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5 Ways to Stop Killing Your Website Rankings

This article was written by Katherine Kotaw, CEO of KOTAW and we sourced and re-published it from SiteProNews here.

Weeds kill gardens. People who plant vegetables and flowers know this and they diligently remove root-crowding pests from their rose beds and tomato patches.

Bad backlinks kill search engine rankings. Website owners and SEO companies know this. Still, some small business owners have spent $100,000 to plant weeds in their Internet gardens.

If your site was among the 2.3 percent of English-U.S. queries penalized by Penguin 2.0 on May 22, you’re facing the arduous task of pulling all those backlink weeds from your site. But ridding your site of the types of links Google considers spam won’t automatically improve your rankings. You’ll have a nice clean site but not nearly as many backlinks. The temptation to quickly add as many backlinks as possible will be hard to resist.

Fight the urge. Keep the weeds out and don’t plant anymore. If this is the first time your site has been hit by a change in a Google algorithm, you might think “what’s the harm?” in adding a few paid links to move your page up in the search engine rankings.

Learn from these two expensive examples of website owners who made the mistake of trying to fool Google not once but twice. Neither was a porn or travel site — two types of websites hit hard by Penguin 2.0. Both were ordinary businesses looking to fast-track their way to page one Google rankings.

From Page One to Pluto

The first example was a retail site with revenues of about $2 million annually. For the sake of keeping the company’s Google woes private, we’ll call it Business A. In 2011, Business A’s site consistently ranked on page one or two of Google for its main keywords — or money words. When Google’s first Penguin algorithm rolled out, the company took a hit and disappeared into the Internet backwoods.

The owners hired a new SEO company and spent about $8,000 a month to “get us back to page one.” It took about five months, but Business A’s rankings steadily climbed and the company was back on page one, in the top five listings for its very competitive keywords.

They didn’t reach page one legitimately – paid links and keyword stuffing were involved — but vowed to maintain their ranking by adding quality content to their site and pursuing guest posts and other Google-friendly backlinks.

Both Company A and its SEO provider had good intentions but, when it proved time consuming to land guest posts and add content, both looked for shortcuts. For another six months, they paid for links and reviews — repeating all the mistakes that had gotten them in trouble the first time. Company A was happy. It could afford to spend $100,000 when they were making record sales. Although Company A’s budget included $3,000 a month for content, much of it went unused. The SEO Company didn’t see a need to spend money on expensive content when cheap tricks seemed to work just fine.

Company A didn’t mind — or didn’t pay attention — because it was getting what it wanted — Page 1 Google rankings. And it was too busy counting up sales to care how those rankings were obtained.

But then Penguin 2.0 hit and the company’s site wasn’t back in the backwoods — it was banished to the Web’s equivalent of Pluto.

Now both Company A and its SEO provider are frantically trying to clean up the mess and get back to page one of Google ASAP. And both are thinking about planting weeds again, each hoping to make enough money to make it worth the penalty they will inevitably face again.

Maybe the risk the companies took was worth it. Both made money between Penguin/Panda updates. But Company A is now losing money and the SEO provider might lose an important client as a result.

One hundred thousand dollars would have bought Company A tons of high-quality content and backlinks that were Google-proof.

Hopeless Cause

The case of Company B, a business consultancy firm, is sadder. Company B paid less money – about $80,000 – to its SEO provider but never got close to a page one ranking. The company was trying to rank for keywords that Fortune 100 brands dominated. No amount of shoddy links would elevate the company to its desired position.

But Company B thought it was making progress, thought it would eventually reach page one – the SEO Company kept assuring this would happen – until Penguin 2.0 reduced its traffic from about 200 daily visitors to 30.

At least two-thirds of Company B’s backlinks need to be removed. And if the company has a chance of achieving its desired rankings, it will have to start over with new keywords and a new strategy.

Five Types of Fertilizer to Grow Traffic and Search Engine Rankings

Whether you’re newly stung by a Google penalty or waiting for the next one to hit, now is the time to clean up your SEO tactics and start growing your website business in ways the search engines will reward.

Whatever your marketing budget, there’s no getting around the facts that content-poor, spammy and neglected sites will never win the ranking wars. Victory will go to sites that earn their authority and traffic by demonstrating value.

Few companies can afford to waste money on marketing strategies that have been proven damaging. So pledge to make Google your best friend – and Bing so envious it will boost your rankings too — by adopting safer, but surer methods.

Here are five to get you started on the path to higher rankings that will weather any algorithm storm:

1. Get Serious About Guest Posts.

If a high-authority website links back to yours, the link glory goes to you. Writing guest posts is one of the most cost-effective ways to obtain valuable backlinks even if you hire a writer or content marketing firm to help.

Successful guest posting requires two main things: consistent outreach and great content. Query site owners and editors whose audience closely matches – or includes – your own. Write a compelling query letter that demonstrates your knowledge of your subject matter and the guest host’s needs. (Read articles and blog posts on the site before querying.)

I’ve written a primer on how to become a successful guest poster. You can read it here. If you’re already writing guest posts but want to improve your success, this HubSpot article discusses the advantages of co-marketing.

2. Join Groups of Like-Minded Business Owners.

Google+ and Facebook make it easy to join groups with ecommerce owners whose interests are similar to yours. In addition to sharing your experience with each other, you can also exchange links. The link will prove more valuable if it comes from a guest post and not an embedded link on each other’s home page.

It’s easy to exchange a guest post with someone whose need for a backlink is as great as yours. Just do your homework about the site first. Check out the metrics before suggesting a trade. But don’t be a snob about this. A freely-exchanged backlink with a compatible business owner is better than a paid link from any site.

3. Make Friends with Journalists.

Reporters always need sources for their stories. Become a reliable, interesting source and you’ll get ongoing publicity – and links – to your site. Companies such as Help a Reporter Out make it easy to connect with both traditional and online writers. Keep in mind, though, that your pitches will compete with those made by highly paid public relations specialists on behalf of their clients.

So be persistent. Follow the rules of pitching etiquette and don’t give up if your first few efforts are ignored. Another way to get a journalist’s attention is to comment on his articles and follow him in social media. Show your interest in a reporter and she’ll be responsive to your story requests. After commenting on a few of the writer’s articles, send a personal note and explain your expertise.

4. Create Online Profiles with Reputable Companies.

Online profiles help your company get seen, which helps it gain traffic, which helps improve your ranking. Pay for profiles if membership is a privilege – the Better Business Bureau, for example – and not just a moneymaking proposition for the company.

You can also post free profiles with companies such as Forbes and The New York Times. By connecting with prestigious companies – and improving your profile by frequently commenting on articles – you enhance your own authority. Don’t dismiss such opportunities because the links are no-follow rather than do-follow. When you boost your reputation, a boost in your rankings will follow.

5. Network on Social Media.

Even if you don’t like joining groups, you can use social media to connect with other website owners. Share what works – and doesn’t – in your link-building efforts and form alliances with professionals with whom you share a common bond: the desire to increase your visibility on the Internet. It takes fewer than five minutes – and not a penny of out-of-pocket expenses – to ask for help.

Bottom line: Cheap tricks, like garden weeds, sometimes look pretty, but they can prove expensive. Genuine efforts pay off.

Meet Katherine Kotaw. She is CEO and founder of KOTAW Content Marketing, a Los Angeles-based marketing, branding, public relations and copywriting firm. With the right execution through KOTAW’s strategies, many businesses have reaped the rewards of inbound marketing success time and time again. Follow Katherine on Twitter or Forbes.

This article was written by Katherine Kotaw, CEO of KOTAW and we sourced and re-published it from SiteProNews here.

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