What 65 Google Changes May Mean For Your Link Strategies

About a week ago, Barry Schwartz put together an awesome piece detailing the many search algorithm and quality changes (65 in total), Google made during the months of August and September.

If you haven’t read it, have a look: Google’s August & September Updates: Panda, Knowledge Graph, Page Quality & SafeSearch.

When Google Makes A Change

Google did what? OK, so now what do I do?

When Google announces changes, especially this many so close together, my hunch is the first thing some SEOs do (after eating a bottle of TUMs) is try and determine the extent to which various changes will impact their websites.

For example, if you’re a content creator, you probably look to see which of Google’s changes impact page specific issues.

If you’re a PPC strategist, you likely look for changes related to landing page issues. And if you’re a linking strategist like me, you look for the changes that could affect your existing and future approaches to link building.

There’s no shortage of “experts” who will try to give you answers. But answering these questions takes strong analytical skills and a fair amount of experience.  You can’t expect a new link builder to recognize every possible implication of every algorithm change. Having a blog and three clients doesn’t make you an expert.

At the same time, some of the best advice I read comes from people new to the field, and I also ignore plenty of advice that comes from people considered to be geniuses. I also ignore myself, frequently.

There are very few people with the experience and historical perspective (and results) to put together a solid strategic response to every algorithmic change. I’m comfortable advising on the linking strategy side of the street, but will readily admit that I don’t have a clue as to what the PPC implications, or banner Ad impact is for any given algorithmic tweak.

I stick to my core area and I know what I know, but more importantly, I know what what I don’t know. And I wont refute people in public because I feel there are more constructive ways to provide helpful information.

With that preamble, as a content linking strategist, when I read about changes made to search algorithms I use the below technique to determine just what, if anything I need to do about them.

I call it the “ACLSI” Response Plan. I call it that to myself. I’ve never mentioned it in public until today because this is really deep into the minutiae of what I do as a linking strategist. So go ahead, make fun of my OCD, but trust me when I say that having OCD has been a huge help to me as a link builder.

ACLSI – Algorithm Change Linking Strategy Implications

First, I take each change that’s been announced by the engines themselves, and I ask and (try to) answer the following four questions:

  1. This algorithm change impacts my own on-site self links in what ways?
  2. This algorithm change impacts my own on-site links to external sites in what ways?
  3. This algorithm change impacts existing links from other sites pointing to my site in what ways?
  4. This algorithm change impacts future linking strategies in what ways?

Here’s an example of what I mean using Barry’s article above as my framework. Below I take five of the 65 algorithm changes Google announced that I felt had implications for linking, and I answer my four linking implication questions for each change.

In other words, I take the specific Google change and apply it directly to link building, as follows.

How To Evaluate Google’s Announced Changes

Google said…

“We improved our web ranking to determine what pages are relevant for queries containing locations”.

Algorithm Change Linking Strategy Implications:

1. This algorithm change impacts my own on-site self links in what ways?

Do I have pages that are relevant for searches that are showing a geographic intent?  If so, do I need to make changes, or test changes to make sure I am providing geographic signals that Google could reward?

2. This algorithm change impacts my own on-site links to external sites in what ways?

This is a little more delicate.  We’d need to know more about the sites you are linking to. Do you own them, are they paid links, are they swapped or incentizized links?

3. This algorithm change impacts existing links from other sites pointing to my site in what ways?

If you want to reach searchers in specific geographic areas, you need to know if you have links pointing at your site (or should have) from pages with geographic content signals in those areas. If you don’t, well, I could spend a month on this one, but it involves what I call “Scoping A Local Link Universe”.

4. This algorithm change impacts future linking strategies in what ways?

If you don’t have links with geographic specific signals, a strategy to pursue them may be required. You may also consider seeking changes to pages that already link to you that my be missing geographic signals that should be included.

Google said…

“We changed to fewer results for some queries to show the most relevant results as quickly as possible”.

Algorithm Change Linking Strategy Implications:

1. This algorithm change impacts my own on-site self links in what ways?

Did pages from my site vanish from those results? If so, Google is telling you it does not find those pages to be relevant. If you feel they are relevant, you may need to modify your on-site linking structure and anchors.

2. This algorithm change impacts my own on-site links to external sites in what ways?

Very little if any impact.

3. This algorithm change impacts existing links from other sites pointing to my site in what ways?

Some impact on existing inbound links. While you might be tempted to seek changes from sites that are linking to you, this must be done with caution. A great example is when you go after existing links that did not contain anchor text and ask the site linking to you to add anchor text. That is often the very last thing I would recommend. It looks unnatural.

4. This algorithm change impacts future linking strategies in what ways?

If you were already pursuing highly credible links, the goal remains the same, and that goal is becoming a “most relevant result”. This could dictate a stronger content creation effort to ensure credible relevance signals are more likely to be earned.

Google said…

“This launch helped you find more high-quality content from trusted sites.”

Algorithm Change Linking Strategy Implications:

1. This algorithm change impacts my own on-site self links in what ways?

If your site already has pages ranking highly, you can likely assume it’s a “trusted site” as Google describes. If this algorithm change results in more of your pages ranking highly, I would not do a thing. If this algo change did not result in more of your pages ranking highly, I would suggest an on-site link architecture review might be worth it.

2. This algorithm change impacts my own on-site links to external sites in what ways?

Very little if any impact.

