Is the art of link building dead? Is link building a sure fire way to get a Google penalty? The simple answer is no, however the landscape in which we go about link building has changed forever and has become somewhat chaotic. If you don’t choose very wisely where you source your links, then you are at risk of a Google penalty or rankings decrease. Here are 12 ways that will almost certainly lead to a Google penalty or rankings drop, either now or at some point in the future:
- Article directories – directories that serve no purpose other than to provide links are dead and buried. That’s not to say all directories are worthless, because that is not the case. However, they need to be highly topical, niche and authoritative.
- Press Releases – press releases that are complete nonsense and filled with keyword rich anchor text will no longer work. However, that’s not to say that a quality press release with linkable quality will not get written about and linked by credible websites (that’s completely different).
- Article Databases – just like article directories, databases that try to be authoritative on all subject matters are a sure fire way to get yourself a Google penalty. Saying that, databases that are credible and a high source of traffic do still work.
- Link Networks – if you are involving yourself in a link network for the purpose of improving Google rankings then at some point you will get found out. That’s not to say if you own 3 or 4 websites across the globe, you shouldn’t link to one another because you should. Just look at Virgin. They have a plethora of websites that each link to one another.
- Paid links – links that are paid are a direct violation of Google quality guidelines. However, that’s not to say that all paid links are a waste of time.
- Exact Match Keyword Rich Anchor Text – too many keyword rich or money words will most certainly ring alarm bells with Google. Genuine links that are not engineered are likely to be branded or contain just the website URL. A typical backlink profile will contain lots of various anchor text phrases and that’s normal. Expedia were recently on the receiving end of a Google rankings drop and evidence suggests it was related to too many keyword rich anchor text phrases and ‘do follow’ links pointing to their domain and subdomains.
- Widgets – be very careful with widgets. Halifax were on the receiving end of a Google penalty recently and strong evidence suggests that much of the cause was keyword rich widgets. Widgets that embed or require inclusion of source code don’t work. But not all widgets are like this so choose carefully.
- Guest Posting – Matt Cutts recently announced that if you embark on a guest post strategy for the purpose of gaining links, then you should probably stop. Guest posting is increasingly spammy, and for sure spam posting will get you nowhere. But again, that’s not to say that all guest posting is spam. Authoritative authors who guest post on niche and authoritative websites still do work.
- Infographics – again this is another technique that has become a little spammy with too many infographics depicting same subject matter.
- Reciprocal linking – I wrote an in depth article in Oct 2013 on this matter here – reciprocal linking for the purpose of passing link juice or to increase Google rankings doesn’t work. But not all reciprocal links are dead. Again, I use the example of Virgin above. I have no doubt that all of their websites link to one another, is this not reciprocal linking?
- Unresponsive websites – I wrote an article in Nov 2013 indicating there was evidence that Google was now penalising websites that were not mobile friendly and where websites were showing 404 errors on mobile devices, despite the pages existing when viewed on a computer. If you have a website that is not mobile friendly, then it won’t be long until Google starts to devalue your website with a rankings drop. This is because most of us now browse the web using our smart phone and tablet devices.
- Send Matt Cutts an email asking for a link – Take a look at a post Matt Cutts recently published and have a look at the email he refers to from a content marketer. There is probably no quicker way to get your website noticed by Google (and a subsequent reduction in rankings). Anyone foolish enough to bring their site to the attention of Matt Cutts seeking reciprocal, guest posting or any other questionable link building practice, in my opinion deserves to be banished from Google.
In today’s linking environment, link building has become a noisy matter. All of the above does not work, yet all of the above does work depending on where the links are coming from and what other links you have to your website.
What the above should illustrate to you, that for every poor strategy there is also a good strategy. So link wisely. More importantly, link for customers rather than search engines.
There is however, one linking strategy that will never lead to a Google penalty or rankings drop and that is ‘Stealth Links’. Stealth links are designed to attract high quality traffic to your website, but these links are undetectable by Google.
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