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The Rules of Link Building – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by BritneyMuller

Are you building links the right way? Or are you still subscribing to outdated practices? Britney Muller clarifies which link building tactics still matter and which are a waste of time (or downright harmful) in today’s episode of Whiteboard Friday.

The Rules of Link Building

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Video Transcription

Happy Friday, Moz fans! Welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Today we are going over the rules of link building. It’s no secret that links are one of the top three ranking factors in Goggle and can greatly benefit your website. But there is a little confusion around what’s okay to do as far as links and what’s not. So hopefully, this helps clear some of that up.

The Dos

All right. So what are the dos? What do you want to be doing? First and most importantly is just to…

I. Determine the value of that link. So aside from ranking potential, what kind of value will that link bring to your site? Is it potential traffic? Is it relevancy? Is it authority? Just start to weigh out your options and determine what’s really of value for your site.

II. Local listings still do very well. These local business citations are on a bunch of different platforms, and services like Moz Local or Yext can get you up and running a little bit quicker. They tend to show Google that this business is indeed located where it says it is. It has consistent business information — the name, address, phone number, you name it. But something that isn’t really talked about all that often is that some of these local listings never get indexed by Google. If you think about it, Yellowpages.com is probably populating thousands of new listings a day. Why would Google want to index all of those?

So if you’re doing business listings, an age-old thing that local SEOs have been doing for a while is create a page on your site that says where you can find us online. Link to those local listings to help Google get that indexed, and it sort of has this boomerang-like effect on your site. So hope that helps. If that’s confusing, I can clarify down below. Just wanted to include it because I think it’s important.

III. Unlinked brand mentions. One of the easiest ways you can get a link is by figuring out who is mentioning your brand or your company and not linking to it. Let’s say this article publishes about how awesome SEO companies are and they mention Moz, and they don’t link to us. That’s an easy way to reach out and say, “Hey, would you mind adding a link? It would be really helpful.”

IV. Reclaiming broken links is also a really great way to kind of get back some of your links in a short amount of time and little to no effort. What does this mean? This means that you had a link from a site that now your page currently 404s. So they were sending people to your site for a specific page that you’ve since deleted or updated somewhere else. Whatever that might be, you want to make sure that you 301 this broken link on your site so that it pushes the authority elsewhere. Definitely a great thing to do anyway.

V. HARO (Help a Reporter Out). Reporters will notify you of any questions or information they’re seeking for an article via this email service. So not only is it just good general PR, but it’s a great opportunity for you to get a link. I like to think of link building as really good PR anyway. It’s like digital PR. So this just takes it to the next level.

VI. Just be awesome. Be cool. Sponsor awesome things. I guarantee any one of you watching likely has incredible local charities or amazing nonprofits in your space that could use the sponsorship, however big or small that might be. But that also gives you an opportunity to get a link. So something to definitely consider.

VII. Ask/Outreach. There’s nothing wrong with asking. There’s nothing wrong with outreach, especially when done well. I know that link building outreach in general kind of gets a bad rap because the response rate is so painfully low. I think, on average, it’s around 4% to 7%, which is painful. But you can get that higher if you’re a little bit more strategic about it or if you outreach to people you already currently know. There’s a ton of resources available to help you do this better, so definitely check those out. We can link to some of those below.

VIII. COBC (create original badass content). We hear lots of people talk about this. When it comes to link building, it’s like, “Link building is dead. Just create great content and people will naturally link to you. It’s brilliant.” It is brilliant, but I also think that there is something to be said about having a healthy mix. There’s this idea of link building and then link earning. But there’s a really perfect sweet spot in the middle where you really do get the most bang for your buck.

The Don’ts

All right. So what not to do. The don’ts of today’s link building world are…

I. Don’t ask for specific anchor text. All of these things appear so spammy. The late Eric Ward talked about this and was a big advocate for never asking for anchor text. He said websites should be linked to however they see fit. That’s going to look more natural. Google is going to consider it to be more organic, and it will help your site in the long run. So that’s more of a suggestion. These other ones are definitely big no-no’s.

II. Don’t buy or sell links that pass PageRank. You can buy or sell links that have a no-follow attached, which attributes that this is paid-for, whether it be an advertisement or you don’t trust it. So definitely looking into those and understanding how that works.

