Are we really all at the mercy of Google’s algorithm? As more and more SEO “experts” lamented the demise of their favorite schemes after Penguin and Panda algorithm updates, the heart of Google’s original patent, and indeed, the heart of search engine ranking for the last 18 years has remained the quantity of links to one’s website. This was well-established in the patent’s language, and well established by search engine “optimizers” the world over. For many years, a link was a link was a link. Any method and manner of creating linkages to one’s website seemed to fool Google into granting authority to one’s website.
But over the years, Google continued to refine their algorithms to better and better root out manipulative tactics for bolstering the number of inbound links to your website. The aforementioned Penguin and Panda algorithm updates a few years ago were all about sweeping changes in the way Google regards links. Our Fort Collins SEO team had correctly predicted the demise of garbage links, and we are proud of our track record with our clients in avoiding the types of behaviors that unnaturally manipulate search engines. If search engines detect that links to your website are of low quality or value, you can see your website plummet downward in search results. No one can afford to blindly try different types of links and hope they aren’t penalized for it in search results. This means that in 2016, more than ever, the idea that “a link is a link is a link” is flat wrong-headed.
Specifically, we identified 5 types of inbound link strategies to put away forever.
[x_custom_headline type=”left” level=”h2″ looks_like=”h5″]1. The Back-Scratcher Link[/x_custom_headline]
As the name implies, this sort of “I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine” is a natural tendency of many web masters trying to generate domain authority. More formally, I’m talking about reciprocal links. Each site links to the other. It’s also much easier to cultivate this type of link, since both parties theoretically gain a new link back to their website. The problem? This is one of the easier things to spot with an algorithm. Google appears to devalue both links in cases where two websites are linking to each other. Now there are some good reasons to do this sort of thing (if your audience and the other web master’s audience share interests, there may be genuinely good situations when the other site would provide a link back.
But for obvious reasons, this type of two-site-manipulation of search engine results has been identified, and targeted by Google’s algorithm as a no-no.
[x_custom_headline type=”left” level=”h2″ looks_like=”h5″]2. Website By: Links in Footer[/x_custom_headline]
I want to be careful with this one, as we are not suggesting that web designers or developers avoid placing links to their websites on client websites if you have an agreement in place with the client, and it’s part of your marketing strategy.
Just don’t make it part of your link building strategy.
What’s the difference, you ask? How do I link to my site, but don’t link to my site?!?!
Simple: leave the link there, but tag it as no-follow, so that Google knows not to index it as an inbound link to your website. This leaves visitors to your clients’ websites free to identify who built the site, and even access your website directly, without appearing to Google that you are manipulating their inbound link algorithm.
[x_custom_headline type=”left” level=”h2″ looks_like=”h5″]3. Links with Spammy Keyword Text[/x_custom_headline]
Let’s compare a few examples and see if we can guess which one would be way-over-optimized to send traffic to your motorboat speedometer website:
a. For a few examples of motor boat speedometers, click here
If you have any examples like (a) above, I’d say that has zero search engine value, and marginal human value. But at least it makes sense.
If you have examples more like (b) above, I’d say you have a nice balance with natural language for human readers, but semantically meaningful keywords in your link text. Nice work!
But far too often, we see a lot of (c) – even in 2016! I’ve even had clients object that they are still getting traffic from practices like this. Let me assure you, once Google identifies these spammy keyword links are not natural, they will either be de-emphasized in search ranking, or directly penalized.
[x_custom_headline type=”left” level=”h2″ looks_like=”h5″]4. Profile Links in Forum Posts and Blog Comments[/x_custom_headline]
You may have noticed by now that with each of these types of links may be OK in moderation. No one is suggesting you avoid putting a link to your website in your forum profiles. But abusing this process and this method of building linkages back to your website is easy for search engines to spot, and demonstrates minimal value in calculating a websites authority on a topic.
A few exceptions include regular posting on related websites to your industry, or making meaningful comments on a blog related to your industry. Showing you’re an expert in a particular industry, with a link to your own website related to your industry, is a good idea. Abuse comes more in the form of being a member of 60 forums with numerous posts in each, often on forums not related to your industry or expertise. These links are, at best, devalued by search engines.
Anyone gotten any bot-generated comments on their blogs from users named Discounted Nike Shoes? For Colorado Web Design, it was 20 comments a day in 2014. Anyone see as much of that sort of thing lately? No!
That’s why we are happy Google is improving the intelligence of their search results. It makes a cleaner, more accurate web browsing experience for all, and it naturally dries up the supply of garbage comments and that sort of spam-related behavior.
[x_custom_headline type=”left” level=”h2″ looks_like=”h5″]5. Link from an Un-Indexed Domain[/x_custom_headline]
Nowadays, there are tools we can all leverage to identify links back to our sites. Ahrefs, Moz, and many more come to mind.
If you are unclear on the origins of inbound links to your website, and you do not know who the other site owner is, Google their domain. Type: theirdomain.com directly into Google. If you find that Google cannot return any results for the search you attempted, you have a very strong indicator that you have a bogus and unwanted inbound link. Maybe many!
It’s highly unlikely that there is any value at all in having links to your website coming from de-listed sources on the web, and the potential for penalties are ever-present.
[x_custom_headline type=”left” level=”h2″ looks_like=”h5″]Taking Action[/x_custom_headline]
Great – so the question becomes, “What do I do if I have one of these inbound links?! What if I’m already penalized?”
Finally, we’ve touched on what not to do, but what does that leave us? We recommend Yoast’s outstanding guide on building the right type of links. At the heart of content marketing, lies Google’s search engine algorithm, for better or worse. The fact that it forces modern optimization to be about content improvement that helps human users means opportunities to build great inbound links will naturally occur. If you are creating great, unique content online, others will naturally want to share it, building the type of inbound links that help humans and bots alike.
And if you are tempted to game search engines with a link-building strategy, keep in mind that you are better off avoiding the types of behaviors we just covered here.
Bill lives and plays in Fort Collins, Colorado.
After a fulfilling career for a Fortune 50 company, Bill founded Colorado Web Design in 2012 with a passion for creative digital solutions for business.
Bill likes to manage a wide variety of projects and tasks for his clients in the digital space. The creative elements of website design, application design, and marketing are enough to keep anyone busy and engaged, but wiping the slate clean over and over at the start of new projects comes with its own challenges.
"I like to start with really good client communication sessions. The rest is easy if you get started in the right way."
He plays tennis, bikes, and hikes and then undoes all of that with too much delicious food and TV watching.
We've been building websites for Colorado businesses since 2002. We are a small team of dedicated individuals who love the challenge of each new marketing project. We live and play in northern Colorado.