Or How to Get Along With Google Penguin

Get along with Google PenguinEver since Google announced its Penguin algorithm update in April 2012, small business website owners have been told all sorts of tales about the perils of linkbuilding. As with many cautionary tales, it looks like the pendulum has swung a bit far in reaction. Fearing the dreaded “penalties” or “blacklisting” or “de-indexing”, many website owners have been throwing the baby out with the bath water. Some are afraid to do any linkbuilding at all.

Disavowing links from other websites and removing links from your own website may be helpful in moderation and with expert guidance, but we’ve seen some extreme reactions that are uncalled for. How you treat your linking tactics depends on your specific circumstances. Link analysis programs and services are not always accurate and they often recommend disavowing links that are not only harmless, but are beneficial. It’s no wonder there’s a lot of confusion out there.

Google says the Penguin algorithm only affects 3% of websites out there. And that’s great until you do the math. With nearly 1 billion websites out there, 3% equals thirty million websites. Recovering from a Penguin slapdown is slow and painful.

So, to help you sleep better at night, here are 12 recommendations on “white hat” linkbuilding in 2015.

1. Have high quality content on your site. The primary purpose of the content on your site should be to fulfill a need that your target audience has. Secondarily, if this content is interesting, informative, original and easy to use, it will organically attract links.

2. Add fresh content regularly. An easy way to build authority in your business is to incorporate a blog on your website. Again, the quality of the content is important, more important than quantity. However, you should add fresh content to your blog at least once a week in order for it to be considered active. If your newest blog post is 3 months old, you need to reevaluate your blogging strategy.

NOTE: Remember that “content” includes photos, graphics, videos, slideshows, links and quotes, quizzes, surveys, coupons and offers and more. These are also linkworthy.

3. Recap news articles that would be of interest to your target audience. Give full attribution (and a link) to the original source. Don’t copy and paste, but do write your own thoughts about the topic.

4. Use your social media accounts to help make your content visible. It’s okay to use your Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn social media accounts to promote your website and blog. Just be sure that you’re not using your social media accounts just for self-promotion. That gets old fast and you’ll lose followers.

5. Return the social sharing favor. Be sure to like, favorite and share links to other people’s content in your industry. They will often reciprocate.

6. Offer to provide a guest blog post or article to a website in your industry that publishes guest posts. And invite people who are experts in your line of business to provide a guest post on your website.

7. Interview an industry expert. Even if it’s just a Q&A via email, an interview with an expert or celebrity in your field is an excellent link magnet.

8. Make sure you are linking OUT in a strategic way. Include links on your site and in your blog to relevant, authoritative websites or bloggers in your industry. The sites you link TO can be as helpful as the sites that link to you.

9. Ask for links. You may have licenses, certifications, affiliations, memberships, partners, suppliers, sponsors, etc. who would be happy to link to your website if you just ask them to.

10. Claim your business listing in online directories. Be sure to check your online listings and correct any incorrect info. Include your website URL if there’s a space for it.

11. Check for Question/Answer websites in your industry. Many industry-specific message boards or Q/A sites exist where consumers come to post questions. Find the ones related to your industry and try answering some of these questions.

12. Remember to network offline. If you participate in community groups or the local Chamber of Commerce, they are usually happy to include a link to your website on their websites. Do you sponsor charitable events? Do you hire summer interns? Do you speak at schools, conferences or other events? These are all opportunities to provide your website URL and ask for links.