Much has been published about how to escape Google’s infamous recent updates. The duo Panda 3.x + Panda 1.x stirred things up in an almost unseen way for SEOs and their linkbuilding companions. Now, if you’re looking for a way to escape a penalty you relate to one of these updates, I’m sorry to inform that this page will not solve such quest. The following article gathers opinions from linkbuilding agencies and other professionals from Brazil, UK and the US, and is not supposed to help anyone getting rid of that 20 position lost. Rather it offers an insight about how the linkbuilding market has been changed by those Google Updates.
All interviews were made via email, except Gareth Hoyle’s. Gareth and I chatted over Skype on May 29th for as long as an hour.
Is business suffering?
UK-based linkbuilder Gareth Hoyle is quite upset and runs Manual Linkbuilding. He says that business and procedures are being damaged hard by those updates and new algorithms. “We’re really changing everything in the way we do our business”. Before these updates, our effort was concentrated in getting links for specific keywords and whereas now we’re changing the way we saw junk anchor text links”. By junk anchor text Hoyle means “click here” and other link texts, which were, before the updates arrived badly perceived by the general linkbuilding community, used to keyword anchor text, where a link is displayed using a niche keyword explored by the target domain. “It is now much more an effort of balancing our link anchors and trying to dilute as much as possible earlier acquired links with the exact keyword. Klaus, it is crazy! What we used to cheer for is becoming, in the absence of a better word, ‘toxic assets’”.
Out of beautiful Virginia, Alliance-Link President Debra Mastaler takes an easier approach on changes in her business making routine. She engaged in additional strategies a couple of years ago also to provide her customers with quality links. ” I have not changed the way I sell services, what I offer, how I charge or how I implement tactics, everything is the same. We started incorporating social media tactics about two years ago so that’s the newest addition to services”. She says it is best to keep your content at your own site. It opposes to an old tactic of guest post copy writing to acquire inbound links. “ I am not a fan of sending content away from a site, I think you should build your site to be the premier location for whatever you sell or promote”.
Content and link quality. This goes along with South-Brazilian Enlink CEO Manuela Sanches‘ thought on the subject. ”I see an important manner of the way customers are understanding this updates”, says . “They tend to look at the quality of inbound links instead of that ancient formula of link volume. A positive change is that our clients are being aware that their own content needs to be improved, which opens opportunity for content professionals without diminishing the importance of our work”.
For years Steve Gerencser runs Steam Driven Media and makes his remarks on how the market has changed for linkbuilders. “For us it has had almost no impact at all”. Looks like not all linkbuilders (or simple link providers) became conscious about how these updates work. “ What we have seen an impact in though is the huge increase in people wanting to sell us link building using old tactics like ‘get 10,000 directory links for $100′ or ‘get 500 social bookmarks for $5″. To Gerencser it seems that the last part of a race is going on while these service providers ”are flooding the market as quickly as they can before the entire auto-linking industry is destroyed for good. That, or they simply don’t care and will continue to sell to anyone that doesn’t understand that the landscape has changed”.
Google’s Communication policy
It wouldn’t be that bad if, along with the tons of updates recently added to the link quality algorithm Google did not engage in a massive communication strategy targeting webmasters and consumers about its action issuing warnings concerning the danger of spammy link acquisitions. Let’s hear what the pros have to say.
Aline Aguayo, an Enlink account manager takes care of this question. “It’s usual to be confronted by customers after each new algorithm change. They usually ask how we’ll approach this and if we’re making any changes in our strategies to keep the train rolling.”
“I am not hearing from past clients about their link work, I am a content and media link builder so most of my links are embedded in content or being run through credible media sources”, says Debra Mastaler. ”Customers tend to always have the same questions no matter when they approach us for work”, says Debra. “How many links will I get as a result of your link building campaign and how long will it take. People seem to be less concerned with cost and more concerned with where the links will come from and that they come from quality pages”.
“They contract us for a certain campaign and then let us run with it”. According to Mastaler most clients do interact in the link building process, but not a great deal.
Learn what major differences Gerencser sees in the link acquisition industry:
“Where we have seen the largest changes is in new clients. We have one that was hit lightly a few days after we were hired. We were immediately contacted and accused of tanking their site.” After such an accusation, what Gerencser did was replying to this client assuring him to take the proper measures. On the other hand it looks like not all customers are reading these Google emails. The same old questions are coming up by customers. Gerencser is skeptic to the real impact of those emails and Google’s crusade against spam. “..they (clients) aren’t very informed after all. They want to know how many links and how much they will cost. That hasn’t changed at all”.
