• TwitCount

Watch the Recorded Broadcast of the Link Building Landscape 2013 Hangout with Wiep Knol and myself here:

We will be discussing advanced links related stuff. Here are some of the topics:

  • Link Building Remembering (2000 … 2012)
  • What Link Building Strategies still work in 2013
  • What will the Link Landscape look like in 2014 and beyond
  • Case Studies
  • Q&A

A lot of HQ stuff here.

Enjoy your Watch!

Video Transcript

Razvan: Hello everyone! This is Razvan Gavrilas from cognitiveSEO and I have here Wiep Knol from wiep.net. He’s a well known link building master in the SEO industry for quite some time already. I’ll let him introduce himself, in the next couple of minutes and see what he has to say about himself. Wiep?


Wiep: Thank you, Razvan. My name is Wiep Knol, I’ve been into link building for over a decade now and used to do all kinds of different link building techniques and started as a spammer where my first task was to set up a few splogs and basically spam the web. It was the bad way to learn link building but it also was the good way because it taught me how not to do it. And from there on I’ve been doing it for over a decade now. Razvan you asked me to explain what link building should look like or will look like in the next upcoming years. I prepared a few slides which I’ll be happy to share and after that we can take any questions that Razvan will gather. Is that the correct setup Razvan?


Razvan: Yes I think so. So let’s start with an initial idea of yourself on how you see the link landscape now in 2013 compared to what it was when it started, what it was last year and how it will be in the next years.


Wiep: I’ll share my screen here. This is what you asked me to do, to take a look at the past, present and future of link building and I think one of the most important things that has being going on is Google’s slow, cold war against link building, well not link building itself but against the bad side of link building. I have to be honest and my view of Google’s actions hasn’t been very positive until recently and that’s when I figured out that Google has been taking actions but it’s mostly behind the screens and taken it at such a slow pace that you hardly notice it. But if you go back around 10 years which I call “The hidden era” of SEO of Link Building, that’s when everything was hidden. Hidden from users, not hidden from search engines but only shown to search engines and users wouldn’t see anything of it, cloaking, hidden links stuff like that. Google found out, took actions and people had to come more forward with directory link building, reciprocal links, link buying, widgets & quizzes, so links moved out of the background slowly more into the foreground. Links were noticeable by autoweb masters, regular uses, still a bit hidden but they’re trying to come up more. From there on you see that link building it’s coming up in the open. Guest posting preferably on well read blogs, infographics, media mentions, HQ content syndication, stuff like that. People are trying to get their contents opened and their links opened and visible to the public. And if you think about what the next stop would be, the next logical step, I think the only possible step for Google is to make it even more public. It’s what they have already been doing recently. It’s authorship, not to make them about websites anymore, but more about people, about people behind it, about products, about authors. And that’s because scalability, which link building has been until recently or still acts scalable but link building has been scalable a lot, so people could spam directories, mass send out reciprocal link requests, do forum spam, blog comments, a lot of scalable things that you could ultimate. Again Google’s actions slowly moving to less scalable tactics: paid links, guest posting, infographics, stuff like that is still scalable but not as scalable as the earlier tactics. From there on it’s basically spam control, by Google to move to less scalable tactics, and one of that would be authorship.Any form of scalability increases the change of leaving a footprint and when there are too many footprints certain tactics will eventually die and sink below surface. Does that mean that link building will become unscalable? I don’t think so. But you have to keep in mind that any form of scalability increases the risk of a tactic getting exploited. So if you are working on link building in a scalable way, that means that others can probably do that as well, and that eventually people who are trying to take too many shortcuts will get a whole of it and will ruin it for you and for basically many others. So think about it this way: What is the true value of a link, if it can be replicated very easily by others? Again the directory stuff, blog comments but also low quality guest posts, contents indication. If it can’t be replicated very easily, Google will probably not value it that much. So here are my killer link building tips for next year and for all years to come. But I don’t think that it’s the kind of tips that you want to hear.


Razvan: These are Halloween tips I think?


Wiep: Yes, kind of Halloween tips. You have to be creative, you have to be dedicated, you have to focus on networking, you have to be agile and more importantly fully integrate link building within your organization and to not try to scale things but try to be as efficient as possible within your own skill. And that doesn’t sound much more like link building anymore but like a lot of hard work. It’s not easy anymore. It’s not a button that you push and links suddenly start rolling in. But on the other hand nobody said that link building was easy and I think that link building has been moving away from the link building part to more the marketing part. One of the things that you have seen recently, popping up everywhere is content marketing, is that the next way to go? I don’t think that it should be content marketing but just making your regular marketing efforts search engine friendly. And content is just one part of it that most people didn’t use much for SEO for link building because there were other options away available and that’s why content marketing suddenly is the next big thing among link builders, among SEOs but it’s been usable for ever since Google started using links as an algorithmic as part of the algorithm. So before moving on to content marketing what about optimization first? And make your regular marketing search engine friendly? But also fully use the assets that you already have, your existing links, your network of people that you know, network of companies that you know, the content that you already have, or have laying around in your office instead of your website, stuff like that. I think that should be optimized first before you start thinking about content marketing and start basically copying what everybody else is doing and that’s something you should look first at. So…now on to the questions? Any questions from you about that Razvan? It was a little bit clear?


