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Probably the most important question for SEO’s or Site Owners in 2015 is going to be– “Can my website survive a manual or algorithmic Google penalty?”

Over the past two years, as Google’s Webmaster Spam team gets better at identifying tactics, we have seen the number and frequency of algorithmic updates and manual penalties increase. This looks set to continue over the next couple of years.

So, how can you adjust your tactics to get results without risking everything?

Here are some ideas for content, link building, technical, offline, local, social and mobile considerations to create an overall picture of what search engines see as a ‘good’ site and help you renovate your SEO strategy for 2015. Just to let you know, we have been working successfully and carrying out the majority of these strategies since last year.

Content Using content as the foundation of your SEO strategy is not a new concept, but the definition of “good” quality content is ever-changing. Although the Panda update punished sites with thin content, there still are sites that use such content to rank higher. It might help temporarily, but will definitely have an impact in the long run.

Good content:

  • Drives traffic through searches related to your industry.
  • Builds authority in the eyes of users and search engines.
  • Increases engagement with your brand on social media.

So what can be termed as good content?

Content in 2015 will not be just limited to the pieces of text you will add to the website or blog. You will need to think outside of this and make sure to develop a range of varied media like videos, presentations, whitepapers, info-graphics, how-to’s etc. These become your assets and can be one of your best sources for links. Basically, you have to provide content, which is useful to the end user.

Link Building Link building is still the mainstay of how major search engines rank websites, but the interpretation of link data has changed ever since the Penguin update was launched.

Bad link building is one of the easiest ways to get penalized, but good link building can be the hardest part of your job (even more so in certain niches).

So, what can definitely be considered as a bad link or a link that should be “disavowed”?

  • Site wide footer links / multiple links from the same domain.
  • Blogroll links.
  • Forum posting / profile links.
  • Many free directory links.
  • Links from same class C IPs.
  • Links from spun content.
  • Links to different industry websites from the same article / content.
  • Links from link-farm directories / pages.
  • Links from many non-English sites (for example – .ru, .jp, .cn, etc.).

It is advisable to get rid of such links either manually or by disavowing the links via Google Webmaster Tools.

From our end, we use the following techniques for building links.

  • Backlink Analysis – Balancing of followed links to nofollow to have a natural profile. Check backlinks and traffic of sites from which we are getting links to find and weed out sites that are themselves hit by this update.
  • Link Velocity – The first and most significant observation that stood out among sites which were affected by the Penguin update was link velocity. We have reduced our link velocity since the update. Getting too many links quickly will be flagged by Google.
  • Anchor Text Diversity – Continue to vary anchor text and lower the % of specific key terms focus. We have been doing this since 2012 and will continue to work the %’s.
  • Link Diversity – Sites performing well have good link diversity including links from Guest Blog Posts, info-graphics, videos, local business directories, presentations, coupons submissions etc. Since Google prefers a diversified link profile. We recommend getting links from these sources. Most of these sources are also now part of new deliverables.
  • Reviews – Get clients to get reviews for their sites. They should make this a part of their daily business.

Apart from this, to get quality links you can also consider link reclaiming. Link reclaiming is the act of finding sites that mention you, your brand or a related story and simply asking for a link.

There are a number of ways to find opportunities for link reclamation:

  • Web Mentions – Google Alerts is the most popular tool for monitoring mentions on the web, but Moz has also just released an alert function for their Fresh Web Explorer. Set up an alert for your brand name and when a site mentions you without linking, send them an email.
  • Images – Use Google’s Search by Image tool to find out where people are using your images and ask for a link credit, this works a majority of the time.
  • Videos – If you are hosting videos on YouTube you can use their analytics platform to see where your videos are being watched on external sites. Visit those sites and ask for a link to your website to supplement the video.Local Something that we have personally seen develop over the past two years is the influence of location on search results. Google is actively expanding the number of searches that trigger a local result as they understand which searches are relevant to a location.You need to be clear about the locations your business really serves and try and make sure you don’t look more broad than you really are.Schema is one way to show search engines where you are based and which areas you serve. Apart from this, you can also look at some local on-site changes like creating GEO based landing pages for each location you serve, optimizing your Google Places page by filling out as much information as you can and getting genuine reviews from your customers, implementing rich snippets and obviously altering the page titles and meta descriptions to feature the service and areas you serve.Mobile Mobile data has almost overtaken desktop. Results are starting to deviate more from desktop as search engines try to improve the quality of results by presenting results that will work well on mobile. For example, a site that is created in flash will not rank if the searcher is using a device which does not support flash.If your site is not mobile friendly that doesn’t mean it won’t rank, but it’s always best to give the user the best experience. Google has officially declared in a blog post that having a responsive design is the best way to move forward. Having a responsive design also has its own benefits from SEO perspective.Social Media The final piece of the search puzzle is social. While there is still no absolute direct link between social and ranking, search engines are increasingly adding social elements to search results. Google uses Google+, Bing uses Facebook and both show reviews. Social proof is a great way to encourage searchers to click through to your site.Social is also the best way to promote new content immediately to encourage shares, links and engagement.We already have social media integration as a part of our deliverables. In addition, to improve social signals, instead of doing social bookmarking of the articles submitted we are getting social signals to those articles which will include (either of) Facebook likes, Tweets or Google+ Votes. Client participation is encouraged.We hope this post has given you something to think about for 2015. Start planning your strategy for next year and get ahead of the competition.