Quite a few people were scared by the latest Google search engine algorithm updates, and we can’t blame them for that: many websites were wiped out during the last six months, and many online businesses had to close their gates because they have lost most of their traffic. And while any computer program can have a few minor bugs, I’ll have to admit that the Google people did a great job with their latest algorithm updates, penalizing the websites that were trying to get a top spot in the world’s favorite search engine by making use of various shady SEO techniques like public blog networks, blog comment spam, and so on.
I am familiar with these methods and I know that they used to work very well in the past; I can tell you for sure that their days are over, though. You can’t just load a blog comment list into Scrapebox and blast it to tens of thousands of websites; that would actually hurt your website most of the time.
You won’t have to trust me on this, either: the Google Trends image shows clearly that the search volume for “black hat SEO” is in a serious decline since Google has started to devalue those low quality backlinks. Basically, people are avoiding the risky SEO methods in larger and larger numbers.
On the other hand, if you didn’t think that you can win the SEO battle, now it is the best moment to start learning and doing white hat SEO because Google has leveled the playing field, making it much easier for any business owner to compete with the world’s top SEO companies.
Evergreen White Hat SEO Methods
So what should you do in order to get a first page Google rank for your website? Everything starts with creating and posting exquisite content on your website regularly. Then, reach out to the webmasters that run the authority websites in your industry field and ask them to include a link to your fantastic content – that’s all!
It goes without saying that your content has to be fantastic indeed; otherwise, those webmasters will not be interested in linking out to it. And if your content is just OK (and not fantastic), I have got some bad news: Google doesn’t want you on its first search results page.
Let us consider a real life example from an industry I’m very familiar with as an SEO consultant: the travel industry. Let’s imagine that John, a talented entrepreneur, writes an article named “Discover the beauties of Egypt”, which is supposed to help him promote his travel site. He expects to get lots of backlinks to his article, because he has spent an entire day writing the 1,000+ words piece of content, which includes some nice looking pictures as well.
So John publishes his article, tweets a link to it, posts it on Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, etc but the results aren’t encouraging at all: hit tweet was retweeted once (he asked his mom to do that) but no other backlinks were created to his post. The content was just OK and not exceptional, so it hasn’t become a resource that everybody would like to talk about and reference over and over.
Jane works for another travel company; she has decided to create outstanding content, so she brainstorms with her colleagues and comes up with a different idea. They are going to write “The Concise Worldwide Travel Dictionary”, a series of blog posts that will include the top 100 travel-related phrases and their pronunciation in every language that is known to the mankind.
At this point some of you might think: George, but isn’t this A LOT of work? Sure thing, but this is how you create outstanding pieces of content. You might need to spend a lot of time and / or lots of money on it, but you will end up having a fantastic asset that every reasonable person in the travel industry will want to link to.
Then, you would only have to contact the webmasters of the high authority travel websites in each country, asking them to review your guide and to link to it in case that they find it to be useful for their website visitors. And I can tell you for sure that many webmasters will want to link to Jane’s website, because her content will be very useful for their readers.
This example shows clearly how a dedicated entrepreneur can outshine lots of SEO companies by creating highly linkable assets; most SEO companies lack the human resources, the budget and the creativity that would allow them to replicate Jane’s success.
White Hat SEO Link Dissection
OK, so now that we have gotten our precious link assets, what type of backlinks should we try to get to them? What websites are good for us, and what websites wouldn’t be useful at all?
Let me begin this analysis by telling you that any website, no matter how careful you are, can get a bunch of unwanted backlinks every now and then.
Fortunately, Google understands this and won’t penalize you for having a few backlinks from spammy and / or unrelated websites. As an example, one of my pdf reports has gotten a few links from an anti-aging cream review site, because I have used the “anti aging cream” keyword to show a competition research example. This didn’t prevent the report from getting a top Google spot for a very competitive keyword, though, so stop worrying about having a few unwanted links pointing to your website – they won’t have a negative impact.
What are the good links, then? Basically, you want to get backlinks that are very hard to obtain, links that your competitors will be unable to get because they don’t have high quality, linkable assets. So the first rule is this: don’t build links to your website, but let others build them for you. If you can create a backlink by yourself, it’s probably worthless, because your competitors will be able to create it as well, so its value will dilute over time, as Google catches up and optimizes its algorithm once again.
You want to go after unique, human-reviewed links that come from established, highly authoritative websites; they are much harder to get, and thus much more valuable for the search engines. Many SEOs are interested in having .edu and .gov links pointing to their websites; these backlinks are valuable indeed, but only because they are moderated by knowledgeable humans. Don’t expect an edu link that comes from an unmoderated blog post with 1500+ comments (your being the 1501st one) to carry the same weight with a link that comes from the “Useful Guides” section of M.I.T.
Finding the Best Link Targets
Let’s find a few targets for Jane’s Worldwide Travel Dictionary as a practical example; she has picked a topic that is relevant for her website, and this will allow her to get relevant backlinks from industry-related sites. Most SEO companies would simply blast Jane’s website to thousands of general, low quality online directories, but we are going to find a few high quality websites that are much more powerful than those virtually dead online directories. Now don’t get me wrong, there are quite a few good online directories, but their URLs can’t be found in a directory submitter application.
Let’s fire up Google; we are going to type something as simple as “travel links” (without using the quotes) in its search box.
We are getting over 1.5 billions of results here, so we will need to do some filtering; nevertheless, I like to examine all the results on the first Google page – there’s a reason why they are displayed on the first page, after all. Before we begin, please remember to stay away from the websites that are filled with dozens of flashing ads, display all sorts of pop-ups, try to redirect you to another website when you want to leave, and so on – they will not be of great help.
Here are a few travel links that I have discovered on the first search results page and would be perfect for Jane’s guide:
http://www.cheapflights.com/useful-links/ (PR4 dofollow link, Alexa rank = 5500)
http://www.ricksteves.com/plan/links_menu.htm (PR5 dofollow link, Alexa rank = 34,000)
http://www.backpackeurope.com/links/index.html (PR5 dofollow link ,Alexa rank = 250,000)
http://www.virtuoso.com/exclusiveoffers/helpfultravellinks/ (PR4 dofollow link, Alexa rank = 210,000)
Jane, if you are reading this, email the webmasters that manage the sites above and ask for a link to your fantastic travel dictionary; some of them will want to include it in their websites’ “Useful Links” section.
All of these are powerful high PR dofollow links, but don’t get obsessed with that; you want to have backlinks that send visitors to your website, and not necessarily link juice. My tests show clearly that getting a nofollow link from a highly trafficked site will do wonders to your website traffic, as well as to its search engine rankings.
In the end, you want to have as many backlinks that send human visitors to your website as possible; Google will reward you for that. And while the Alexa rank doesn’t offer a precise evaluation of the amount of website traffic, it’s still a good indicator of the website’s popularity.
What about “useful travel resources”? Jane’s dictionary would be a perfect fit for this. I have said that we want to do some filtering, in order to limit the amount of results, so we’ll keep the quotation marks this time.
Now we have gotten about 33,000 results; if you examine all the results that are displayed on the first Google page, you will notice that they point to websites from Italy, Greece, Vietnam, etc. Fortunately, Jane’s dictionary is such a comprehensive resource that it is a perfect fit for any of these sites, so you will get another set of good potential link targets.
Nobody stops you from going beyond the first search results page, of course; in fact, by checking out the first 3… 5 pages, you might discover even better link targets. And while your competitors will continue to build thousands of low quality links each month, only to discover that the next Google algorithm update has devalued them, your top quality backlinks will continue to send lots of visitors and boost your search engine rankings for the years to come.