Razvan: Yes it’s clear. Do you think that SEO has becoming more of a PR thing or do you think that technical SEOs would still exist in the future? Or technical SEOs will practically be slowly dying let’s say, if that is an appropriate word.



Wiep: SEO in the exact form of the word I think it’s purely technical. It’s optimizing your contents for search engines and link building is slowly moving away from the technical part more to the marketing part of it. It should be search engine friendly as well…


Razvan: Do you think that Google is becoming better and better in term of discovering which site is important for what category with lower and lower needs for technical optimization of the site. So practically Google became smarter in identifying unnatural links, became smarter in identifying worthier content, became smarter in identifying authoritative sites, but it also became smarter in going through all the junk that is listed on these pages, because that’s the way that Google was practically able to become better. That was the question. Do you think that technical SEO will practically exist in the future and saying about 3 years from now.


Wiep: It will definitely exist, but more in terms like how do you serve 3 millions page websites to a search engine in the most optimum way. How do you make it croll it as efficiently as possible. But I don’t think that link building necessary is part of that.


Razvan: We have a question here from Prash who says: Do you have any advice on broken link building? So this is practically a manual link building activity. What do you suggest to Prash?


Wiep: Well broken link building is something that has been around for quite a while as well and used to be another hot topic, so it’s been used by lots of people as a link building tactic, so you have to be creative with it. It’s not about just only point out to use the link that is broken on your web page and please replace it with mine, because many web masters have been contacted that way.


Razvan: Ok, let’s see another question. So let’s take one of the questions that we had from yesterday. The first question is practically a longer question…the question I would like to ask, Max says: If a link is generated for example from a bookmark which is relevant to my business and which comes from a high PR bookmarking site or a link profile platform, also with good page rank, but the bookmarking site or the profile site could be specifically for a specific business niche which is not related to my business, yet the content from which the link a)high quality, b)relevant to my business. Would you say that it is still a good link or would you fear that Google, for example, would see such a link as a bad link despite good page rank and despite the good and relevant content.



Wiep: I don’t think that Google would see it as a bad link but I also don’t think that it will be seen as a good link, because it’s very easy to replicate by others. It is basically easy to get the links so the value wouldn’t be very high.


Razvan: This is a question from me: What’s your opinion in the level in which Google is able to identify SEO techniques used in different markets – international markets vs. local markets, which have lower popularity like smaller countries: Poland, Sweden and others. Do you think there is a delay in the algorithm that Google is practically applying to the sites?


Wiep: I think so. On one site is the algorithm, most of it is tested on the larger countries, so when it’s rolled out to other countries, the threshold of been marked as spam should be lowered but it should be tested first to see which level it should be lowered to. And on the other hand, there are not as many eyeballs focusing on smaller markets as there are for US or UK market. So spam it’s noticed but not as much as in the US or UK for example.

Razvan: A question from Roman: Any tips on link building for problematic niches like gambling?


Wiep: For gambling that’s a completely different game than regular link building.


Razvan: Why do you think it’s different?


Wiep: Because it’s more like a hidden niche.


Razvan: What do you mean by that hidden niche?


Wiep: It’s not a niche that most people talk about that publicly and be proud to share their examples.


Razvan: Something like adult…gambling it’s something more hidden from this point of view.


Wiep: Specifically in this industry, it’s good to take a thorough look at the industry as a whole, to take a look at their link profile to see that’s common sense or common tactics to use. For example, link buying is much more like a main stream tactic there than it is for example in travel.


Razvan: Do you have any exact strategy, for example that you would apply in this kind of hidden niche?


Wiep: I think I’d take a look at the industry as a whole and try to find out which tactics are being used a lot and to stay on the safe side of those tactics. So for example, gambling probably will have to use link buying, but do it in the safe kind of way that Google will have difficulties in finding it out algorithmically.


Razvan: A more generic question from a man: What link building strategies do you recommend? I mean what tactics.


Wiep: What tactics? It really depends on the budget that you have, on your industry, the history that you have. For example for a new website it’s completely different than for an established website. Are you in a small industry or are you targeting main stream, very competitive main stream keywords. Requires a very completely different approach.


