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Could your website rankings come crashing down like a house of cards? The SEO industry has witnessed five iterations of Google Penguin updates and you can almost hear the footsteps of the next Penguin update. And how many Panda updates have we seen? As of this writing, it’s now deep in the v20-somethings. Not to mention Hummingbird and all the other named and unnamed updates…and now what, a Google Pigeon update??

The bottom line is that webspam fighting algorithms are not going to stop. For years, Google preached about content being king, while all the while algorithmically rewarding volume-based link building and link-scheming. This caused virtually every type of agency that offered SEO services to engage in some form of artificial link building. Everybody was doing it (because it worked), even big brand and Fortune 500 companies. Some played it conservatively, others more aggressively, and still others went off the deep end. For years, Google used cat and-mouse updates to counter algo gaming, but then came Panda & Penguin and they hit hard. There is not a single SEO firm in the country with a decent sized book of clients that did not feel at least some impact.

Nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes (and Google updates)

In retrospect, these seemingly harsh updates helped improve search results because they changed (and are continuing to change) SEO behavior. In other words, the SEO industry as a whole has started to clean up its act. Now there is so much risk associated with volume based link building and unnatural link building, that there really isn’t even much temptation to do so. SEO companies are much better off trying to create and market great content than spinning their wheels looking for the next SEO loophole.

As a CEO or business owner, your new link building activities should be guided by one single question:

“Are you proud to have the link pointing to your site and the way it got there?”

If you are proud of a link, then it’s likely on a relevant, quality, high authority site. And if you can defend the way it got there, then you likely earned it fair and square.

Backlink management is an important part of a holistic SEO strategy, but the formula has completely reversed. You don’t want a high volume of low quality, unrelated links. You need a relative handful of super high quality links from quality, relevant sites.

Is Your Website Already Among The Walking Dead?

Some high ranking websites may be on their 9th life. What we mean by that is, there are undoubtedly thousands of websites out there that still have risky backlink profiles, yet somehow they have managed to escape the first several Penguin filters. As of this writing, it has been over 300 days since the last Penguin update, and the trend has been that each update has been more severe than the last…almost as if Google is exponentially amping up the penalties for sites that continue to engage in link scheming.

How Do You Know If You Have Zombie Website Rankings?

1. Google’s Web Master Tools (WMT): This is a free tool and the very best way to examine the SEO health of your website. Most website designers these days have basic knowledge of SEO and Internet marketing, so chances are that if you had your website developed in the last 2-3 years, Google WebMaster Tools is probably already setup on your website. If not, contact a reputable SEO services provide in your area and get WMT setup ASAP.

2. Third Party Tools: There are some other third party pay-for tools that are really good about providing reports on additional dimensions of your backlink profile, such as grouping your incoming backlinks by country of origin and even going so far as assigning a risk value to each individual incoming link. Some good ones are SEMRush & AHrefsLink DeTox is also a good one because they assign a penalty risk and help you prioritize which inbound links are health vs risky and even toxic.  We are not affiliates of any of these companies, but we have used all three.

3. Free Consultations: Look for a local search engine optimization professional and check to see if they offer free consultations. A seasoned SEO expert can run automated reports quickly and assess the current health and future risks of you website.  They should also be able to give you some free, actionable tips on how to reduce penalty risks for your specific website.

OK, I’ve Identified Some Zombie Ranking Risk – Now What Do I Do?

One of the best SEO strategies for your website in the Penguin & Panda era is to proactively address and continually manage your algorithm risk.  For example, if you have identified potential backlink risks via one of the methods above, you should probably starting addressing those issues now, even if you are already sitting on strong organic rankings.  In other words, for many back-link heavy sites, ‘backlink pruning‘ via direct outreach (ie, ‘hey webmaster, could you please remove this link’) and disavowing (via Google WMT) has become the new ‘backlink building‘.  Further, you may want to assess you your on-page risk to make  sure your site is free from spammy content, thin pages, and other weaknesses that could trigger a Panda penalty.  In other words, don’t wait for a penalty to hit you and then start scrambling for a recovery.

If I Am Not Link Building, Then What Then Heck Should I Be Doing

There are many great posts out there on industry websites and SEO influencer websites.  Check out this post on the nation’s #1 small business marketing guru and best-selling author John Jantsch’s Duct Tape Marketing blog on The Future of Small Business SEO.  We also like a post from earlier this year from SEO influencers Mark Traphagen & Eric Enge’s Stone Temple Consulting website where Eric interviews Duane Forrester in a post titled: Duane Forrester’s 5 Keys to Improving Search Rankings.  This is a great overview, in a interview style post that addresses how mindsets need to shift strategically from a ‘link building’ mentality and what things webmaster and business owners should be doing tactically to thrive in the new content-drive era of search engine optimization.