Off-page SEO helps business move up in Google’s rankings. But Google is actively targeting any businesses, even large and widely used websites, for trying to take a shortcut to success through shady link building tactics instead of creating quality content that encourages organic, relevant and ethical link placements.
One of the largest travel websites in the world, Expedia, learned this lesson the hard way; to the tune of about 25% of its visibility. This is almost exactly what happened to the website Rapgenius.com when Google cracked down on its link-building scheme.
Take a look at the website’s search visibility from last week posted by Search Engine Land. It is obvious that something changed quickly and drastically, making some to theorize that Google has penalized Expedia in their search results for unnatural links.
What Expedia Did Wrong
A writer at nenadseo.com makes the claim that Expedia paid for unnatural, keyword-rich links pointing to Expedia from blogs and sites across the internet. The details of how keyword heavy anchor text links back to Expedia were found in unnatural places can be found there.
Rap Genius wasn’t accused of having paid links, but instead building a network of unnatural links by offering to promote any blog that added a litany of unrelated links to the bottom of a post. If we use Rap Genius as a guide, that penalty lasted 10-days and only ended after the website issued an apology, disavowed all of its unnatural links and promised to end its link network program. While Rap Genius is not back to normal yet, it’s at least on its way toward a full recovery.
Expedia is refusing to comment on what happened, but we expect Expedia to make some changes and disavow many of its links in the next few days to gain back its SERP results.
Off-Site SEO: Best Practices
As search engines become more advanced in the way they view off-page SEO strategies. They have moved from counting links as simple raw numbers to grading links on a sliding scale based on trust relevance and diversity, all of which come together to determine link quality.
A number of variables can determine link quality:
Who wrote the article and what is the page authority and page rank of the linking page?
Is the website relevant to your business? Does the anchor text make sense?
Is the content surrounding the link related to what the links leads to?
Where does the link exist on the page? (i.e. content body, author bio, footer, sidebar)
Because Google evaluates website authority on a curve, one link from a relevant, highly trusted website will create a much stronger ranking effect than several links from questionable, low-traffic, low-quality websites. Off-page SEO professionals should strive to not just create links, but create relevant and ethical links that appear on websites that have domain and page authority. The best way to do this is through thorough research of target domains and cultivating personal relationships to create quality and relevant content that readers will enjoy.
Even with the recent updates, Google says that off-page SEO is still a main factor in determining SERP rankings. But, Google’s Matt Cutts adds that some links are worth more than others, so marketers should focus on quality links from high traffic sites and creating quality content that will be shared organically. By focusing on high-quality links earned through traditional techniques instead of bought through schemes businesses can avoid being the next Expedia.
Have any questions about SEO, social media or link building? Contact ZOG Digital today.
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