Razvan: Let’s take the example of a small business. How should you approach the link building tactics. Let’s say there is a small business, they opened their business, they create their site, what things they should do in the first half a year, how they should move forward after that. Do you think it’s good to start with more SEO stuff in the beginning or do SEO after a half a year or a year or something like that.



Wiep: Specially for small businesses usually are run by people who do everything themselves, it’s more like a time management issue, than a link building issue. So I say you focus on your regular marketing, the things that you have to do anyway and try to incorporate link building there. So when you are talking to dealers, or suppliers, try to see if you can use that relationship that you already have, that you’re already maintaining to get links from there.


Razvan: That’s practically links that are hard to get by your competitors and are not easily replicable.


Wiep: And also links that there are relatively easy to get for you as well.


Razvan: You just need to be creative. But do you think it’s a good […] because there is a lot of confusion. People start their site and they think that Google will come and will send a lot of traffic and all this stuff. So they start to aggressively do SEO, so practically they over optimize everything they do: they over optimize their site, they over optimize link profile, they over optimize everything. Would you recommend to forget about SEO for a moment in the beginning and focus on the actual marketing part of the site and then try to re-optimize some of the little bits that would give them some more juice and power up their sites and engine.


Wiep: Yes, definitely. I think with SEO common sense you get a long way. And don’t try to get into the details, the over optimization details too soon, because it’s something that you could get so little benefit from if you compared it to the time they spend doing it.


Razvan: What do you think, Rollout inquires, I think, what’s your general approach on reaching out the 2 people. And do you have some tips based on your experience?


Wiep: That also depends on the industry that you are in. For example, if you are in the tech industry people are used to be contacted through Tweeter, Facebook, Linkedin, so I’d definitely use those channels. If you are more in the traditional industry, people prefer to be phoned maybe, or to receive an email, or maybe even a letter. So it depends on the industry, but basically I try to create a list of influences, when I’m planning on launching the link based campaign. Create a list of influences and contact those people in the way that seems most appropriate for them personally.


Razvan: Do you think the influence approache is a scalable thing? I mean do you do it once, you do it twice, you do it 10 times, every niche has a set of influencers which don’t modify over night so they have 20 people that are very important in that specific niche, don’t you think that bombarding them with information about your product with every special launch that you think that you have will practically not allow you to scale the influencial marketing? I mean obviously you can do it the first time you launch the product, you do it the second time, you do something else which is third time, but people get maybe upset if you bother them to much.


Wiep: Definitely it’s the same way with regular marketing as well. Send them too many products, bother them too many times and they’ll get fed up with you. So when you do it the first time don’t focus on the top influencers straight away, try to get one or maybe two levels below that and try to find people that are influencing the top influencers.


Razvan: Practically when you are new, nobody knows about it, the top influencers, the most important people will not look at you, will not replay to your emails or phone calls, the same way they would do to a brand for example.


Wiep: It depends on the requests of a week. It’s probably best also to test to not burn those contacts straight away. And focus on what’s just below that level. And try to even brand them to brand evangelists from the point of first contact so ask them for inputs for feedback and to become part of your marketing strategy instead of a tool within your marketing strategy. Cause people will find out if they have been used sooner or later.


Razvan: Let’s see another question from our guests. We have 94 live viewers at this time. Question from Brian: How big of a role do you see co-citation and co-occurrence playing in the future of SEO vs. Keyword Rich Anchor Text. A great question from Brian.


Wiep: Co-citation I think is very important because you mentioned before that Google is much smarter in figuring out what the subject of a site is and not just because the content is but also because the co-citation so it’s already playing a very important role and I don’t think that it will be much more important that is already but will still remain very important.


Razvan: Do you think that anchor text will practically decrease it’s value over time?


Wiep: I certainly hope so, because it’s the most unnatural signal that Google currently uses. Linking out to others with commercial anchor text is not something that someone would do naturally a lot.


Razvan: If they asked us in the past to link with the anchor text that we think it’s good for that keyword. This with a lot of others that practically Google abdicated the SEO community to do, now it asks them to stop doing that because it’s unnatural. That’s another interesting topic.


Wiep: Exactly like you got to help us with this because we can’t figure it out ourselves that, and once they have figured it out or they think they say: okay you can stop now, don’t do it anymore. We’ll take it on from here.


Razvan: But they forgot that they had to do it first off all. Yes. In my opinion anchor text lost a lot of its importance because Google can really understand if you have this ??nippet?? of the link and words around it and context to those words, Google tries to understand those and practically identify keywords in the vicinity of that anchor text maybe, and use those to rank your site better. But what do you think about the authority of a site. How important is the authority of a site for a new page that you post on that site to rank for a very commercial keyword, very competitive keyword. What’s the boost that it gets just because of the authority of the main site.


