The future of Guest Posting

Matt Cutts recently announced that guest posting was dead because it’s become too spammy. So is guest posting really dead?

The answer to this is no. Publishing content on high quality and relevant third party websites is fundamental because it helps drive relevant traffic to your website, helps build your brand and your reputation. Guest posting is only dead if it is done to influence the SERPs. There are certain tactics that Google is clearly tracking to determine if the guest post is spammy, these are:

  1. Using keyword rich anchor text to link back to your website. Keyword rich anchor text is a sure sign in Google’s eyes of manipulation. Read can more about the ‘slow death of anchor text
  2. Having guests posts from a large number of links.
  3. Having lots of links on low quality websites.
  4. Creating articles of low quality, solely for the purpose of integrating keyword rich anchor text in the content.

All of these tactics have been widely overused by individuals and organisations seeking to manipulate the SERPs, often used by SEO companies promising position 1 rankings on Google. Whilst there is no doubt that this tactic has worked in the past, Matt Cutts is suggesting that if this is your strategy you should probably now stop.

So how should you utilise guest posting?

    1. Guest posting should be used to drive high quality and relevant traffic to your website. If the domain is unlikely to bring you visitors, leads and customers, then there is no point in contributing to the website.
    2. Any links back to your own website should primarily only feature in the author attribution. Links to your website in the body of a guest post or article should only be practiced if it absolutely essential.
    3. Never use keyword rich anchor text phrases, unless you want to be penalised by Google. Instead use terms such as ‘read more’, ‘click here’ or your brand name/website as these are natural anchor text phrases that individuals use who are not trying to influence the SERPs, but simply get a reader from A to B.
    4. Quality content is essential. Because the purpose is to drive visitors, leads and customers to your door, you must not compromise on quality. Writing quality and informative content will enhance your brand and reputation.
    5. Aim to build a column, rather than individual guest posts. Writing columns on highly relevant and authoritative websites will improve your visibility and build your reputation. This will also enhance your SEO, but the primary focus should be to attract new visitors, leads and customers.
    6. If you plan to use an SEO agency to help build your reputation and brand, make sure they practice up-to-date SEO strategies. Ask them about their strategies and if they mention exact match anchor text in articles etc, then you know you should stay firmly away from this practice.
    7. Be careful using agencies that carry out guest posting on your behalf, after all, you are the subject expert. You must be actively involved and sign-off any content as if was being placed on your own website.

Here is an example used by Halifax Bank in the UK. The Halifax Bank recently experienced a sharp fall in Google rankings and evidence suggests that the cause is over optimised keyword anchor text within blogs, widgets and infographics. This represents outdated strategies, that once worked, but now are likely to lead to a loss of rankings and damage to their reputation.

Example of over optimised anchor text

In summary

Guest posting is not dead, and is still very much a source of obtaining new visitors, leads and customers to your website. Quality content is key and you should only product content that should represent your brand and be worthy of a place on your own website.

You should only choose high value websites where your potential customers hang out. If you hire an agency to handle your guest posting you must involve yourself with the process and sign off any work they carry out on your behalf. This is because its your reputation at stake, not theirs.

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The slow death of Anchor Text

At the beginning, anchor text was used as a signal by Google as to what the receiving site was all about. It was widely used to influence the search engine results pages, helping websites rank for particular keywords and phrases that appeared within the anchor text.

Today though, it has been widely overused by those trying to influence the SERPs, as such we are now seeing the slow death of anchor text. Over optimised anchor text will now actually harm your rankings, rather than do good. There is much speculation about what percentage of your backlink profiles should feature keyword rich anchor text phrases, but there has been no statement from Google about such. What’s certain, over the last few months there have been some high profile websites such as the Halifax Bank (a large UK banking organisation) and Expedia (a travel firm) that has seen a decline in rankings, and over optimised anchor text keyphrases appear to be the main cause.

