Today’s blog post is of vital importance if you utilize Google’s organic SERPs as a traffic source.
Even if you’re not an “affiliate”, per se, but your business model in some way involves acquiring organic traffic from Google, then drop everything you’re doing and read this – because things have changed. And you need to either adapt, or find a new business model…
Ranking in the current environment (Post-Penguin) is a different game. Recovering in the current environment is… well… more on that below. The bottom line is that now, more than ever, you need to be building your OWN network of traffic. Your own audience. Ideally, one that’s Google-proof.
But that doesn’t mean that SEO is dead, or that the game is up. It’s not. It’s simply changed (or more accurately, is changing). And in fact, right now is a crucial moment in which you can actually use Google to “Google-proof” yourself, ironically. Again, more on that further down…
What follows are my own opinions into what has happened, what is happening, what is going to happen – and what you can do about it to stay above water, and even thrive. I am not an all-knowing demigod when it comes to SEO, but it has been my playground for several years, and I have enough sites that I can at least draw a few conclusions, or at the very least, make some half-decent guesses.
If for no other reason, you should really pay attention here, because I’m not some “in-Google’s-pocket” WhiteHat SEO douchebag who will simply parrot whatever Matt Cutts is saying on any given weekday. I play both sides, and I don’t have, or need, SEO clients. My advice is based solely on what I have done, and am going to do, to extract as much profit from Google’s organic listings as I possibly can. Take that for what it’s worth.
So let’s begin:
First Things First – The Fat Lady Has Not Sung
Anyone with half a brain can plainly see that Google’s current SERPs, spanning almost every vertical, are some of the lowest quality results that we’ve seen in years. Decades, even. There are literally forum profiles and empty blogspot/web 2.0 pages ranking for some of the web’s most competitive keywords in every major commercial market. (Don’t believe me? Take 20 minutes right now and run searches for every competitive keyword you can think of – make sure to turn off personalized results, and make sure you’re on Google.com)
I’ve spent the past week pouring over hundreds SERPs, and I’m consistently seeing low-quality, and in many cases outright nonsense, ranking on Page 1 for basically any high-comp keyword. Of course, there’s the nearly-guaranteed presence of WikiPedia/Squidoo/eHow/YouTube/BlogSpot (and equvalents) across the gamut – irrespective of quality or even relevance. Clearly, the domain-authority filter has been jacked up, way too much.
Maybe that’s the “3%” that Matt Cutts had mentioned was affected by Penguin. Perhaps the other 97% of Google’s results comprise searches like “Why do hippies smell?”, “Who would win in a fight Chuck Norris or Moby?” and other completely unprofitable keywords that simply don’t matter, to anyone.
But as it stands, Penguin 1.0 is pretty atrocious. It wasn’t just “web-spam” that got hit in this update. Some did, but it was just as quickly replaced with more spam – much of it being worse than that which it replaced. In fact, something we’re seeing again and again is that scraper blogs are outranking the source sites, more than ever. This is insane.
More troubling is that many salt-of-the-earth publishers (like AskTheBuilder.com, DaniWeb, and countless others) were severely affected by Penguin. Sites that are in some cases over a decade old, comprised of thousands of pages of quality, unique content, and plenty of social/brand signals – and they’re tanking, hard. These are sites that provide an awesome user experience.
Google claims that they are rewarding high quality sites. Their SERPs make it clear that they are rewarding scrapers, irrelevant, outdated web 2.0 pages, generic “slightly relevant” domains, and YouTube.
Obviously, they haven’t got it right. So if Google has any intention of maintaining dominance with it’s only profitable space (search), this is far from over…
Will Google roll back Penguin? Not a chance. This is Panda all over again. They’ll just keep on making updates, tweaks, etc. So take heart!
We’re not out of the woods yet… and in this case, that’s most definitely a good thing.
Second – Don’t Drink the Kool-Aid…
Right now, much of the White-Hat community (SearchEngineWatch, WebProNews etc.) is simply parroting Cutts and talking about things like “keyword stuffing” and “link schemes”.
Obviously, what’s happened here with Penguin is a combination of corporate agenda (discouraging SEO, pushing more into Adwords out of necessity), a monumental screwup on the engineering front based on altruistic notions about ranking sites that “haven’t tried to manipulate their rankings”, and a giant can of worms known as “Negative SEO”.