III. Hidden links. We used to do this back in the day, the ridiculous white link on a white background. They were totally hidden, but crawlers would pick them up. Don’t do that. That’s so old and will not work anymore. Google is getting so much smarter at understanding these things.

IV. Low-quality directory links. Same with low-quality directory links. We remember those where it was just loads and loads of links and text and a random auto insurance link in there. You want to steer clear of those.

V. Site-wide links also look very spammy. Site wide being whether it’s a footer link or a top-level navigation link, you definitely don’t want to go after those. They can appear really, really spammy. Avoid those.

VI. Comment links with over-optimized anchor link text, specifically, you want to avoid. Again, it’s just like any of these others. It looks spammy. It’s not going to help you long term. Again, what’s the value of that overall? So avoid that.

VII. Abusing guest posts. You definitely don’t want to do this. You don’t want to guest post purely just for a link. However, I am still a huge advocate, as I know many others out there are, of guest posting and providing value. Whether there be a link or not, I think there is still a ton of value in guest posting. So don’t get rid of that altogether, but definitely don’t target it for potential link building opportunities.

VIII. Automated tools used to create links on all sorts of websites. ScrapeBox is an infamous one that would create the comment links on all sorts of blogs. You don’t want to do that.

IX. Link schemes, private link networks, and private blog networks. This is where you really get into trouble as well. Google will penalize or de-index you altogether. It looks so, so spammy, and you want to avoid this.

X. Link exchange. This is in the same vein as the link exchanges, where back in the day you used to submit a website to a link exchange and they wouldn’t grant you that link until you also linked to them. Super silly. This stuff does not work anymore, but there are tons of opportunities and quick wins for you to gain links naturally and more authoritatively.

So hopefully, this helps clear up some of the confusion. One question I would love to ask all of you is: To disavow or to not disavow? I have heard back-and-forth conversations on either side on this. Does the disavow file still work? Does it not? What are your thoughts? Please let me know down below in the comments.

Thank you so much for tuning in to this edition of Whiteboard Friday. I will see you all soon. Thanks.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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7 Golden Rules for Hosting Webinars that Engage and Convert

Webinar shock. Familiar with it? Probably not, because I just made up the term. But you’re probably familiar with Webinar Shock’s sister term, Content Shock. It’s the idea, first described by Mark Schaefer, that we have entered an age in which “exponentially increasing volumes of content intersect our limited human capacity to consume it.” In
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Search Buzz Video Recap: Google Penalty, Google Shabbos Rules, SEO, Emojis, DMOZ & More

This week in search news we posted our monthly Google webmaster report. Natural News is back in the index after a rare public penalty by Google. Google offers tips on what to do when you close your site. Google Panda does take into account site architecture…


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Bing Ads Gets New ‘Notify Me’ Automated Rules

Microsoft announced a ew type of Automated Rules for Bing Ad Campaigns called “Notify Me,” which send advertisers emails for campaigns, ad groups, adds, and keywords that match their search criteria. Bing uses the example of setting one to alert you for campaigns that have spent over $ 500 this week or for ad groups that have a Quality Score that …

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David Meerman Scott on the New Rules of Writing (and Profiting From) Great Books

ap-david-meerman-scott

David Meerman Scott is an internationally acclaimed strategist whose books and blog are must-reads for professionals seeking to generate attention in ways that grow their business.

David’s advice and insights help people, products, and organizations stand out, get noticed, and capture hearts and minds. He is author or co-author of ten books — three of which are international bestsellers.

The New Rules of Marketing & PR, now in its fourth edition, has been translated into 26 languages and is used as a textbook in hundreds of universities and business schools worldwide.

It is a modern business classic, with more than 300,000 copies sold so far. Scott also authored Real-Time Marketing & PR, a Wall Street Journal bestseller, Newsjacking, World Wide Rave, and his latest hit book The New Rules of Sales and Service.

He co-authored Marketing the Moon (now in pre-production as a feature-length film titled The Men Who Sold the Moon) and Marketing Lessons from The Grateful Dead.