During a recent hangout on Google+ with Eric Enge from Stone Temple Consulting, anchor text was widely discussed. The general consensus by those in the SEO know, is that the best way to link to websites is by using anchor text phrases that contain the title of the receiving article/page. So if an article features “20 strategies that will help improve the number of customers to your website”, then that’s precisely what the anchor text should contain. The alternative is to use phrases such as ‘visit website’ ‘read article’ and ‘click here’. These are safe anchor text phrases that have been widely used across the internet since its incorporation over 20 years ago. The logic behind this, is that ‘visit website’ ‘read article’ and ‘click here’ are all phrases that feature in millions of articles, primarily written by those who are not trying to influence the SERPs in any capacity, but merely trying to get a reader from A to B.

Google maintains that the best way to improve your rankings is to create unique, high value content. This in turn will attract natural mentions, links and shares that will use non descriptive anchor text phrases, just like we list above. This indicates that Google no longer needs to use anchor text to determine what the receiving site is all about. This seems like common sense when you think about it, because the best indicators of content are the titles, description meta tags and the actual content on the page, plus the overall content of the website.

The advice is, use non descriptive terms like ‘visit website’ ‘read article’ and ‘click here’ when linking two sites together. For internal linking, then use the title of the receiving article/page.

So what’s the advice if you have many sites in your backlink profile that features over optimised anchor text?

If you can, update the anchor text and either use the ‘title’ of the receiving page/article as the anchor text, or use the generic terms as outlined above. Of course, nothing is to say that in the future Google may start to penalise websites that overuse title based anchor text phrases, as such my advice for the long-term is to use anchor text phrases that feature ‘visit website’ ‘read article’ and ‘click here’.

So what does influence the SERPs, if anchor text seems to be in decline?

Links have always been the backbone of the Google algorithm, and it is my opinion that links are now more important than ever. However, it’s not the number of links that is important, but the quality and relevance of the links. You should aim as high as possible and get a few links from websites that carry the highest authority and trust in your market space. If you can’t get these, then aim for the next tier below.

What you should no longer do, is get links from a large number of low value domains. As this is also likely to damage your reputation and rankings. What’s more, if they are low value, what’s the likelihood of them driving traffic to your site? Very little!

The key when deciding if a link is worthy or not should be ‘is it going to drive visitors to my site?’ – if the answer is no, then move onto the next opportunity. Take a look at 20 link building strategies designed to attract customers to your website – these will give you an idea of how you can start building links for customers, rather than search engine bots.

A really good strategy is to build ‘stealth links’. These are links that are designed to send high value traffic to your website, but they are undetectable by Google and your competitors because they feature within emails and newsletters. You can read more on stealth links by clicking here. You can also read an article written by Eric Ward – Non Google linking strategy: An example of stealth link marketing.

Eric Ward is considered the authority when it comes to inbound links. Eric has been helping companies drive customers to their websites since the internet was first incorporated, so it’s fair to say he really does know what he’s talking about. If you don’t know who Eric Ward is, then it’s time to start learning from the master and taking note. Just search “link building expert” on Google and top of the pile will be Eric Ward. Trust me, it’s some feat to be be top of the rankings for this search phrase when you consider the size of the SEO industry and others who claim to be link building experts.  Just imagine how many people would love to be number on Google for the term ‘link building expert’!!!

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Reciprocal Links Yes or No?

Reciprocal linking is where two websites both link to one another. Over the years this has been widely discussed, and the overall consensus is that it should be avoided. However, it’s not that simple and actually there are times when two websites would link to one another as a result of natural link building. If 100% of your inbound links are reciprocated, then this could pose a red flag for Google.

Common sense tells us that where two sites both occupy content on a similar topic, then reciprocal links are valid and indeed natural. Let’s say we are an author of a website on the subject of Ford Motor Cars and Performance. There is another website who provide after sales and replacement parts also for Ford Motor Cars. It would be natural for both websites to link to one another, readers of Ford Motor cars and performance may well need replacement parts, and vice versa.

