Preparing for Link Armageddon

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Many SEO’s have used blog and syndications networks at one time or another to take advantage of the controllable anchor text and ease of building links at the click of a button. These networks wouldn’t be so robust if SEO’s weren’t using them. The days of using them, however, are coming to an end as Google recently announced the de-indexing of the industry’s major blog networks, leaving SEO’s and clients alike on edge about some of their link development efforts.

Those that need worry are any who have relied heavily on blog and syndication networks for inbound links without diversifying their efforts. Any good tactician or agency will have an expansive list of tactics and is consistently brainstorming new ideas for link development. In this article I will share some of those methods with you, so that both you and your clients are prepared for the day that your blog network is finally tagged and destroyed by the almighty Google.

Broken Link Building

Broken link building should really be the first step you take as these are the definition of easy to obtain links. While you do need to have a technical side to your approach, this is a method that can learned by anybody who is used to being in front of a computer. Whether you are advanced enough to write a Python script to dig through log files, or need an easy to follow broken link building guide there is always a starting place that will help you secure the structure of your link profile before you even begin to look for new resources.

Traditional Public Relations

Public relations have always been about buzz, news, and positive perception. In the big scheme of things no company is going to be able to accomplish their business goals without generating conversation and excitement about what they have going on. I am not saying that you need to drop everything and create some kind of viral hype, but I am proclaiming that you need to be smart and strategic about building your brand. Two new Twitter applications I have noticed have done a tremendous job of this. Fame and Fitocracy both succeeded in generating pre-launch buzz and are in the midst of enjoying initial success. Whether you are pre-launch or have a solid foundation based on years of accomplishments, PR is an imperative tactic requiring continued thought and innovation.

For example, there are a few methods you can use right now to get started.

Help a Reporter Out is free service that alerts you when a credible source is needed for articles of many kinds. Often times you will see requests from ABC News and other major news outlets. For extra tracking sign up and follow the free PR source through social media to be the first notified of any opportunities.

Google Alerts can provide the same kind of notification, but based on creative keyword selections. For example, if I have a client who is selling action cameras (like a GoPro) I can set up a Google Alert for the exact term “Point of View Video.” By filtering through these results I am sure to find instances of people using my product, which is a great starter to building a list for manual outreach. The possibilities here are endless as long as you can brainstorm ideas relevant to your market and take the time to look through every result.

Finally, don’t be afraid to do the dirty work (which is fun for me) of going all out on networks such as LinkedIn. Find common ground with influential reporters and bloggers, and get to know them. It is no longer awkward to reach out to strangers online, and solid relationships can create a priceless resource in public relations.

Don’t be Afraid of Forums and Blogs

I will be the first to admit that Forum posts and blog comments are not the most authority-laden links on the planet, but if done right this method is actually very helpful as it allows for full control of anchor text. Please stop reading right now if you think I am going to instruct you to spam forums and blogs with profile and signature links.

This is actually an opportunity to contribute to niche communities and add to the conversation in a variety of ways. I am a full on advocate of participating in blogs and forums as long as you are:

A)  Posting lengthy, relevant content. Two paragraphs with one link will always get the job done. Take the time to research the specific thread if you have questions, and if people interact with your post go back in and continue the conversation.

B)  Experimenting with anchor text. The days of single keyword or key phrase anchor text are beyond us in my opinion. Even the largest contributor to a blog or forum can be called out by a moderator if they post a link that has the anchor text “hotels in Miami” or something else generic to that effect. A recent study on how the web views anchor text should be enough to convince us that it is not only appropriate, but effective to have the anchor text say something like “the room service was outstanding at the hotel I recently visited in Miami.”

Make an effort to be a contributor and remember that you are posting for more than just a link. The words surrounding your link will create a perception for potential link-clickers who may just be your next brand advocate.

Experiment with Mechanical Turk

This is something that I am relatively new to, but after learning about this incredible tool’s potential for performing tasks such as analyzing search queries and conducting link research I began to brainstorm just what might be possible by leveraging this 500,000 person internet army. From classifying links to identifying search query data, a lot is possible through this paid (and very reasonable tool if you can get creative with your tasks) tool. One simple example of how this tool is used revolves around  a CRM problem many have which is the auto fill inserting terms that may be recent negative news about your company.

