Some link networks de-indexed – now what?

Turns out that some things really are dead…public link networks and Build my rank in particular. You may have seen the news that broke on Monday culminating in the closure of one of the most prominent link networks around. Build my rank is no more.

Far be it from me to make light of another business’ misfortune but there are certainly some things to be learned from this recent wholesale spanking of the link networks but the more pressing issue is what now?

First and foremost: Don’t believe the hype

Whatever you do, don’t go running to one of the many forum threads out there and take advice from the abundance of ‘gurus’ morons out there making statements like “Forget about backlinks“…

Let’s clear up a few things:

  • The link is not dead – you should NOT just forget about building links
  • However, you perhaps should forget about depending on link networks for your rankings – some will disagree with me here; that networks will just evolve and find smarter ways of operating but given that one of the most prominent networks out there has decided to call it a day (at least for now) definitely says something about how feasible that argument is.

Be proactive in your link profile clean up

If we’ve learnt anything from this whole saga, it is that Google is gunning for certain types of links and webmasters who engage in developing those types of links.

This whole de-indexing thing serves as a gentle reminder than now is a good time to clean up your link profile. If you are simply taking preventative measures, then I would be a little more reserved in your profile clean up perhaps only getting rid of the worst offenders but if you think you’ve been hit by some kind of filter or penalty (for over-optimisation perhaps?!) because you’ve seen a monumental drop in your rankings then you may need to be a little more rigorous.

In the overall, long-term scheme of things it makes sense to be proactive in cleaning up your link profile since things will probably get tighter over the coming months. That being said, I fully appreciate the need to move with the times and clients don’t take kindly to falling off the map because you’ve cleaned up their profile when their competitor is still sitting atop page 1 with a horridly spammy looking link profile. It’s all about balancing present day reality with educated predictions of what is to come.

As thing stand though, the links I would concentrate on removing are blog network links and site-wides.

We’ve seen increasing problems for clients who’ve developed site-wide links over the years. In our opinion, it isn’t ideal for a site to have any site-wides in their profile, beyond the usual naturally occurring ones for example linking geo-targeted websites together. It is especially important to seek out the exact match anchor text ones and remove where possible. Recently, we believe we have seen sites that appear to be filtered or penalised by Google based on the link graph inflation that site-wides can cause.

I can’t disagree with the idea that Google has probably been filtering these kinds of links for a few months now seeing as in reality, from an analysis standpoint, they are so easy to identify however given Google’s current offensive on “over-optimisation” a defensive play in this area is definitely what I would recommend.

Fair warning – Remove links at your own discretion, the above advice is just how I/we would play it.

Take a look at this Spammy Link Profile Escape Plan from Simon Penson.

Adopt new tactics

As a company, I can say hand on heart that we haven’t used link networks to support rankings for our clients but I don’t cast judgement over anyone that has. In our heart of hearts, we all know that links from the networks shouldn’t have really worked – if success in the search results was as simple as getting a subscription to a blog network then we’d all be out of a job.

Generally speaking, the harder a link is to get, the more valuable it is likely to be – long term, link networks have proved this point. Now that you are down on your link luck, you are going to need some new sources of strong, genuine links.

The best way to move ahead with this and get the most out of it is to understand the present weaknesses of a site and plan a campaign which addresses these deficiencies. Really back to basics stuff but sometimes stripping it back to the bare-bones is what’s required to see results – a tailored plan rather than throwing stuff at the wall and hoping for the best.

  • Invest some time in analysing the weak areas of the site, learn as much as you can from other sites, analyse data across a variety of SERPs. Build the clearest picture of what you believe is going on.
  • Link weaknesses with the tactics available to you e.g. need greater domain diversity? Try guest posting. Need to reduce bounce rate? Try creating some content that’s actually decent. Looking to increase the number of trusted links? Try infographic creation combined with influencer outreach.
  • Estimate the gap between your position and your competitors
  • Plan a targeted campaign with a clear timeline, benchmarks and expectations

Be certain to learn from the link networks disappearing

Whatever you do, be sure to take something from this pretty herculean change in the landscape…

  • Diversify your traffic sources
  • Diversify your link profile
  • Think carefully about shortcuts
  • Be mindful of copying competitor tactics

For anyone that wasn’t hit by this – go make hay, the sun is well and truly shining and from some of the SERPs we monitor, there are an abundance of opportunities to exploit now that the playing field has been leveled a little bit! We’ve been positioning clients for an opportunity like this and we’ve got some big stuff planned over the coming weeks and months!

Oh, and for some further reading try Richard Baxter’s latest post – Stop paying for terrible links

How do you plan to combat this development/take advantage of this development? Please add your thoughts in the comments below

6 Comments

  1. avatar
    Gareth A. Boyd March 22, 2012 at 10:18 am #

    Hi James,

    Great blog post – really informative and easy to flow through.

    My 5 cent on the situation at hand over Google and the whole ‘cleaning up your link profile’ is really down to anchors. For far too long people have been spamming the hell out of anchor texts and making their back link profile look extremely inorganic – afterall that’s what Google wants… Organic links.

    On the topic of sitewide links, Google really should have introduced this many years ago.

    Gareth.

  2. avatar
    James Agate March 22, 2012 at 11:43 am #

    Fair point Gareth – we’ve seen quite a few situations recently where the site ranking right at the top of a SERP had far more branded anchor text links than anything else.

    Even distribution of keyword-rich anchor text links isn’t even “all that” anymore, we all need to aim for as natural looking as possible not just varied.

    J

  3. avatar
    Michael Kovis March 22, 2012 at 3:43 pm #

    Hey James,

    Excellent post as it really hits home with me (and I’m sure many others in the industry). I’m very curious to see what Google has planned in the upcoming weeks after the changes I have seen this week (especially with the de-indexing of specific sites).

    Battling these spammy link profiles is becoming harder and harder. It is tough to show the results of a competitor (to the client), which is outranking their site, that has a spammy link profile. Then trying to explain to them that this isn’t the correct path to follow. Right now, I have been seeing two direct competitors using exact match anchor text from within blog comments and blog posts themselves. These blog posts aren’t really blog posts, they are link networks with hundreds of domains or Blogspot accounts posting nonsense articles, then inserting a sentence containing the exact match keyword.

    Annoying to say the least, but it has been working for them and frustrating me. How does one fight this type of battle? All I can do is keep doing what I am doing and hope that over time the algo weeds these links out from the anomalies they have created.

    Michael

    • avatar
      James Agate March 22, 2012 at 3:56 pm #

      Hi Michael,

      Thanks for your comment – I agree it is such a tough battle and as I say we have to live in the real world but keeping your nose clean (so to speak) I think is essential because some types of links are nearly impossible to undo and I think that is a fact that needs to be communicated to clients who assume that we can just switch on or switch off a certain type of link as a tactic becomes redundant.

      In my experience, many are less willing to take this link building route once they are made fully aware of this “no turning back” reality.

      I think that potentially we won’t have to wait too much longer before we start to see the really crappy links devalued and the good stuff some of us have been up to will be free to shine through.

      J

  4. avatar
    Sebastian March 22, 2012 at 10:54 pm #

    Hello James,

    thanks very much for thos post. I think it depends on the kind of network. If building links on scraped spun content Google will devalue these links.

    Yours
    Sebastian

  5. avatar
    Josh April 14, 2012 at 9:02 pm #

    I think Google is doing a great job of leveraging their power as the leading search engine to shape the content of the internet. Their improving the usability for everyone. It’s not hard to write solid, authoritative content that is useful and enjoyable.

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