Several months have passed since Google announced its game-changing Penguin algorithm update back in April of this year. In terms over overall site impact, most SEOs noticed an immediate impact in rankings as a result of Penguin, however, only the ones who tried to get away with SEO shortcuts (like deliberate keyword stuffing, spamming, and link exchange schemes) rather than legitimate link building methods experienced truly negative impacts.
But regardless of whether you have ever practiced any of the shortcuts above, there are several considerations that any SEO professional with any kind of link building strategy can benefit from to ensure that your site performs well with post-Penguin Google bots.
When it comes to having a comprehensive link building strategy, the big payouts lie in guest posting. Guest posting has been and still remains to be one of the most important elements of an end-to-end SEO strategy, and in terms of execution, it all starts with proper guest post prospecting. Here are five important questions you should ask yourself in order to have an updated and effective Post-Penguin guest post prospecting strategy:
1) How tightly relevant should the niche of the blogs you’re targeting and the topic of the post itself be to your site’s?
This is definitely one of the first questions you should ask yourself before you begin gathering prospects for any particular site. Although in some cases you won’t need to be as vigilant about relevance as in other cases, for instance if you’re link building for a client that doesn’t mind where links are coming from, generally, relevance is a consistently key factor in building long term SEO value in this post-Penguin world.
A good way to break down guest post prospect relevancy is in two pieces:
- Domain relevancy
- Guest Post Topic relevancy
When Google crawls a page, it takes into account the topic of the entire domain address, as well as the topic of the page on which the guest post lives. Ideally, you’ll want to have both domain and topic to be as closely relevant to your target link as possible.
For instance, if you are trying to build links for Norton Antivirus at http://us.norton.com/, a well known antivirus software, the best guest post prospects would lie in the security technology niche, and your guest post topic should likewise ideally have something to do with viruses, malware, and other tightly related topics in security technology.
If it’s not possible to get an exact match in relevancy in domain and/or guest post topic, or if you’ve happened to exhaust those options, your next best bet is to target guest post prospects that are generally technology related, and to author guest posts that are in tangentially related technology topics. The main point is, the more closely relevant at either level, the better.
2) What minimum quality standards should you put in place?
Your minimum quality standards will vary depending on several factors, such as what site you’re link building for, client needs, and how far in the link building process your working at. However, let’s assume you’re starting fresh and are trying to be pretty aggressive in your link building strategy in order to maximize SEO payout. There are several main considerations to make in terms of guest post quality standards:
3. Prospects of a minimum Page Rank (PR)
Page Rank is determined by many factors, but it is essentially a standardized way to gauge a site’s authority, and it ranges from PR0-10 (very new sites have a “-“, which is lower than 0). When link building for an already reputable site, it’s ideal to look for guest post prospects of PR3 or higher; PR1-2 are acceptable but should be used sparingly.
4. Prospects of a minimum Domain Authority (DA)
Domain Authority is another way to gauge a website’s authority and provides a rank on the whole domain, rather than by page like PageRank. DA ranges from 0-100, with 100 being the most authoritative. Compared to PR, not as many clients actively seek a specific DA, but the ones that do keep a threshold of 30 or 35 and above.
5. Prospects with good overall presentation and quality content
Sometimes, you’ll find prospects with good PR or DA, but are subjectively and visually less than appealing and don’t seem to be up-to-date with posts. On the other hand, you might find prospects that are almost but not quite at the ideal threshold for PR or DA, but are professionally designed and full of great content. These following notes are a helpful guide for sorting through sites based on overall presentation and quality content:
- Look for prospects that update frequently, and whose most recent update occurred within the past three months
- Look for prospects that don’t have scrolling or blinking texts and images
- Look for prospects that don’t have offensive or off-putting words in the URL
- Look for prospects that don’t have an overwhelming amount of banner and text ads
- Look for prospects that stay on topic throughout their content; their archive of post topics actually relate to the niche it is holding itself out to be in
- Look for prospects that are well connected on Social Media
3) What sort of time-frame are you working under to have posts placed?
When you’re link building through guest posting, it’s good to set expectations on the general time-frame in which you will be able to fulfill guest post orders, whether you’re doing it for your own portfolio of sites or if you are fulfilling guest posts for clients.
Since you’re at the mercy of the blogs and publications at which you are seeking to have posts placed, realistically, you are looking at a good four to six weeks to have posts placed and live. A good way to conceptualize why it might take up to six weeks to get a guest post placed (and this is helpful to explain to clients) is this basic timeline:
Week 1-2: Prospect is contacted, and a guest post topic is agreed upon
Week 2-3: Guest post is written
Week 3-4: Finished guest post sent back to prospect
Week 4-6: Prospect may post immediately, schedule it for a future date, or return post for editing
4) Is this a unique domain?
If you guest post with any regularity, it is extremely beneficial to enlist some sort of organizational system by which you can filter through domains you’ve seen before versus unique domains. This is particularly useful if you have a portfolio of sites that you are building links for and if any of them happen to overlap in topic and niche. That way, you can create a means of cross-referencing existing links by link profile, such as by niche, by responsiveness, and by whether they were a successful prospect in previous outreach.
Two platforms that are great in helping accomplish this are Google Docs or BuzzStream. Either platform allows for different levels of customization and filter options, but both allow you to store and sort through a large number of guest post prospects for a more organized guest posting process.
5) What anchor text are you using?
The doorway to getting the most value out of a guest post is by using the right anchor text to point back to your site. Prior to the Google Penguin update, it was possible to get away with having a backlink portfolio full of many of the same or similar, short, exact match phrases as anchor text, and actually being able to successfully rank for those phrases without much problem.
But today, doing the above practice amounts to something called “over-optimization” in the eyes of Google, and it reflects negatively on a site’s SEO for looking too unnatural. Instead, the ideal anchor text to target post-Penguin are ones that lend variety to a site’s backlink portfolio, such as branded anchor text, long tail anchor text, an actual URL, and natural terms. This tells Google that the site is being linked from naturally and legitimately for a variety of similar terms in the appropriate niche.
Image Credit: Shutterstock / katalinks