This is a guest article by Richard. Want to become a regular contributor? Check out our guest blogging guidelines.
Over the years Google has made life increasingly difficult for SEOs to get their sites ranking highly. Many years ago there were a range of easy link building tactics that could rapidly blast your site to the top of the search engines. Sadly, many of these link building strategies are no longer effective; infact some of them can even have a negative impact on your rankings and – as a result – your traffic.
What’s most worrying of all when it comes to this rapidly-changing landscape is that many people are still preaching these old, ineffective link-building techniques, and harming your chances of success as a result.
As someone who has been building and ranking sites for over a decade now I thought it would be a useful exercise to discuss some strategies you should generally avoid (except in a few exceptional cases which we’ll discuss below)…
Everyone wants Google Juice!
My first big successes online were as a result of link exchanges. Back in mid 2000’s there were all manner of programs and websites available that would help you find other sites in your niche and exchange links with them. You’d link to their site, and in exchange they’d link back to you. All those fresh incoming links would boost your rankings and the traffic would come flowing in.
Not surprisingly, taking into account how easy it was to “trick the system”, Google soon clamped down on this technique. Now considered highly spammy, link exchanges really are a link building strategy of the past. Exchanging links with hundreds of other websites is generally an ineffective strategy that could land you a penalty from Google that renders all your work pointless.
The only exception here is instances where you may carry out link exchanges with just a handful of highly-authoritative sites in your niche. The real “creme-de-la-creme” of your vertical where you’re linking more to provide some useful resources to your readers rather than to boost your search engine visibility.
Better yet is to create a fantastic website around a specific niche topic and then use inbound marketing and social media to increase your readership. Over time, if your site is good, you’ll naturally attract links from around the web.
Article Directory Links
One of the next big link building loopholes was article directories. In essence you’d put together a short, low-quality article (sometimes just 300 words was all it took) and then have this published on one of the hundreds of “article directories”. These sites existed almost purely to publish content from website owners and help us build links along the way.
Once again though, if a strategy seems too good to be true it probably is, and it wasn’t long till Google closed this loophole too. The “old style” of article directory marketing – submitting low-quality content to low-quality directories or blog networks – is now a highly risky endeavour best avoided.
The most recent incarnation of this strategy is to create far fewer articles of a much higher quality and get these published on high-authority blogs in your niche. This can not only lead to direct traffic clicking through to your website but also helps to boost your own site’s reputation in the eyes of Google. And if you’re not sure where to start with your guest posting campaign, there’s a great list of places to find guest blogging opportunities here.
Forum Profile Links
Some years ago, marketer’s started to notice that some discussion forum software would let you link to your website when you created a new profile. With all the hundreds of thousands of forums online, it wasn’t long till some bright spark managed to create automated pieces of software that would find a never-ending supply of forums, register new accounts on them and then add a link on each profile back to your site.
The fact is though that these links were always low quality. The profile pages that your links were hosted on had very little trust or authority in the eyes of the search engines. This meant you either had to build thousands of them at a time to get any noticeable results, or artificially “boost” the authority of these profiles by creating additional links that pointed to them.
Add to this the fact that the forum owners themselves were never in agreement with this link building practise, and would regularly delete accounts that were clearly being used to build links, and it was never going to be a realistic, long-term strategy.
These days you’re better off to find a small number of high traffic forums in your niche and spend some time really building up your profile. Post regularly and genuinely and really get know to the other forum members.
Then, once in a while, and only where it’s appropriate, drop a link to a specific article on your site as a resource when it’s highly relevant to a specific thread. It might not build your authority very quickly, but it’s a good way to send high quality traffic to your website properties.
Press Release Links
Many news websites not only receive good levels of traffic but also benefit from a lot of trust in the eyes of Google. So it was that when article directory links started to lose their impact, press releases were adopted as a suitable alternative.
The principle was simply to create a short press release, ensuring you included a variety of links to your website. Then submit these to the hundreds of news sites out there, hoping at least a few would publish your release and – in doing so – also link back to your website.
While it’s taken Google a while to catch on to this, it seems that Matt Cutts and the web spam team are now taking steps to eradicate this link building strategy too, making it at best ineffective and at worst downright harmful to your results.
If you’re considering using press releases now, aim to use the higher-quality paid submission services and also no-follow any website links to avoid the risk of being labeled a “spammer”. Alternatively, use sites like HARO to actually find journalists and interact with them. It’s currently one of the greatest resources for spam-free mentions in mainstream media publications that can lead to significant traffic increases.
One final link building technique that is “too good to be true” involves submitting your site to hundreds of free website directories.
Originally these directories aimed to make finding good websites easier – essentially as an alternative to the search engines.
However over time, marketers started to realize that they could use automated software to submit their own site to hundreds of directories per day. And while not all submissions were approved, a fair amount were, creating dozens and dozens of incoming links for very little effort at all.
Not surprisingly this spammy technique has fallen foul of the “Google Gods” and large-scale directory submissions will have little positive effect any more on your search engine rankings.
But that’s not to say that directory links are a complete waste of time. Rather, instead of just mass-submitting to all the directories you can find, a more effective strategy is to submit your site to just a tiny handful of the best-quality directories.