The same would also apply for lets say ‘Save the Tiger’. It would be natural for all the various ‘Save the Tiger’ projects and zoos where tigers are in captivity across the world to link to one another. But even with this example, it would be most unlikely that 100% of links are reciprocated because they are likely to attract links from third party websites, blogs, and perhaps companies that have made donations.

So when websites have a common goal and interest, then reciprocal links are valid. However, on the other hand, if you have a website that discusses plumbing and gas fitting, and another website that is on Aston Martin cars, then reciprocal linking would be most unnatural and should definitely be avoided.

It’s also natural for companies that say provide various different products or services. For instance take Virgin, they are providers of trains, music, tv, money, leisure, health and travel, all under Virgin Group. The same also applies where perhaps a company has a website and a blog on two different domains. This again is highly natural and it is common sense they should be linked.

If you are in doubt as to whether two websites should be linked, then I advise you to use rel=”no follow” option – this then tells Google that you do not want it to pass pagerank. Remember, this does not stop Google itself from choosing to pass pagerank.

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Footer Links Yes or No?

We are in the process of evaluating the impact of footer links on rankings. There have been some discussions on this topic, with Google themselves saying that they want to discount such links. More to follow in the next two weeks.

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What constitutes great web content?

We hear it all the time, add great content to your site, but what exactly is great content? Great content is simply content that users want, desire and wouldn’t hesitate to share or publish. But like common sense, great content is not that common.

“The web contains more spam that the entire combined manufacturing and distribution centres of all the major supermarket chains across the UK.”

There are too many websites that are simply ‘me too’, offering great professional service, unrivalled, value for money etc etc. If you’re planning on building a website, just like your competitors – don’t bother, they’ve already done that and cornered that market!

If you are going to build a website, make sure you build a great site. One that contains either a great widget, app, software, infographic, wordpress plugin, research paper, basically something useful that either your customers, or competitors will want to get their hands on. At the last count, there were over 70 million websites built using the wordpress framework,  If you can get just 1% of these to install your great plugin, then you are more than on your way to being number one in the SERPS.

It’s scalable content like this, that will build links to your site, shares on facebook and tweets on twitter. I call this linkable assets. Google analytics is the perfect example of a linkable asset. If you want your site to track visitors, you’ve probably got a google analytic ID embedded in the code in your site, and guess what? That code links back to Google and helps to reinforce its position in the search engine results pages (SERPS) as being the number one tracking platform.

And once you have created your website with good linkable assets, now it’s time to go and tell everyone about it. Because unlike the saying “if you build it, they will come”, this is entirely not true when it comes to the web. A website requires more marketing than a typical bricks and mortar business because there are literally billions of webpages cramming the index that you’ve got to cut through to be heard. This is why it helps if you understand SEO and the importance of building scalable link worthy content, because your customers and competitors will help you spread the word.

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Intro – A beginners guide to SEO

Building a brand online and developing an internet site that is profitable, can be achieved with the right SEO and website design.  The main purpose of any business website should be to help the business flourish, communicate desired messages, and ultimately aid in the profitability of the company, said: David Vidgen ‘Search’ professional helping clients create good online content, link building services, content syndication and a positive online reputation. Google+

An internet site must be visible and easy to navigate. There is no point building a website that cannot be located because it has been poorly designed, and/or the appropriate desired target keyphrases/words have not been applied to relevant pages. Any given search on Google is determined by relevance + pagerank. The relevance is determined by displaying pages that include the search terms, particularly terms that feature in the title and description tags, plus keyword density on the page. Pagerank is determined by the number of quality inbound sites to that particular site. Quality is determined by relevance and the number of outbound links from that particular linking page. For example, a wedding photography website that has a link from another wedding website will carry greater relevance, than if the linking site was about say ‘home furniture’. If the wedding photographer website was also the only outbound link on that page – even better. The more outbound links, the less weight is given to each.

If the linking site has itself secured good authority, then that will benefit the wedding photography website… A simple explanation for this is to search ‘pagerank’ in Google and view the wikipedia site.

