There are cardinal virtues in search engine optimization, like producing one-of-a-kind content or building a network of publishers that share links — but there are cardinal sins as well, and within the deepest, darkest, innermost circle of SEO heck is link spam.
Not too long ago, spamming links wasn’t an SEO sin; it was common practice for improving rank. However, now that Google is smart enough to recognize spam — and to recognize many other types of artificial link building, as well — you need to be much more careful about the links that lead back to your website. If you aren’t sure what a spammy link looks like, consider the following examples of link spam that will put you in Google’s bad books:
One of the oldest link spamming practices in the books, this tactic involves posting links to your pages with comments sections of various websites. Even though Google eliminated comment spam as a valuable linking tool decades ago, the practice continues to thrive — to the detriment of every website that participates in it. The sooner you break your comment spamming habit, the sooner your search ranking will rise.
Networking with legitimate content publishers isn’t a bad thing — in fact, it is a white-hat tactic that trustworthy link building services engage in to help you increase your ranking. However, blog networks are groups of fake blogs that exist only to publish paid content and links. Often, the content is low-quality, and the website itself doesn’t get much user traffic, so Google can identify a network quickly and attack linked websites with actions.
Web 2.0 Blogs
Web 2.0 refers to websites like Tumblr or WordPress, where almost all content is user-generated — as opposed to Forbes or the Huffington Post, which has content created by organizations or professionals. Black-hat SEOs will create two-page Web 2.0 blogs, which consist of nothing more or less than a poor-quality piece of content containing a link back to a page they are trying to rank. Not only do these blogs do almost nothing to affect rankings — because social media and user-generated pages don’t carry much weight in Google’s algo — but they are also easy for Google to find and discount.
Also called sitewide links, these links appear on every page on a website. In the past, you could pay a website to place your link in their sitewide footer, where few site visitors look, to radically increase the number of links pointing to your site. Google’s Penguin update effectively eliminated the effectiveness of this practice. Today, few legitimate publishers are willing to entertain a paid footer link, and you should avoid the practice, too.
Syndicated Press Releases
Press releases serve a number of legitimate purposes, but SEOs have long been using press releases to push links. These days, Google is remarkably good at sorting high-quality, valuable press releases from those intended only for link-building, so it is imperative that you only publish and syndicate a press release that has a real reason to exist — like a new product or a change to service.
You have probably heard the term clickbait, which refers to low-quality content designed to get users to click, even if they don’t like or engage with the content. Linkbait is a similar concept: Offering valuable content that produces a number of natural and legitimate links, then redirecting those links to a more profitable page, like a product page. Link Baiting is rare because not many people are willing to put in the time to generate high-quality content only to trick visitors later on. If you do have content resources with plenty of links, you should find a way to update them to give you value rather than wrecking those hard-earned links with a bait-and-switch.
You might have been tempted to participate in black-hat linking practices in the past, leading to a significant drop in your website ranking over time. If you have seen the error of your ways, you might think it easier to scrap that old domain and build a new one from scratch — and redirect that old domain to your new one. This is a practice called cleansing, which might seem like a smart way to cut loose of troublesome linking practices but is in fact an easy tactic for Google to catch and punish. Instead, you need to work diligently to remove outdated and poor-quality links to improve your ranking slowly and surely over time.
Link building is an essential practice for developing an online presence, but there are good and bad ways to build links. By avoiding link spam, you can rapidly improve your reputation with web users and Google alike.