Last December, we at Yoast wrote about all the things that you should take in account when cleaning up bad backlinks. We asked Christoph at LinkResearchTools to check all of the information to ensure we were not missing anything.
When going over that post, we felt that we should elaborate on the subject of link building on our website, although link building is not the same (trade) as website optimization. And that is why we are pleased to present you with this post Christoph wrote for you.
In this article, you will find practical tips and smart alternatives to dangerous link building strategies.
Link Building Today: “Sweat Plus Creativity”
Before the first Google Penguin update in 2012, people just wanted to build as many links as possible, using any available means. In the Penguin era the focus has shifted to white hat SEO – building trusted and powerful links. Is this easy? Of course it’s not!
Building high quality links is no easy job. As Matt Cutts said (SMX, June 2014) it’s possible to do white hat SEO, but this takes “Sweat plus creativity”. All of the sudden link building stopped being an easy thing to do, because Google’s search algorithm grew more complex, easily detecting any attempts of manipulation.
Avoiding dangerous link building strategies and understanding how you can build links the right way is really important if you want to keep your position top in the search engines.
Industrial “Penguin Proof” Link Building. Really?
There are hundreds of thousands of agencies that offer link building services. It’s cheap, it’s fast, you don’t have to struggle at all and they often claim the links they build overnight are “Penguin proof”. It looks like you found the perfect deal. What else could you wish for? It sounds too good to be true and most probably, it is.
Quantity is not quality and a link building strategy that doesn’t add value to anyone is what Google calls spam:
Any links intended to manipulate PageRank or a site’s ranking in Google search results may be considered part of a link scheme and a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. This includes any behavior that manipulates links to your site or outgoing links from your site.
Bad Link Building Strategies & Smart Alternatives
1. Buying or Selling Links
Google clearly states that buying backlinks to improve your rankings is against their webmaster quality guidelines. They see links as votes and it’s not ethical to pay for votes. Links bought from sites that openly state they sell links are your ticket to a Google Penalty!
Instead of buying links, you can invest in creating high quality content that will attract natural backlinks. Taking this approach doesn’t cost you more than buying a bunch of bad links, and you can ultimately achieve much better results, it just requires more patience, “sweat plus creativity”.
The secret to success is placing a link inside high quality content and making sure it leads to high quality content.
Here’s what Google says about links and content:
The best way to get other sites to create high-quality, relevant links to yours is to create unique, relevant content that can naturally gain popularity in the Internet community. Creating good content pays off: Links are usually editorial votes given by choice, and the more useful content you have, the greater the chances someone else will find that content valuable to their readers and link to it.
If you want a risk-free approach to SEO then don’t buy links.
2. Excessive Link Exchanges
Exchanging links with people you know just for the sake of cross-linking will negatively impact your website’s ranking in search results. Here is an example of how reciprocal linking can go wrong: You have a website about legal services and you link to a bakery and have that bakery website link to you, then you may have just created a worthless link. Imagine that you continue by linking to coffee shops, clothing stores, computer repair businesses, garden equipment, and so on and they all link back to you. This reciprocal link exchange may cause Google to penalize your website.
As long as reciprocal linking is not done excessively and these links make sense and are relevant to the users of both websites, there is nothing to worry about.
If the website of a Court Office links to a legal website and the legal website has a link to the Court Office, this link is not harmful. It may not have great value for boosting a website’s ranking, but it surely provides value to the users of both websites.
It’s great that people write about you and link back to your website, but just as long as they create links in a natural way. Stuffing the anchor text with money keywords is far from natural and will surely get you in trouble.
Using brand keywords or navigational phrases is a good option in this case. Obsessing about money anchor text is wrong. It’s important to have anchor texts that are relevant to your website, but keep in mind that using money keywords as anchor text for all your inbound links is a bad practice and may put you on Google’s blacklist.
4. Adding Links to Any Link Directory
Adding your site to any web directory just to get a backlink will have a negative effect on your website’s ranking. Most web directories out there provide no real value to the Internet users and Google has excluded them from its search results. You don’t want your website to be in there!
Search for trusted directories. There are a few for every niche. These directories provide useful information to you, your target audience, and your potential customers.
The new PageRank is relevancy, therefore building links in niche directories and directories belonging to informative websites relevant for your industry are beneficial for you.
5. Optimized Links Placed in Unhelpful Forums or Blog Comments
Participating in forum discussions and adding random comments to any blog out there or overusing money keywords in your anchor texts is completely wrong and spammy.
Participate in an active discussion on a forum or blog that is relevant to your business and make sure your comment provides contextual value to the discussion. Now you don’t have to worry about sharing a relevant link.
6. Web Directory Listings
Adding your site to any web directory just to get a backlink will have a negative effect on your website’s ranking. Most directories provide no real value to the Internet users and Google has excluded them from its search results. Again, you don’t want your website to be in there.
There are some good directories that also provide useful information for you and your potential customers and are closely related to your industry.
For example, a business web directory that specializes in legal services and lists lawyers all over the world. With listings organized by practice area and location, this would be a place that would help a user find the best lawyer for their case.
At the same time, the directory can contain a knowledge database with the most recent legal updates in the world. This web directory is both valuable for people who need a lawyer and for lawyers themselves.
Real link building is no easy job. Creating great links takes a lot of time and requires effort, but building links that create value for both your users and the Web is what great link building is all about.
This year I revisited my 7 Golden Rules of Link Building, first presented to the world at the A4UExpo 2009 in Amsterdam.
A lot has changed in SEO and Link Building since then and looking at the rules in the light of the Google quality guidelines in 2015, I was surprised how well they still match the requirements today!
Never buy backlinks! They will only hurt your website. Focus on people, focus on value and spend your SEO budget wisely.
High Quality Content and Natural Anchor Text images used with permission of LinkResearchTools.
This post originally appeared on Yoast, and is re-published with permission.