The key then is to ensure that your ‘on page’ seo is given serious thought when constructing your website, and try to establish links from quality and relevant websites.

On page SEO starts with you identifying and assigning quality keyphrases; ensuring that Important SEO HTML title and description tags are assigned, and search engine indexing limits are maintained. If you can also ensure that the URL for each page reflects the assigned keywords for that given page, that is ideal – but keep them short.

As a London SEO company, we have access to tools and white hat SEO techniques that will help improve your Google ranking. No SEO company can guarantee your site being number#1 in Google, because it depends on how competitive the keywords you assign to your site. For example, if the current number#1 website for ‘Luxury Holidays’ has over 100,000 inbound links, it will take considerable time for your site to match this, and that assumes that the website that is currently number#1 stops building links from even more quality domains. It really depends on how competitive your chosen keyphrases are and whether your competitors stop strengthening their link position. The broader the keyphrases, then in general the more competitive they are. Narrow keywords, also known as ‘long tail’ can often be easier to achieve, and although they may bring less visitors, they are often the most profitable. E.g. Broad keyword: ‘Audi A3′ – Narrow keyword: ‘Buy Audi A3 London’.

If you’re new to SEO, a great tool to help you understand ranking factors is the Search Engine Land SEO Periodic Table. This will give you an idea of the on-page and off-page ranking factors in order of importance:

”Search

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Contact

Alternately, you can contact us through our main SEO Specialist Birmingham and Web Design website, David Vidgen Ltd. On our website you will find a host of information about SEO, web design, recruitment, plus lots more. We are a service expert company whom specialises in building websites that are SEO friendly, and helping exisiting sites increase their organic SEO listings. We provide SEO advice, mainly to London based companies, while our web design focuses on the Birmingham market.

SEO Specialist Birmingham – David Vidgen is a specialist SEO ‘Search’ Professional and Link Building Expert. I help small and medium sized businesses in Birmingham and London.

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The importance of on-page optimisation to improve search engine rank

On-page optimisation is a term to describe where every element of your website is optimised and designed to help and influence Google and other search providers on how they view and rank your website for specific target keywords.

In essence, on-page optimisation will help your website be visible and listed in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). Building a website with on-page in mind, will result in you having an SEO friendly website. Without on-page consideration, you leave it to luck as to where Google and other search providers decide to place your pages (if at all) in their indexes.

Typically on-page optimisation involves the following elements:

  • Meta Title
  • Meta Description
  • URL
  • H1 and other headings
  • On-page keywords
  • Citations
  • Outbound links
  • HTML Page content
  • Word count
  • XML sitemaps
  • Categories
  • Site architecture
  • Authorship markup

Not all the above elements are required for ranking, some are more important than others i.e. meta title, xml sitemap etc. There a very few competitive keywords, so the more elements you can incorporate the better.

Before on-page factors can be implemented, extensive keyword and market research should be carried out beforehand. This is so you can ensure that specific pages are developed with specific keywords in mind. There is no point in on-page optimisation if the targeted keywords aren’t search terms that users query.

As SEO and search has developed over the years, so have the number of on-page ranking factors. For example, listed above is Citations. This is a term more recently introduced to the SEO mix to describe other related keywords and phrases that search engines expect to see on a particular subject page. For example with SEO, it would be natural to see words such as on-page, off-page, link building, Google, Bing, Yahoo, web design etc all mentioned on any given page. Google is getting smarter at determining associated keywords, particularly to fight spam. A page that is full of motor vehicle terminology, but has the word SEO in the middle of it is most definitely unnatural.

Word count is another factor where the goal posts have moved over time. Should the page feature 200, 300 or 500 words or more? As far as Google is concerned, if you are an expert on a particular subject matter, then that page is likely to have significant word count. Whereas, if you are a spammer, you will probably opt for as few words as possible and more to the point you will not know what citations / associated keywords should also be present.

