Internet marketing has changed significantly over the last few years and much of the industry has failed to adjust to the changes. Many SEOs are living in the past and selling customers SEO services which have no effect on their search engine rankings — and services which could have significant negative effects on their search engine rankings. Business owners are often left in the dark about latest developments in search engine marketing as they trust service providers’ ability to improve their rankings. Some service providers themselves may be operating on outdated information or in some cases simply rely on ignorance to keep selling their established services.
It is then important to do independent research and testing to keep up to date on what actually works, and what does not, at any point in time. Here is a straightforward update on a few popular strategies based on our experience and research.
Blog commenting does not work anymore for building links. The vast majority of blogs add the rel=nofollow attribute to comment links, which cause those links to be ignored by the major search engines. Most of the blogs that do not use the rel=nofollow attribute have been spammed to death and as a result silently blocked from passing PageRank and relevance.
Commenting still has value as a person-to-person marketing technique, if done well. Each comment should be seen as a message from your brand. With messaging, quality trumps quantity. Insightful and well-reasoned comments are valued by blog owners and may earn you a real link sometime in the future.
Registering forum profiles and adding profile links does not work. The major search engines ignore those links — and may even penalize you for them. Links in forum posts may have some very minor value, but forums tend to spread their domain authority over so many pages that a link in a forum post carries so little weight as to be inconsequential.
On the other hand, forum posts are like blog comments in that they are an opportunity for you to represent your brand directly with existing and potential customers, so long as your posts are useful and relevant to forum members and readers.
Also, most forums sell banner ads or other forms of advertising — at reasonable prices. Sponsoring a friendly forum is an excellent method of building relationships with potential customers.
Answer sites like Yahoo Answers and Answers.com are constantly spammed. As a result, most have severely limited the cases where they allow links to be placed without automatically appending the rel=nofollow attribute. The search engines, seeing the ridiculous amounts of spam on most answer sites, most likely ignore links from those sites even if the rel=nofollow attribute is not present.
However, like forum posting and blog commenting, posting to answer sites can give you an opportunity to promote your brand — when done properly. My recommendations are to post only on legitimate questions relating to your industry niche. You may be tempted to create fake questions to give yourself an opportunity to promote your brand. This can sometimes be important, because Google is currently ranking answer sites (including incredibly low-quality answers spam on highly authoritative domains) very well in the search results. You may be forced to participate in these answer sites as part of your reputation management activities.
Some directory links appear to still pass link juice. The best directories are the ones which operate within a specific niche. General purpose directories are far more likely to be blocked by Google from passing PageRank and relevance. Review the directory before submitting your site to it. Ask yourself this question: “Are the sites in this directory the kind of web sites with which I want my site to be associated?” If the answer is no, move on.
Submitting articles to article directories no longer works. Google has been successful at preventing all of the public article directories from passing PageRank and relevance. As few people read articles posted at the article directories, they are not useful even for branding or marketing purposes.
Guest Blog Posting
Some guest blog posting works, if you write for quality blogs. The vast majority of blogs that accept guest posts are low-quality productions which Google has blocked from passing PageRank and relevance. If the blog you are considering writing for is signed up to any of the popular guest blog networks, it probably isn’t worth writing for. These blogs are pretty easy to spot, as they most often contain large numbers of off-topic posts.
On the other hand, contributing quality articles to blogs within your industry niche helps build links and helps build your brand. It’s a double win.
Press releases done through automated systems like PRWeb do not work for SEO purposes. Google automatically ignores those links. However, if a webmaster, blogger, or journalist happens to see one of your press releases and decides to write a unique article based upon the press release, that link will be counted. A better strategy for many businesses is to reach out to journalists, webmasters, and bloggers via telephone and personalized email contacts. It helps if your press releases are professional, but easy to read, and announce a compelling product or service.
Social media is not useful for direct link building, because all of the links are rel=”nofollow”. However, the brand visibility you gain through social media can cause webmasters to build organic links to you in the future.
In addition, Google is now ranking Facebook and Twitter pages quite well for many competitive queries. It is not difficult to rank a Facebook page and use that to drive traffic to your company web site. Encourage your visitors and customers to like your Facebook pages, follow you on Twitter or Google Plus, and make sure to post updates on a regular basis. Social media posts which are interesting and engaging, even potentially viral, can significantly help increase your brand visibility.
Web 2.0 Platforms
Google appears to be ignoring both nofollow and dofollow links from “Web 2.0″ platforms like Squidoo, Hubpages, WordPress.com, Blogger, etc… However, much like social media sites, pages on these domains can be relatively easy to rank — even for competitive search terms. You can build pages on these platforms and use them to drive traffic to your business site. You can also use these platforms as a reputation management tool by using them to dominate the entire first page of search results for your brand name.
Link trading is very difficult for Google to spot algorithmically and scalably. The trouble with link trading is that most people who trade links will trade with anyone, which means they are most likely already blocked from passing PageRank and relevance. In link trading, you only want to trade links with webmasters who are extremely selective in who they will link to. This makes effective link trading extremely time consuming.
Google hates link buying and will penalize you for it, but it can work extremely well. Much like link trading, the trouble with link buying is that the vast majority of link sellers are already blocked from passing PageRank and relevance. Link buying usually only works if you buy links from a webmaster who does not sell links. It’s a bit of a Catch-22. In practice, it means that link buying is very time consuming and difficult to scale. In addition, being caught buying links can seriously damage the reputation of your brand. Proceed with caution.
Knowing what works and what doesn’t allows you to avoid wasting time and money on ineffective strategies, and instead focus on what will create actual results. Quality and human engagement will typically trump quantity, so an effective Internet marketing strategy will be a combination of pure link building and relationship building which may result in quality links indirectly, as a desirable side-effect.
Take these suggestions into account when planning your Internet marketing strategy or evaluating SEO service providers, and do your own research to remain informed about the actual effectiveness of any given strategy.