Out of Manchester, Hoyle says that it differs on a client-by-client basis. “As an outsource provider many of our clients are SEO companies. And this puts us in a quite privileged position because we can see what other people are doing. And this information helps us a lot when defining a linkbuilding campaign strategy. But to Hoyle this communication policy issue touches a sensitive point of Google’s revenue machine. “When Goggle sends out a million emails announcing further penalization of unnatural links and leading people to believe that the money invested in links and SEO will bring more revenue if transferred to PPC campaigns, how much do you thing Google will make?”. Further on he cites an example of a client of his. “They were hit I`m not sure whether it was penguin or not, they went from monthly 10,000 GBP to 50,000 in PPC campaigns. So it`s quite clear why Google is making these changes. ”
This may very well be the nude truth. A quick reading at Google’s quarterly issued financial report clears that. Google itself states that bad quality results can jeopardize it’s business heavily based on ads display.
How competent is Google in its link hunt effort?
“Very competent” says Manuela Sanches. Some aspects of how Google evaluates link quality got tweaked. Link farms and exact match anchor texts are both very sensitive signs now. The Enlink CEO says that in some cases there were drops as big as 30 positions in organic search results.
Mastaler suggests there’s more between the SERP and algorithm than believed. To Debra, Google is taking manual action to further penalize spammy link acquisitions. “I think Google is very capable of finding and deciding if links are paid especially if they are not placed in content areas. Not only do they have the computing power to find the links, they have a large staff of human reviewers to check out what they find”.
“Based on things we are seeing across multiple websites in Webmaster Tools, Google is far better at sniffing out “bad links” than most people want to admit. They were able to point out links to client sites that we had never seen before in such a way that impressed us with just how deeply they track link building”, answers Steve Gerencser.
“Competence is not the issue here”, says Gareth Hoyle. The real problem with this is that Google lacks of constancy in its actions. If they had any, we would be able to reverse engineer some of the results we’ve seen. But some sites with identical link strategies are going up, others are down. People are not being hit the same way. There seems to be no standard in the way penalties are being applied”. The Manchester-based linkbuilder is scared about one thing “Negative SEO”. Unfortunately I did not ask the other interviewees about that. So, let’s save his statement about that for another story.
A shelter in Bing?
Bing recently crawled out of its eternal Beta state in the US and in the UK. This kind of poses the question if Microsoft’s search engine has become an attractive realm to get traffic and how they’re fighting spammy links. As many of us know, there’s been rumor about Facebook building up its own search engine, which is these days powered by Bing. Even if it does enter the search engine market, convincing people to perform queries in its social media environment is a major challenge.
Hoyle is using Bing as his main search engine on his iPhone. “And you know what, Klaus, I`m getting all information I need out of it. I think that, if Google continues to serve people the wrong results, they will eventually migrate to Bing, and, in a short-medium term, when Facebook search finally gets released, this will be a major threat to Google.
“Unless I’ve missed an update, I don’t know of any changes they’ve made recently that would impact a webmasters marketing plan. Bing continues to hold a strong second in the search space, they have a new social platform they are promoting and I suspect we’ll see more integration of it in their search, email and other products in the future”, answers Debra Mastaler.
Gerencser has “No idea if Bing gained from this or not”. However he did the same as his UK colleague Hoyle. ” I switched to Bing as my default search engine months ago. The results for the areas I tend to be interested in tend to be better than the spammy stuff in Google. ”
Which tactics have been put aside in their former way of getting precious and sometimes juicy inbound links? Is quality content the answer to the challenge of becoming relevant again and rejoice sweet organic traffic?
This looks like a yes to both Manuela Sanches and Debra Mastaler.
To Mastaler it is paramount that customers distribute their content to credible sources, while keeping the most of their “quality content” within the realm of their own domains. Sanches approaches to this stating that both mid- and longtail content strategies are more than welcome in this era. They help to maintain a site’s relevance for both guestposting and linkbait actions.
Developing high quality content for links is a bad taste joke to Hoyle. ”All the quality content jabbering which Google loves to promote is nothing but a fairy tale. People are more likely to tweet or to share, recommend, post on LinkedIn or anything else than linking. Linking is a non natural behavior. Do you really think people will take the time to open their blogs and write something about how amazing this and that article is and after this, link to the article? See, Klaus, to tweet is a subconscious action.
“Unfortunately the industry has been so entrenched in creating links by using self made links that this is what our clients have been trained to expect. We spend most of our time ‘untraining’ them.”
“The whole Panda & Penguin could all be a massive PR stunt for Google, tailored in order to scare users and force them into PPC.”
“Developing content on your site and bringing people to your site makes sense to me “
“It’s us against Google”