If you’ve ever been the victim of a Google penalty, you know how painful it can be to identify the problem and recover from the hit. Even if you’ve been penalty-free thus far, the threat of getting penalized is a source of worry. But how can you avoid it, when it seems like unnatural links lurk around every corner?
In today’s Whiteboard Friday, we’re overjoyed to have Google penalty and unnatural link expert Marie Haynes share how to earn links that do comply with Google’s guidelines, that will keep your site out of trouble, and that can make a real impact.
Hey everybody. My name’s Marie Haynes, and today we’re going to talk all about links. If you know anything about me, you know that I’ve done a lot of work with unnatural links. I’ve done a lot of work helping people with Penguin problems and unnatural link penalties. But today we’re going to talk about natural links. I’m going to give you some tips about the types of links that you can get that comply with Google’s guidelines. These links are sometimes much harder to get than unnatural links, but they’re the type of link that Google expects to see and they’re the type of link that can really help improve your rankings.
Number one is to ask people. Now some people might say, “Wait, that’s not a natural link because I actually had to ask somebody to get it.” But if somebody is willing to vouch for your website, to link to your website, and you’re not giving them anything as an incentive in return, then that actually is a good link. So you can ask family members and friends and even better is employees. You can say, “Hey, if you have a blog, could you mention that you work for us and link to us?” Now, if they have to hide the link somewhere to make it actually happen, then that may not be the best link. But if they legitimately are happy to mention you and link to your company, then that’s a good natural link that Google will appreciate.
People are probably freaking out saying, “Directories are not natural links. They’re self-made links.” I’m not talking about freelinkdirectory.com and other types of spammy directories where anybody in the world could create a link. I’m talking about directories that have a barrier to entry, a directory that you would expect that your business would be listed there, and a directory perhaps that people are actually using. A good place to get listed in these directories where you expect to see businesses is Moz Local. Moz Local can really help with the types of directories that you would expect to see your site listed in.
There are sometimes also, though, niche directories that perhaps you have to do a little bit of searching for. For example, let’s say that you’re a wedding photographer. You might want to be listed in a local city directory that tells people where to find musicians for their wedding and venues for the wedding and also wedding photographers. That can be a really good link, and it’s the type of link that would bring you traffic as well, which is another indicator of a good link. A good way to find these opportunities is to search for your competitors’ phone number. You can do a search for the phone number minus their site, and that should give you a list of directories that Google actually thinks are good examples of links to your site. You can approach those directories and see if you can get a link to your site.
III. Industry connections
Most businesses have connections with suppliers, with vendors, with clients, and with partners. These are places where you would expect to see that your business is listed. If you can get listed on these types of lists, then that’s a good thing. A good way to find these is to find out what lists are your competitors on, take a look at their link profiles, and see if there’s anything there where you should be listed as well.
IV. Unclaimed brand/name mentions
This is a place where somebody has mentioned your business, mentioned your website, perhaps mentioned your name, but they haven’t linked to you. It’s perfectly okay to reach out to those people and say, “Hey, thank you for mentioning us. Could you possibly link to us as well?” A lot of the time that can result in a link. You can find these opportunities by using Moz Fresh Web Explorer. Also, I think every business should have set up Google Alerts to tell you when somebody has mentioned your business.
However, even with these set up, sometimes some things get missed, and so I recommend every month that you go and you do a search for your brand name and subtract out your website. You might want to also subtract out sites like YouTube or Facebook if you have a lot of those listings as well. Then, set the date back for one month and see what new mentions have happened in that last month. You may be able to reach out to some of those businesses to get links.
V. Reclaim broken links
A way that you can find broken links to your website is to go to Google Search Console and look at the crawl errors. What I’m talking about here is a place where somebody has linked to your website but perhaps they’ve misspelled the URL. What you can do, there are two ways that you can reclaim these. One is to reach out to the site and say, “Hey, thanks for linking to us. Could you maybe fix the typo?” Number two is to create a redirect that goes from the misspelled URL to the properly spelled URL. When you do this, you lose a tiny little bit of link equity through the redirect, but still it’s much better than having a link that goes to a broken page, because a link that goes to a 404 page is one that doesn’t count for PageRank matters.