By using Mechanical Turk you can have hundreds of people search for selected terms that will bump the negative term down the list so users so longer have an instant negative perception of your brand. Now think about the possibilities when building links and let the brainstorming begin. If you had the opportunity to have one separate individual at a time analyze different links from a competitor you could gather immense amount of data not available from SEO tools. These worker bees have the ability to classify links by type of website, anchor text, length of content, and more. One issue many people have when using tools such as Open Site Explorer is being forced to click in to link origins to see exactly what the resource is. By using Mechanical Turk you have the ability to have somebody else classify the link for you in an ample amount of time. This is just one of the many possibilities.


There are a few tactics I have skipped because they are commonly known. Guest blogging and manual outreach are a given in today’s link development world, a world that requires continued creativity and innovation. The tactics displayed above are a simple list for getting started, but it is important to remember that the possibilities for networking online and building links are nearly endless. Black Hat methods will continuously be sought by the giant Google machine, and having a solid bag of tricks in your white hat will always keep you ahead of the game and conducting solid work for your clients.

Jeff Bedford

Jeff Bedford

Analytics & Optimization Specialist at The New Group
Jeff Bedford is an Optimization & Analytics Specialist at The New Group, an integrated digital marketing agency in Portland, Oregon. A graduate of Indiana University,... Read Full Bio
Jeff Bedford
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  • “Those that need worry are any who have relied heavily on blog and syndication networks for inbound links without diversifying their efforts. “<—-yeah, have to have the bigger picture in mind at all times. Have to strategize..

    • Exactly Simon, it is amazing to see reactions sometimes when people rely purely on black hat methods that they know are under fire. Working hard to diversify your link profile will always be the highest priority for anybody who wants to stay relevant in today’s ever changing rankings.

  • Thank you for contributing more to the understanding I am trying to build of the online marketing environment.

    The analogy that is taking shape in my mind is that the continual atmosphere of ongoing search activity and following of links is like the continual physical motion of air molecules all around us. Conducting an online enterprise is much like piloting an aircraft: one needs to have at least some understanding of how to use either motion or buoyancy or both to keep the “aircraft” aloft and moving in the direction it needs to go.

    If I apply this analogy to the Black Hat blog networks, creating massive amounts of links to “float” upward in the rankings seems analogous to lighter-than-air flight. It sounds like some of these Hindenburgs have been flying on hydrogen and believing the risk was managed. Whereas it was eventually figured out that the real reason for the Hindenburg’s spectacular demise was that the reflective aluminum coating on the upper surface, to control expansion due to solar heat, was extremely similar to modern solid rocket booster fuel. You may be better equipped to define which Black Hat tactics best fit that niche in the analogy, but I strongly suspect that some do.

    • Ken-

      Thank you for the creative and insightful response. You have it exactly right with your analogy. What I would classify right now as the black hat tactics that are being used to float are primarily these blog networks. What you will find as well are massive amounts of people using spammy blog and forum links taking advantage of poorly moderated or automatic acceptance communities. Google’s algorithm is constant being programmed to weed out the impostors so I will not be surprised at all when I see more companies implode without warning. Hopefully they read this article in time to find out!

  • Fantastic article Jeff! Thank you for the great resources 🙂

    • Hi Ashley-

      Thank you so much for your kind words, the support is greatly appreciated and I am glad I could provide you with some new information. You have a LinkedIn connection request in the mail 🙂

  • I think that this is going to be a big change, but I think it was inevitable. If those blog networks made it possible for people to do automated submissions then they contributed to their own demise. However, it really is kind of too bad, because many of them such as Alltop provided some good resources. However, a lot of the blogs on them were junk and you really had to work hard to find the good parts. Maybe they will clean up their act and get rid of some of those spammy links so they can get reincluded. Then they will actually be good resources again rather than link farms for black hat spammers.

    • Kalen-
      You make some good points. What is interesting to think about too is how by de-indexing some of these blog networks, Google probably destroyed the livelihood of a good number of people who relied on these sites for income, etc. It is hard to imagine such a sudden financial change like that. Experiencing such a drastic shift should definitely lead to the restructuring of some of these sites, and it will be interesting to see if anybody has a more legitimate product as time passes.

