If you are a small business owner or a new SEO, you may not be fully aware of which link building techniques are safe and which ones are not. Link building methods have evolved over time due to search engine algorithm changes, so you need to stay updated on the latest strategies. Using outdated or black-hat methods may lead to a penalty or even worse, a ban. Most of these methods are not even considered black-hat, in and of itself. It is really how you carry out these methods that determine the color of the SEO hat.
Do not buy your links from link networks. This method might have been effective a few years ago, but not anymore. With Google’s Penguin update, link networks are no longer safe. In fact, many link networks have been hit hard lately, including the sites that have used their services.
Sponsored Posts or Advertorials
This is another commonly used method for building links. There is a very thin line between a sponsored post and a guest post, however, there are two distinctions that make sponsored post bad vs a guest post that is generally acceptable. One, they are paid for. And, two, the sponsored article blatantly endorses or recommends a commercial product or service. Izideo.com has a massive list of websites that accept guest posts. It’s important that you find a niche in which you can provide some relevant, quality content.
Mass Article Marketing & Press Releases
According to Google, any “Large-scale article marketing or guest posting campaigns with keyword-rich anchor text links” are considered violations of their Webmaster Guidelines. This statement pretty much covers any type of marketing that involves an article with the intent to pass PR juice. This can be guest posts, press releases, or any articles. The key here seems to be “large scale” and “keyword-rich anchor text links.” So, I would say it is OK to do guest posts, press releases or article marketing, as long as you are not over-optimizing the anchor text (pretty vague), and you are not mass publishing the same articles across different sites.
There is no point in distributing the same article to more than one site because the copies will be counted as duplicate content. And, never use re-spun articles. While they may be cheaper, you get what you pay for – an article that sounds terribly awkward and not made for human consumption.
Forum Comments or Signatures
SEO-wise, forum links carry very little weight, so for me, it’s not even worth the effort. The exception would be is if you are already a member of a forum and you have a link to a relevant resource, then by all means do it. Just be sure you are sharing information that is helpful to others and only linking when it is appropriate and relevant. Google has said that “Forum comments with optimized links in the post or signature” can be considered a violation of their guidelines. Again, Google uses the term “optimized links” which further fuels the confusion.
Automated Blog Comments
Avoid using any automated blog commenting software. While it might save time, the chances of your comments ending up in the spambox is pretty high. Plus, why would you want to associate your site with spam? I get a bunch of these spam comments. 99% of them get caught by Askimet, and the ones that make it through, are pretty easy to figure out. This is not to say blog comments don’t work. I think they do work quite effectively if you do it the right way. Take one comment at a time and leave something thoughtful.
Low Quality Directories
Links from low quality directories have been disregarded for years. Don’t waste your time with them. Do consider submitting your sites to high quality directories.
Bookmarking sites are like old school link farms, except they are better organized. It is too easy for anyone to open an account with a bookmarking site and start spamming the crap out of their sites. You might consider bookmarking a site for the direct traffic you might get if you’re on the first page, but other than that, I don’t see any SEO value.
Excessive Link Exchanges
Link exchanges were the primary way people built links back then. It was not only easy, but the success rate was quite high. The reason why I titled this section with the word “excessive” is because I believe link exchanges are still effective as long as it is done with some editorial discretion. By being conservative with your outbound links and by being picky with your link partners, you’ll limit your site to only quality links. Quality is the name of the game.
Footer or Widget Links
Template authors and widget creators have been inserting their PR-passing links on their works of art for years. Apparently Google didn’t like that idea, so they’ve started discounting those links and telling webmasters to no-follow them. As with any links on your site, be selective with the links you include in the footer or widget. Limit the links to a handful of trusted sites, and make sure the link is relevant to the content of your site.
With the release of Panda and Penguin, it can be quite confusing to figure out the proper way to build links. The best advice I can give you is – use your common sense and optimize for your visitors, not the search engines. Because in the end, the only thing that really matters are the users. Search engines favor websites that are created with the users in mind. When you go into the mind of the search engines, you will understand why they keep updating their algorithm. They want the users coming back for more.
Can you think of any other link building methods to avoid?