Earning links – the good and the bad
We are all aware that a website need links to rank well, but the big question is, what is a good link and what is a bad one? Google’s guidelines will tell you that you need to build links naturally, which is true to an extent, however we will guide you through the do’s and the don’ts when acquiring links.
When analysing a company’s link profile, the first thing the search engine crawler will analyse is whether it looks natural. Is there a spike in referring domains? Is there a spurt of links from one IP? Does it look like a PBN? These are all things that need to be considered, and if your link profile does look unnatural, we recommend speaking to an SEO expert.
It’s true that building links in the right way does take more time and there is a lot more skill involved, but the rewards are much more prevalent. If you get it wrong, it can often be time consuming and costly to fix.
Create Visual Assets
Everyone worth their salt knows that visual assets are great link bait. The primary reason that every time somebody shares your infographic, image, diagram etc. you get a link back, which isn’t the case when you display the same information as text.
Visuals aren’t only beneficial for link building though – they are proven to increase the time a user spends on a particular page (which case studies show Google use as a ranking signal) and they can be used across your social channels to drive engagement, whilst generating shares and reactions.
Create The Ultimate Guide
If you are an expert in your industry, there’s no reason why you can’t create the ultimate guide! This means that you essentially create a great resource that tells the user everything there is to know about a topic relevant to your niche.
Once you have chosen a topic to create the ultimate resource, it’s time to generate something that’s engaging, packed with information and most importantly, share-worthy.
Despite the myth, creating amazing content isn’t enough alone. You need to promote that content and get it seen by the right people, which is where good old fashioned outreach comes into play.
The days of churning out poorly written, keyword rich content and placing it on a third party website is long gone, however, if guest blogging is done correctly, it can still be an effective method for boosting your website’s rankings and authority.
In today’s environment, it is imperative that these articles are written to provide value to the user and not solely for the acquisition of links. If you are guest blogging for the sole intention of creating links, it is almost guaranteed that this technique won’t work and could potentially harm your rankings.
Due to Google penalising sites that use guest posting as a link building technique, we would instead recommend planning cautiously and using the technique to boost your brand awareness, as well as reaching out to a wider audience in your niche. If you can do this well, then you will see inbound links start to flurry in as a result!
Going back a few years, directories were king when it came to link building. Unfortunately for many marketers, this technique was buried when Google rolled out Penguin and many sites that were listed in thousands of directories were penalised.
Despite this, niche directories can be an extremely valuable link source. These aren’t technically traditional looking directories that list multiple website’s under a specific category, but instead could be networking groups, industry specific associations or trade organisations websites.
Here are a few things to consider:
Does the directory accept anybody that pays a fee? Avoid.
Does the directory publish content from the source that can be indexed? Avoid.
Does the directory regularly assess their outbound links to ensure all sites are still live? Consider.
Does the directory have a low spam score? Consider.
Does the directory have feature a lot of keyword rich anchor text? Avoid.
Link building is an art that requires practice, skill, patience and most importantly, time. If you use the wrong techniques then you can expect to have wasted a lot of resources and could even incur a penalty from Google.
Below are some of the link building techniques that you should avoid at all costs.
Private Blog Networks
Since Penguin arrived, we have seen Google penalise private blog networks (PBNs) and the sites that they link to. Back in 2014 Google started to send out thousands of manual action notifications to webmasters that participate in these schemes, and continue to do so to this day.
Many bloggers have reported using PBNs for short-term gains, however, if you are serious about promoting your business’ online presence in the long term, you should steer clear. It’s easy for Google to recognise these networks and once they do, you will be hit with an instant penalty which will cause serious headaches.
Comment & Forum Spam
Some business owners may consider posting a link to their website on forums and comment sections of blogs, however, from an SEO perspective, this technique is going to do a lot more harm than good.
Not only does it damage the perception and value of the brand, but this technique is also likely to pass on no benefit in terms of links, due to most forums and comment sections utilising “rel=nofollow” for all outbound links.
By using this technique you are playing with fire – there are little benefits to be had, whilst you are risking a link-based penalty.
Automated Link Schemes
Link networks continue to be a problem despite Google aggressively tackling the matter for a number of years. Despite there being a high chance that your website will be penalised if you join such a scheme, many unknowing business owners sign up to automated services that result in thousands of unrelated, spammy incoming links – we can assure you that it isn’t a simple process to rectify either!
Ads that state things such as “Boost your rankings quickly” or “Get 1000 backlinks for $50” are the most obvious signs that you’re signing up to an automated link network, however, many dud SEO agencies also use them for quick results. Instead, we often see that pages are penalised, or even worse, the website is de-indexed and doesn’t appear in the SERP’s at all until the links are disavowed.
In order to avoid automated link schemes, it is important to consult with a knowledgeable SEO expert.
The best practice for link building is to place the anchor text naturally in a body of relevant text. By placing a link in a sites footer, header or sidebar, it is automatically given less weight by Google due to webmasters spamming these locations in the past.
In general, Google’s algorithm will either completely ignore inbound sitewide links or pass very little weight. The guidelines recommend that sitewide links which appear as a result things like advertisements and royalties are nofollow.
Wrapping things up…
Links are still the most important ranking factor in Google’s algorithm, however, if you get it wrong you could be in serious trouble and face a penalty.
We would love to speak to you regarding your digital strategy and offer our expert advice. If you would like to discuss your requirements, feel free to drop us a message or pop in for a coffee and discuss all things digital.