SEO 101: Link Building: What Not to Do

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SEO 101: Link Building: What Not to Do

A lot of link building strategies can backfire, causing more damage than doing good. If you want to improve your ranking in the long term, using what we call a holistic SEO strategy, you should definitely avoid certain link building tactics. In this post, I’ll describe link building DON’TS: tactics you most definitely should NOT use.

Risky Link Building Tactics

In the old days, link building meant putting links on as many external pages as possible, often by buying or trading links. Since Google Penguin these tactics have become a risky SEO strategy. If your link building tactics include spamming, your site risks a Google Penalty and could be banned from Google’s results completely. Placing a lot of links may help the ranking of your site for a short while, but probably won’t in the long run. I’ll sum up the most obvious link building DON’TS and will then discuss some less well known (but equally important) things you should not do.

Obvious Link Building DON’TS

  • Buying large amounts of links
  • Exchanging links
  • Using automated programs to get links
  • Guest blogging with very thin and off-topic content
  • Commenting on blogs or forums when your only purpose is to leave a link in the comment
  • Over-optimizing anchor text
  • Including links that are unrelated to the topic of the website
  • Having links from sites that have no real content or are spammy

Don’t Link Just to the Homepage

You should make sure to get links to different pages on your website and not solely to your homepage. If you only – or mainly – receive links to your homepage, your link building will look spammy. Of course, if someone is writing about your brand, a link to your homepage is appropriate. But if a website writes about products or about news of your company, they usually link to your product, news, or blog pages. Make sure your link building strategy resembles the natural way people link to websites. Extra benefit: linking to a more specific page will probably lead to a better conversion on your website! Work on getting links for important product pages and for your cornerstone content pages. Get links to the pages where the deal is closed. It will get your website a trustworthy link profile and will increase the conversion at the same time.

Pay for Specific Links? We Say, Don’t!

Another link building DON’T is buying links. You probably all know that buying links in large bulks from companies claiming to get you ranked fast is not something we would promote at Yoast. But what about a link from an individual company? From a high quality website right in your niche? Is it wrong to buy one link from such a company? How will Google ever find out about that?

Google won’t know about one link you buy from one company. Still, we would recommend against it. If this company has sold one link to you,  they could be selling more links to other people. And although one link will not alarm Google, as the amount of questionable links on a website rises, the risk of getting hit by Penguin or a manual penalty rises as well.

Don’t Recycle Your Content on Different Sites

One way to get links is to write articles about your company or about your products and try to get these articles published on other sites. Beware to not publish the same content on different sites though! An article in which sentences and paragraphs are switched and only a few words are altered is still considered duplicate content to the original article. Especially if you repeat this trick several times. Spinning content is not creating new content. It is a link building trick and it could backfire. Write the articles for the audience of the website you’re sending your piece to. Yes, it is a lot of work. No one said link building is easy.

Don’t Forget Social Media

If you’re building links, do not leave out social media! Social media should definitely be included in your link building strategy, although it is not totally clear to what extent links from social media actually help in your ranking. If you’re receiving links from websites, it would be extremely weird if you weren’t receiving some from social media sites as well—and could make you look spammy in Google’s eyes. So alongside your attempts to receive links from appropriate websites, invest in getting shares, tweets, and likes on social media platforms as well.

Don’t Fake!

Your link building strategy shouldn’t look natural, it should be natural! Make sure your link building isn’t fake. Links should be placed because the link could be beneficial to the user of a website. Links should fit the content of the page they’re placed on. Your link building strategy should be part of a marketing strategy aimed at telling people about your company, your website, or your products. It should never be aimed at just getting as many links as possible.

Conclusion: Links Should Always be Useful

From a holistic SEO perspective, links should be useful for the user of a website. A link should be there because it means something, because the text in which the link is embedded refers to that specific page. If a link is merely there for Google and won’t receive any clicking, the link probably shouldn’t be there.

Links are meant to be clicked. Link building should, therefore, be about creating links that are useful for, and clicked on by, the audience of a website! In my next post, I’ll give you some tips on doing link building the Yoast way.

Editor’s Note: To learn more about link building and the future of SEO, listen to this Marketing Nerds podcast with Eric Enge.


This post originally appeared on Yoast, and is re-published with permission.

Image Credits

Featured Image: Image by the Yoast team

Marieke van de Rakt

Marieke van de Rakt

Marieke van de Rakt is both researcher and project manager at Yoast. She has a PhD in Social Sciences, her current research focuses on conversion... Read Full Bio
Marieke van de Rakt
Marieke van de Rakt

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  • Link Juice

    Re: Exchanging links, since when has it not been valid for a wedding cake shop to exchange links with a wedding dress shop?

    • Roger Rogerson

      It’s a matter of volume and relevance.
      There is no harm in reciprocal linking when the reason is logical.
      Having a small % of links between related sites, with varied link text, with the links appearing in “valid” places (such as a links/resources/you might link pages, or in actual relevant content) is perfectly acceptable.