Wiep: It used to be anchor text that was the main influencing factor but like you said it has decreased over the past few years. And I think its place has been taken in by both relevance and authority. The lead Google manual rating documents, they also talked about vital results into search engines. I think when you want to rank for a certain keyword, it’s very useful if you want to get a link from the website that’s vital for that keyword. Because that’s the website authority on that topic according to Google, so if you could get a link from that site, that can and will have a very big impact, more than what’s an anchor text.


Razvan: Yes. What do you think about the latest year with all the unnatural links and the manual link penalties and what’s your opinion on that. The Google disavow tool does it work only for manual penalties or also for algorithmic penalties?


Wiep: I think it’s also part of Google so called world fair. It’s a tool that’s being used in a limited way by Google at the moment but I think that behind the scenes they are preparing to use all the data they are gathering in a way that will have a much more impact in the future.


Razvan: So practically you are saying that they are training their algorithms and they didn’t release yet their big weapon.


Wiep: It would be stupid if they wouldn’t use the data in the future. They are getting a lot of signals that they try to figure out algorithmically. They can now check with data that they get from web masters so…


Razvan: So all the web masters are practically like small little mechanical clerks for Google.


Wiep: Yes exactly.


Razvan: It’s interesting how they forced the web master to do this, and practically they get crowdsourced voting for their validation of algorithmically results for free. You can’t do anything. If your site is penalized and you want to recover obviously you try removing links, you try to delete your links and build your high authority content, but you also have this weapon: the Google disavow and you always ask yourself should I use it, should I use it not, it’s so mystic everything about this tool. They don’t confirm if it works for algorithmic penalties. They reply sometimes, some other times they don’t, so why shouldn’t I do the Google disavow? It shouldn’t hurt me if I am sending only the unnatural links.


Wiep: I think that’s a situation that Google tries to create deliberately, so if you get an unnatural link warning that you really have to think about what have you done, about what you have to do to clean it up. So you don’t make the same mistake twice. So all the uncertainty and all the un-clarity I think that’s something what Google will try to maintain.


Razvan: Yes indeed. They are using all the signals practically to train their algorithmic for the future, improve it with human validation for free. What do you think about competitive niches like payday loans, buy Viagra or anything which is super competitive and spammers abuse it very hard. There was the latest payday loans update that Google did, and they practically started to filter out those people that they were increasing their ranks there. Do you think it still works or it will work in the future?


Wiep: I think that certain tactics still work, but risk management is a big factor in it. You have to ask yourself it is worth it for me to take a lot of risk and to burn them all on my side. On the other hand is it worth it to be completely white hat and spend a lot of money and not to rank for the next one of two years. So it’s a risk evaluation and it depends on that you think it’s the best on your situation.


Razvan: Yes obviously depends on your business model but if your business model is to rank for the next day or the next week and then burn that site and do it again and again and again. This is what is happening in super competitive nations. They don’t care about their brand, they only care to rank there for a few hours, for a few days to just cash in and get out. Practically from how I see the problem, payday loans became more of an informative, informational keyword. They started pushing in a lot of news content, similar to Wikipedia content, which doesn’t have commercial intent though they do still organize those informational results with commercial sites which they consider to be very authoritative. But from time to time I saw that they still catch some spammer there.


Wiep: Well that’s the word that Google is having behind the scene is against short term spammers.


Razvan: In the past this was practically lasting, I mean you ranked your site there, it was staying for 2 weeks, 3 weeks, then it was going down like 2005, 2006.


Wiep: Websites were able to build a brand because of the spam that they have been doing in the past. And I think that Google is in some situations they prevented that from happening, that they new this before they had the chance to back up the spam that they have being doing with regular links that they are learning now, that they have a good visibility in search engines.


