Shady Link Building Tactics Could Damage You

Genie This has come up quite a few times over the years. An organization is looking to rank higher in search and looks for opportunities to do some link building through blogs.

You may have seen some of those comments here — they look like indignant opinions with questionable link backs to other sites.

Except for I either delete them after the welcome email I send kicks back, or take the bite out of the post by removing the link and stating so in my response.

Andrew Shotland has a simple story at Search Engine Land that drives to the heart of the problem with questionable SEO practices.

He is right, in the haste of getting someone to get you good rankings, you may have gotten yourself in an online reputation pickle.

Shotland suggests a few questions you should ask to figure that out:

  • Are you doing anything that can get my website banned/penalized in the search engines?
  • Are you buying links?
  • Are you comment spamming?
  • Are you writing fake reviews?
  • Are you creating fake addresses and profiles for me on Google Places and other local search sites
  • Are you doing anything that might result in my having a huge black eye in the SERPs for queries for my business’ name or my name?

Indeed, many aggressive marketers do employ a combination of these techniques. They are probably the same ones who are looking too closely at the short term without considering the long term impact of their decisions on the organization or brand.  

They don't benefit from the long tail of content because that's not their strategy in the first place.

Otherwise, they would know what makes content worthy of links. No, it's not a broadcast email from a perfect stranger to a bunch of high ranking sites or blogs requesting a link exchange with some version of the following wording in the body:

I have checked out your website and read about you on some of the Social Media sites which is the reason that I am contacting you. I have been very impressed with your attitude and approach on Social Media and network marketing and would like to create a mutually beneficial relationship.

Flattery will not get one everywhere, especially when the next sentence contains a request for the site or blog owner to do something for them — generally a version of "you could leverage your network" when they really mean *they* want to leverage it for (pick one) "paid links on the blog", "link exchanges", "driving traffic to a site", etc.

You get the idea. And they are willing to offer, get this, free membership to site "xyz", so you can do more of it. In other words, you could get paid to peddle some product or other on behalf of perfect strangers with whom there is no existing trust relationship or product vetting.

The offer is usually for a limited time only and to a select group, of course. Who doesn't love to feel like a VIP?

The truth is there is a direct correlations between credibility, reputation, and links — both inbound and outbound. My own take on link building skews towards organic with consistent effort over time. I write for people, not search engines.

To me, for any business to succeed, you need to have a real value proposition distilled into a real message that means something to people, that inspires them to better understand things, or see them differently — not just a way to get your hand into their pockets.

That is the stuff that gets forwarded and linked to. Which is why many of the tactics you find above may work for the short term, and will damage you long term. People are spending more and more time online. They're learning to see through that kind of stuff.

My one wish for search and link building is to be honest and, if not that, at least transparent. What is/are your wishes?

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0 responses to “Shady Link Building Tactics Could Damage You”

  1. Definitely. Search engines have to provide the answers that searchers are seeking. The more game-able they are, the less valuable their results potentially become. There’s nothing wrong with trying to make your content more valuable to searchers by making it more relevant to their queries, and the same goes for dropping links in comments…no problem generally as long as it actually adds value to the comment stream, but the less related your page actually is to a search or to a comment stream where the link was posted, the more spammy your practices become.

  2. Yes, yes, yes!!! I get a few emails like that each week. My spam folder for the most part picks them up which says volumes. I find the whole practice distasteful. I prefer it to happen organically. It may take longer, but in the end is much better.

  3. IMHO, things like SEO and ROI should always take a back seat to more important activities such as providing real value to others. Like you said, Valeria, “I write for people, not search engines.”
    There is no SEO greater than genuinely helping people. There is no ROI greater than inspiring someone to take action.
    Anything else is just ego.

  4. @Eric – I was looking at an interesting presentation by Luminary Labs tonight about how Google surfaces searches. And of course I look forward to the algorithm preferring original content sites vs. scrapers. My thinking is if you are genuinely engaged/interested, the links are natural.
    @Anne Marie – wish those emails were at least entertaining or creative.
    @Brian – in some circles I’d be called a purist.
    @Ivan – good luck with your issues. Thank you for the link to Brian’s interview. I think I had come across it.

  5. I sometimes wonder if the comment spammers are just hoping to catch my eye as oppose to thinking we’ll actually publish them…
    A perspective I have on short-sighted SEO tactics is that if Google can box a strategy into any type of pattern (that then could become questionable), then you’re always putting the website/brand/company at risk.
    For example, the structure of blog comments are easy to identify and therefore could be completely ignored for search value if they wanted to.
    The point is that you can invest a lot of time trying to game the system or you can invest that same time building a sustainable business. Google has a lot of talented people (and resources for) evaluating spam tactics and how people try to manipulate the system.

  6. Any serious company should heavily evaluate who they hire to handle their linking. Taking the time to build natural links is going to be well worth it in the long run, especially with all of Google’s filters in place.
    @Derek also pointed out how comments can easily be spotted, and Google no doubt can pick up on nefarious tactics.
    @Ivan you can now test out Google’s original content source meta tags to fight the scrapers. I usually see the scraper site get put down after a week or two…too long imho!

  7. Either my naivety is reaching into my professional life (which doesn’t often happen) or people have way too much time on their hands! Buying links? Comment spamming? Give me a break! Find something else to do, people!

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