      The problems occur when;
      a) the majority of your inbound links match a number of your outbound links
      b) the majority of your inbound links contain the exact/highly similar link text (that doesn’t match your brand/company/site name)
      c) the inbound links appear in “strange” locations on the origin site (such as crammed into the footer, along with 34 other links).
      d) there is no obvious topical, location or relevant reason for siteA to link to siteB and vice-versa.

      I suggest looking at the Google Guidelines – as they cover the excesses and abuses quite well (though you have to use your imagination a little, as the don’t “spell out” each situation).

      • Link Juice

        Quite. Neither does this article “spell out”. In fact it’s misleading. The statement “Obvious Link Building DON’TS > Exchanging links” is tosh. There is nothing wrong with legitimate link exchanges such as the example I gave. Pees me off because these kind of statements make clients worried when their SEO suggests a perfectly legitimate link exchange.

      • Roger Rogerson

        General rules of thumb;
        1) Don’t do anything to excess
        2) Add variety to / have diversity in your link text
        3) Add variety to / have diversity in your sources
        4) Add variety to / have diversity in your acquisition rate
        5) Add variety to / have diversity in the link destinations ( larger % to homepage, smaller % to products/services, smaller % to blog/articles etc.)
        6) Have variety in the types of links (some nofollowed links are natural)

        I’m personally not a fan of “link building” – but the sheer fear that is fostered at times is ridiculous. Even with Penguin and G cracking down on link networks … there’s still plenty of small and localised link farms that appear to either work or at least not get caught.
        People need to realise that;
        a) G is somewhat forgiving for small transgressions (likely due to (b)…)
        b) G prioritises it’s work load (larger/more influential/most obvious offenders first)
        c) Certain types of links/patterns/sources/locations are actually “natural” despite being “manual”, “mutual” or “generated”.

  • Toby Osbourn

    Thanks for the post – SEO newb here with a question.

    What is the difference between re-publishing and your “Don’t Recycle Your Content on Different Sites” heading?

    I am guessing it is around where you point the canonical link to and stuff like that?

    • Roger Rogerson

      It’s a confusing area, and has caught a lot of people out.

      1) Duplicated content.
      G’s main interest is in pleasing it’s searchers. It doesn’t want to show searchers 53 results of the exact same thing. So it filters most duplicates (and near-duplicates) out of the SERPs, showing the most popular/prominent one.

      2) Loss of value.
      One of the main ideas of content is the value it can give you, the site owner.
      By having the same content on multiple locations, you reduce the chances of getting that value for yourself. Instead, the locations holding copies of your content (or highly similar versions) may get the links/traffic/conversions.

      3) Attention negation.
      People may not have photographics memories … but most of us can remember the general outline of things we have seen and read. When we land on a page and realise the content is pretty much what we have seen elsewhere, we leave.
      That means you’ve lost the chance to convert, have little chance of retention and less chance of gaining their loyalty/trust.

      These issues do not only occur with “spinning” or “basic rewriting”.
      They also occur when you syndicate to sites that don’t follow best practices, and when you supply full content feeds (that others can use to grab a copy of your content). It also applies to stolen/copied content.

      This is one-solution to combat the above issues. Following best practices, correct attribution, linking and even the deployment of the canonical link element, the origin/source gets due credit.
      There is often a time-lapse between the original posting data and the re-publish date as well (permitting the original to get traction/value, and as it declines, you can attempt to capture more by using another site as a traffic source).

      • Toby Osbourn

        Thanks @rogerrogerson:disqus – that helps a lot!

    • Seb Atkinson

      A canonical link should always be used when syndicating content

  • Datascribe Digital Marketing

    Hey thanks for the strategies ,

    one thing i want to ask you , once we submit our article on any article website like ezine. can i post that article link in social media channels like facebook, twitter.

    can i promote my website page links in social media , or it will be any issues like duplicate content or canonical issues

    • Seb Atkinson

      Article marketing sites like EzineArticles have no place in any digital marketing strategy in 2016

      • Datascribe Digital Marketing

        why may i know the reason

  • LJ

    In my opinion it is clear what impact social media links have on SEO – NONE.

  • Connor Wrenn

    So, what the difference between recycling content (which you say is bad) vs. republishing, which is what SEJ has done with this Yoast post?

    • Roger Rogerson

      See the comment below by >> Toby Osbourn

  • Mark

    Social Media link building is definitely a plus to link building strategies

  • Ravi Kumar

    Absolutely Said. Since Long, I read this type of article, I will be surely sharing with my executives.

  • Paul

    HI Marieke van de Rakt you are absolutely right that we should not recycle our content on different sites but i want to ask that why all others website with same services are there. can we don’t share our content included the line in bottom that “originally published in that website”? can we recycle them?