Since the birth of SEO, link building has been one of the most polarizing topics. We know that links are an important ranking factor today, but that the quality of the link is now of much greater importance. When Google first launched, they could not distinguish a natural link from an unnatural one. With this in mind, SEO professionals used spam and schemes to get to a #1 ranking. Many plumbers think these tactics still work in 2020, but they’re very wrong. Google’s quality guidelines on links are quite clear. Furthermore, penalties are still being handed out, and Google has said publicly that paid links don’t help rankings because they are ignored. Check out today’s episode of the Plumbing SEO Podcast to learn more:
Understanding Google’s Guidelines
Google states “Any links intended to manipulate PageRank or a site’s ranking in Google search results may be considered part of a link scheme and a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.” They really couldn’t have been more clear about their stance on links. Still, plumbers tend to ignore their advice and argue that links do in fact help sites rank high. While links are certainly one of the factors search engines use to determine credibility, the search engine has gotten much better at properly valuing links. So while links that are gained naturally through brand recognition and quality content are helpful, any type of deliberate link building violates Google’s guidelines and should be avoided by plumbing and HVAC companies.
What are “Natural” Links?
Natural links are those that are earned rather than built. So instead of begging your friend to link to you on their website, you earn the link naturally from your local Chamber of Commerce, who recognizes your plumbing company as a staple of the community. Links are intended to represent real-life connections. In other words, organizations that revere you in person can demonstrate that on their website. Conversely, unnatural links come from institutions that you are not affiliated with and have no good reason to link to you. Creating great content on your blog with independent research is another way to earn natural links since other websites will cite your blog post as a source, even if they don’t know you.
Can Plumbers Use Guest Posts to Build Links?
There’s been some confusion over the years about the validity of guest post links. Google has come out recently and re-stated that all guest post links should have the nofollow attribute, meaning they won’t pass full PageRank. So to be clear, guest post links are not the best method to get quality inbound links. After all, they’re unnatural because the person writing the post has the incentive to link to their own site, rather than to earn such a link in the natural manners we discussed previously. Any type of massive-scale guest post campaign you were running is not only worthless in regard to rankings, but it can also get you penalized by Google. Focus on branding your company offline and creating great content.
How to Rank Without Linking
Since link building is not a viable option for plumbers in 2020, the focus must shift to factors that adhere to Google’s quality guidelines. Engagement is one of the main factors Google looks at today. Whether it’s reviews, social signals, user-generated content, or simply click-through-rate (CTR), Google will take notice. The best way to increase engagement is by investing in review software for plumbers, such as BrandRevu. This software allows for jobsite check-ins so that plumbers can verify their presence in different service areas around their main city. These check-ins are populated onto the appropriate page (city page, service page, etc.) so that users can easily verify that you were in that city and performed that service.