Razvan: I have a case study here that I did in Stockholm, when I went and I’d like to show the case a bit because it’s about the subject we are talking now. I’ll be screen sharing. Okay. So in the topic of my discussion there was: Unnatural links in the Nordic Market and not only. And the case study that I did for them is about the equivalent of the payday loans keyword which is “Sms lan”, but the idea of this case study: these are the top 10 organic servers for this keyword in the Swedish version of Google. And the bright orange sites are sites which that are frequently spamming Google and 7 and 10 are still spamming but with not so much power. The others are more naturally looking link profiles and some of them do still have shady stuff into. But what’s interesting is that this first result here on this column it’s the number of referring domains at the domain level pointing to this sites. So this first site has almost 2000 referring domains pointing at it and here is the monthly link velocity and daily link velocity. On the monthly link velocity practically they required in this chart here which is a monthly chart since the existence of this site. There are only 20 or 30 referring domains but here in the daily link velocity are the rest, so practically this is for the last 45 days it’s out of the chart. In 45 days they acquired 1800 almost referring domains so with a very high speed, very high link velocity and with super targeted keywords anchor text. So the top 3 most linked anchors are SMS Lan Online and SMS Lan and this is also a partial match domain which is SMS LanOnline.ac and this site was ranking there for quite sometime, so how it was used to be like 5-6 years ago in the international market which I found it awkward because practically these are very fragrant techniques that they use. If I follow on the next slides, practically here Google says that they don’t care about NoFollow. They don’t follow and don’t give any importance to these links, but this is the chart that shows the distribution of the NoFollow, DoFollow links pointing to the top 3 results in Google and the first site even if though it has almost 2000 referring domains, the green line is the number of DoFollow links coming from that domain, so they only a few hundred links, but they are coming from 50 referring domains and yet they are ranking number one with 50 referring domains with DoFollow which is very, very awkward again. And then, in term of naturalness, they do have a very, very spamming link profile compared to the others which don’t push the pedal that much and we can see here practically the majority of the links are unnatural links with a lot of commercial anchor text because they use that SMS Lan, SMS Lan Online and what I wanted to show you is that the link building strategy that was used, so practically they use here in these charts that the majority of the links pointing to these sites are coming from blogs and we might think that okay, they are blog comment, but they aren’t blog comments because if I’m looking to the link positioning in the next chart I can see that the majority of links are coming from blog comments. So they pushed the pedal so hard and still it worked with automating blog comments pointing to their site and they were ranking there at least for one week and a half when I looked so again other stuff which was very easy to see by Google but they didn’t analyze that site is the web page language. So the pages that were linking to this site which was written in Swedish were pages in English while if we are looking to the other 2 competitors which have more natural link profiles they have links coming from Swedish content which would be natural but still Google didn’t see that. And I wanted to ask you Wiep why do you think this discrepancy in the local markets exists practically, why do this techniques that internationally don’t work anymore, I mean this is a basic technique for a black hat spammer. This is nothing extraordinary. Most advanced black hat techniques now they use parasitic, hacked sites and a lot of others are hidden links with CSS, JavaScript stuff, CSS clocking stuff and all this, but this is in the day light but yet Google didn’t catch this site and others in time because they are others using several others simpler techniques like this. Why do you think this is still going on in local market?


Wiep: I think it’s a combination of different factors, for example the spam threshold, like I mentioned, is probably not sensitive enough in smaller countries because it’s built for large countries where spam only becomes visible after a certain level. It also depends on how many people fill in spam reports in Google Webmaster tools for US query there will be a lot more than for example in Sweden or in the Netherlands and it also depends on the people at Google who are able to look into it. Do they speak the language and how many things do they have to do except from taking a look in those spam reports.


Razvan: Ok Thank you. Let’s take a question from one of our watchers here so we have Doran asking what’ the best practicing to get ranking back after link penalties revoked so…?


Wiep: Kind of depends on what you did. If your link profile mainly existed from spam links and you have to disavow everything it’s basically you have to start over from scratch instead of getting your rankings back because your rankings weren’t earned naturally. If it’s just a few links that were bad and you received your penalty because of those and then in most cases it will recover in time, but how much time it would pass…that depends.


Razvan: Yes. There is this misconception that if you get the Google penalty you submit a disavow or you do whatever you do in order to get an approval from Google that okay you are fine now, people hope to see their rankings go up, but the problem is that they don’t go up, because there is this thing getting out of the disavow and approve disavow and it’s like you never had those links practically. What’s your opinion on this?


Wiep: I agree. In some cases I have seen it happen, so if the penalty was lifted the website popped out back into the top 10, but in most cases most lots of links have been disavowed or devalued, so your rankings would never be the same they have been and people are still complaining I want my rankings back…well you are not getting your old ones back but now you are have your new ones.


Razvan: Ok. Why do you think that Google doesn’t penalize those site owners and not just not take into consideration that link… Why is Google now trying to practically remove those links using the web masters and why not simply not take those links into consideration.


Wiep: That would mean that you would get away with spamming the worst thing that could happen.


Razvan: But you won’t rank, you just spam the web but you won’t rank. So spamming will stop because it doesn’t work eventually. Why doesn’t Google do this now? Aren’t their algorithms advanced enough?