In this episode of Authorpreneur, host Jim Kukral and David Meerman Scott discuss:

  • How David’s writing drives his speaking business
  • David’s business model of taking stock in businesses
  • How he actually makes money from his books
  • Why David doesn’t take book advances
  • How he ramped up his speaking fees over time through writing more books
  • How David comes up with new ideas for books
  • Why speaking is a skill that needs to be practiced and honed

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Rainmaker.FM is the premier digital marketing and sales podcast network. Get on-demand business advice from experts, whenever and wherever you want it.

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Chelsea Handler Bares Ass in Defiance of New Instagram Butt Rules [Pics]

Chelsea Handler will not sit down and shut up. What is more, Chelsea Handler will not stop showing her butt on Instagram.

As if this were the great civil rights issue of our time, Chelsea Handler has taken it on as her personal mission to wear Instagram down one blow at a time.

Chelsea Handler and Instagram came to a battle of words when the company removed a photo that Handler had posted because it violated their Terms of Service. She showed too much skin. In the months that followed, Chelsea Handler came very close to the TOS line, almost daring Instagram to do something. Occasionally she crossed it and her pic would be deleted, such as the one of her skiing topless.

Recently, Instagram issued stricter guidelines about the display of nipples, buttocks, and other bits of skin on its site.

“We know that there are times when people might want to share nude images that are artistic or creative in nature, but for a variety of reasons, we don’t allow nudity on Instagram. This includes photos, videos, and some digitally-created content that show sexual intercourse, genitals, and close-ups of fully-nude buttocks. It also includes some photos of female nipples, but photos of post-mastectomy scarring and women actively breastfeeding are allowed. Nudity in photos of paintings and sculptures is OK, too.”

Well, leave it to Chelsea handler to test that rule out.

Kicking off Chunk's work week.

A photo posted by Chelsea Handler (@chelseahandler) on

When the pic went up, fans held their collective breath to see if Chelsea Handler would be finally banned from the site. Maybe Instagram feels that some plumber crack from Handler is within its limits of tolerance and not “fully-nude buttocks.” The pic has been up for a few days now. It joins these:

Can you believe more than 2 ass can fit on the same screen? Guess which one's real. Your move, instagram.

A photo posted by Chelsea Handler (@chelseahandler) on


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SearchCap: Google Penguin Vibrations, Right To Be Forgotten Rules & Santa Tracker

Below is what happened in search today, as reported on Search Engine Land and from other places across the web. From Search Engine Land: Google: Penguin 3.0 Rollout Still Ongoing Google has confirmed with us that the shifts and changes reported throughout the industry on Thanksgiving day were a…



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Friday Round-Up: Judge rules on Facebook likes, Pinterest shares news

labor-day-weekend-2It’s time for my weekly round-up of all the news that was too small or too late to print.

Does a Company Own Its Facebook Likes?

Turns out the answer is no. Bloomberg Business Week published a story this week about a legal battle between a TV network and a fan page. Stacey Mattocks started a Facebook fan page for the show “The Game” and amassed more than 2 million “likes”. When BET revived the show, they made a deal with Stacey. They turned her page into the official page then paid her to be an admin. Smart move until Stacey decided she wanted more then locked BET out of the page.

BET fought back by reporting Stacey for copyright infringement and laid claim to all of the “likes” on her page and the whole thing ended up in court. In the end, the judge ruled that neither party could lay claim to the “likes” because those are owned by the people who gave them in the first place. And since Stacey broke the contract by locking BET out. . well, she basically cooked her own goose.

What amazes me is all the time and money spent to fight this thing in court over what? Facebook likes? I bet a portion of those people don’t even care about the show anymore. BET, seriously, start your own official page and let it go.

Pinterest NewsPinterest Has News!

Pinterest has added a News tab to the notification section of their mobile app. What is “news” in the world of Pinterest, you say? “News” is a list of actions created by the people and boards you follow. Frank pinned two new pictures of his cat. Susan followed I Love Pugs. Harry liked 155 pins. (Harry needs a life.)

From a business POV, anything that helps spread the word is a good thing but how many people are actually going to spend time reviewing the info in this feed?

Moving on.

YouTube star Bethany Mota is going on Dancing with the Stars. This is why you have to stop slacking and get going on your weekly video uploads.