VI. Be awesome
Journalists are always looking for stuff to write about. If you can do something with your business that is newsworthy, then that’s fantastic. Something you can do is create an event or perhaps do something for charity, and journalists love to write about that kind of thing.
A good way to find opportunities to do things like this is to do a Google search for local and your profession. Let’s say you were a hair salon. You could do a Google search for local hair salon and then click on news. You’ll see all sorts of news stories that journalists have written about. Perhaps a local hair salon has offered free haircuts for veterans. That gives you an idea of something that you can do as well. That also gives you a list of the journalists that are writing these types of stories. You can reach out to those journalists and say, “Hey, our business is doing this awesome thing. Would you consider writing a story about us?” Generally, that would include a link back to your website.
VII. Get press? Get more!
If you’re getting press, do things to get more of that press. I have a story about a client who had a product who went viral. What he ended up doing was contacting all of those people who had linked to him and offering himself as a source for an interview. We also contacted people who mentioned the product but didn’t link to him and said, “Hey, could you possibly link to us? We’d be happy to do an interview. We’d be happy to provide a new angle to the story.” So if you’re doing something that is going viral, that is getting a lot of press, often that means that people are super interested in this aspect of your business, and you can usually, with a little bit of work, get more links out of that process.
…Which stands for Help A Reporter Out. HARO is an email list that connects journalists with businesses, with professionals as well. These journalists are looking for a source. For example, if you’re a dentist, there might be a journalist who’s doing a story about teeth whitening. That journalist might want to use you as a source and then link to you. A tip that I can offer is, if you’re using Gmail, is to set up filters in Gmail so that you only see the HARO requests that contain your keyword or your business. Otherwise, you can get up to three of these emails a day, and it can be a little bit overwhelming and fill up your inbox.
IX. What content is already getting links?
A good way to do this is to go to Google Search Console, Links to your site, Most linked content, and click on More. This is going to give you a list of the URLs on your site and the number of domains that are linking to those URLs. If you download the list, you’ll also be able to see the exact URLs where the links are coming from. If you have content on your site that actually is already attracting links, then this is the type of content that you want to promote to other people to get more links. You can also contact the people who did link to you and say, “Thank you so much for linking to me. Is there something else that we could produce that would be useful for your customers, for your readers?” Often that can give you good ideas for creating new content, and the links are right there if those people are willing to give you ideas to write about.
X. 10X Content
This is creating content that’s 10 times better than anything that’s out there on the web. This doesn’t have to be expensive. It can just be a matter of answering the questions that people have about your product or your business. One thing that I like to do is go to Yahoo Answers and search for my product, for my profession, and see what kind of questions people are asking about this profession or product, because if people are asking the question on Yahoo Answers, it often means that the answer is not easily available on a Google search. You can create content that’s the best of its kind, that answers any questions that people might have, and you can reach out and ask for links. If this is really, truly 10X content, it is the type of content that should attract links naturally as well.
So these are 10 ways that you can get links that will comply with Google’s guidelines and really should make a difference in your rankings. These are going to be harder than just going to a free link directory or using some spammy techniques to make links, but if you can do this type of thing, it’s the type of thing that really moves the needle. You don’t need to be worried about the Web Spam Team. You can be proud of the types of links that you’re getting.
Thanks for watching. I’d be interested in seeing what types of links you have gotten by creating great things, by doing things that Google would expect businesses to do. Leave a comment below, and I’m sure we’ll have a great discussion about how to get links that comply with Google’s guidelines.
For more educational content and Google news from Marie, be sure to sign up for her newsletter or one of her new course offerings on SEO.
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