For years, webmasters and online marketers alike knew that the way to rank with the search engines was to have hundreds, if not thousands, of links pointing to their site. That told Google they were popular and caused them to stand up and take notice. While link building is still a primary staple of a solid SEO campaign, it is not the holy grail it once was.
If you’ve been in the industry for any amount of time, then you know how quickly things change. The link-building strategies that worked just a few years ago are now frowned upon by Google. Get caught using them and they will penalize you — putting you in an Internet “time out” until you learn to play nice again. Bottom line, your site can be de-indexed or heavily penalized — which means your website traffic will go down dramatically and so will your revenue.
As a webmaster myself, I am sad to say I was put into “time out.” I built my sites years ago and used link-building strategies that I learned from some well-known gurus. Back then, the strategies were effective, even mainstream … and they worked quite well. As the rules changed, some of my strategies became “black hat” and are now a big no-no in Google’s eyes.
“Black hat” refers to any technique, strategy, or practice that specifically targets the search engines — ignoring the user altogether. These techniques do not comply with search engine rules and, when used, get flagged and result in penalties.
Some of these “black hat” link-building practices are more obvious than others. But some of them are relatively new and are being used and even recommended by some experts. If you follow suit, you could wind up in a heap of trouble.
Could you be breaking the rules? Do a self-audit by reviewing this list:
Link Swapping — This is the “I’ll scratch your back, you scratch mine” approach where sites agree to swap links. Usually this is a two-way swap where you link to me and I’ll link to you. However, some more crafty tricksters have even used the three-way swap. This is when A links to B, B links to C, and C links to A. Either way … you will be busted!
Paid Links — If you’re buying, selling, or bartering links on sites that have a high PageRank value in order to give your site a boost, you are setting yourself up for trouble.
Article Blasting — Spinning content to make it appear original and submitting it to article directories such as EZineArticles.com or ArticleDashboard.com.
This was a wildly successful strategy because anchor text links were included in the body of the article and a backlink to your site was included in the signature. But the articles are typically of low-quality and provide no user benefit. That makes this strategy a no-no.
Link Directories — Submitting website links to directory sites where the content is primarily categorized hyperlinks to external sites. This is done manually or with a software submission tool — submitting to hundreds of directories at a time with just the push of a button.
Hiding Links — Creating content on another website and hiding links by using a font color that is the same as the background, using a font setting of 0, or hyperlinking a character — such as a hyphen.
Forum Posting — Posting vague and unhelpful comments in forums and including a backlink to your site as part of your signature.
Your article on “black hat” link-building strategies was very helpful!
— Tricky Tommy
Press Releases — Writing keyword-stuffed press releases with lots of hyperlinks and/or submitting them to low-quality, free press release sites.
Guest Blogging — Blogging for other sites and using duplicate, tweaked, or irrelevant content; using keyword rich anchor text in the content and/or signature; blogging on low-quality websites.
Infographics and Widgets — Creating widgets and infographics where the code includes links to a site and does not have a rel=”nofollow” attribute. Without the rel=“nofollow” attribute, anyone who embeds these objects into their sites will be, unknowingly, creating a link back to the site.
There are many other non-link related techniques that break the rules, too, including cloaking, keyword stacking and/or stuffing, bait page swapping, using gateway pages, duplicate content, duplicate websites, and using irrelevant anchor text keywords. There are many others — all cross ethical boundaries one way or another … I think you get the drift.
Bottom line is to refrain from using any strategy that doesn’t pass the sniff test. Always ask yourself, am I doing this for the user or for the search engine? If your strategy is not user-centric, chances are high the search engines won’t like it either.
I speak from experience. Because of my use of what was once acceptable link-building strategies, I took a hard hit. As a result, I spent a lot of time having to clean up the mess so my sites could rebound.
While these techniques don’t fair too well anymore, there are some really creative strategies you can implement that will allow you to build a solid online reputation. In my next article, I will share some great strategies you can use for your own sites — as well as for your clients.
Until then … play nice and don’t get sent to “time out”!
This article is part of the Link Building series.
Series Table of Contents:
- Inbound Linking Practices: Don’t Get a Google “Time-Out” (This Article)
- 5 Unique Inbound Link-Building Strategies that Pack a Powerful Punch