In the post-Penguin SEO world, link building can seem about as simple an exercise as clearing a minefield.
That’s because between Google’s vaguely worded warning about bad links; confusion surrounding the disavow link tool; and the sheer volume of links on most sites, link-building has become a major headache for web marketers of all stripes. Headache or not, link-building is still a critical part of the SEO process.
One of the biggest challenges for would-be link-builders is simply finding link partners who can pass Google’s algorithmic scrutiny. That’s a subject that Search Engine Journal contributor Adam Connell covered at length in a posting titled, A Quick Guide To The Metrics and Quality Signals To Use When Link Prospecting.
Connell’s link prospecting recommendations run from the highly technical to the fairly obvious and all of them are useful to SEO-minded affiliates. Here are a few of his top tips.
Third Party Metrics
Third party domain and page-level metrics, such as Toobar PageRank and Domain Authority, are good tools for making baseline assumptions about potential partners. While these tools can give you a good high level view of a particular site, Connell suggests using them conservatively when making decisions.
Back in the old days SEO’s could safely partner up with just about any site without ever really looking at its content. To say that those days are gone forever is a bit of an understatement.
Connell strongly suggest looking at a large selection of content to see how often they publish; how good is that content?; and how much rich media they’re posting.
User experience and engagement are pretty important to Google, but can be very tough to accurately gauge from the outside. There are couple things to look out for.
When it comes to user experience, let your own judgment be your guide. Obvious red flags like excessive advertising and poor design should give you all the information you’ll need to make an informed decision.
On the engagement side, look for sites that have a robust presences on social media. Any site that’s racking up social shares has definitely mastered engagement.
This is another metric that’s pretty easy to gauge. Irrelevant links were the inspiration for Penguin in the first place, so don’t simply link with any site that will have you. Look for those high quality, highly relevant sites that are making a splash in your business.
At the same time, that doesn’t mean you can’t get a little creative. For examples, sports betting affiliates can link up with established fan blogs to build that link juice.
Connell calls these, “The Three P’s (Poker, Porn and Pills),” but cuts an exception if you happen to work in those industries. If you’ve been following Penguin’s development, you’ve already heard this message.
Low quality, sketchy sites that service industries Google doesn’t approve of aren’t good prospects for link exchanges.
Link Sellers and Black Hats
Sussing out link sellers is tough when you’re just looking at their sites but they tend to reveal themselves once you’ve established contact. Connell, and Matt Cutts, suggest avoiding these folks like the black plague.
He also suggests steering clear of anyone who embraces black hat SEO techniques. This might require a little investigative work, but finding out sooner rather than later can save major troubles.