Facebook Test Lets Users Search Old Posts by Keyword – talk about digging up old dirt. This is going to lead to trouble.

And finally, in non-marketing but really cool crowdfunding news: Tiny Canadian town crowdfunding full-size USS Enterprise. 

They’re falling short of their goal (2,467 against the needed 2,000,000,000) so click here to help “make it so“.

That’s it for me. Have a safe and fun Labor Day Weekend.

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Breaking the SEO Rules: When Not to Follow Best Practices – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by Cyrus-Shepard

Best practices are set in place to guide us toward success in most situations. Not all situations. In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Cyrus shows us several instances in which it’s actually best to break the rules and throw those best practices out the window.

For reference, here’s a still of this week’s whiteboard!

Video Transcription

Howdy Moz fans. Welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. I’m Cyrus Shepard. Today we’re going to be talking about one of my favorite subjects – breaking the SEO rules, and when not to follow best practices.

Now, best practices are something we talk a lot about here at Moz, and people are very adamant about following them oftentimes. So before we get started, I want to talk about what exactly we mean when we say “best practices.”

For example, a best practice would be that your meta description length is only so long, or that your title tag length is 512 pixels or something like that. So when we talk about best practices, we’re talking about a set of rules that are consistently showing superior results. It doesn’t mean they’re the only way you can do things, but in general, over time, they deliver the best results over other techniques.

Best practices are also used as a benchmark so that when you compare two different techniques, such as title tag length is this long or title tag length is that long, one set of those results you can use as a benchmark to measure your results.

Finally, best practices are meant to evolve and improve. Best practices get better over time. If you’re running a business or you’re doing SEO, your best practices are going to change the better you get at what you’re doing and the more you learn. This is one thing that people often forget — that best practices do change.

But sometimes you want to ignore best practices, and that’s what we want to talk about today. One of the first reasons that you sometimes want to forget about best practices is when you want to deliver the highest ROI for your activities. When you’re working on a client’s site, when you’re doing in-house SEO, time and resources are limited. So you want to make sure that you’re doing the activity that leads to the highest return on investment for what you’re doing.

This is a really common example when people start. When they’re new to SEO, they start on a campaign, and they start optimizing their on-page elements and crawlability and engine accessibility. At the beginning of your campaign, that’s a really high-ROI activity.

As you fix those site errors, as your search engine optimization improves, working on on-page issues, the return on investment starts to decline. What people do is they stay on this line far too long, and they’re fixing every little thing on their site, and they’re not seeing a huge return on investment.

At the same time, they’re ignoring all the other issues, such as building links, building a community, getting out there on social media, when that would be a much higher-ROI activity. So even though it would be a best practice to stay on those sites and fix all those issues, sometimes there are activities which are going to be much more valuable for you to pursue.

Along those same lines you always have to weigh the cost and the benefit of the SEO that you’re working on, because working on best practices and implementing SEO on your site sometimes comes at a cost, especially if you’re making changes. So you have to justify what you’re going to get in return to the effort that you’re going to put into it.

An example that comes up a lot, it’s a best practice to have keywords in your URL structure. So we see people write in, people talk to us, and they have a structure like this example.com/category/keyword. They want to go through a massive site reorganization, so that’s example.com/keyword/keyword.

Now, keep in mind that doing that there’s a bunch of 301 redirects. You may lose some link equity, and you may even lose rankings. In the end, you have to wonder if making that change is worth the change, worth the cost of doing so. In many examples, it’s not going to be.

We have a saying: If it’s not broke, don’t fix it, because making huge, massive changes is going to cost you. If you’re ranking pretty well in this situation, we might recommend just leave it alone even though it violates best practices.

A lot of times you want to violate best practices when you’re optimizing for other goals. Again, talking about that title tag case, 512 pixels, that’s generally the amount of title tag that Google will display in its search results. So that’s what we define as best practices for title tags.

But that doesn’t mean you should go rewrite every title tag on your site, which a lot of people will go out and do. You might be optimizing for social sharing. If you have an awesome title tag and it’s hot on Twitter, it’s hot on Facebook, it’s hot on Google+, LinkedIn, and it’s getting shared all over the place, it might be okay to go over that 512-pixel length.

If you have a title tag that’s converting really well, and it’s driving all these sales to your home page, and it’s showing up in other places, you may not want to rewrite it.

