3 questions to determine the “link risk” to your travel business

If you’re fortunate enough to not have to spend a large chunk of every week sifting the latest coming and goings in the SEO news you probably missed this story – that is, unless your business was relying on private blog networks (PBNs) for inbound links and therefore your search rankings. If that’s the case, you’re probably trying to work out where the hell all your search traffic has gone.

Either way, all online travel businesses need to be aware of Google’s latest move against low quality links, in its ongoing war to clean up the web.

For the uninitiated, private blog networks are large collections of blogs and sites all owned and operated by a single entity for the sole purpose of publishing low grade “content” accompanied by large numbers of links to member websites. Members pay a handsome fee to join the network and in return they enjoy automated link building to their website, which contributes to improvements in rankings and therefore search traffic.

Last week Google completely de-indexed the entire network operated by one of the largest PBN’s, BuildMyRank, causing the value of all its backlinks to vanish, which in turn undid any ranking benefits that they had passed on to its members’ sites. For any sites that had been using BuildMyRank as their sole source of links, the results would have been disastrous.

Rumour and conjecture on the SEO blogosphere abounds, and current chatter suggests that this marks the start of a concerted new effort against blog networks and other “black/grey hat” link manipulation schemes. With that in mind, now might be a good time to review your link development strategy and make sure you’re not exposed to any unnecessary risk. The following questions may help for online travel businesses:

#1) Are you relying on automated link schemes? Automation is the operative word here. Anything that automatically publishes links to your site from other sites should be viewed with a healthy amount of caution. Google (and the other search engines) place emphasis on the value of quality links published by human-controlled editorial processes, i.e. someone creates a link to your site because they specifically think your site fits the editorial nature of their site. Any links that are created by automated processes are by definition low value, and may become the target of algorithm changes in the future.

#2) Are you relying on low quality content? Low grade, thin “space filler” articles, or articles that are “spun” beyond recognition using automated re-writing tools and then mass submitted to hundreds of article directories do not count as a legitimate linking tactic in the eyes of the search engines, and are likely to be targeted or at least devalued in the future.

#3) Do you have an editorial linking strategy? “Editorial” links are the opposite of the above. They are links that have been deliberately placed on a website by an editor because they are deemed to be useful and valuable for site visitors. These links are massively important for travel businesses as they offer huge opportunities to connect with the travel blogs and publications that match your destinations, services and audiences. These are the links that Google, Bing etc are searching for and these are the links that will help secure long term rankings in the search results.

A healthy link development strategy would avoid #1 & 2 like the plague and would place priority on #3, to build up a strong and diverse link profile that is future-proofed against any more algorithm changes targeting low value, low quality links.