Google Says no Link Building! What to do?

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In a Google Webmaster Hangouts, John Mueller of Google, has answered a question about link building - is link building in any way good? John Mueller says he would try to avoid link building in general. His recent statement made a lot of noise in the industry and SEO blogs and news sites published articles covering his statement.

Although John Mueller said that they do use links as part of their algorithms, he also mentioned that they use a lot more than that. So focusing in link building alone may only harm a website rather than actually help it perform in organic search.

Back in 2012, when Google released their Penguin Algorithm, it was already a sign that Google is slowing killing link building because webmasters tend to focus more and more in generating links, regardless of quality or low quality. With that being said, how can a website standout in organic search without focusing in link building? Let’s try to uncover the most important factor to help websites perform better in organic search.

Increase your indexed pages

Google aims to provide reliable information to search users as often as possible. Search users always look for answers to their questions, even the most stupid question has answers elsewhere in the internet. In a report of, they revealed that Google search statistics has reached over a billion per day and another report from, Google is #1 website in the world. This means that the possibilities of your content to appear in organic search is definitely higher.

However, if your website only contain few pages and these pages were created to rank for certain keywords, you could be losing the chance to appear in organic search for other key terms related to your industry that you did not target on your website pages. Actually, in 2008, informational search users are far higher than commercial or navigational search users according to Penn State which makes sense if you consider Knowledge Graph and Hummingbird.

Say for example, your main keyword for your website is “Perth home builders” and your website only has 45 pages broken down below:

  • 40 property listing pages
  • 1 About us page
  • 1 Contact us page
  • 1 Company history page
  • 1 Company executives page
  • 1 Sales Personnel page

Your website may only appear in organic search when your target or similar keywords are used when your target audience look for home builders in Perth but other than that, your website may not appear in SERPs when your target audience change their keyword terms.

While we all understand the value of being #1 in Google is crucial, we can’t just be obsessed overdoing methods we believe work to become the number one.

Fix your website technical issues

In relation to having indexed pages in Google, we can’t just sit and relax creating pages and hope to get better results in the long run. Having more quality pages indexed by Google is just one of the steps you can do to help your website perform in organic search. This means, there are other areas you can do such as technical section of your website. Your website won’t perform well in organic search if this is experiencing serious technical issues that you have not addressed because you are more interested in building links.

To help you get started, here are some checklist you can look at for technical issues on a website:

  • You can check your website title and description tag if they are properly optimized, over optimized or non-optimized. You can do this by crawling your entire website using a tool like Screaming Frog.
  • Analyze your website structure to see if you have important pages that don’t fall to 3-clicks rule.
  • Review your link profile to make sure you are in good shape. You can do this by looking at your website’s inbound link via Google Webmaster Tools - links to your site section or you can use other link profile reporting tool like Ahrefs.
  • Check your robots.txt file to make sure all pages you want to be indexed are being indexed.
  • Improve your website page speed for better search user experience. You can check your website loading speed performance by using Google Page Speed Insights Tool.
  • Check your website multi-device compatibility.

These are just common checklist but yet have significant negative impact to a website if not addressed properly.

Remove your low quality pages from index

One of the main reasons why Google has been penalizing websites from search is because of the quality issue of content on a website. Instead of focusing on generating links to your website, why not spend your time analysing your content, identifying your thin pages or even duplicate content? By ensuring your website content quality is monitored, you can rest assure that your website will not be hit big time when Google makes another Panda algorithm update.

When auditing your website content for quality issues, you can use these tips below to help you get started:

Method 1: Google Site Search

Step 1: Do a site search of your website in organic search. - This will give you an idea of how many of your pages Google display in search results.
Step 2: Spot for pages you don’t want Google to index such as: tags, site search results, spun articles etc. - These type of pages are often causing problem with site overall performance in organic search and if not addressed correctly, it could even result to penalty.
Step 3: Add noindex/nofollow tag in your robots.txt file for the low quality pages ie:

Disallow: /tag
Disallow: /search

Method 2: Screaming Frog

Step 1: Do a site crawl of your website via Screaming Frog and spot the pages with low text ratio of 250 for blog posts or articles.
Step 2: You can either update the text ratio of your pages or totally remove it from your website.

Method 3: Google Analytics

Step 1: Take a look of your site content > all pages section.
Step 2: Change the total pages view in Google Analytics to maximum of 5000
Step 3: Identify the pages with highest bounce rate and average time spent on a page.

Embrace Structured Markup

For local and e-commerce websites, structured data markup definitely helps a lot. Actually, according to this article on Search Engine Land you can get up to 30% increase of your organic traffic with structured markup. With that information in mind, it may be a lot better than spending your time in link building, right?

There are 12 markup that a website can use for rich snippets. Obviously, we cannot use them all but you can take advantage on a few:
  1. Authorship markup - Google no longer supports this markup.
  2. Local Business Schema
  3. Testimonial
  4. Breadcrumbs
  5. Events
  6. Coupons
  7. Videos
  8. Recipe
  9. Individual
  10. Table list
  11. Products
  12. Business and Organizations

By polishing your rich snippets, you can give better information to search users of what they will see on your website and why it’s relevant to their search query. While rich snippets don’t affect search rankings it does not mean web pages won’t get any benefit from it when displayed in organic search.

For better understanding of rich snippets and structured data, you can check this out on Google Webmaster Tools help section.

Optimize Your Page Elements

While this is very common for SEOs, it’s still important to review your page elements if you can see anything that need improvement. You need to make sure that your page elements are properly optimized so you won’t miss a thing that may be highly important. These elements may not be highly important as you think but if you patiently make use of them, the impact could be overwhelming.

Here are the page elements you normally need to optimize for every page of a website:

1. Title tag
2. Description tag
3. Header tag
4. Image tag
5. Internal links
6. Keyword placement
7. Anchor text usage

Essentially, if those page elements are properly optimized, you should expect a better performance of your website in organic search, mixed with other on-page factors you would do to optimize a website such as page speed, site layout etc.

Review and Clean up Your Link Profile

Did you know that instead of help your website, you may actually be harming it when you build links to it? It does not automatically happen that way but when you basically overdo it, that’s the time you will get into trouble. Yes, link building is important but you don’t need to focus on it all the time.

Unfortunately, you don’t have control over the links pointing to your website you did not create or don’t have access with. This means, you are not always sure whether your links are all quality and not manipulative so spending some time to review and clean up your link profile is worth doing for than spending most of your time in link building.

When reviewing your link profile, here’s what you need to do:
  • Download your links from Google Webmaster Tools, Ahrefs, MOZ or Majestic.
  • Review your anchor text profile and make a categorization ie: exact match, partial match, branded, image, etc. - You need to make sure that your anchor text profile isn’t more of partial match and exact match. It has to be mixed with branded, generic, no anchor text for diversify purposes.
  • Review the source of your links - You need to see if they are quality, relevant, indexed by Google or don’t contain spam.
  • When you find negative links, send a disavow request to Google or if you want to do heavy lifting, send emails to webmasters asking them to remove the negative links you discovered.
  • You need to make it a hobby like every month so you can be sure that your website is always in good shape.
Link Building is just one thing we can do to help a website perform in organic search and it does not mean if we don’t perform link building, our website performance will be affected. There are other factors that are even more important than building links such as the methods that have been mentioned in the above. By focusing on these section, you might actually help your website rather than harm it. SEO isn’t only about link building and link building isn’t the only way to become number one in Google search so don’t be obsessed in link building!