Link building remains one of the fundamental precepts of search engine optimization, and this is not going to change any time soon. However, like everything in life and SEO, the only constant is change. A few months back, Google updated its Link Schemes web page, laying out the latest list of spammy backlinks that are likely to land a website in hot water. So, the time comes round again to review what Google considers to be bad backlinks so SEOs and webmasters avoid falling foul of the latest link building protocols.
This one’s a no brainer. Google doesn’t like links that you paid for. It never has and it never will. Webmasters that are buying and selling links to improve their page rankings are going to continue to be severely penalized by Google. If you are exchanging backlinks for money or services, you are putting your page ranking at risk, and sooner than later your website is going to tumble in the search results.
Unnatural Link Exchanges
Exchanging links with other websites is a normal part of white hat SEO practices. However, those links need to make sense from the end user’s perspective. For example, a website devoted to cats would naturally have links to an animal shelter. Google is penalizing unnatural links, such as a cat-centric website with links to an auto dealership. These unnatural link exchanges will get flagged by Google as manipulative, and your site will suffer.
Automatic Link Building
There are a number of black hat SEO services that promise hundreds of backlinks to your site. These automatically generated backlinks are, by there very nature, low value, and unnatural. Google doesn’t want to see this type of link building employed on websites, and will be quick to ban those sites that are using automatic link building to game the system.
Guest posting on other websites and blogs is a tried and true SEO technique, and it continues to be a valuable strategy for webmasters. However, Google is beginning to crack down on SEOs and webmasters who are relying too much on guest posting to increase their website’s page ranking. While guest posting continues to be a viable SEO strategy, it should be done in moderation. Too many guest posts on other websites, submitted only to deploy keywords and drive traffic, may adversely affect your own site’s ranking.
Text Ads and Advertorials that Pass PageRank
If you are running a text ad on another website, make sure the link includes a rel=nofollow attribute. Otherwise Google will flag the link as manipulative. Likewise, use the rel=nofollow attribute for any paid adds or articles on other websites, as these are also likely to invite a penalty from Google.
Optimized Anchor Text
Optimized anchor text in articles or press releases are a new target for Google’s wrath. Blocks or text that are littered with links are seen as spam by Google, regardless of their informational value.
Links from Low Quality Directories
This is especially problematic for small businesses new to the SEO game. Business owners want to see an immediate return on their investment, and SEOs can be tempted to prove their worth by creating a large number of links from unproductive online directories just to show that they are working hard for their fee. Large numbers of links from low quality directories that will never produce traffic are judged manipulative by Google. Only link to and from directories that have real value, and that can generate honest traffic to your site.
Links Embedded in Widgets
This is another no-no. There are many developers offering free widgets that contain links to websites, and using these widgets can get you into trouble with Google. If you are using widgets to advertise your site, make sure to not include any links, or to use a nofollow attribute.
Forum Comments with Optimized Links
There are some SEO tools that promote websites by automatically posting links in the comment sections of forums and blog posts. While posting on forums and in comment sections is a viable technique for building your brand identity and your online authority, using an automated service will only backfire. Google wants to see these links occurring naturally. Sudden bursts of backlinks from forum comments will be flagged by Google, and your site will be penalized.
Google’s updates concerning backlinks holds few surprises. Natural, organic, link building is still at the heart of Google’s best practices. The new emphasis on eliminating spammy backlinks from guest blogs and forum comments is indicative of Google’s intention to reward valuable content and to penalized poorly generated, keyword stuffed, articles and blog posts. As always, keeping up with Google’s updates, and continuing to follow their best practices, will help SEOs and webmasters to keep their site’s from incurring the search engine’s wrath.
The bottom line for link building is simple, “if the link is not natural, you will be penalized”.