In the light of the recent updates, the ever-changing link metrics have shifted again – which options are acceptable now?
Link valuation is probably the most ambiguous part of SEO, and to add to the confusion, regular updates from Search Engines constantly change the goal posts. The chess game between Google, site owners and SEOers shapes the digital marketing landscape and determines what is officially acceptable and what is considered ‘black hat’.
I have previously written about Bad links vs weak links, but since October last year many things have changed in the world of online marketing and particularly SEO. The gist of the October article was centred around the idea of weak links being different from bad links – weak links used to have little or no impact on rankings, whereas bad links were defined as potentially harmful. However, following the recent Penguin update and other developments, weak links can easily be classified as bad for your link profile.
Let’s see why – the recent updates have mainly been directed at web spam, and many links from blog comments for instance fall into the category of weak links – even if they do not automatically turn into links that can damage your link profile, links in comments, particularly on irrelevant sites, are certain to look suspicious and potentially attract unwanted attention from Google and soon possibly other search engines.
The ‘contribution’ of links from suspicious backgrounds will remain unchanged: bad links will still damage you link profile, but the main change seems to be centred around what we used to label as ‘weak links’: too many of them will no longer be harmless in a big to rid the web of spam. Well, as much as possible.
So which links can currently be labelled as ‘good’? Judging by the recent dynamics on the internet, links that are not site-wide, from a reliable source, and that reliability includes social proof, links within a relevant context and original content – all seem to be the new standard for link building. Let’s not forget that officially, search engines consider all link building that is deemed ‘unnatural’, therefore most off site SEO work, unacceptable. If we contextualise link building within that, it’s easy to see why the algorithms are updated so often and rules change as the game is played.
On the other hand, Social media generated links and Brand-based link building strategies have gained in importance and reputation, in line with Google’s focus on brands in general.
Quality content has also grown in importance and is central to any positive signals of a site, so a strategy based around good content, brand and social media seems like the best current bet in digital marketing.