So I have to laugh at some of the moronic advice I see being handed out by some of the industry’s most “respected” authorities. Particularly amusing are the glaring contradictions that these experts spout forth – seemingly without stopping to really consider them, first.
Perhaps the most annoying example is when [insert basically any WhiteHat blogger here] talks about how “Negative SEO” is a myth – and in the next breath, advises against building low-quality links, since Google might penalize that activity. (Hmmm…)
Some random examples of questionable logic from White-Hat “experts”, in no particular order:
“We want people doing white hat search engine optimization (or even no search engine optimization at all) to be free to focus on creating amazing, compelling web sites. As always, we’ll keep our ears open for feedback on ways to iterate and improve our ranking algorithms toward that goal.” ~ Matt Cutts
Here’s some feedback, Matt: If that’s what you want people to do, then how about actually rewarding them as a result? Instead of rewarding brands with thin content, scrapers/splogs, and YouTube videos?
”Don’t allow links from low-quality sites and networks” ~ Rosalind Gardner
That’s a nice delusion, Rosalind. You do realize, that people can go on Fiverr.com and spend literally $5 to blast thousands of crap links at their competition, right? This is a serious issue, and it’s one that is currently unresolved. Yes, I believe that Google will eventually do something about it. But not until it starts to affect big brands. And that could take quite a while. Till then… good luck convincing Google’s pious spam team that a competitor is orchestrating a Neg SEO campaign against you.
“The guidelines have been around for a long time, and Google has enforced them for just as long. In that regard, the Penguin update is nothing new. It’s just that Google thinks it has a new way to better enforce the guidelines. You should expect that Google will only continue to improve, so your best bet is to simply abide. That is, if you care about your Google rankings.” ~ Chris Crum
Right… Because penguin was definitely all about “hidden text”. I’ll have to re-read those at some point, but apparently Google’s Guidelines must strongly endorse creating empty blogspot pages and scraping competitors…
Those are some examples of why you need to carefully draw your own conclusions, and not just blindly trust people who might seem like a “trusted authority”. Many of the so-called experts in this industry are either just some jackass who’s built a large following via JVs/product launches, salaried writers for publications, or people under too much political pressure to do anything aside from singing the party line (ex. well-known SEO firms, high-profile career WhiteHat bloggers, etc.)
Who should you be listening to?
People who either own or directly monitor hundreds of sites, and that’s it. Everyone else is just speculating and blowing smoke.
Speaking of which, there’s a few people like this who I do recommend that you listen to, and for exactly that reason. They are: Jon Leger, Aaron Wall, Jerry West and the good folks over at MicroSite Masters.
Let’s move on, and start digging into the really important stuff…
Assessing the Damage – What Did Penguin Really Target?
It’s hard to say for sure (yet), but there’s definitely some consistencies that we see across the board. Also, aside from being able to definitively see ranking drops on Apr 24th (Penguin’s confirmed rollout), it’s a bit mudded over, seeing as how there were substantial Panda updates on April 19th and April 27th as well.
But here’s what I can tell you…
My Own Data:
1) BlogNet & Obvious Link Buys From “Outed” Sites = Penalty. We only had a few sites get the “unnatural links” notice in WMT, and they were all (eventually) negatively affected. This was mostly predictable, as we’d heavily used blog network links and obvious site-wide link buys for these sites, from blogs that were clearly selling their PageRank. In cases when a WMT message was present, the penalty seems to have affected the whole domain, and it isn’t just a “discounting” of said links. It is actually a negative effect. Bad links, obviously, can outweigh good ones.
Therefore, Penguin/Panda/Whatever has opened a can of worms. Because it now means you can play “Duck Hunt” with Google’s SERPs.
2) Unexplainable Collateral Damage. This is really frustrating – the only sites that really got hammered were 2 of my true authority sites. Sites with linking profiles cleaner than Mother Theresa, and whose content is stellar. I think things are still in flux, and it’s too early to throw in the towel with them… but still. It’s pretty amazing, in a bad way. I truly and honestly have no idea why these sites are pushed in the background.
