions requires a bit of outreach, but when done correctly you can convert dozens of links to now support your backlink profile.
This step by step link building for startups guide written by John-Henry Scherck is an amazing resource for finding unlinked mentions. Combining the powers of the Link Prospector tool along with Screaming Frog can help you find hundreds of unlinked mentions in a short amount of time.
Easiest Way to Get Penalized
- Directory Links
Since the release of the first Penguin update, we have seen links from directories lose value with each passing year. In 2015, I believe that these links will actually start to hurt your backlink profile.
A majority of the sites I have done penalty removals for have been plagued with low quality directory links. This tactic that was once a viable link building strategy has been greatly reduced. A backlink profile with a foundation of low quality directory links is sure to be targeted by Google, and most likely will be hit with an algorithmic penalty.
To combat this, I have provided best practices for directory links. Directory sites that have no relevancy to your industry or do not have any barriers for entry tend to be weak link targets. In addition, don’t be fooled by a directory with a high page rank because most likely the page rank and link juice do not flow down to the page where your link is actually located.
- Footer Links
By now all link builders and SEOs should know that placing back links in the footer of a site has been tagged as a black hat practice. Not only will this link most likely be duplicated on every page of the site, but Google checks the footer immediately for unnatural backlinks when crawling. Google has made it very clear that there are many different reasons why footer links can be so damaging, so moving forward this should be completely removed from your link earning strategy
- Over-Optimized Anchor Text
In the early days of SEO, optimizing anchor text to match your keywords was an essential strategy for ranking well, but since then Google has put an extreme effort into devaluing those links. Optimizing anchor text can still be valuable for improving the authority of a page, but when this method becomes overused, sites can incur Google penalties.
Backlink profiles should have a diverse and varied mix of anchor text including branded, exact match, phrase, and URL. Adding phrases like “top” or “best” in front of your standard anchor text options and repeatedly using them as anchor text for new links is a sure-fire way to be penalized in 2015.