You will notice that the list does not feature images or flash elements. Although search engines (in particular Google) are developing some excellent software to gauge photo content, they at present provide no additional ranking factor. In fact, Google has been known to favour the ugly – websites that are not clattered with unnecessary HTML code, scripts etc. A prime example can be found at ericward.com – Eric himself has admitted that his site is ugly, yet anyone in the SEO industry knows (as does Google) that he is considered the master at link building and his website continously outperforms others when it comes to such.

Many years ago, SEO’s would limit the number of outbound links on a page. In fact, they would often chase links from pages that had good pagerank, but had few if not none, outbound links. This was so maximum pagerank was parsed to their client instead of having to share it with other outbound links on the page. This concept is now considered widely flawed, and in most cases additional outbound links are encouraged.

Please check out our beginners guide to seo – as this includes a periodic table of SEO ranking factors that would be highly useful to learn and digest.

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Link building using Google advanced search parameters

The great thing about Google when it comes to link building, is if you know how to use Google advanced search parameters it will tell you the best sites to source links.

Remember, Google has built an algorithm based on trust and authority with those with the greatest, ranking top of the SERPs.

So how do you ask Google? Well that’s where knowing how to use Google advanced search parameters really does help. It will help you find forums, blogs, websites, in fact just about any authoritative page on any given subject, on any site.

So what exactly are Google advanced search parameters? They are specific query strings that will help you identify authoritative content. Here is an example:

intitle:”SEO” “UK”

The above query will return websites that have SEO and UK exact match in the title.  

inurl:”SEO Agency”

This query will return websites that have seo agency in the URL. Now lets merge them together:

inurl:”SEO Agency” intitle:”SEO” “UK”

This query returned websites that had SEO Agency in the URL, plus SEO and UK in the title.

As you can see Google advanced search parameters can be a very powerful tool for finding exact match content. However, and it’s a big however:

Google deliberately returns a set of diverse results. This is because it can’t be 100% sure what you are looking for, because the search may have multiple intent, so the need to deliver a diverse set of results. When we performed the query inurl:”SEO Agency” intitle:”SEO” “UK” it returned results that also included jobs listed on indeed.co.uk. This set of diverse results is set to be a result (although Google haven’t said it exists) of the QDD ‘Query Deserves Diversity’ algorithm.

It’s also because of the speculative QDD algorithm that you can only really use the first 20 results for good link building opportunities, then you will need to modify the search slightly and get another set of 20 results.

Want to read more about QDD? Check our Rand Fishkins post on Moz.com

If we were trying to find an exhaustive list of seo agencies in the uk, Google isn’t geared for that. But what we did find was a list of 20 or so agencies that as far as Google is concerned are those most authoritative for that query. So, let’s assume now you are not interested in SEO, you in fact own a camping site in Devon and you are trying to locate other uk camping sites who perhaps you can request a link. You would use search queries like:

intitle:”camping sites” “UK”
intitle:”camping sites” inurl:”.co.uk”
intitle:”camping pitches” “UK”
inurl:”camping sites” “.co.uk”
~camping sites -camping sites

Okay so let’s focus on the last search above. We have introduced a new search query into the mix ~(tilde). This tells Google to deliver results that has camping sites on the page (rather than in the title or URL). We also placed a – (minus) sign in front of camping sites for the second part of the query. This asked google not to deliver results that had camping sites in the content…confused???

What Google delivered for us is a set of results that included phrases like camping sites within the content but not the exact phrase ‘camping sites’. This is really good for trying to identify other possible industry phrases, and in this case we got ‘camp sites’ ‘pitch’. We could now repeat the above queries replacing camping sites with camp sites and camp pitch and it will give us another 20 or so different domains for each that we could contact for link building.

The above is a glimmer of the types of searches you could use when link building. This article was written by David Vidgen a inbound marketing agency in Birmingham and ‘Search’ professional helping clients create good online content, link building services, content syndication and a positive online reputation. You can follow David on Google+

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