Even before the most recent Google Penguin update, link building was the hottest topic in the search industry. Today, fear of falling foul of an algorithm update or even acquiring a manual linking penalty has many webmasters and even other SEO agencies stood like rabbits in the headlights when it comes to link building.
We have seen various initiatives, from stopping external link building campaigns altogether to trying to manage how many links a site acquires. Neither idea is sustainable for creating a long lasting, winning SEO strategy. Instead of standing back and leaving link building well alone, simply stepping away from the old-school linking practices that are harming your own, or your clients’, website is the way to go.
Stop participating in these six practices and you’ll find link building easier, and more risk-free in terms of penalties or algorithm updates, than ever.
Targeting Quantity over Quality
Despite this being a widely known ‘no-go’ area, SEO agencies who can ‘build 100 links a week’ are still seducing clients across the world.
While 100 links a week isn’t an especially large number if you have a large team of copywriters working for you, such a number is always going to raise questions over quality, especially if they’re links you’re building and not earning through people linking to your own high quality on-site content. The problem is many webmasters and SEO agencies continue to link build just for the SEO benefits of having another link.
Instead, anyone involved with link building should be thinking about the referral traffic a link could get them and the negative brand perception that comes with having bad links on low authority websites.
The simple approach to take to link building is this: 10 links a week from high quality sites respected by Google that will send traffic to your site is a better output than 100 links a week on sites of no relevance to your own that have no chance of increasing referral traffic.
What Else do Quality Links Bring?
Referral traffic is the big reason for targeting quality links, but you’re also getting a massive ‘link juice’ boost for your SEO. How does this happen?
Google is rewarding and featuring high quality content more than ever before. If you have something of value to add, Google wants to help you show as many people as possible.
Quality content will receive more social media shares, exposing your brand to an even wider audience and adding further referral traffic.
Authoritative links are crucial for a link portfolio, and help to build long-term trust with Google.
The best links are hard to build and earn; doing so helps you build relationships that will lead to further linking opportunities and further SEO and social media exposure.
Sending the Same Article to Submission Sites
If you search Google for ‘mass article submission,’ you can find articles from as far back as 2009 that explain why this isn’t something you should be doing. One of the reasons this is still happening could well be that the search industry, and even Google themselves, have been saying that content is king for years.
However, the focus on quality is now stronger. Quality means unique, original articles that bring value to the reader; not the same one sent to 25 different article sites. These might have been useful for authoritative links back in 2008. Today, they’re a sign you’re not engaged in a thoughtful content marketing or link building campaign, and Google will treat your site, and set your search placing, accordingly.
Article or Content Spinning
Ah, so the way around mass article submission is to make some changes to articles so they look different, and fool Google into believing that we really can write and upload 25 articles in one hour.
While we understand the sentiment, the reality is that it isn’t any better than the last point. An article saying the same thing but in different words is just an article saying the same thing. This is especially bad if you’ve used the same anchor text in each article; it’s almost as if you’re asking for a Google Penalty!
If you’re link building properly, then you’ll know that each site where you’re invited to build a link will have a different audience and different requirements, so you’ll need to adopt your style as necessary. Furthermore, people tend to follow several industry websites pertaining to their interests; what will your brand look like if a person finds the same article on each site? Once the sites find out, it’s goodbye to a quality link opportunity.
How many times have you found a site or blog that you thought would be a great fit for one of your guest articles, before emailing the webmaster in the absence of a ‘Guest Posting’ page, offering to pay for the privilege of having your article on the site?
If that sounds familiar, then it’s time to stop. Any site worth its salt (and certainly any site from where a link would be a high quality one) will say ‘no.’
Think of it this way; how would you feel if someone emailed you, out of the blue, with no prior effort at building a relationship, asking you outright if they could pay to feature what is in all likelihood a spammy, poorly targeted post on your blog page?
Over-Targeting Anchor Text
The big thing to avoid here is ‘exact match’ anchor text. That means if you’re a catering business in London, you don’t want to be building links where the anchor text is ‘London catering business,’ or ‘catering businesses London,’ for example.
Many sites that allow you to build links will raise this point anyway, as featuring such links can have negative connotations for their own SEO. However, you ought to ensure that you’re keeping anchor text as natural as possible, not waiting for an email asking you to make changes to an article. Feature your keywords, yes, but look at variations you can use, and target long-tail anchor text rather than links that look like they’ve been built for spam.
Ensure you’re aware of your link profile, too; use Majestic SEO to see what anchor text links to your site, and by what quantities they do so. This will help you ensure any manual link building practices end with building natural looking links, with no risk of falling foul of Google.
Private Link Networks
While it was once intuitive to start numerous websites solely for the purpose of using them to build links to your primary concern, today it’s as good as standing under Google’s nose and asking to be removed from search results completely.
There are several reasons why private link networks don’t pay:
You need to spend time building the authority of the link network websites in the first place for those links to mean anything.
A website with a high percentage of links from one or more websites will be investigated and penalized accordingly.
Using your ‘primary’ site to build links back to the network to increase those sites’ authority will ruin your existing position and reputation.
Refer back to the ‘Quality over Quantity’ message from earlier.
Never be tempted to participate in a link network, and never approach others with the idea of building one, either.
Link building continues to be one of the most important aspects of any SEO campaign. Failing to engage with modern link building strategies will leave webmasters and SEO agencies falling behind the competition.
To succeed, it is critical to leave the outdated methods here behind, and focus on the alternative, Google-friendly link building practices that will build long-term trust and authority for your, or your clients’, website.