All I know is that I’m in good company… with several other legitimate publishers. Folks, I have no reason to embellish this at all. Remember that I’m proudly GrayHat and openly buy my rankings with smaller, disconnected sites. (And yet very few of them were seemingly punished… while my “real” sites are buried, at the moment. Insanity.)
3) Nonsensical (and Likely Temporary) Black Hat Rewards. I have sites from years ago that have SO much blackhat stuff going on (externally) that not only weren’t affected by Penguin, but which also shot up in the rankings. Although, admittedly, these rankings are volatile and change every day. Nevertheless, they’re getting tons of traffic right now. And from a “WebSpam” perspective, these should be nuked. Gone. Buried.
(Nope – that’s just the quality sites, I guess…)
4) Over-Eager Title Tags = Less Eager SERP Placements. We’re also seeing that sites with title tags directly targeting our primary keywords are not holding position. They’re losing rank to more “generic” or “loosely relevant” pages (in terms of evaluating their title tags).
5) Who Knew That Dropping an Anchor Could Sink a Ship? I’ve always varied my anchor text when backlinking, quite a lot actually. However, in the few cases where I didn’t (usually with throwaways or mini-sites), these have all taken hits. It seems like the affected pages have been relegated back in the SERPs anywhere from 1-5 pages. It’s not consistent. At least not with my relatively small pool of sites with heavily-similar anchored backlinks.
Also, it’s not clear whether this is a sitewide effect, or only something that only affects the page where the offending anchored-links point. In my limited test group, I see both of those results (page penalty only, sitewide penalty). Of course, the sitewide issues on these sites could be caused by the other factors mentioned here.
That’s what I’m seeing on my end, for what it’s worth.
Other People’s Data:
These are well worth looking at – after you finish reading this post. Here they are for your reference…
1) Jerry West’s Quick Analysis. 10 Second Summary: Sites that got hit consistently have uneven anchor text, too much keyword density onsite, low quality backlinks, internal dupe content/title tags, too many 404s
2) Jon Leger’s Take on Ranking Post-Penguin. 10 Second Summary: Authority (Web 2′s like blogspot) domains unfairly favored, uneven anchor-text is a problem, exact-match domains NOT targeted in/of themselves – only if overly anchored, “spam” links still working, ranking varies by keyword niche – do SERP research to determine winning profile for your niche.
3) MicroSite Masters In-Depth Analysis. This is probably the best data so far to surface Post-Penguin. 10 Second Summary: “Google is trying to replace or devalue “anchor text” use with “niche/content relevancy of linking sites” as a primary link relevancy, (or “quality”) signal.”
Basically folks – the big takeaway is that Google is currently seems to be rewarding brands, authority domains, sites with links from “relevant” sources, and sites that are only “somewhat” gunning for a given keyword.
Will it hold? Not in its current form – the SERPs will eventually start to piss off even the average joe surfer. (Which is already happening, to an extent). But I believe the overall principle is one that won’t be going anywhere…
Google is obviously, desperately trying to use other signals apart from backlinks/anchors to determine relevance. They didn’t get it right this time. However – this direction is one they won’t stop pursuing. In other words – now would be a good time to stop ordering 10,000 anchored link blasts to your mini-sites…
So… What Now?
How the Hell Do I Rank in Google, Post-Penguin?
(And How Can I Rescue Sites That Got Whacked?)
Even though the dust hasn’t yet settled – and it’s almost as certain as death, taxes and Dolph Lundgren starring in another B flick that Google will be rolling out a plethora of Penguin updates…
…what’s clear is that, if anything, right now Google seems to be rewarding a degree of “restraint”. Less appears to be “more”, in the SERPs.
However, you can’t paint every vertical with the same brush. There’s still plenty of stuff ranking based on nothing more than mass spamming, obvious paid links, and even some other variation of BlogNet links/spun content. Sure, it could be temporary fodder that’s simply been propped as a default effect of its previous, better-ranking competitors being condemned to oblivion. But it also shows us that Google is far from catching “webspam” universally.
It almost seems to be a different set of rules for each market. (Maybe it is?)
So what’s the way forward with ranking new sites?