  • Simply perfect. Link building is only beneficial is you do it in right way and with right methods. Be aware of the automated submission procedures and services. Go natural. And you will find your site at top.

    • SEO-
      You are right, we just need everybody to realize that in order to do it right you need to have a lot of patience and a strong work ethic. Moving up in the rankings is a long term competitive practice that requires attention to detail throughout.

  • Love your title – Link Armageddon. I pity those who rely heavily on Blog networks. Have a couple of friends who got hit as that was their major source in link building. We must learn from history that diversification is always the best policy. Never put your fate in one or two baskets. That cheese will end in no time 🙂

    • It is interesting to think too Henry about relating link development to other real life situations. If you were to have some money to invest would you put it all in one or two stocks and keep your fingers crossed? It is interesting to notice just how careless some can be when it comes to building the foundation of an important product.

  • I found this to be a really well-balanced post – too many SEO’s will openly and actively berate the use of blog networks for link building, when in fact I would estimate that 90% plus of those that have achieved positive results for competitive keywords have used them at least to some extent.

    I believe that there’s a balance to be made between striving for long-term success and rankings, whilst keeping up with the competition in light of current ranking criteria. In time those that rely solely on blog networks will find that their efforts end up redundant, whilst those that have kept a natural-looking link profile will be able to adapt with the trends and stay off Matt Cutts’ radar!

    • You got it Mike. While many are afraid to admit it, there was a time when submitting 30 or so pieces of short content with a targeted link in to a spammy blog network would get the job done. People drool over results so it is hard to imagine a high ranking page that hasn’t at least dabbled from time to time. That is one of the main differences we will see with pages staying at the top versus fluctuating from top to bottom.

  • The title is really nice 🙂 Google has been coming out with new features such as ‘Semantic Search’, Advanced Rich Snippet, Page Speed and lots more. Most of these projects appears to have an underlining trait of their previous “Google Summer of Code”.
    This new move will reduce the number of blackhat tools and softwares that usually spam the high pr forums, blogs and web 2.0 profiles. Google’s aim to create “a better world” is finally going Live!

    • Swayam-

      That certainly is Google’s goal to create a “better” world, but there is no doubt there are still ways to manipulate the algorithm. I am interested to see any developments over the coming months.

  • Jeff, incredible article as usual. Thank you very much. I’m a bit confused on the forum and blog comment bit. Usually these links are nofollows, how can they be any help? Maybe I didn’t get it…

    • Hey Simone-

      There are a great deal of blogs and forums that no-follow you are correct. There are also a great deal that allow followed links. You can use a tools such as SEOquake or the SEOmoz Toolbar to highlight links on a page that are no-followed. Once you have done this a few times it will be very easy for you to identify opportunities for followed links on forums and blogs. Also, it is not bad to occasionally post no-followed links. We don’t want to do this often, but if you scatter one here and there you are doing nothing but helping yourself out.

  • Blog commenting (ha, how ironic!) is a fairly temperamental beast at the best of times. All I really use it for at this point is to diversify C-blocks and get a more robust back link profile with some no-follows and unbranded anchors in there. I still find it an incredibly tough sell to try and get a link in a blog comment unless you’ve got some sort of resource that answers the questions/issues at hand; and for most corporations, that’s a no-fly-zone.

  • Thanks for answering Jeff, thought so…

  • Great writing Jeff, just a question about forum and blogs. Among the 2, is it possible that forum can give greater link juice than blogs or other side? or does the page authority and page rank affect the link juice sharing?

    • Jason-

      A couple of things that could help answer your question. There is not necessarily a difference between the way the web views forums versus blogs so you are primarily looking for pages and domains with high authority. Keep in mind also that if you find a blog or forum with a domain authority of 80 or so. There is a good chance there are some deep pages with a solid page authority. Hunt for these and contribute to recent conversations.

      Also keep in mind that once you get about 4 or 5 links from the same domain you are starting to water down the link juice a little bit. My recommendation would be to aim for 2-3 per domain, all on different internal pages.