I get this question often. So, let’s look at history. There was a time when link building was a foundation for SEO. But that was years ago. When Google executed their algorithm updates called Panda and Penguin, that’s when things got tricky.
What did those Google updates do?
In short, it cleaned up the sites that where abusing the backlinking for their own benefit. It used to be a numbers games. There where companies and software that would build links and create reciprocal links for you. This got out of hand. In 2013 Penguin 2.1 appeared, and 80% of websites lost traffic. Penguin 2.1 went after sites that had backlinks from:
- Article directories
- Paid links (including links for sites like Forbes magazine, who charged for backlinks)
- PR sites
- Social bookmarking
- Sitewide links
- Link farms
Websites caught in this algorithmic update had do a backlink audit and clean up the links manually and/or by using Google’s disavow tool. Yet there was some who never recovered. This was not anything that should have been unexpected. Back in 2011 Panda was released and started crushing sites from article directories. It was evident that Google did not like sites misusing backlinking to get rankings.
What about guest blogging?
Here is a quote from Matt Cutts (at the time he wrote it, Matt was the head of the web spam team at Google).
“Okay, I’m calling it: if you’re using guest blogging as a way to gain links in 2014, you should probably stop. Why? Because over time it’s become a more and more spammy practice, and if you’re doing a lot of guest blogging then you’re hanging out with really bad company.”
That was in 2014. And there are still SEO companies pitching guest blogging as their major SEO tactic.
On September 23, 2016 Penguin 4.0 rolled out. Penguin looks at the link source. This release has been referred to by others as a real-time version of the Penguin algorithm.
Write blogs truly for the interest of the reader, not to gain unnatural backlinks.
When you guest blog, make sure it is for the right reasons. Stay away from sites that are truly there just posting guest blogs. You want to blog on a site that fits your business and helps the readers. You do not want to be on a website that is just a link building strategy for bloggers. Make sure the site that is having you as a guest blogger is a fit with your company’s goals and target market’s interest. Example: let’s say there is another marketing firm that wants me to be a guest blogger, but our business ethics are not the same. I would take a pass. Same if it is a site that is full of guest bloggers for a link building effort. On the other hand, if I was a participant at a marketing conference and I was asked by the host to write a blog about my experience at the conference, I would. See the difference? You must really think about and investigate where you’re guest blogging and not get caught up for link building purposes. That’s when you start putting your blog on sites just for the link. If you blog useful information, you will earn links from qualified sites. The result: natural backlinking. That is what Google likes the best.
Same thing goes for directories
There are good and bad directories too. Think about it. You want a good reference from a reliable source. You wouldn’t ask an auto mechanic about art, but you would ask the auto mechanic about your car’s engine.
As a restaurant or a consumer service, I would want to be on Yelp. If I was a home improvement company, I would look at Angie’s List or Home Advisor. As a marketing company, I would not be in Trip Advisors. But as a kayaking rental business, I would. See the relevance?
Other linking traps
Another trap you could have fallen into: using the same anchor text in all your links. Some black or gray hat SEOs were trying to get ranking using the same exact words in every link. Don’t do that. Also, don’t have every link go to your home page. Direct the link to the relevant page. You are not fooling the system. And, reciprocal linking is not looked at favorable either. The days of “I’ll put yours on mine if you put mine on yours” has been over for years.
There is a fine line between good and bad. If you’re not sure, ask. We are here to help.