I think the key to success right now is twofold:
1) Tread Lightly. What’s obvious is that Google is attempting to discourage “obvious manipulation” through the use of heavy-handed penalties. This includes things like uneven anchor text, over-optimization (onpage), unnatural backlinks, uneven backlink relevance. It could also possibly include things like uneven NoFollow/DoFollow ratios, having too many of the same types of links, and so on. I have no data to back that up, but it does follow the logic.
Therefore, I strongly recommend “keeping it natural”, and building a few good links rather than several “so-so” links. Diversity is also key. Spread the net, and don’t just build one type of backlink. (I’ll get into specifics further down.)
2) Copy Success & Run Low-Risk Experiments. The truth is that right now your guess is probably just as good as mine! Low-risk, research-based experimentation is going to be the key to finding your way (up) in any given market right now. Take a look at who’s ranking. Use ahrefs and OSE to find out what they’ve got for backlinks. Look at their title tags, their site structure, and their content. And go from there.
(By the way folks, the above is the foolproof, never-fail formula to SEO, by the way. And it’s hiding in plain sight.)
Now – I’m going to talk about some “traffic band-aids” just below this (for established sites that have been sucker-punched by the Penguin), but for now, here’s the extent of my knowledge as it pertains to recovering from Penguin…
So… how can I get my rankings back?
The first thing to do is to honestly assess your link profile. Onsite and onpage factors really don’t matter. Those things are easily remedied. It’s your backlinks that determine your options, right now.
We know, for sure, that Penguin (or something – Penguin, Panda, April’s 50 updates – whatever) is slamming sites that have too many anchored backlinks, too many links from bad neighborhoods, BlogNet links, obvious link-buys, etc. Keep in mind that not every site that’s been hit has received an “unnatural links” notice in WMT…
So, for this reason, if you reasonably believe that you can feasibly “clean up” your backlink profile by removing or pulling down your potentially “offensive” backlinks, then your site is likely salvageable.
On the other hand, if you fall into the unfortunate category of people who built backlinks very aggressively in the past, pointed directly at your money site (or – gasp – your authority site), then it may not be so simple, but there are still some options, which I cover below…
Finally, if you’re one of the many totally-above-board publishers (like AskTheBuilder.com) that have been slammed by Penguin for truly no apparent reason – and have nothing to hide – then you should file a reconsideration request, submit this “I was unfairly affected by Penguin” form, and consider publicizing your case on Google’s webmaster forums. And then wait patiently – while at the same time, taking some of the advice I’ve dispensed further down…
At the very least – regardless of whatever category of victim you fall under – the good news is that you certainly aren’t alone. This is far from an isolated case, and for what it’s worth, “we’re all in this together”.
Your patience and loyal readership has paid off, friend. In addition to receiving a cookie (literally), you’ve also finally reached the part where I start to dole out actionable shit…
Here’s Exactly What I’m Doing
Take it With a Boulder of Salt…
Again, I have to make it very clear that I’m not an SEO wizard. Nobody is, right now. Even the people who think they’re real smart for not getting taken out in these last few updates, will likely be swallowing their words a few weeks from now, whilst shitting bricks, sewing together a Google Voodoo Doll, and popping valium.
So, what that means is that just because what follows is my own plan… that doesn’t mean it’s the answer to all of our prayers, or that it is guaranteed to do anything. I generally have a pretty good track-record in terms of success with organic strategy, but hey – I sure didn’t see the Penguin coming…
Therefore, don’t just follow me blindly – we could both very well end up falling into a pit. Do your research, and make your own decisions (and take responsibility for them).
With all that said – here’s what I’m doing:
I want to first begin with my recovery strategies, as I actually fall into each of the three “victim classes” that I itemized above. I will lay out my recovery plan for each victim profile…
* My Recovery Plan for Salvageable Sites
For these sites, obviously, the first move is to go and axe backlinks that are either a potential cause of the ranking loss – OR – could become a liability, even if they aren’t the current cause. Essentially, I’m going to pretend that I’m working through a reconsideration request, and doing “good-faith” efforts.
Then, I’m going to audit the site itself thoroughly. Look for crawling errors, potential internal dupe content/tags, jack up the site loading speed as much as possible, look at any potential keyword density issues, over-use of internal anchors, sitewide or footer links out to other websites – and so on.
