We’ve all read about (or have been unfortunate enough to experience first-hand) the negative impact the Google Penguin updates are having on the organic search engine ranking of websites that have implemented linking strategies that were less than “white hat.”
Have you noticed your Organic Results drop since the Penguin updates began rolling out? With the holiday online shopping season upon us, it’s important to clean up any leftover link messes and to understand the difference between high quality links and “link spam,” before implementing your holiday linking strategy.
Are you a Good Link, or a Bad Link?
I encourage you to think of your linking strategy differently than you may have in the past. Building links to your site is still important for improving your page and domain authority in Google rankings. However, that shouldn’t be your only motivation when creating your linking strategy. Just because a website (such as Pinterest) uses “no follow” links doesn’t mean that links from that site won’t impact your ROI in a very real way. In order to get the most out of your efforts in time for the holidays – you need to make sure your linking efforts have an immediate impact and are getting your website in front of holiday shoppers. Read on to learn more.
Disavow Your Bogus Links
First thing first, make sure you don’t have any unresolved linking issues from the Penguin updates. If you’re an SEO manager helping a client clean up the work of evil-doers, your first step should be visiting Google Webmaster Tools. Check for a message from Google about “unnatural links” to your site. If you’ve received this notice, you need to use the Disavow Links tool that was added to GWT in October to undo the damage that has been done. A word of caution: the Disavow Links Tool is an advanced SEO tool provided by Google’s Web Spam team. Even Matt Cutts said that you should only use the tool if you are 100% confident that the links you’re labeling are spam.
Once you’ve cleaned up any leftover messes, it’s time to focus on your new linking strategy and ensure that you’re utilizing best practices that won’t get you in trouble down the road. My colleague, Khara Krawczyk, recently wrote a wonderful blog post explaining how to utilize blogger outreach for link building, which I highly recommend reading. This is a safe and impactful linking strategy for brands looking to generate buzz about their products or run contests. However, you might not have time to implement something like this before the holidays, so I’m going to focus on some quick link building tips you can implement now!
Top 5 Linking Efforts You Can Implement NOW for the Holiday Shopping Season:
- Google+ Business:
- Get Local:
- Update Your Internal Links:
- Do a Search:
It surprises me to see how many brands STILL don’t have an official presence on Google+. I think a lot of brands see this as “just another Facebook” to maintain and they simply don’t bother. However, Facebook doesn’t have an influence on Google search engine results; your Google+ profile will! Check out Matt Proctor’s blog post on Why You’re Stupid for Not Using Google+ if you still need convincing.
Create a company profile and add all your employees, family, and friends to your circles and make sure you ask them to do the same. Send out an email encouraging them to +1 your pages as well as share and comment on your posts. The more sharing occurs, the more visibility you will get in the SERP. Don’t just create your profile and forget about it! Make sure you engage with your audience and regularly post status updates and images that link back to your website and promote your special holiday offerings.
If you have a physical store location (or multiple locations) you really need to make sure your listings in local directories are claimed and up-to-date. I know people hear the word “directory” and get scared, but I’m not talking about link farms, I’m talking about reliable, established communities where users regularly find and review local businesses.
Each local directory has its own process for submitting your site, but the process is usually pretty painless and consists of verifying your ownership via a phone call and a pin number. Many of these sites will let you add photos, videos, special offers and a link to your website–all for free! Unlike social media profiles, once you’ve created your local listings, there’s little maintenance required. (Tip: Make sure your account preferences are set so that you are notified when you get a new review.)
Ever notice those “place” listings filling up the top of the SERP? Make sure your business is part of the mix! Here are my top suggestions for directories to submit to or update your listings to make sure holiday shoppers can find you, however, there are still plenty more high quality directories out there:
Bing Local: www.bing.com/local/
I’m shocked at the number of brands that could benefit from a presence on Pinterest, but have failed to create an official profile on this site. They are missing out on a MAJOR linking opportunity! According to a March 2012 comScore report on the state of the internet, Pinterest is the fastest growing social media site in both unique visitors and clicks on search engines. The report also states that Pinterest buyers spend more, buy more items, and conduct more transactions than other social media buyers. In September, Pinterest made its debut on the list of the Top 50 Most Visited Sites on the web.
Although Pinterest upgraded to the “nofollow” link model in March 2012, you cannot deny the value of getting your images noticed and shared by this highly engaged community of online shoppers. Compelling product photos accompanied by links that allow shoppers quick access to your offerings from Pinterest are especially valuable during online shopping seasons. More importantly, as of November, Pinterest is allowing users to “verify” your website with Pinterest– creating a very nice “dofollow” link to your website from your Pinterest profile.
Try creating curated Pinterest boards for things you know your potential customers are looking for with titles like “Cool Holiday Gifts for Dads,” “Presents All Moms Love,” etc. Populate your boards with photos of your own products, as well as products by your affiliates and partners. Don’t forget to also repin images posted by others in the community as well to help build your credibility and network. If you name your boards well, you’ll see them begin to appear in the organic SERP!
The #1 SERP for “Creative Gift Ideas” is a Pinterest board.
Check out Michelle’s post about Pinterest and SEO for more information on this picture-perfect linking mecca!
This might seem like a no-brainer, but don’t forget to take a look at your internal linking structure. Make sure that you have breadcrumbs on all your interior pages, your main navigation menu is organized in a way that will make sense to new users, and you’re highlighting your holiday specials on your home page and in your header or navigation, and you’re promoting your holiday gifts in your blog posts. You have the luxury of having complete control over the anchor text of your internal links. Make sure that you’re using the keyphrases with the highest search volume that you developed in Part 1 of this Ecommerce Holiday SEO series for your anchor text and linking to the most relevant pages on your site.
Speaking of those holiday keyphrases you created for Part 1 of this series, those keyphrases will help you find some top last-minute linking opportunities. What content is currently ranking well for your target holiday keyphrases? Look for opportunities for links back to your site.
If the top result is a Pinterest board, reach out to the owner via Pinterest and ask them to consider adding one of your images to their already ranking board. If you see a blog post in the top SERP listing the “best” of something and your products or website is not included, leave a friendly comment on the blog post saying why you’re a worthy addition to the list and leave a link. Be creative and collaborative when reaching out and asking for links.
These are my top 5 suggestions for a last-minute holiday linking strategy that will have an immediate impact on your online presence in time for the holiday shopping season.
Stay Tuned…What’s Up Next
In the upcoming post in this holiday SEO series, I’ll give you tips for a integrating your SEO strategy with PPC, social and email marketing campaigns. Be sure to watch for Part 5, along with the handy Ecommerce SEO Checklist for the holidays at the end of this blog series, and get started on your holiday SEO strategy ASAP!
What are some of your ideas for link building in time for the holidays? Share them in the comments below!