We all know that Google’s algorithmic changes have impacted the way we do link building. But we also know that in some industries, there are plenty of competitors who are using risky link building techniques to rank well for their targeted keywords. So while you are doing your competitor analysis, ask the following questions about various sites that competitors are using to see if they will be Panda / Penguin friendly opportunities.

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Photo Credit: Matti Mattila on Flickr

How to Evaluate Guest Posting Opportunities

When it comes to guest posting for links, some SEO’s still turn to Google PageRank as the first (and maybe only) criteria they consider. Guest posting is a strategy that should be utilized for more than just link building – many people have seen a lot of success from it when they evaluate the following.

  • Is the blog indexed in search? if you found a potential guest post opportunity via Google search, then you already know the answer to that question. If not, you might want to do a site:domain.com search to make sure the blog is indexed. Otherwise your content and your link will go unnoticed.
  • How many social shares do posts receive on average? This can give you an idea of what kind of social exposure your posts are likely to get from the blog’s audience.
  • How many comments do posts receive on average? This can give you an idea of whether anyone will actually read your content and potentially click on the link. Blogs without an audience could be content / link farms in disguise.
  • How strong is the existing content? Does the content on the site look like it is quality content or just a hub or articles under the title of a blog? If it’s the latter, it’s probably a good idea to skip posting.
  • Does the existing content match your website’s topic? Google loves relevancy, so if you are building a link to a wedding site and the blog doesn’t talk about anything related to weddings, then it may not help to have your content or link placed there.

Why didn’t we include the amount of traffic a blog receives as a factor? It’s hard to get a good view of the traffic a blog receives without diving directly into their Google Analytics, especially since many of the traffic networks like Alexa are not accurate. Plus there are ways that blogs can inflate their traffic numbers without gaining any valuable visitors.

How to Evaluate Directory Submissions

Directories are still popular when it comes to link building, but not all directories are created equal. Here are some things to look out for before submitting your website.

  • Is the directory listed in search? Along with article directories and blogs in formerly popular blog networks, some directories were also hit by Penguin and Panda so hard that they lost many of their rankings in search. Be sure your target directory still has a good rep in Google search.
  • Is the directory relevant to your industry? Some of the best directories you can get a website listed in are those that are industry-specific. If your site is about automobiles, then automotive directories would be the best to start with. There are some good niche directories listed on Directory Critic.
  • Are there non-relevant links in the categories you want to be listed in? While directories may have great categories that apply to the website you want to submit, if they allow non-relevant links within them just because someone paid the submission fee, then they might not be a good choice.

Directory submissions are not the cream of the crop, per say, but they can be good for link building to a website that is hard to link build for (i.e. little to no content, tough industry, etc.). But don’t depend on them as your sole source of links.

How to Evaluate Article Directories

While you’d be better off at submitting unique content to other blogs as guest posts, if you insist on article directories, here are some things to look for.

  • Was the article network hit by Panda and has it recovered? Using SEMrush, you can find out if an article network was hit by the Google Panda update and whether it has recovered since. Take EzineArticles – you can see from the SE (search engine) Traffic graph that they lost a significant amount of traffic during the first Panda update and have not recovered as their traffic has continued to downhill.
  • Does the article network have actual readers? Speaking of traffic, does most of it come from marketers building links or does the network have an actual community of people who read the articles? You can tell by the number of comments top articles have as well as their social shares.
  • Does the article network allow for media in their articles? Networks like HubPages and Squidoo allow you to add videos, images, and much more into your text articles, making them higher quality. Both networks also have great built-in communities.
  • Is the article network related to your website’s niche? Niche article networks with a community are best because you know people will be there to read the content, and maybe even click on your link.

Why does community matter in an article network? Google is looking to remove low quality content from their index that doesn’t have value to people. If a network actually has a community of people who enjoy the articles, the network is less likely to fall under Google’s hit list.

How to Evaluate Resource Pages

There are different kinds of resource pages: pages created to highlight specific resources on a particular topic and pages created for mass link exchanges. Here’s how to know whether you are looking at a good one.

  • Is there anything on the page that refers to link exchanges? If you see anything that eludes to your getting listed in exchange for a link from your website to the one you are viewing, then your likely looking at a link farm for link exchanges which should be avoided at all costs.
  • Are there multiple resource pages and are they all relevant to the main website (and yours)? Even if a website isn’t creating resource pages for link exchanges, if they have a
  • Are all of the links on the resource page actually on topic? Although it’s good to get your website linked on a page with only a small amount of links, it’s still ok to get your link placed with dozens of others so long as they all have a common theme. The only exception is local resource pages – if there’s one page for favorite businesses in Los Angeles, then it’s ok to have your golf link next to an Italian restaurant link.
  • Is the resource page linked from the main website? If you can’t get to the resource page from the main website, then it wasn’t created as a resource for the website’s visitors and therefore may not do a lot of good for your link.

Some of the best resource pages can be found on EDU sites. Universities who allow professors to create their own personal homepage can be a nice source of relevant resources for particular industries.

How to Evaluate Blogroll Links

Are all blogroll links evil? Not necessarily. Here’s what you need to figure out when it comes to blogroll / sidebar links on a blog.

  • Is the blog on topic? If the blog’s main topic is closely related to yours, then it might be a good fit. Think of it this way – would that blog’s audience be interested in clicking on your link? If the answer is yes, then it could be a good opportunity.
  • Does the website you’re building links for have a blog? If it’s on the same domain, then you can build links to the blog on blogrolls – it’s a natural fit when you find blogs on the same topic.
  • Does the sidebar have obviously paid links? They’re generally easy to spot because the paid links will usually not relate to the main blog. If so, steer clear so Google doesn’t think you paid for a link as well.

The best way into a blogger’s heart and onto their blogroll is through interaction. Be sure to comment on their blogs regularly and interact with them on social media before pursuing a link on their sidebar. Also be sure to explain exactly how your link will benefit their audience.

These are some of the most popular (and sometimes risky) link building strategies today. What other strategies do you use to build links and how do you evaluate them to make sure they are going to stand the test of time with Google?

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