Wiep: Because their algorithms are not water-tight. So spam will pass trough and spam still works in some situations. There will always be black hats trying to gain the algorithm, but those people I think Google that could never get them to move on to white hats side of SEO but they’re trying to educate the people that are still on the line between gray and black. And try to educate them and lure them to the white hat side.


Razvan: Yes. So we could look at this whole unnatural links and Google disavowing as something that Google tries to educate the SEO community once again with things that they should do.


Wiep: And give them a tool to use and also to prevent negative SEO from happening and to disavow links that you haven’t been creating yourself.


Razvan: Yes when negative SEO will stop existing it means that Google is smart enough to differentiate very quickly between good and bad links or good and bad signals and don’t take the bad signals into consideration in the rankings. And at that point in time practically you could spam all day long and it won’t make any difference.


Wiep: I think that day is a long day from here.


Razvan: Yes. It truly is. Okay let’s see another question from one of our attendees. All SEOs buy links, so maybe not all, but he says all, all SEOs buys links, guest posts, the new media sites, private networks, etc. In haven niches it’s impossible to rank without link buying. Your opinion about link buying.


Wiep: It’s a tricky subject because Google is very clear about it. Link buying is bad, and you are not allowed to do it. Unless you are Google of course. I think that link buying is basically walking on the line to see what’s an option and what isn’t. So if you are for example, you are advertising on a website with banner advertising and you are asking for an editorial link as well. You are getting it, because you are advertising on that website, is that a paid link or isn’t it? I think that’s a bit of a gray area that should be okay, but buying links as a paid link strategy within your link building strategy that’s not something that I’d recommend, unless your website is something that you are able to burn and build up from scratch again.


Razvan: Let’s see another question. How does Google look at blog comments these days? Do they ignore them or do they take actions against the site? So I think that we covered this subject with the case study before. Do you have any opinion on this?


Wiep: It also depends on the scale. So if 99% of your link profile contains blog comments then I think that’s something that Google will take action against sooner or later. But if it’s just a few percents or just a small amount of links, then I don’t think that’s a problem with it. Especially if those links are written by real humans instead of a spam box.


Razvan: A quick conclusion from how I see all these questions that I have here and I have a lot of questions, I won’t be able to answer all of them, but I see a lot of questions like…probably you noticed everything is related to link building as it used to be. Can I do broken link building? There is another question. Can you ask about wide side links and anchor texts? Are they still a good practice? So practically Google educated us so powerfully, so hard and this area of this kind of signals…technical signals which now practically are kind of unnatural. And people are still focusing on this. What should they do? Should I get a site wide link or should I not. Should I get a commercial anchor text link or should I not. How should I improve the ranking for that specific keyword if I buy a site wide link. Is it okay? Is it okay to buy a link or not buy a link? Will I get penalized? They are still playing on the edge. A lot of SEOs do this very risky stuff. They don’t even realize that they are on shaking ground. Have you noticed the same mentalities in the SEOs? How do you think SEOs should look now at link building. What should they do in order to improve their rankings without getting penalized by Google and without getting penalized in the future.


Wiep: I think one of the most important things to do is to accept that things are changing and they are not the same as 3 years ago anymore. But the same goes for when it was 3 years ago, when people were asking directories are they still any good? That’s a question that I haven’t heard a lot during the past year or two. So people are changing but it takes a bit of time to realize that things are changing and their own approach is changing as well. But I think that for me, what I tried to do when I think about a specifically link or specifically link tactic is to try to translate it to the offline world. Would I be doing this offline as well and not completely take Google out of the consideration. But would I be doing it if it was offline as well? So an example for directories: Would I be advertising in all kinds of offline business lists? Probably not. Because it doesn’t generate any leads or sells.


Razvan: Yes…the power of a link is given by the power of the people that are passing through that link, because the link finally is something that all started from web directories and web directories were the first thing to navigate the web when search engines didn’t exist where it was web directories. From there anchor text and links evolved and turned into search engines and so on. But the power of the link was in the people that were coming from that web directories to your sites. A good link is a link that sends visitors. If it doesn’t send visitors it doesn’t matter in my opinion. It won’t matter in the future.


Wiep: Yes. For example my father used to advertise in the phone book but when is the last time you used the phone book yourself?


Razvan: Exactly. So we have a question here from Josh: How long do you guys think links will be a major of page signal and when do you think it will be matched or over taken by social signals. What do you think about links as a signal?

