Link building is an essential part of building page rank. Over the past years Google and other search engines have been evolving their algorithms so that searchers find the most relevant content for their search queries. This has meant that some practices are now on the verge of becoming defunct. It is important for longevity of page rank that links are genuine and not created solely for the purposes of SEO.
‘White hats tend to produce results that last a long time, whereas black hats anticipate that their sites may eventually be banned either temporarily or permanently once the search engines discover what they are doing.’ - Wikipedia
There are 2 ends of the SEO spectrum which are generally referred to as ‘black hat’ and ‘white hat’, as the excerpt above states white hat techniques should stand the test of time whereas ‘hacky’ black hat techniques which focus on exploiting the system will generally falter as search engine algorithms are updated. In this post I discuss some of the more common black hat techniques and then cover how we ought to be approaching link building for longevity.
Things to avoid when link building
Automated or unrelated directory, article or comment submission
One technique that used to be widely accepted by many SEO companies but today is considered black hat is the submission of press releases, blog posts and write ups containing back links to free article or link directories. Another form of this, is the posting of comments on unrelated blogs and articles. As of Google’s latest Penguin 2.0 update, back links of this nature have been stripped of all value and may contribute to penalisation!
Often this type of back link is generated through automated spinning and submission software. The software can be given a list of sites to target and will distribute low quality content in order to build up a websites link profile. Spinning is a black hat technique which mixes up article content so as to try and avoid the penalties associated with having a spammy link portfolio. As search engines have become savvy to this kind of activity you won’t be able to take for granted that this won’t cause unwanted penalties.
Reciprocal or Paid links
Two other black hat techniques are reciprocal linking and paid links. Reciprocal links are traded or exchanged between 2 or more websites in order to boost rank. As reciprocal linking was abused quite early in the ‘SEO game’ search engines have moved to remove any value associated with these.
‘ Google and other search engines now do not give credit to reciprocal linking as it does not indicate genuine link popularity.’ Wikipedia
Paid Links are not dissimilar to reciprocal linking in that they are paid for rather than traded. With the release of Penguin 2.0, Google has recently moved to either penalise or completely remove ranking from paid links.
Link farms / Tiered link building
Something I came across recently is the concept of link farming or tiered link building. Put simply this is a dark technique which can only be considered to be black hat! According to Matt Cutts (head of Google’s Webspam team) Penguin 2.0 could cause a lot of trouble for tiered link building. So what is Tiered Link Building? Essentially it’s automated link building which uses multiple levels or tiers of websites to try and reduce any associated penalty, there’s a great discussion on this topic on the Moz Q&A forum.
What Google considers bad practice
In essence here’s a neat list of what Google wants you to avoid when link building:
- Buying or selling links that pass PageRank. This includes exchanging money for links, or posts that contain links; exchanging goods or services for links; or sending someone a “free” product in exchange for them writing about it and including a link
- Excessive link exchanging (“Link to me and I’ll link to you”)
- Linking to web spammers or unrelated sites with the intent to manipulate PageRank
- Building partner pages exclusively for the sake of cross-linking
- Using automated programs or services to create links to your site
If you feel you have lost rank or are being penalised by Google for your link portfolio then firstly you ought to contact your SEO company about the matter, if you don’t have an SEO company you could carefully consider using Google’s disavow tool to trim the bad ones. There’s a great write up weighing up what Google’s disavow tool actually does on The Moz Blog.
So… What’s the correct way to build links for SEO?
Write quality, authoritative copy and write plenty of it
The best way to generate a solid link portfolio is to create likeable-linkable content. Linkable content should be well thought out and written from your companies ‘sweet spot’. You need to play to your strengths – if you are a plumbing company you might write about boilers and regulations, if you are a florist you might write about flower arranging or an event you did the flower arrangements for. Try to write about things that you feel are relevant to your business area. A post about Fencing on a Plumbing blog may make an interesting read but the links it attracts won’t strengthen your placement on search engines for those desirable plumbing keywords.
Give out content as guest posts
A great way to get back links containing your targeted keywords is to save a few of your blog articles for distribution as guest posts. Be wary of duplicate content which may get flagged as spam – make sure you only give out each post once.
Not only is it helpful in boosting your page rank, guest blogging can also draw traffic from other websites directly. Links in your copy, or from your profile on the website are both great ways to aid this.
Anthony Mangia (CEO of Mangia Marketing) posted on the YouMoz Blog making the case that by getting every ‘relevant’ person in your company to write 2 posts a month, keeping one and distributing the other that he would be out of a job very quickly.
‘And that, is the last linkbuilding strategy your business will ever need. If every company followed this strategy, people like me would be out of work – quickly.‘ - Anthony Mangia, The YouMoz Blog
Get people to write content for you
If you find it difficult to keep on top of the demand for content that your website or blog has generated then another way of getting content for your blog is to invite people from outside your company to write articles for you. Here are 2 ways of achieving this 1). Pay copywriters within your field to write some content for you or, 2). Invite guest bloggers to write something for free. An advantage of inviting guests to write for you is that via their social sharing channels you can gain instant access to their followers.
It is worth mentioning that if you and you guest blogger link to one another then reciprocal links are most likely not given any weight and so will not directly help one another’s rank. This however does not affect any rank that other sites pass when linking to your guest content.
Discover your network
In order to find out who/where to approach about guest postings it is worth finding out a bit more about the ‘network’ in which you want to position yourself.
There are a few ways to approach this, one might be getting a back link profile from a competitors website and seeing where they are getting their page rank. Another would be to look at the link profile which exists around the keywords you are targeting. Packages such as LinkAssist or sites like Open Site Explorer will be able to assist with this process.
When you have your link profile you should have a sizeable list of websites or blogs who you can now approach to ask for a review of your service or product or perhaps to approach a guest post or two.
Become part of the community
The key to success is to become part of the community around your link profile, by this I mean maintaining a presence on industry websites and on social media. Becoming part of this community will increase your perceived authority and in turn your brands exposure to potential customers or affiliates. Over time this should lead to more interest, click-throughs and in turn back links.
Raise exposure – Share content on social platforms and networks
It wouldn’t be right to discuss link building without mentioning social sharing and bookmarklets. When you publish new content either on your own or another blog it makes sense to give its exposure a kick start.
The obvious places to start this are with social networks Facebook, Google+, Twitter and LinkedIn - you should already be managing a presence on these as part of your larger marketing efforts. Not so obvious but still important are social bookmarking sites, these in some ways are offer greater exposure through public feeds, recent or tagged links. Popular networks include but are not limited to Pinterest, Delicious, Digg, Reddit and StumbleUpon.
In this article I’ve covered techniques which can be classed as the right or the wrong way to build links. Typically black hat techniques should be considered bad practice as its almost an inevitable that in the future Google will update its algorithms and your site will suffer.
Producing or collating lots of original , interesting, and valuable content then distributing this throughout your ‘community’ will, over time, raise your brands profile ranking on Google and increase flow of traffic.
Do you agree? If you feel I missed something please feel free to have your say after the jump.
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