BacklinksBacklinks are arguably the fuel that drives SEO. For many years, we were told that proper backlinking is the key to high rankings for your important keywords. Place emphasis on proper; buying links or participating in link schemes could get you devalued and, in some cases, flagged and de-indexed from search engines. Google has been the leader in determining what will be taken seriously by the search engines and impact your rank value. Up until the recent update, blog networks were relatively unscathed; making this a choice for search experts to generate offsite content and backlinks to websites.

Now, The Shocking News

It should come as no surprise that recently the search giant announced they will be targeting blog networks and backlink profiles that seem “unnatural.” Unnatural backlinking can lead to big issues with organic traffic for a website; a point made abundantly clear by the JCPenny incident a year ago. This recent announcment is causing a stir in the SEO community because many methods used by some webmasters and agencies involve content blog networks such as BuildMyRank, who recently announced they will be shutting down their services due to their overwhelming majority of blogs in their network becoming de-indexed.

Natural Link Building Is The Key

While this news is potentially disheartening for many (especially those using BuildMyRank), it is important to recognize this recent shift as an important lesson: don’t try to trick the search engines. The sites that will suffer the most are the ones using black- or grey-hat tactics to try to game the system and stay ahead. The targeted blog networks focused primarily on quantity, which is why the sites in their networks are at risk of being penalized. The importance of quality content was stressed by the Panda update(s), and this update stresses the importance of quality linking; or at the very least natural link building. Getting thousands of links from low-quality sites for the sake of ranking is now even more of a futile effort. Even obtaining thousands of “quality” backlinks could get you flagged. Often there are short-term benefits in engaging in link building schemes, but in the long-term, it’s always best practice to engage in white-hat and natural optimization techniques. More of our ammo is being taken away, but what remains throughout these algorithm shifts are the terms “quality” and “natural“–applicable to both content and backlinks.

Google Webmaster Tools Warnings

If the announcement wasn’t enough, some of you may notice Google Webmaster Tools submitting a warning to your site stating that you may be “using techniques that are outside Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.”  There are some speculations as to what this means, but it would be a good practice to do a backlink audit and be sure that historically, your backlink profile is not over-utilizing spammy links to gain authority.

Don’t Panic!

Before we start freaking out and trying to get all your links pulled from such websites, it is important to note that the targets are aimed more at the backlink providers than the recipients. So if a backlink from a blog gets penalized by Google, this does not necessarily mean your site will suffer a penalty for receiving a backlink. Rankings could be impacted, but only due to the shifting quality of backlinks. When announcements are made of this kind, there’s a tendency to overreact. This could have little to no impact on websites engaged in white-hat SEO tactics. Those practicing primarily black-hat tactics… well, you may want to start sweating a little. Re-think your link building strategies and be sure that natural white-hat tactics are being employed. It should be noted, however, that it would be wise to remove bad links when possible.

Link Diversity

The sites that will weather the storm are those that engage in many different types of natural link building techniques. Directory submissions, guest posting, social bookmarking, press releases, and the increasing importance on social networking platforms will keep you out of the (negative) radar. Build your popularity much like you would run for office; earn popularity and let the people cast their vote. Buying the vote can and will get you in trouble!

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