4 outdated linkbuilding techniques that SEOs should stop using for good

In SEO, there are some who will always push the bound­aries of healthy and sus­tain­able linkbuild­ing. Some tech­niques can stick around longer than they are wel­come and should prob­a­bly left to the con­fines of his­to­ry.

Ben Wood By Ben Wood from Hallam Internet. Join the discussion » 3 comments

As I over­see most new client pitch­es at Hal­lam, I am often privy to infor­ma­tion from clients who have been approached by oth­er SEOs, includ­ing details of the work they would under­take if giv­en the go ahead.

In this post, I will out­line 4 out­dat­ed linkbuild­ing tech­niques, and explain why SEOs need to stop using them for good.

Links are an unde­ni­ably huge rank­ing fac­tor. How­ev­er, there are some ques­tion­able tech­niques still being employed that I encounter fair­ly often, despite the fact Google have pub­li­cal­ly warned against using such tac­tics over the past few years.

1. Private Blog Networks

A pri­vate blog net­work is a tac­tic of using a set of web­sites under your con­trol to build links to tar­get sites. For exam­ple, it has been known for dodgy prac­ti­tion­ers to buy a range of domains relat­ed to a spe­cif­ic top­ic and set up blogs upon which they can host con­tent link­ing back to their clients’ web­sites.

Google have been clamp­ing down on PBN’s since 2014. How­ev­er, as recent­ly as last month I was shown a pitch that ref­er­enced the use of their PBN to dri­ve links back to the site:


The use of PBNs is a strat­e­gy that Google are clamp­ing down on. I’d strong­ly sug­gest that SEOs steer clear of the use of PBNs as part of any long-term SEO activ­i­ty for their clients.

2. Followed Giveaway Links

Giv­ing away prod­ucts to blog­gers in return for a prod­uct review con­tain­ing a link back to the client has been a pop­u­lar tac­tic for over the past few years. In all hon­esty, this is a tac­tic both PRs and SEOs alike have employed pre­vi­ous­ly to great suc­cess. How­ev­er, Google released a warn­ing against this very tac­tic in May this year, sug­gest­ing that any­one par­tak­ing in a prod­uct review style arti­cle should:

  • Nofol­low any links back to the client who donat­ed the prod­uct
  • Dis­close why the review has been writ­ten

Google have since start­ed issu­ing man­u­al actions to blog­gers over the use of free prod­uct reviews for the pur­pose of build­ing links. Despite this, prod­uct review links are still being used to build links:


Like many oth­er linkbuild­ing tech­niques, some clients may find they get away with the use of prod­uct give­away links in mod­er­a­tion. How­ev­er, if linkbuilders’ con­tin­u­ous­ly offer prod­uct give­aways in return for links they will even­tu­al­ly end up land­ing both their clients and their net­work of blog­gers with man­u­al actions.

3. Keyword Rich Anchor Links via Guest Blogging

Like me, I’m sure many of you made a start in the indus­try learn­ing about key­word rich anchor text and its ben­e­fits. Until rel­a­tive­ly recent­ly, SEO’s used key­word rich anchor text on oth­er sites such as guest blog arti­cles to link back to client sites.

Google start­ed clamp­ing down on guest post­ing using ‘opti­mised anchor text’ back in 2013, advis­ing web­mas­ters not to manip­u­late the anchor text used on guest posts link­ing back to their web­site.

That being said, we still reg­u­lar­ly encounter poten­tial clients still uti­liz­ing this tac­tic in an attempt to increase their search engine rank­ings:


Don’t get me wrong, you can still use guest blog posts as part of your mar­ket­ing strat­e­gy, but if you are guest blog­ging with the intent to gain key­word-rich anchor text links, then I would encour­age you to con­sid­er chang­ing your approach.If you want to link back to your site from any piece of con­tent, you can safe­ly use gener­ic terms like ‘click here’, ‘read more’, or link via your brand name or your raw web­site URL. More often than not, you will nat­u­ral­ly acquire a small per­cent­age of anchor text links over time – and it’s this nat­ur­al bal­ance that Google will be hop­ing to see when review­ing your

If you want to link back to your site from any piece of con­tent, you can safe­ly use gener­ic terms like ‘click here’, ‘read more’, or link via your brand name or your raw web­site URL. More often than not, you will nat­u­ral­ly acquire a small per­cent­age of anchor text links over time – and it’s this nat­ur­al bal­ance that Google will be hop­ing to see when review­ing your web­site’s back­link pro­file.

Notice that I linked to Hallam’s web­site ear­li­er in this post? It’s unlike­ly that Google will penal­ize me for doing so because:

  • It is not a tac­tic that we have used on a large scale
  • I have not use key­word rich anchor text, it is a com­plete­ly nat­ur­al ref­er­ence

So to sum­ma­rize, if you get your clients the occa­sion­al arti­cle pub­lished on a rel­e­vant web­site, and that arti­cle is infor­ma­tive and pro­vides val­ue to the read­er then you are prob­a­bly not going to put your clients at risk.

4. ‘Design by’ Links

The use of ‘design by’ links has been seen as ques­tion­able for sev­er­al years, and Google have recent­ly con­firmed their stance by stat­ing that these types of links should def­i­nite­ly use the nofol­low attribute to avoid pass­ing author­i­ty to the site who added the ‘design by’ link.

This is a tech­nique often employed by web design com­pa­nies that place ‘web design by’ links in each of their clients’ sites. These are essen­tial­ly self-made links and there­fore should be con­sid­ered an adver­tise­ment. Despite this, fol­lowed foot­er links are still wide­ly used by many design agen­cies today:


How­ev­er, this isn’t just applic­a­ble to com­pa­nies offer­ing web design and devel­op­ment – I have seen plen­ty of exam­ples of this being used by those offer­ing SEO ser­vices:


There can be no doubt that being ref­er­enced on high-qual­i­ty con­tent and well-designed web­sites can help build rep­u­ta­tion, but these ref­er­ences should not be used as a method of build­ing your page author­i­ty via fol­lowed links. Alter­na­tive­ly, you could cre­ate a page on your own web­site to show­case your work, just like the guys over at Dis­tilled have done on mul­ti­ple occa­sions.

Linkbuilding done right?

This arti­cle should pro­vide some much-need­ed warn­ings to those who are still try­ing to game the sys­tem. Link build­ing is by no means dead, but the rules have changed sig­nif­i­cant­ly over the past few years, and agen­cies need to adapt their strate­gies accord­ing­ly.

In my opin­ion, the best way to acquire valu­able links in the cur­rent cli­mate is to cre­ate high-qual­i­ty, rel­e­vant con­tent that can nat­u­ral­ly gain pop­u­lar­i­ty online. Tak­ing the time to research con­tent ideas and the types of con­tent that earn links will pro­vide your clients with sig­nif­i­cant long-term val­ue.

What do you think? Is it pos­si­ble to stay com­plete­ly with­in Google’s Qual­i­ty Guide­lines and build qual­i­ty links? And if so, how? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the com­ments below.

Ben Wood

Written by Ben Wood

Head of Digital, Hallam Internet

Ben is a regular blogger for Search Engine Journal and a contributor to State of Digital. He previously worked in digital marketing for a multinational FTSE 100 company prior to joining Hallam in 2012. In his spare time, Ben is an experienced Ice Hockey player, currently representing the Nottingham Lions in the English National League.

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