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If you are familiar with search engine optimization (SEO), you probably know that getting other sites to link to yours is important—a robust offsite Web presence helps you rank well in search engines. (If you don’t know what backlinks are and why they’re important, here is a really good guide.) However, effective, ethical link building is tough to accomplish, and it can be tempting to engage in practices that get you links quickly and easily. Unfortunately, many of these tactics result in penalties from Google, and while you may see success in the short-term, you will quickly see a drop in rankings that can be difficult to recover.
Below I’ll explain the link building mistakes that will result in a penalty from Google and suggest alternative strategies.
Buying or Selling Links
Never pay for links (or posts that contain links). I don’t just mean don’t trade money; don’t trade goods or services, either. For example, you shouldn’t send someone a “free” product with the understanding that they will write about it and include a link to your site.
With the introduction of Penguin 4.0, Google’s ranking algorithm now checks—in real time!—for spammy links. A site that has paid-for links usually has an unusually large number of outbound links compared to the site’s size, which is a signal that it could be putting out content that is designed to manipulate Google’s algorithm. When you receive links from sites like that you can be considered guilty by association—Google takes into account the quality of your inbound links when deciding where your pages should rank.
Instead, you should create quality content that others will naturally think is valuable enough to link to—in other words, you need to have something worth linking to before you receive links. Your content should be:
- In demand
How do you know if a topic is worth writing about? Keyword research, competitor analysis, and expertise on a topic are all necessary. Don’t think you have the time to do all of it yourself? Blue Corona offers content marketing services delivered by a team of specialists who are trained to identify and create content that gets results.
Participating in Link Exchanges
Link exchanges happen when two or more parties agree to follow each other reciprocally. It doesn’t make sense for a site to always be linked back to by sites it links out to, and Google sees large-scale occurrences of that as a signal of unnatural link building.
As Google and other search engines continue to refine their ranking algorithms, they all focus on making their service more useful to their users. They want to make sure that the results they return for each search are truly relevant and useful, and therefore any SEO practice that is designed to “game the system” is (or will be) penalized.
Instead, you should focus on getting your premium content in front of trustworthy influencers in an ethical way. Depending on your industry, business model, and goals, the content distribution channels you should consider using include:
- Email campaigns
- Press campaigns
- Community groups (like your local Chamber of Commerce or industry associations)
- Forums (but whatever you do, don’t leave post comments or signatures with overly optimized anchor texts in these venues)
- Social networks
- Paid social media ads
Making Directory Links a Large Portion of Your Link Portfolio
Directory links are one of the easiest ways to get backlinks to your website—and you should utilize them. Many of them are reputable and having complete, consistent NAP citations with them can drastically improve your local SEO. However, for most directory sites, anyone can get a link there—and that’s not good news for you.
The more selective a site is with who it links to, the more value its link will pass on to you. On the flip side, if a site links to many other sites, their links don’t have much weight. If you have too many links with little value, Google will assume that your site has little value and will not rank your content highly in search results.
Instead, when you consider which directories you will get links from, keep in mind that link relevance is a factor in Google’s algorithm. Link relevance defines what your page is about, so it’s best to get links from directories that have something in common with the topics on your website.
Avoid Google Penalties and Get a Rich Linking Profile with Blue Corona
If you’ve already been penalized for black-hat link building, don’t worry. While rebuilding your site’s authority is a challenge, it is possible. We have successfully helped many small businesses recover from SEO mistakes, and we can help you, too.
If you don’t know if you’ve been penalized, we can help, too! Fill out the form below, and we’ll provide you with a free SEO analysis that will help you understand:
- Who is linking to your website
- The quality of your current inbound link profile
- How your backlink portfolio compares to your competitors’
Finally, if ethical, effective link building sounds like a lot of work that you don’t have time to do, you’ve come to the right place. Blue Corona specializes in getting small and medium sized businesses more qualified traffic, leads, and sales through proven, data-driven SEO strategies, and we can deliver for your company. Contact us today to learn more, or get started by filling out the form below for a free SEO analysis!
About The Author: Jenny is an SEO Analyst at Blue Corona. When she's not helping her clients grow their businesses through the web, she enjoys furnishing her new home and exploring new restaurants with her husband.
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