Then, with my remaining backlink profile, I’m going to use Ahrefs, Majestic, or OSE (possibly all 3) to take a close look at my anchors. I may have to work on diluting my overall % of anchored links by building/adding naked links or d0main-brand links (which I would do with press releases and submission to relevant directories in my actual niche – not the typical dir submits… I’ll have to train someone).
Naked links look like this: http://ChrisRempel.com
Branded-anchor links look like this: Chris Rempel
My ideal “anchor ratio” (both for salvaging sites, and going forward for any new authority site) is as follows:
–> 30% naked links
–> 30% brand-anchor links
–> 30% is a DIVERSE MIX of keyword anchor links. At least 10 variations per target (site, page, etc.)
–> 10% Misc/random (images, “click here”, etc.)
When I have roughly attained that type of BL profile, then I go into “slow burn mode”, which I’ve detailed further down. If I don’t see an improvement (after I’ve axed bad links, drastically improved anchor ratios, etc.), then I take the steps mentioned above for attempting to rescue a site that’s actually innocent.
* My Plan for Sites That I CANNOT Feasibly “Clean Up”
It’s basically a rite of passage as any SEO-driven affiliate worth his or her salt… Most of us have dabbled in Gray-Hat or Black-Hat stuff. If you haven’t, you’re probably a boring person, and stop at intersections if the lights so much as hint at turning yellow.
Anyway, the day of reckoning is upon us, and the deeds done in darkness are now exposed to the light. Even if these “deeds” are done by competitors, disgruntled employees, unwitting customers, etc. It doesn’t matter. The price is paid by the root domain, and its owner (you).
So you have 156,000 backlinks comprised of forum profiles, mass-comments, wiki posts, and spammy bookmarks? Unfortunately, with these sites – the fat lady has indeed sung. And your site is the proverbial champagne glass – shattering to the floor…
If you feel like tossing the dice, you can try to see how far you get with a re-consideration request. You have nothing to lose, and at the very least it’s worth a try. (Now – I should make it clear that I’m talking about sites with horrible BL profiles that have already been negatively affected. If you have NOT been penalized or kicked out the SERPs – then do nothing. Absolutely nothing. Ride the wave, my friend, for as long as it lasts, and stay under the radar as long as possible.)
If a re-con request doesn’t work (and it probably won’t), then here’s what I recommend, and what I myself will be doing in these cases…
–> Locate every scraper site and otherwise website that has copied any of your unique content and initiate a takedown campaign. Contact them with a Cease & Desist first. They will likely ignore it. When they do, send in a DMCA takedown order to their hosting company, and also file a DMCA with Google for that page.
Why? Because you’re going to be relocating your site’s content to a new domain, with no pre-existing authority or “claim” to the content. If you don’t wipe out as much of the scraped/copied content from around the web as possible, then Google will simply see your new domain as yet another scraper joining the party.
Anyway, after you’ve done all you can…
–> Turn your existing site into a one-page wonder, and remove all content, including your homepage content. Just have a notice like “this site is moving” or something. Let it sit like that for at least one month. Make sure your old pages are good and de-indexed (by using the site:whatever.com command in Google’s search field), before proceeding.
–> Then, roll out your old content onto a new, fresh domain (or an aged one, whatever – just make sure it doesn’t have a “checkered past”), and then start fresh. I outline what I’ll be doing to “tread lightly” for new sites further down…
–> “To 301 redirect, or not to 301… that is the question”. Yeah. I don’t have an answer. I have a feeling that a 301 will pass the bad stuff just as easily as the good when it comes to transferring authority. My gut tells me to start completely fresh. But maybe I’m wrong. (If you have true data on this, please leave a comment).
Keep in mind that even with this “worst case scenario” for sites too far gone – ironically – you could quite plausibly fare better with this fresh-start-strategy than you might with orchestrating a full-recovery for sites that are salvageable. It remains to be seen, but if Google’s really and truly going to enforce the “less is more” mentality – it could very well be the case.
It’s something to consider.
Well, that about covers my plans for recovering some of my sites (the ones worth recovering).
Now – let me share with you how I’m planning on building links in the Post-Penguin-Apocalypse, as well as some other cool stuff that you might like if generating shitloads of traffic tickles your fancy…
In fact, let’s turn this into a new section. Just for fun.