3. This algorithm change impacts existing links from other sites pointing to my site in what ways?

If you have already earned links to one of your pages from a credible source, should you consider seeking additional links from that same credible to other pages on your site? Could this give Google the signals it’s looking for to deem more of your pages as trusted?

4. This algorithm change impacts future linking strategies in what ways?

Which sites is Google showing multiple times throughout the top 100 results? Examine their back link profiles for tells. If Google likes them, there’s a reason. Find that reason via link analysis, and determine if it can be replicated, or mimicked and improved upon.

Google said…

“This change helped you find the latest content from a given site when two or more documents from the same domain are relevant for a given search query.”

Algorithm Change Linking Strategy Implications:

1. This algorithm change impacts my own on-site self links in what ways?

If Google wants to show the most recent content from your site, are you providing time/date of authorship signals that Google can identify?

2. This algorithm change impacts my own on-site links to external sites in what ways?

Very little if any impact,with caveat and a question: would inserting a link on an already existing page of your site to a recent news story about a relevant topic make your page more relevant to Google? Only testing could provide an answer to this one, and even if it works for one site, it might not work for all sites.

3. This algorithm change impacts links from other sites pointing to my site in what ways?

Very little if any impact on your exiting links.

4. This algorithm change impacts future linking strategies in what ways?

If you have multiple pages on your site that are about very similar topics, and if those pages also have multiple links pointing at them from other sites, you may want to take one of your similar pages and re-purpose its content so it focuses on a topic that’s less similar. I’ve done this myself with remarkable results. I used to have two different pages that contained similar content related to link bait. I changed the focus of one of the pages to be more about training and consulting, and now each page ranks highly for different queries.

Google said…

“We currently generate titles for PDFs (and other non-html docs) when converting the documents to HTML. These auto-generated titles are usually good, but this change made them better by looking at other signals.”

Algorithm Change Linking Strategy Implications:

1. This algorithm change impacts my own on-site self links in what ways?

How do you self-link to your own on-site PDF files?  How hard are they for you to find when you try to find them via a Google search?  Dependo9ng on your findings, you might test what I call the “HTML Wrapper” page approach, where you use a static HTML page that is optimized with title signals and contains a link to the associated PDF file/document.

2. This algorithm change impacts my own on-site links to external sites in what ways?

Very little if any impact.

3. This algorithm change impacts links from other sites pointing to my site in what ways?

Google mentions “other signals”. What would those be? If you were converting a PDF file to HTML, and had to place that HTML page in the search results, what signals could you use? What’s wrong with the original PDF title? Did it have a title? Are their links to the original document that could be better optimized to include useful title signals?

Do some searches using Google’s PDF filetype operator, click the “view as HTML” version, and note the title of the document. If Google changed it or seems to have made it up, try a search using the exact the exact title Google selected, enclosed in quotes. This may lead you to the signal source that Google used for the new title.

4. This algorithm change impacts future linking strategies in what ways?

Based on your findings from the research above, you may want to give greater thought to how you format PDF documents and metadata. Give Google what Google is telling you it wants.

Takeaways

The above examples are just a sample to show the process I go through as I try to parse algorithm changes and apply them to my own linking strategy consulting sessions with clients. The included examples are not exhaustive, nor am I advocating my recommended strategy changes would be appropriate for every site.

I provide this framework as a way top illustrate how I go about the process of developing strategies for content promotion and linking, in this case, to appeal to Google algorithm changes in ways that wont be violations of Quality Guidelines.

Lastly, while most clients are looking for answers to Penguins and Pandas, there are far more nuanced linking strategies that can result in organic improvement, and direct click traffic.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | Link Week Column

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About The Author: has been creating linking strategies for clients since 1994. Eric publishes the strategic linking advice newsletter LinkMoses Private, and provides linking services, training and consulting via EricWard.com.

Connect with the author via: Email | Twitter | Google+ | LinkedIn



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  • Allyn Hane

    Solid advice Eric. It’s really a “way of thinking” that you are getting at here and while I believe that experience in SEO practice will help fine tune the gray matter, I also believe maturity as a human is a key in rolling with the changes and adapting along the way. It’s one thing to “have 3 clients and a blog” and think you rule the world at the age of 19, and it’s quite another to have gray hair that indicates a lifetime of experiences applied to work on the web.

  • http://www.ericward.com/ Eric Ward

    Just for Men makes a lovely shade of chesnut that I’m thinking I may need very soon.

  • http://www.seoworks.com/ Mike van der Heijden

    Fantastic methodology Eric! If more SEO’s took such a consistent way of deciphering the impact of search algorithm changes I’m sure instead of spikes in “SEO is dead” posts we’d actually get some people posting some very interesting insights!

  • http://twitter.com/truewebpresence TrueWebPresence

    These new changes are a boon for real content marketers. It’s as simple as focusing on the user experience. The rest will follow. If you appeal to real people, first and foremost, Google will find you. If not, it’s Google’s loss. Cheers!

  • http://www.ydeveloper.com/e-smart-ecommerce-suite.html eCommerce

    Good post.

  • Shubhangi

    just hats off to Eric and his way of analyzing search algo and quality changes made by google now and then .

  • Krishna Chaitanya

    Generally it take some good amount of analytic skills! it will take a little bit more time too! how every you made the whole things simply by this ! thanks

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Burkey-Devitt/100001226532768 Burkey Devitt

    the number of changes they make is insane, and then consider that not everyone gets the same search results—it really is starting to seem like starting a business on the web could really be a hair-pulling experience. I feel bad for people trying to keep up who get decimated by the changes.

 

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