If you’re ranking really well, there’s no reason to make that change, especially if you’re talking about hundreds or thousands of title tags on your site. We get into the cost benefit ratio again.

So yes, best practices tell you to have it at 512 pixels, and it’s often the case that you want to keep it within those ranges because they are consistently showing superior results. But not in every case, because sometimes you’re going to have different goals.

The final point is this idea of evolving and improving. Part of SEO is constantly learning what works and what doesn’t work. Google and the other search engines are constantly updating their algorithms, so we want to experiment. We want to learn new things. We want to try new things. We want constant improvement on these best practices. We don’t want to set them in stone. We want to define them and try to improve them over time.

SEO is all about discovery. What works today may not work a year from now or two years from now, so we have to have open minds and keep learning and keep making our best practices the best they can be.

That’s all for today. Thank you.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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The Rules of Link Building – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by Cyrus-Shepard

Much of marketing, especially SEO, has shifted from a game with very few rules to a game that Google is fairly strictly refereeing. With their old tactics eliciting penalties, many marketers are simply throwing in the towel.

In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Cyrus Shepard calls a time-out and shows us the new strategy we need to come out on top.

For reference, here’s a still of this week’s whiteboard!

Video transcription

Howdy, Moz fans. Welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. My name is Cyrus. Today we’re going to be talking about the rules of link building. Now this is really important because we see a lot of people out there in the marketing world getting scared of link building, past actions coming back to haunt them, people saying that link building is dead, links losing value in Google’s algorithm. Rand did
a great Whiteboard Friday a few weeks ago about that.

But what’s really disturbing is some people are giving up completely on link building when it’s still a really huge part of Google’s algorithm, and they’re giving up because they don’t know the rules. They don’t understand that when you play by the rules, for the most part, you can really win. What we see, I like to think about this like a basketball game, going back to the days of the ancient Aztecs when they started playing and there weren’t a lot of rules. What’s happening now is we have Google, the referee in the black and white striped shirt. They’re coming down and they’re saying, “Hey guys, this isn’t working. We need to install some order here.”
So they start giving out fouls and penalties to people.

Some of these people are getting frustrated, and they’re leaving the game. But the people who aren’t getting fouled, who aren’t getting the penalties, they are winning the score. That’s where we want to be. We want to be the people who are still playing the game instead of walking off the court, because these people aren’t going to win. So if we understand what the rules are, and these rules I see get violated all the time, even people trying to do what they can get away with, it’s not worth it. So playing by the rules is something that we want to strive for.

One thing I’ve heard internet marketers talk about for years is the idea of doing what works. For a long time, there was no referee on the court. Google was just absent, and people were doing whatever they wanted. People would say, “You know, I don’t really care what the rules are because I’m going to do what works today for my client.” People like Rand Fishkin and Wil Reynolds, they were saying, “Guys, you’ve got to follow the rules because the rules are coming. Don’t do what works today, do what works tomorrow.” That’s the advice.

These rules are based not only on what works today, but what works tomorrow. Not only that you win today’s game, but that you keep winning game after game after game and you win that NCAA tournament. All right.

Beware links you control

First of all, I want to start off with some things that we want to avoid when link building. If we look at what Google has been targeting, there are usually two common factors in links that they target. They are, first of all, links that you control. When we see Google crack down on guest blogging networks, on widget links, signature profile links, they all have that one element in common: that you control the anchor text. That’s exactly what Google is looking for. I predict any new link penalties that happen in the future will also follow this pattern. It will be links where you control the anchor text.

We’re always going to have situations where we do control the anchor text, but beware and be very careful with those links because those are the links that are subject to devaluation and penalization.

Be cautious with links that scale

The same thing goes for links that scale. Again, we’re talking about widget links, author bio boxes. When you combine these two together, those are exactly the kind of links that you need to be extra special careful with and not scale, not do too much anchor text manipulation because they will always be subject to those penalties.