I personally think that links are still few for the engine that Google has. And that’s why there is all this emphasis now with good links bad links, educational stuff for the web masters, remove those links, disavow those links and everything is about links. Links that I don’t think that are going away in the next year or in the next two years. They are very abused as with any other signals that would probably come. Google and any smart engines tries to find ways, making it hard for people to fake them. So search engines practically started with onpage stuff and they were ranking only on onpage stuff. Then they introduced links as a page factor because it’s harder to fake, but people started to abuse it so much and they became very good at it. If social is the next step and they only introduce social, it will happen the same. But I think that Google is working on many fronts and they are building their own high speed ISPs , they have their own browser. They have a lot of things. They have smartphones, so they have a lot of data about us. And they surely use that data, but still links are very important for the ranking. It’s not enough. They probably need to scale that much in order to take the links out of the question or to put less emphasis on links. What do you think about this subject?


Wiep: I think that they will be capable of much better…


Razvan: Distinction between good and bad things or what do you want…


Wiep: Distinction between website recommendations and a personal recommendation and of course a personal recommendation should be valued differently than a website recommendation. And all the things that you mentioned like the android phones but also all the precaution they have been taking with Google+. They are making sure that real people are using it instead of gamable entities or whatever.


Razvan: Yes. They make you practically sign up with your phone, they send you an sms, they validate you. So practically each Google+ account they try to identify as human beings. Obviously it will be harder for people to fake the signals but they evidently could do it in the end.


Wiep: They try to take away the anonimity.


Razvan: Do you think this is a good or a bad thing?


Wiep: For their search results it will be a good thing. As a user I’m not always a fan of it but eventually they will try to do what they think it’s best for their search results because that’s what’s best for their shareholders.


Razvan: It’s an interesting topic. Maybe in the future we will check in into Google, only been logged in for example so they can’t identify us so it’s like a big high way but you can enter in the high way only if you give them the passport let’s say. So only if you are logged in. So rank tracking will be dead, everything will be dead because you need to be logged in. It’s an interesting topic I discussed it with other people. Let’s see some other questions because we have about 14 minutes and this hangout will be over. So Gabriel is asking: Do you think that Google is really precise at assessing whether or not a site has just bad links rather than someone doing negative SEO. What I mean is negative SEO should affect rankings vs. bad links, how it affects rankings vs. bad links in the past so do you think Google can practically differentiate between negative SEO and SEO that you do yourself?


Wiep: Is it a negative SEO or is a more sentiment like in links that are in a negative sentiment?


Razvan: No, I think negative SEO. No, he is referring to unnatural links done by myself, I think the unnatural links build by a third party trying to harm my site.


Wiep: It depends. I think that when you really want to you can take a link out of the Google search results, if the site doesn’t have too much authority. So I think that Google isn’t as good in it as they should be. But they are getting better with most other things.


Razvan: Do you think it’s harder to do negative SEO in big sites?


Wiep: Definitely, they have a lot more authority so they can get away with a lot more before things are picked up algorithmically.

Razvan: So do you think if someone starts to do negative SEO on Amazon.com would they be able to bring it down?


Wiep: I don’t think so…no…unless they hack themselves into the sites so they don’t have only outsite signals but also onsite signals. I think Amazon will be quite safe. If someone new enters your industry and you want to get read of them before you get bothered by them, I think it’s still something that it could be used. I wouldn’t recommended it but it’s Google concern that it can be used.


Razvan: Do you think, we have someone here asking, Rankel: Can you rank only with social media links? Do you think social media signals, I don’t think he meant links.


Wiep: I haven’t see a lot of examples because mostly social signals are being followed up by regular link signals. So just social signals would be quite an odd signal because usually those come in pairs.


Razvan: Yes but I think that they are very good signals for indexation if you want to be very quickly found by Google, just tweet or +1 something or do it on Facebook and the crawlers probably, there is a greater chance they will come faster than just posting on your blog so…in term of indexation I think they are using their these signals better but for ranking at least at this point in time it’s questionable. I haven’t see any exact examples that serve ranking only because of the social signals.


Wiep: Exactly the so called correlation studies between the top search results that the top ranking websites have more social votes, than websites that don’t rank. It’s made basically it’s often the other way around. It’s not that they rank because of those signals, but they have those signals because they rank well.


Razvan: Duncan asks what do you consider is the difference between paid links, sponsored posts and adverts. Do you think there is any difference between them?


Wiep: It depends on the scale, on the intends, on what kind of adverts, websites accepts, so if websites mainly coexists from advertorials that’s a paid link and I’d definitely want to avoid. But like I mentioned before, getting an advertorial mention because you advertise on a website it’s a thin line but it’s something that you could get away with.


Razvan: Yes. How do you think Google treats this thin line because if you are advertising, if you are buying a sponsored post in the newspaper for example, they are known for practically sending warnings to newspaper saying don’t sell links on your site or you were caught selling links. How do you think they practically identify those pages which don’t have any direct signal in it as being a sponsored post and look like a normal article newspaper.


