There seems to be a bit of a cat-and-mouse play going on, or a game of catch-up and catch-me-if-you-can between Google and SEO professionals.
Most of us are probably always testing new and different ways to get ahead with our Search Engine Optimization efforts.
We need to deliver on getting those websites ranked high and increase traffic, so we’ll try all kinds of tactics and methods to get it done.
For a while now, everyone and their dog has been using infographics to score relatively easy links. Make a pretty image with some interesting numbers and WHAM! you are on page 1 (sort of).
Other tactics include Press Releases, so-called “native advertising”, and potentially even (gasp!) guest posting.
Well, it was only a matter of time before Google got cranky about these things because it easily exposed some “weaknesses” and had been a relatively “safe” methods of hitting all the right signals with Google.
As some of you may have already experienced, Google is eager and willing to hand out manual penalties hand-over-fist, updating their algorithm, and being very aggressive with their War On Web Spam.
Some SEO strategies and tactics that have been on the right side of “white hat” and relatively reliable and “safe” from angry pandas and penguins are now a little more flaky:
- Press Releases
- Native Advertising (think “advertorials”)
- Guest Posting (article submissions and blog posts)
Yeah, can you hear the collective groaning and panic attacks of SEOs everywhere?
Let’s talk a little more about these and how you can still use them but avoid getting a smack-down by the big and almighty Big G.
How Infographics Can Hurt You And What You Can Do To Avoid It
Let’s be honest: not all infographics out there are actually that useful or valuable.
But because it involves pretty pictures, bright colors, and interesting statistics, they get created en masse and shared on quite a lot of websites.
There’s always an embed code involved, where the friendly and helpful infographics creators have made it easy for you to share — just copy and paste.
Mass link building, done with flair and colors.
And mass link building is something Google doesn’t really like.
Sure, Google is not discounting these links just yet, but it may only be a matter of time.
Meanwhile, you should strongly consider adding a rel=nofollow to your infographic links, to avoid making a blip on their web spam radar, now and in the future.
The bottom-line is always that Google is suspicious of activities that seem to only serve as a way to level-up your rankings.
Of course, Google is probably making its job harder for itself with this, because truly, how are they going to be able to accurately make a distinction between infographics for massive “artificial” link building versus an infographic that “naturally” attracts a ton of shares and links?
Yeah, good luck with that one.
Still, they seem to, for now, pay attention to nofollow vs. dofollow.
Be wise and do the same.
Press Releases Can Swiftly Release You From Any Reward For Your Labors
Another great tactic that has worked for a while is using Press Releases to quickly gain some traction with traffic and potentially rankings.
Back when optimizing anchor text wasn’t really an issue, you could easily get a lot of content distributed on the web with anchor texts that made it very clear what you were trying to rank for.
It’s not like you could depend on these releases to garner much value in terms of links (most of them are “nofollow” to begin with), but the strength was found in anchor text optimization.
This lead to over-optimized link profiles, which Google has dealt with (too much and you’re screwed).
Should you stop with PR altogether? Nope, just be smart about how you handle linking.
Instead of using generic but relevant keywords as the link text, use a direct link to your site, brand name, or some other general text (like “click here for more information”) to balance out your link profile.
Don’t give up on using keywords as anchor text altogether. Just be smart about it. Spread the words around. Use direct linking, brand names, or other text.
You want an overall link profile that’s not drunk on over-optimization of keywords.
Don’t Beat On Those Native Advertising Drums Too Loudly
One of the latest buzzwords and concepts is “native advertising”.
This is not a new trick or new idea — it’s been around for several decades and is simply the concept of an advertorial applied to online marketing.
Briefly, it’s paid content for advertising, made specifically to blend in with its “natural” environment where it’s placed — on blogs, news sites, magazines, newspapers, and so on.
They might be tagged as “sponsored” or “paid” by some websites, but are frequently not given any such attribution.
To Google, this is akin to paying for links. And that is strictly forbidden according to Google’s guidelines.
They even penalized Interflora for doing this — they paid for quite a few articles with “dofollow” links, and some newspapers got slammed simply for publishing those articles.
We all know this happens all the time under various guises and forms.
It seems the only way to avoid being penalized is to either be really good at covering up what you’re doing, or making sure you use rel=”nofollow” in your links.
This is yet another aspect of SEO that Google may end up having trouble being accurate about. Just because a link doesn’t have a “nofollow” attribute doesn’t mean it’s paid for or otherwise used, but have no value for the visitor.
Google may have an increasingly harder time distinguishing between what is a genuine share and link to content versus a more nefarious link building scheme.
How will they be able to tell that an article is paid content, unless noted by the website? You can technically get away with a lot of this, and people are, all the time, for years.
Guest Posting Much? You May Not Be On Google’s Guest List For Long…
So far, anyway, there’s nothing wrong with writing and publishing guest posts. It’s a great way to build a brand, establish expertise, and generate traffic.
However, what can cause problems for you is if you fill out your author byline with keyword stuffed links.
One way to end up on the right side of Google could be to simply remove any byline links, use brand names, direct linking, or emphasize sharing the content across social media networks.
It may even be worth experimenting and adapting variations of the author byline, to whatever extent you can control that.
For now, Google is cranky about keyword-rich anchor texts in author bylines. Adjust what you do accordingly.
Always approach this with an idea of your overall link profile. Perhaps you would only use keyword relevant bylines in your guest posting, and other kinds of anchor texts in everything else?
Make Google Happy, Not Cranky
It’s not like Google is roaming like a hungry beast, looking to devour unsuspecting SEOs and their websites.
Well, not when it comes to these tactics. At least not yet.
They have, though, made it clear that they have a suspicious and negative attitude towards overuse and over-optimization of infographics, guest posting, native advertising, and press releases.
It remains to be seen how accurate they can be in determining who’s playing games with the search engine and who’s not.
Tricky business to be in, for sure, and it makes for uncertain and fickle times for us all.
The best we can do is follow closely what Google is up to and take on a mentality of agile SEO practices — adjust to changes, tweak things as you go, and don’t be dependent on any one tactic.
Always be testing.
How have you adjusted your approach and tactics when it comes to these things?