Over the past few days, there’s been a lot of confusion around what happens to a wedding professional’s SEO once Style Me Pretty’s content is taken offline.* In response, there's been a lot of well-intentioned, yet inaccurate, advice on SEO being doled out.
The idea that any link to you on Style Me Pretty counts as a backlink to your site that Google uses to improve your SEO is an incorrect understanding of how it works.
As a very simplified explanation, there are two kinds of links: “do-follow” and “no-follow."
- Do-follow links tell Google to give your site SEO credit
- No-follow links tell Google NOT to give SEO credit for that particular link**
No-follow links exist to both cut down on spam and to reward organic, earned content by limiting the ability to purchase links on highly-ranked sites.
Among the links that Google wants counted as no-follow include links appearing in sponsored posts, links in ad graphics or banners, links in advertising directories (aka vendor directories), links for reviews or endorsements where products or services were received for free, etc. You can read more here, but basically, if money or products/services changed hands, those links need to be coded as no-follow.
What’s usually more motivating to site owners when it comes to following these rules is that if links that Google determines should be no-follow are instead coded as do-follow, they will penalize the site that the link appears on.
So what does this mean if Style Me Pretty linked to me?
1. If you are linked within the paragraphs of the story describing the featured wedding or styled shoot, that link is a do-follow link and potentially helps your SEO. These links are allowed to be do-follow because they are what Google views as “editorially placed” links – the site's editors vouching for you in an unpaid submission.
2. Links that are listed at the bottom of a post in the Little Black Book as well as the “additional vendor credits” sections are no-follow links.
3. Links that are listed on the Little Black Book pages are no-follow links because it is a paid vendor directory.
4. Links that were in advertising graphics are no-follow links.
By doing it this way, Style Me Pretty ensured that they stayed within Google’s rules for linking and kept their site from being penalized.
Okay, but is my SEO affected?
If the ONLY place you have been published is on Style Me Pretty and you have been published there often, you will likely see your SEO negatively affected. This is because you did not do enough to diversify where you get published and which sites link to you editorially.
If you have been published a lot by Style Me Pretty and were linked within the paragraphs of the features, but you’ve also been published elsewhere just as frequently, your SEO might be negatively affected, but it’s unlikely to knock you to a lower page on Google.
If you fall into either of the top two examples, but you kept updating your own blog consistently over the years, you will be fine.
If the majority (or all) of your links on Style Me Pretty were in the Little Black Book directory or listed in the “additional credits section” at the bottom of a post, but not in the post itself, your SEO will not be affected, as it was never helped in the first place.
I was published there often, how do I get my SEO back up?
There are many ways to improve your SEO, and I’m not going to get into all of them here, but one of the fastest ways to improve it is to keep your own blog updated a minimum of three times a week, with at least 400-600 words per post.
Your blog needs to be hosted on your own site (ex: thinksplendid.com/blog) – not Medium, not LinkedIn, not Facebook, not Tumblr, and not a newsletter that you own but only send out via email.
At first glance, this seems overwhelming, but 400 words is a few paragraphs, and honestly most wedding industry Instagram captions are that long (captions on IG, by the way, do nothing for your SEO).
Every word in a blog post counts as a keyword on your site, which is why – while newsletters are great and having an email list is important – hiding the content in a newsletter while not publishing it online doesn’t help you SEO-wise.
In addition, the benefits of blogging work like compound interest — you will see some benefit almost immediately, but you’ll see even better, and seemingly disproportionate, benefits over a longer period of time. This is why the people who have continued to blog even when everyone else decided it was too tedious or listened to the “gurus” who announced that it was dead have no need to worry right now, no matter where else they’ve been published.
You can certainly re-submit your Style Me Pretty features to other sites with a strong PageRank, but I would recommend that for now you re-publish them* on your own blog in order to get Google to recognize that you have content worth indexing.
Think about your online marketing this way: your website, blog, and newsletter are the house you own. Your social media and any other sites you leverage for publicity are the house you rent. While you want to spend some time, money, and effort making the house you rent an enjoyable and welcoming place, it should never be more than the amount of time, money, and effort you spend building equity in the house you own.
There are no shortcuts to building a sustainable business and while changes in technology have opened some doors (such as the ability to get your brand in front of more people for less money), they still require that we work smarter and harder.
*There is currently an effort to save Style Me Pretty. If this happens, your links will live on and you won't need to re-publish your features on your own site nor re-submit them elsewhere.
**There have been some reports over the past six months that Google is now rewarding no-follow links with SEO credit, but a Google rep at SXSW last month said no changes have been made and that no-follow still works the way it always did.