Wiep: I think it’s the footprint that I mentioned earlier, by leaving a lot of paid link footprints or is the newspaper leaving a lot of editorial footprints then Google will be able to follow those and leave it back to you, or to the newspaper.

So, if it’s just here and there and you are not using too many commercial anchor texts, if it doesn’t stand out and people won’t notice it within 2 or 3 minutes when they are taking a look to your link profile then I can guess they are safe but when it’s one of your top anchor text and it’s just 2 clicks away from any link tool that you use to find out that you are using paid links and you are definitely at risk.


Razvan: Another question here. This is one of the last questions: After last Penguin updates I’ve lost ranking for many of my keywords before 5 months I submitted link removal request to Google Webmaster tools and there was no luck in those case. Google shows more links now. Is Google disavow tool working on how to get rid of this penalty. Practically this is a case where I think he gets an algorithmic penalty and he submitted Google Disavow but no one answered. It usually happens like this and no one answers.


Wiep: Well, if you file inclusionary requests then you should get a confirmation that the inclusionary request has been received. And later on that it has been processed and then you get a reply if it has been accepted or not. But I think it’s important to combine the data from a different tools sets from Jessica SEO from Google webmaster tools because the overlap may be 80% but it’s the other 20% that you want to include as well.


Razvan: Yes that’s what I recommend always to all of our costumers also because we take the data from MajesticSEO and others and we aggregate, duplicate all of this results and we also allow the Google master tools report and I always recommend to have more older links than you can have but it’s important to look at the live links not at the lost links. That’s another differentiation that you need to do first of all. There is also this confusion with people that want to work only with the Google webmaster tools dataset, because they say if Google is only showing me this, this is what I should work with, but in some cases they don’t show all the data. It’s a known fact.


Wiep: In most cases they don’t.


Razvan: And he asks how to get rid of this penalty. It’s a very general question. He practically needs to increase the authority of his site or there are situations when if you have all your links, 90% of your links are unnatural and built with shady tactics you might not have any chance of recovering. You might be better off starting a new site if possible. What do you think about this situation when you are put in this position to leave this site, any common site for example, and start off with something new.


Wiep: In some cases getting a rebrand might be worth considering, especially if it’s an opportunity to get some press attention and the press as well and to use it as a moment of marketing but in some cases it’s better to start over anew.


Razvan: Yes…okay…let’s take one more question: Most link building businesses aren’t trusted anymore. Most of them are still just spammers. How do you find legitimate reliable SEO link building services? What would you recommend to someone looking for this kind of services. What to look at.


Wiep: Ask around. Ask people you know, you trust and you think are knowledgeable to recommend others. And also try to look at good link profiles maybe on other industries, give them a call and ask them who is taking care of their link building, so you can see this is a good link profile and they have been doing a good job and try to find out how’s been doing it and hire them.


Razvan: Yes. But in this situation you need to know what to look at. If you are a non SEO person and don’t have any clue about SEO, you have all these companies which sell you dreams. The day you will rank number one, they will penalize your site. This is what happened practically in the past with a lot of people and is still happening a lot of sites and that business owner is not aware of this problem practically.


Wiep: Just try to create a summary of what the company has been promising you ask it in Google groups.


Razvan: Do a research online.


Wiep: And ask them if this is something that should be okay or that’s something that should resolve in big problems.


Razvan: Okay, let’s end this hangout. Any conclusions for this hangout? Do you have anything special that you would like to conclude and draw a line?


Wiep: Nothing that I haven’t said already.


Razvan: I recall now a question from someone about content marketing. So practically how would you define content marketing and is content marketing the next thing to abuse in Google? Like commercial anchor text? Or any other signals?


Wiep: I think it’s the next biz word. I don’t think it’s different from any other type of marketing.


Razvan: Okay do you think it’s going to be abused in a bad way? I mean abused so badly and used so badly that it becomes a negative signal?


Wiep: Link bate in the past has been used too many times that people associated it in a negative way. And content marketing used to be a way of using contents to market your stuff and now it’s a way of using content to market your website. So it’s basically a new use of an old thing.


Razvan: Yes it’s nothing new, I mean content marketing was for 100 years or so as a concept it’s not that just appeared with Google. This concept appeared in the Google world as a natural next step. But it’s something that existed from a really, really long time in the newspapers. So, to conclude this, I think links subject is a very complicated subject and it has a lot of faces and it’s always interesting to talk about links with smart people. I want to thank you for being here today with us on this handout and sharing your expert knowledge with our SEO fellows. Maybe we try practically to educate in a better way the SEO community so hopefully everything will be for the better. Thank you and talk to you again :)


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