Link Building Strategies Create a New Persona

I have a client that came to DragonSearch having been deeply impacted by Google’s Penguin update. As the team and I have waded through the toxic mess of links that take us to some of the internet’s bad neighborhoods, I’m often left imaging what the original link builder was thinking when they first found the link “opportunity.” Many times, I’m looking at a website that contains thousands of three-sentence blog posts covering wide ranging topics such as teddy bears, men’s gold watches and the best avocado farm in the Sahara – often with exact match anchor text. Eventually my imagination usually leads me to thinking about Yosemite Sam. Much like the community managers of the social media world talk about personas; link builders can be defined with a persona.

Yosemite Sam’s Link Building Techniques Exposed by Penguin

Yosemite Sam, the gun-slinging, grouchy outlaw from Looney Tunes usually sprints into a scene with wild, reckless abandonment. In most cases his drive, determination and lack of plan backfires on him causing some humorous impairment in the sketch. Much like the cartoon counterpart, Yosemite Sam the link builder lacks strategy and instead gallops into the far reaches of the internet in search of links. I picture the Yosemite Sam link building strategy is one with guns drawn, wildly shooting into the air while jumping up and down left to right yelling “Wahoo! LINKS! Gimmie‘dem links!” To Sam, a link is a link and he wants all of them. This was working for him until a penguin walked onto the set and blasted him with an industrial grade ACME cannon – his wild and reckless link building strategies had finally recoiled.

Author with guns drawn in battle with Yosemite Sam link builders

Showdown with Yosemite Sam link builders

Google Disavow Link Tool Changes
Link Building Strategy

Matt Cutts’ announcement of the Google Disavow Links Tool at Pubcon set the Yosemite Sams abuzz. Ol’ Sam the link builder suddenly had a quick and easy technique to clean up his wild link building binge. The process with my client who has the Penguin issue has been time consuming, painful and at times embarrassing for them. When Google’s Disavow tool was announced, I knew that they were going to spot the shortcut and want to try it so I cut them off at the pass explaining:

  • Poor links were built and had been caught. In Google’s eyes the site was being naughty and is currently spending some time in timeout. Before Google lets us play with the other kids in the SERP, we need to atone and show Google that we’re really, really sorry. Doing the work and removing as many poor links as possible while documenting every last detail is how the truly sorry kids apologize.
  • If we don’t attempt to remove as many links as we can and instead choose to file for disavow, we’re showing Google that we’re really not all that sorry. We’re ignoring the large boxes of ACME dynamite we’ve aquired and piled high in our yard while hoping that Google will as well. We’re also handing over an insane amount of information about how the ACME dynamite came into our possession and the techniques that were employed to build these unnatural links. Lastly, we could be telling Google that we have more dynamite than they first knew about which could further compound our problem.

I have a lot of love for this particular client who replied: “Yeah, you’re right; I don’t want to drop my pants for Google unless we have to – they might not like what they see!” His funny response was also a relief that they were leaving their Yosemite Sam like link building strategy in the past. Their link building guns had been returned to the holster and the disavow tool would only be used with the respect and caution it deserves.

Disavow Tool Squares Off with Yosemite

While my client gets it, I’m unfortunately still seeing my fellow SEO’s act like Yosemite Samwith this new tool. Like any tool, we must respect it, using it appropriately and with the utmost caution. The hard work that still needs to be done will pay larger gains instead of offering Google a half-hearted apology and giving them copious amounts of data on past link building techniques. In her recent blog post, Etela Ivkovic establishes these best practices to use when evaluating unnatural links and how to use the Disavow tool to win the showdown against Yosemite.

Personally, I’m a big fan of Google’s Penguin update as I truly believe it will make the web a better place. I’m also a big fan of the Yosemite Sam link builders and their disastrous strategy; handing Google the keys to their yard and letting Google have a good hard look. There will eventually be a critical mass of information Google gains from the disavow tool. If Penguin was a bad update, what Google learns about the Yosemite Sams of the internet will surely result in an even larger backfire with much less comedy.

Godspeed to Yosemite Sam the link builder.