2. Links Should Be Earned, Not Bought
Paid links have especially been in Google's crosshairs as of late. "If you bought a link in some way, you should assume it won't count-and it might even hurt you," Shepard says.
Moz encourages organizations to earn links though endorsements instead of paying for them. "We're seeing Google pass out penalties for easy links, and we think the crackdown is really just beginning," Shepard says.
In the past, some marketers have embedded keyword-rich anchor text in online press releases in hopes of boosting their chances of being found in Google for the keyword contained within the anchor text. (Anchor text is the link used in a hyperlink; for example, "To download Adobe Reader, click here.")
The indications are that Google has taken a tough stance against the practice, treating anchor text links in press releases as unnatural "paid" links. "What this means is that Google is stopping unnatural link building from press release distribution," notes the blog of press release syndication company Business Wire.
The post continues: "John Mueller, one of Google's lead Webmaster Trends Analysts, talked in a recent video hangout about the way Google will look at press releases. Mueller said, 'When [press release issuers create a link to] themselves, we do not consider that natural. Promoting is perfectly fine, but it is not considered a natural link. We are looking for an external person to say, 'I am recommending this website or article.'"
However, there's still value in online press releases, particularly as a way to attract attention from journalists and bloggers. If others write about your product or service and link to content about it, then that's considered a legitimate "earned" link to Google. And those are the links that count the most today, SEO experts say.
3. To Improve Social Status, Use Google+
Every other year, Moz surveys SEO experts to learn the most important search engine ranking factors. In its 2013 survey, Moz discovered a high correlation between Google +1 "likes" for a Web page and that pages search engine rankings, Shepard says.
In its 2013 SEO Ranking Factors, SearchMetrics, a search analytics software company, likewise noted the growing importance of Google+ and Google +1 shares to Google search rankings.
Sharing content on Google+ (and receiving Google +1 endorsements from others) has "definite SEO advantages," Shepard says. "Google uses Google+ to discover new content, and Google tends to index anything shared on Google+ quickly." In addition, Shepard points out, Google+ posts are much easier for Google to index than some content on Facebook and Twitter, if for no other reason than Google owns the Google+ social network.
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