Don’t ask for anchor text

One rule that I’ve been following for years, I got this from Eric Ward, the very famous link builder: Never ask for anchor text. When you’re doing outreach, when you’re talking to other people, when you’re guest posting, asking for the anchor text is going to raise a lot of red flags. That’s what kills it for you, because when you start asking for anchor text, your brain starts working. You think, “Well, I need this keyword. I need this keyword.” You create patterns. You create over-optimization. No matter what the temptation is, if you don’t ask for anchor text, you’re going to get a much more natural link profile.

In all of the years that I’ve been doing link building, I have never asked for anchor text once. Whoever is linking to me can link to me however they want. Sometimes it’s a no-followed link. Sometimes it’s not exactly what I want. But it’s natural, and it comes off so much more natural.

Don’t link externally in the footer

A couple of other rules that I see people violate all the time that Google has made painfully clear in the past few months: Don’t link externally in the footer. Just don’t. I’m not going to go into the reasons. Just don’t do that.

Avoid site-wide links

By the same token, except for navigation, avoid site-wide links. This is something that we’ve known for years. If someone links to you externally, site-wide, in the side bar, that’s ripe for Penguin-style links.

Again, these are best practices. There are always exceptions to the rules. But, generally, following these rules is going to help you out even if you have to break them sometimes.

Addendum: In many cases, footer links and site-wides are perfectly acceptable. The three reasons I recommend folks avoid them for link building purposes are:

  1. We often associate external site-wide and footer links with Penguin-style actions. Not always, but it’s something we look for.
  2. Optimized, site-wide anchor text may trigger over-optimization filters.
  3. The value of a sidebar or footer link is often considerably less valuable than a truly editorial link found in the main body text.

Keep doing link building!

On the “do” side of things, one thing that I want to emphasize is do link building. Don’t give up just because Google is imposing these rules and penalizing people. We still need the people who are actively out there building links. They still have a huge opportunity to win. So don’t give up on this as a part of your practice. 

Focus on distribution

One thing I would emphasize doing is shifting from actively building links to more of a focus on distribution, because the more eyeballs that are on your content, the more natural links you’re going to earn.

That’s something we do here at Moz; we have a huge emphasis on social distribution, distribution through our partners. We just want to get the eyeballs on the content because that’s the end goal anyway. There is a huge correlation between getting eyeballs on good content and link building. It’s one of the best kinds of link building you can do. It’s just getting your content out there on the right eyeballs.

Do some outreach

Along those same lines, outreach is still okay. Writing those emails, finding those influencers. Our friends at BuzzStream just wrote 
a really excellent guide on how to do outreach. Really worth a read. The idea is, along with distribution, you want to get the right eyeballs on your content so that they have those opportunities to build those natural links that you don’t control the anchor text, where it’s not scalable. It’s a real human being putting a real link in their content and endorsing you.

Link value = traffic quality

One thing to always keep in mind that when we’re looking at links and how we judge them, the value of the link equals the quality of the traffic that it can drive you. Meaning that this is kind of how Google judges links. It’s not necessarily the quantity of the traffic that the link can drive you, but the quality. If you run a mechanic shop and you want good leads from those links, you would want other mechanic shops or auto part stores to link to you. A link from an SEO blog probably doesn’t have a lot of value because it’s not very relevant.

When you build links, one of the golden rules is look at the quality of the traffic that it’s going to drive you. That’s going to help you a lot in those relevancy signals that Google is looking at.

Embrace the nofollow

Finally, in this new age of link building, we need to start embracing the nofollow and not be as scared of it as we have been, because those links that we are considering no following probably weren’t helping you that much anyway, and so embracing them sort of cuts those signals off that Google doesn’t want those to pass PageRank. They don’t want them to pass anchor text. But keep in mind that even no followed links, Google still looks at those. We have evidence that Google uses nofollowed links for crawling and discovery purposes. There is some evidence that Google may use nofollowed links for signals other than that. Not every link has to pass page rank or anchor text to be valuable.

One final thought that I want to leave with, to keep in mind, when you practice these good do’s, these good link building practices, you start to take your marketing to a higher level. At its best, good link building is indistinguishable from good marketing. When you’re doing link building right, you don’t even need the links because you’re doing good marketing. You’re pushing your content out there, you’re talking to those influencers, you’re getting traffic to your site, and those just happen to be the signals that Google wants to reward.

Let’s do that. Let’s win the link building game. Happy Friday everybody. Thank you.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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