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In this post, I will outline 4 outdated linkbuilding techniques, and explain why SEOs need to stop using them for good.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