A Fancy New Section:
My Primary Strategy, Post-Penguin?
“Churn and Earn, Baby!”
If there’s one thing Google has communicated loud and clear through all of this insanity – it’s that they’re not afraid to sacrifice quality SERPs to make a point.
The problem is, though – those “points” keep on changing. Remember when directory submission was kosher? Remember when article marketing was considered White Hat? Remember when rel=”nofollow” didn’t exist? Remember when PageRank sculpting was actually encouraged?
Now, all of those things are “bad”. And they’re incurring penalties – retroactively! It’s madness. (It’s stupid.) And it’s putting people out of business, overnight. Now – before the “Google doesn’t owe you anything” comments start spouting forth – keep in mind that the vast majority of sites out there are legitimately trying to do everything right. And a lot of them just got hammered – either because what was “right” 5 years ago is “evil” now. Or even just for no apparent reason.
Regardless, I guess what I’m trying to say – is that Penguin has shown us that nothing can save you. Not “great content”, not a “good user experience” – nothing. And nobody is safe. Except for brands, Google Properties (YouTube, Blogger) and Wikipedia.
So where does that leave us?
It’s simple. It means that SEO is now a numbers game, and your safety is earned by way of diversity at every level. And when I say “diversity”, I’m especially talking about domains, and the backlink profiles thereof.
This means that instead of walking into a niche with 1 domain and building a nice 100 page site, it means that you walk into that market with 10 domains, with 10 pages per site – and where you build 10 different backlink profiles for each site. (Even if only slightly different).
This gives you the ability to switch it up – and you’ll likely end up netting far more traffic as a result, anyway. Myself, what I’ll be doing is as follows…
Especially at first, I’m going to be treating these new rollouts as tests. Experiments. For one site, I’ll basically only build links using press releases. For another, only article marketing. For another, only blog nets. For another, only niche directories. For another, only guest posting. For another, only Web 2.0′s. And so on/so forth.
I might even try doing ONLY social signals, and see what happens…
I still think EMD’s (exact match domains) are very powerful, and we will continue to buy/use them, because ranking them is much easier. Even if it’s not exact-match, having at least part of the KW in the domain is still going to help.
Bottom line – right now, it’s important to find out what the Penguin “likes”. And my guess is, this probably varies a little bit from one market to another. But still, there will be universal consistencies – and those are the things we can then focus on as a primary source of links in our future BL profiles.
Again, guys – I can’t stress it enough – spread out your risk. Both in terms of sites, and tactics. The only reason I’m still sitting pretty is because I have enough crap out there that, purely by way of chance/odds, only some of it tanked. If I’d only had one or two major sites or sources of income, things would not be too rosy right now…
So let’s take a moment and get specific about backlinks, Post-Penguin.
Here’s how I’m going to be building my links from this point forward…
This is the stuff that’s safe for virtually any site, including authority sites. The key is to slow-burn. Don’t go crazy. A few links a day is all you need.
1) Press Releases. Still effective, and totally defensible. We use PRLog (free, meh), PRLeap ($69, not bad), Press Release Monkey ($100ish, pretty solid) and eReleases ($399, tons of exposure and authority linkjuice). Use each service according to your budget and objectives. For micro sites or niches that aren’t really that competitive, you don’t need to pull out the big guns.
2) Guest-Posting: This is the next big thing. It will likely become abused fairly soon. My suggestion is to ride the wave right now, and if you can, try to stick to the bigger/better sites. To find blogs to post on, do some Googling for “your niche + guest blogger”, and variations thereof. There’s sites everywhere, in most niches.
Also, there’s some really awesome networking resources for guest posting that have popped up. The most popular by far is Ann Smarty’s MyBlogGuest. Another up-and-comer showing a lot of promise is Duncan Carver’s Content Facilitator (say that one ten times)…
3) Real, Conversational Commenting. It’s still very effective, and these are natural as can be. Only post a few comments per day. Don’t use anchors as, or in, your posting name. Only link to your root domain, or else your comments will go straight to akismet’s spam box. Switch your “name” up a bunch, if you’re in a niche where you don’t have to be “you”. And honestly, post as many NoFollow comments as you do “live” links. Link Diversity is paramount. Of course, you can use my service, ActuallyRank, to locate DoFollow commenting opps.
