At Econsultancy, we’ve been writing about the changes being implemented off the back of Google’s Penguin update and how it will affect what you do to your site. How are we surviving in this post-Penguin world? And how are affiliates and those sites that relied on link building (amongst other things) to make their money, going to continue to stay in business?

This morning at Affiliate Summit East in New York, Wil Reynolds, founder of SEER Interactive, spoke about the changes Google has made with Penguin and how to prepare for the ones that will be game changers. Immediately following his session, Lornen Baker, Vice President of Business Development at BlueGlass, spoke about how we have to look at link building in a new way.

All links are no longer created equal

Traditionally, placing links in content would ultimately create more revenue for you. You’d acquire a wide variety of links from anywhere that would pass link juice so the more sites and the more content you had linking to you the better off you were. 

This could be from comments, forums, directories, linkwheels, blog networks, bookmarketing, etc. It was all about links, links and more links. And it didn’t matter if the site the link came from had readership, comments or traffic. But with the changes implemented with Penguin, not only will links from weak pages not help you anymore, they can actually harm your website.  

How do you clean up links by abandoned sites or links you haven’t set up yourself? For those who have been doing this for years, you may not know how to get the bad links removed. In fact, just as link shops used to charge you to add links to sites, some are now charging to take them down. Out of the Penguin update, there is actually now a business created surrounding this type of clean up. 

Who’s going to win long term?

You have to ask yourself if you are really excited about buying expired domains and selling them back or if you’re passionate about buying old domains for link juice? I would imagine most of you would say you aren’t.  

Link building cannot be seen as a separate strategy any longer even for affiliates. I would say, affiliates will have the biggest need to change as it’s all about building a site, a brand and a vision.

And you are going to have to consider community more than ever. Being at an affiliate conference, a lot of the points being made as advice to circumvent the changes that could be detrimental to affiliate sites, are ones you’d hear at most social, community or digital media conferences, except these can be major game changers for those affiliates who have focused on buying traffic and link building by hook or by crook.

So you have to engage and you need rabid fans. Guest blogging can help you get ahead and Community will start to bump you up especially with the integrations of social and search Google has been making. If you are added into someone’s circles, you will come up higher in their search. Now you will be linked to if you share your expertise (well you probably were before, but people went for easy links rather than quality ones).

Affiliate site Climbing Frames UK is doing just that. It gives users what they’re actually searching for. It makes hundreds of videos, real fans take real photos and send them in, they have competitions and encourage guest posts. Just like other brands and affiliates are starting to do. You could say building followers is the new link building.

You need great content – duh

We constantly hear that you need a content marketing solution as great content builds your brand and your audience, drives traffic and brand exposure and is highly shareable. Of course it is, it’s great, right?

Like what you find on Climbing Frame TV, the content that picks up is not always great (unless you really love climbing frames) but it’s the things that are useful.  To further prove that point, Baker shared a case study of one of their infographics on content marketing. In fact, it was one we published earlier this year

The infographic had:

  • 884 Facebook shares
  • 274 Facebook likes
  • 755 tweets
  • 655 +1s 
  • 111 LinkedIn shares

Off the back of that one image, it built a plethora of links including:

  • 1417 total backlinks to the original Mashable post
  • 181 unique refering domains
  • 200+ links to the BlueGlass services page
  • 50+ unique referring domains

Most of the links were “content marking” and “BlueGlass content marketing” so it gave targeted anchor links that normally would be difficult to get. Most importantly, the spread of this infographic helped generate leads.

BlueGlass had:

  • 500% increase in qualified leads that day
  • 300% increase in qualified leads that week
  • And the infographic continues to send multiple weekly leads (two months later!)

Surely you can still get around Penguin’s changes?

There will still be tricks to get around the system. At the moment, Google’s authorship program is being stuffed with profiles of non-existent authors to give the feel of authenticity of content.

Unfortunately, this will be probably be struck down at some point with the next Google update and ultimately, the authorship program is not about you putting a face on it, it’s about you being recognizable. So hopefully the more Google refines it’s algorhythm, the better the quality of our searches will become.

Brands are going to benefit

The people to benefit more from these changes? The brands and, I’d argue, any one who uses the internet. I personally take responsibility for writing keyword stuffed content in my youth and I helped make the internet a messy place. When I search for content I actually want to find something useful on the first page I hit. FINALLY Google is rewarding brand activity instead of basing search rankings on anchor text, keywords, associated keywords, etc.

When you boil it down, the more you look like a brand, the more you win. This can only be a good thing.