Clients sometimes ask about link-building, also known as “backlink-building.” They may think that backlink-building is a magic bullet that will propel their site to Page 1 of Google quickly and with little or no effort.
There are many black-hat marketers and “SEO consultants” who will promise the moon – and take your money – but those promises hold no water. White-hat, quality backlink-building is a long, tedious process, the results are very difficult to measure, and no two sites’ link-building strategies will be the same, even if the sites are in the same industry.
Not only do black-hat backlink-building techniques not work, but they can also result in your site being penalized or even delisted by Google. They can also irreparably damage your company’s reputation; people who engage in black-hat marketing are spammers, and no one wants to do business with a spammer.
Here are three common black-hat backlink-building strategies to avoid at all costs:
1. Submitting Content to Free “Article Directories”
Article directories are sites that allow anyone and their brother to submit articles on any topic, with space at the bottom for the author’s biography (or a description of their company) and a link. In return, the author agrees to allow others to copy and paste the content (including the bio and link) on their sites. Allegedly, the author will benefit from getting a backlink not only from the article site itself but also from whoever downloads and republishes the article.
While free article directories were a valid backlink-building method several years ago, they are now a very bad idea. Google frowns on them because they are full of shoddy, thin content. Additionally, once you post articles on these sites, you are giving permission to other webmasters to copy and paste them onto their own sites – which means that the articles could end up on a competitor’s site or, worse yet, on a site you do not want your company associated with, such as sites hawking male enhancement products, multi-level marketing schemes, or other “fast easy money” scams.
Posting Phony, Leading Questions and Spammy Non-Answers on Q&A Sites
Q&A sites, such as Quora and Yahoo! Answers, are meant for users to post questions and others to post answers. Blackhat marketers and other spammers misuse these sites by:
- Finding topics related to their business and providing spammy non-answers that include a link to the company’s website. For example, a black-hat marketer looking to promote a dog training company may “answer” questions about potty training and getting a dog to walk better on a leash by posting, “There are things we do at SpamU Dog Training such as potty training, leash training, teaching good manners, and solving behavior problems. Since 2010, SpamU Dog Training has served over 400 satisfied customers. Our primary purpose is to build better relationships between pet parents and their dogs! Hope this helped!”
- Creating two accounts on the Q&A site, using one account to post a leading question in the business’ category, such as, “What are the best ways to train a German shepherd to walk well on a leash?” and using the second account (sometimes under a different IP address) to post a spammy non-answer.
Unfortunately for spammers, Q&A sites have TOSes that prohibit this type of abuse, along with moderators who continuously monitor for it, delete the spam, deactivate the account(s) used to post the spam, and, sometimes, block the spammer’s IP address so they can no longer access the site.
A similar black-hat marketing technique is to comment on other company’s blogs and on message forums with similar spammy non-answers. The results are the same: Your spam post is deleted (if it ever makes it out of the moderation queue to begin with), your account on the site is deactivated, and your IP address is blocked.
3. Reposting Blog Articles from Your Website Onto a Free Blog Platform
This technique involves creating sites on free blogging platforms, such as Blogger.com and WordPress.com, and using them to repost blog content from the company’s main site, with a link back to the main site. There are two problems with this approach:
- Google’s algorithm will detect the duplicate content and penalize your main site for it.
Google may also consider these efforts to be a page rank manipulation technique and punish your main site for that as well.
Creating separate content for these sites would prevent the penalties. However, money-wise, time-wise, and SEO-wise, you are far better off simply publishing more often on your company blog and promoting the content through social media.
So, now that you know what not to do, what are some ways you can build quality backlinks using white-hat marketing techniques? While the exact answer depends on your industry, target market, and goals, a good way to start is to steer away from the type of black-hat shenanigans described in this article.