4) Niche Directories. These are real sites in your industry/market that have a directory or profile page for other sites, like yours. An example is CrunchBase.com, which is a directory of tech companies. Another example is KillerStartups.com. You can’t go and outsource this on Fiverr. You need to do it yourself or train someone to find good, quality sites like this and get your site listed. As a side note, the only generic directories I would bother with for an authority site are BOTW.org and Yahoo DIR.
5) Real, Actual Press (Authority Sites Only). This means emailing big sites, editors, journalists, etc. Maybe using HARO, etc. You need to actually have something, though. I don’t think MFA sites will cut it…
This is the kind of stuff that you ONLY use on mini-sites. And this can also include YouTube videos, Web 2.0 pages and Free Blogs (Blogspot, etc.). And I suggest that you run these as isolated tests, so as to not compromise time or $$ spent on any of the above “Safe” linkbuilding.
Myself, I actually put my authority sites on totally different servers as well (not just IPs) – just to keep them far removed from this stuff…
1) True, Private Blog and Homepage Networks. I’m not going to recommend any, or tell you which ones I use, thus defeating the purpose. Don’t go and join the most popular thing you see all over the various IM/SEO forums out there. Instead, seek out the really exclusive stuff. The more obscure, the better. Heavily vary your anchor text, and use naked/brand links as well on BlogNets.
2) Direct Link-Buys. There are many ways to buy links “naturally” from other sites. Lots of sites in most niches sell banners and text ads, and you’d be surprised how many people still don’t even know what “nofollow” is. Also, money is the great motivator when it comes to making exceptions. I would strongly suggest, at this point, that you only buy links from sites that are at least partly relevant. It only takes a handful to make a huge impact.
3) Tiered Linking Structures. This is where you go and put up, say, 10 very high quality, in-depth Web 2.0 pages (that both promote affiliate offers AND link to your minisite), and then aggressively hammer them with links to inflate the importance of the page. In general, pointing hundreds, or even thousands of backlinks at a hosted page on an very established Web 2.0 or Wiki site isn’t going to raise any flags, and you’re essentially multiplying the power of each backlink you’ve built to your own site.
In this example, you’ll have netted 10 very strong links, as well as built 10 additional traffic sources. It’s risky because your content can be pulled down at any time by the host site (especially if you get overly aggressive with links/traffic). Also, be sure to carefully read each site’s TOS to make sure you’re not in violation or potential hot water…
4) Article Marketing. What!!?? Articles are “sketchy” now? I honestly don’t know one way or the other. Back in the day – it was literally magical. You could rank sites with articles all day long. These days, mass article marketing (especially with spun content) is seen as gray area, at best. I don’t have enough data, Post-Penguin, to know if it’s still remotely viable. Hence – it’s now experimental, in my books.
5) Mass/Generic Directory Submission. Basically, see my explanation of Article Marketing, above, and apply it to this in kind. The only thing I’d add is this – only use services that submit manually, and can post several anchor variations.
6) Mass Links. I’m going to lump a whole bunch of stuff into this one – it includes, but is not limited to – mass profiles, scrapebox blasts, mass bookmarks, trackbacks, shareware subs… you name it. Typically, I’ll only use these links to “boost” tiered linking structures. Even then, I do it pretty sparingly.
Ironically, you actually can still see phenomenal rankings (for a very short period of time) using masslinks. And then they will drop like a rock, likely never to return. (Just pray that your competitors don’t do this for you… yet another good reason to diversify, and rollout an army of small sites!)
7) Simulated Social Signals. You can use services like Synnd.com and EmpireAvenue to artificially inflate stuff like FB likes, Twitter activity, etc. Synnd is definitely the “grayer” of the two, and used correctly, EmpireAve could actually be pretty whitehat.
And that’s about it.
Again – the experimental stuff that I just mentioned – only use this on throwaways right now. Don’t let it touch anything you care about. This is the kind of stuff you do with mini-sites you’re rolling out in uber-competitive markets, where even one day on page 1 for any decent keyword will earn you 10X what you spent getting there.
For everthing else, I recommend lightly treading with above-board links.
