Is it time to review your link building tactics?

Say goodbye to crappy link building tactics

Link building is in a constant state of evolution, as Google quality guidelines keep SEO’s on their toes as to what tactics are legitimate and which are likely to lead to a penalty – and a loss of search rankings and web traffic as a direct result. If you believe everything you read you will start wonder what is left that you can legitimately do without upsetting the Google Gods!

The term ‘link building’ has been devalued in the last few years because of a select few (or a majority) who want to take shortcuts and use spammy tactics as a way of building links to their site, when in truth, link building and in particular guest blogging (on the surface at least) can be a legitimate and informative way to create great content and be rewarded for it by a valued source agreeing to publish it on their website.  The publishing sites put a link back to the content authors sites.  If all guest posting had been used to build reputation, share knowledge and create engaging content  then published in related niches then we would not have seen guest blogging soured in the way it has been recently.  The old saying ‘too many cooks spoil the broth’ comes to mind.

The bad apples have made publishers sit up and take notice, and it is now incredibly difficult to build authoritative links from these sources, which has helped to scare off the spammers but also made publishers lose trust in legitimate sources who want to offer valuable content for the right reasons, e.g. relevance and value to the consumer.  There is still an abundance of low quality blogs filled with spam and pointless advertising so what would be the point in mixing your well constructed thought out content amongst all this trash? There is no point, you are better of posting one good piece of content that is relevant, timely, and engaging on your own blog rather than 5 posts on low quality sites.  If you are posting externally then take time to find a blog that can increase your reputation and add additional visibility.

Dodgy Tactics to Steer Clear of

Webmasters can still use link building as a strategy in 2014 in fact the quality of your links still plays a big part in your ranking and search visibility, so long as you are legitimate and are focussing on quality over quantity. Here are a few pointers as to how not to use link building in the foreseeable future:

  • Paying for links – The Penguin algorithm update has made sure that any spammy link building techniques like this are punished. There is no reason to take this lazy and unethical approach in 2014.
  • Link Exchange – People are often offering a link in exchange for a link. Ask yourself this question: Why would this benefit you? If the answer is: It won’t, steer well clear. Any link exchange should be 100% relevant and as close to your location as possible, so the link makes sense to the search engine and has some value besides link building. For example, a used-car salesman in Essex link exchanging with car-parts and garage businesses in that area makes sense. Car websites in Thailand and India? Not so much.
  • Web Directories – Back in the early days of the web, directories were incredibly useful. Now they are simply spammy in the majority of cases. Only include your website on high quality directories with strong domain authority and relevant to your niche or the top generic directories (like Yell) that have a suitable category, otherwise stay well clear of the other 99%.
  • Fake Social Media Links – We’ve all seen these. Your followers on Twitter suddenly go up by 12, and when you look at the list, 9 of them are pointing to the same site. This is a relatively new and equally spammy tactic for building links, and should definitely not be considered as a way to increase traffic.  Work hard to engage with social contacts in the same way you would at a networking event.  Consider social platforms a two way conversation.  share content, images and video across social media platforms and in return have your content shared, liked, pinned, tweeted and start earning real votes for your site from real people.

Google versus Guest Blogging

The biggest news in recent times is Google’s attack on guest blogging, and more specifically, My Blog Guest, which ‘was’ one of the largest link building networks. My Blog Guest has been supported by a number of publishers, bloggers and SEO’s who believe that Google’s decision to penalise MBG is a manipulation on Google’s part to steer people away from guest blogging, just as Matt Cutts warned was going to happen in his January 2014 blog entry.

The truth is, MBG made an effort to wean out the spammers and the low quality bloggers, but there inevitably going to be people who try to manipulate the system, when they could have simply put in the effort and gone down the legitimate route. This is an issue that every industry has, and it is unlikely to go away, which keeps Matt Cutts in employment for at least the next decade.

The Way Forward

The whole MBG debacle wreaks of a PR stunt designed by Google to instil fear in the link building and guest blogging community, but there is a future in both, so long as you focus on the following:

  • Quality
  • Relevance
  • Creativity
  • Worth

Link building or ‘link earning’ as we refer to it at RAD SEO on principle alone sounds manipulative and one-sided, with all the benefits aimed at the person seeking the link. There are many good ways to earn backlinks which I will go into in another post but you will need time, effort and creativity in your approach.  In 2014, the game has changed, and those people who aren’t prepared to update their SEO strategy to focus on great content for readers and sharers will likely suffer in the future. The way forward is to create the kind of content that YOU would be willing to read and share with your friends, social allies, communities and networks, and make it so compelling, relevant and interesting that the top publishers are begging you to publish with them, not the other way around.

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