Google’s apparent PageRank update and best practices for link building

There’s been a lot of chatter about Google’s apparent PageRank update. The PageRank as reported by the Google toolbar has dropped for many sites.

The common wisdom is that Google may be sending a message, a shot across the bow, to those selling links and at the same time reducing the apparent value of the links to link buyers. Here’s a post on Search Engine Watch about it.

Don’t be too surprised if this “shot across the bow” is followed up by a round of “offenders” actual PageRank being devalued which could lead to reduced rankings for those who have purchased links on those sites.

A couple of weeks ago we revisited our suggestions regarding “Offsite and reciprocal linking effects on search engine marketing”. In light of what is happening with Google’s PageRank in this post we’ll update our suggestions about link building in general.

We suggest only looking for links to your site on ‘quality’, industry, related sites, directories, etc., that can bring targeted traffic to your site – Traffic that may convert into inquires, leads, subscriptions, memberships, sales, etc. Consider the ranking boost you may get from these links an added bonus.

When we work with a client for the long term we learn the online community for their topics and examine their competitors’ sites and marketing efforts. We then develop many ideas for them to consider to add content and features to their site to make their sites more useful and interesting to their target markets (As well as adding content to the site that may be listed in searches). Often we’ll promote new site content to get the word out and start attracting others to link to it.

Is it ok to “Buy Links”? It depends on your definition of buying links.

We believe it’s safe to “buy links” if the expectation is that these links will result in targeted traffic to your site.

For example we are members of a few search marketing organizations. We’re listed on their sites. In effect we “bought” those links by paying for membership. Those links do in fact bring targeted traffic to our sties (we see visitors and conversions from those sites in our analytics all the time).

In a similar manner there are sites that sell links from within industry/topic resource pages as well as broad and specific directories etc..  Again, if you believe these links may bring targeted traffic to your site then by all means try it. In affect this just a simple advertising purchase.

Then watch the traffic (and ideally the conversions) from these links using your analytics. When it comes time for renewal if you’ve received no traffic from the link then don’t renew. In this manner you should end up with a higher percentage of your incoming links that are indeed bringing targeted traffic and a low percentage of low quality incoming links. This should help ensure that if and when the Google hammer drops your rankings should not be hurt.