Let’s wrap this all up in a few sentences for the sake of the scanners among us:
* Build up an “income safety net” by rolling out tons of small sites. As many as you can. With as much backlink diversity between them as possible. Right now, this is far safer than relying on one main site – even though that should be part of your overall plan, eventually.
* Less is more. Tread lightly with your new site rollouts. Don’t be aggressive. Just aim for a few links a day.
* Experiment. Nobody *really* knows what’s up right now. It’s too early on. The best thing you can do right now is to experiment with a bunch of different linkbuilding methods (low risk, low cost), and find out!
* Churn and Earn, Baby! Once again – roll out as many sites as you can, using different methods (or focusing on different things) for each one. That is your only safety-net. “Great content” obviously isn’t enough.
Here’s How to Actually Leverage Penguin’s Weaknesses to Generate Traffic FAST…
…While Simultaneously Diversifying Your Traffic Channels
(So You Can Eventually Tell Google to Go Get Stuffed)
My guess is your eyes are probably as sore as my fingers are at this point. So I’m going to do both of us a favor, and communicate in bullet points.
* Penguin LOVES Blogspot, YouTube, Squidoo, HubPages, Tumblr and WordPress.com Right Now. Along with a bunch of other sites like them. Seriously – this crap is ranking everywhere, and seemingly without any supportive links, quality or effort. My suggestion? Start publishing high-profit product reviews, and pages/videos targeting specific, but high-traffic keywords in hot markets. Hire someone to do this, all day long, if you can.
No, you might not “own” it – but hell! At least it’s freakin’ ranking...
* PRESS RELEASES – WHAT THE HELL!!?? These damn things are ranking for everything, right now. I’ve lost track of how many PRWeb, SBWire, PRNewsWire, and even PRLog (the free service!) press releases are ranking for insane keywords. Probably worth doing for some high-traffic keywords, IMO…
* Power Tip (Especially For Sites That Got Hit) – Why not craft a short YouTube video, press release or Web 2.0 page around each of your important pages on your most profitable sites? Especially if they recently got hit. Not only will this have some possible ranking boosts down the road – it will drastically bring up your traffic levels and get the revenue pumping again. (In fact, you may even find this is more profitable, in some cases)…
Note: Well-made YouTube vids in particular have an awesome sales conversion rate. Followed by Web2′s, and the distant third is press releases (although, PRs often rank on page #1 the day they go live).
* Stop Throwing Away Your Visitors. Build lists, if it makes sense in your market. Build an audience you can continually reach with re-targeting technology (this is going to be massive – I strongly suggest joining the waiting list for ClickCertain, and checking out existing services like AdRoll). Build a fan base using Facebook, Twitter – whatever. However it makes sense for you in your market – set shit up so that you eventually own your own network of traffic. Build something you can really count on. And one day, sell.
In the meantime, you can use the above strategies to do so, while you wait to see what ends up happening with Penguin.
Has the Sky Fallen?
No. It hasn’t.
Google is making some really stupid moves right now – especially considering that they’re under Federal investigation for favoring their own sites in their SERPs – and their obsession with products that are quite obviously destined to fail (ahem.. *Google Plus*) seems absurd. But they are still the only real search game in town.
And it’s still THE traffic source to conquer. The great equalizer.
It might not always be that way. But for right now – it still is.
MILK IT. MILK IT. MILK IT.
Screw playing by “the rules”. (There is no golden bucket at the end of the “quality content” rainbow, as Penguin has just made painfully clear).
Sure, play it straight with your branded authority site(s). That’s definitely something that should be part of your longterm picture.
But as much as you can – right now – start rolling out all the mini-sites as you can, and let them ride.
Ironically, it’s honestly the safest thing you could do right now.
Maybe one day, in the distant future, quality content – and investing years of blood, sweat and tears into a site really will be rewarded.
~ Chris Rempel
AKA: “The Lazy Marketer”
P.S. Oh, yeah – I forgot to mention. In a couple days my friend John Ozjaca will be explaining how he’s (so far) made $1.8 Million with two small WordPress blogs, organically. $0 has been spent on ads or PPC.
John and I have actually been talking shop and stuff for a couple years now. He’s a great guy – and he’s got a pretty cool story, too (he was literally a rock star before getting into aff marketing).
If that sounds interesting, then stay tuned and keep an eye on the blog…