Link building is both necessary and risky.
You will likely never rank as well as you could without references and backlinks, but do it wrong and the algorithm may not like you for a while.
Yes, backlinks are diminishing in their overall statistical correlation in search engine algorithms, but they remain a critical piece to a holistic SEO strategy.
But how do you avoid link building services that may cause you harm without knowing the risks to look for?
Here we outline a few link building services to avoid and some ways to focus on link building that won’t land you in search engine hot water.
- Link Building Service Guarantees
- Link Farms & Private Blog Networks (PBNs)
- Automated Link Building Software
- Blog Commenting & Directory Backlinks
- Doorway Pages
- Sitewide Links
- Link Building Service Features That Matter
Link Building Service Guarantees
Avoid services that guarantee a specific number of links or a specific search engine ranking.
True organic outreach link building is unpredictable and the only placements that really matter are those that are difficult to acquire.
If a service guarantees placement, it is likely engaging in link schemes or some form of paid links, which is against Google’s guidelines.
Link Farms & Private Blog Networks (PBNs)
A link farm is a type of website or group of websites (often owned by the same person or group) that are created for the sole purpose of providing links to other websites, often in an effort to artificially increase the ranking of those websites in search engine results.
What is a PBN or Private Blog Network?
A private blog network or PBN is a group of websites that are owned by a single individual or group.
The purpose of a PBN is to utilize the authority of the owned sites to drive up the rankings of the sites being linked to.
But the big problem with PBNs is that they have a footprint. We go into more detail on PBNs here.
In most cases private blog networks lack the sophistication to go undetected.
Here are some specific, but nefarious characteristics of link farms and PBNs:
- Large number of low-quality, irrelevant links: Link farms often have a large number of links, but the links are often low quality and not relevant to the website they are linking to. If you take a look at each page or blog post on PBN or link farm websites, you will notice a pattern on how the outbound links point to other sites. They will more often point to site homepages using commercial anchor text.
- Very generic content and categories on the site. Sites that aren’t news sites, but whose categories include Finance, Business, Healthcare, Technology, Law etc. are not niche relevant enough to give value to you.
- Automated or mass-produced links: Link farms often use automated software or other mass-production techniques to create a large number of links in a short period of time. We’ll dive into this a bit more shortly.
- Same or similar anchor text: Link farms often use the same or similar anchor text (the text that is used to link to another website) for all of the links on the site. In other words, link farms and PBNs typically create a pattern of using the same commercial anchor text over and over in order push sites up for a particular term or group of keywords.
- No value to users: Link farms do not provide any value to users, as they are simply a collection of links with no real content or purpose other than to manipulate search engine rankings.
- Hidden or low-quality links: Link farms may use hidden links or links that are difficult for users to find in order to avoid detection by search engines. Again, these links will often use heavily weighted anchor text in their backlinks.
Both link farms and PBNs are considered a type of “link scheme,” which is any practice that is intended to manipulate the ranking of a website in search results through means other than creating high-quality, relevant content using humans.
Automated Link Building Software
By definition, anything not created by humans for humans falls back into the realm of a “link scheme.”
Any link building software used for the purpose of creating backlinks en-masse is not going to go undetected in the next SpamBrain or Google algorithm update.
And, keep in mind, automated link building software also means avoiding guest blogging or link building services or who’s writer teams produce content using Jasper.ai, Copy.ai or ChatGPT.
Search engines know when these natural language processing (NLP) tools are being used and are likely to hit the sites using them accordingly.
Any link building service that spams blog comments or builds links from thousands of internet directories is doing more of a disservice than a help to your SEO.
In the case of blog commenting, the negative pushback you’ll receive from users is more of a downside than what you will receive from search engines.
Search engines ignore nofollow links from blog comments, YouTube descriptions and most low quality directories.
In the case of blog commenting, 2005 called and they want their link building strategy back.
Anything that hides the fact that a link was created is bad news for your SEO.
Link cloaking is a technique used to deceive search engine spiders and internet users by showing different content or URLs to each group.
In the context of SEO, link cloaking is often used to redirect webcrawlers to a different page than the one that is shown to users.
This can be done for a variety of reasons, such as to hide links from search engines or to make it appear as if a website has more high-quality, relevant content than it actually does.
Sometimes people will do this with the intent to engage in negative SEO or “Google Bowling,” which is the main reason you will want to regularly monitor the links you are acquiring.
But, link cloaking is a fairly old and outdated practice and not likely that any legitimate link building service would be using it, but it’s still worth mentioning here.
Similarly, a doorway page, also known as a “gateway page” or “entry page,” is a webpage that is created specifically for the purpose of ranking for particular keywords or phrases.
Doorway pages are typically optimized for specific keywords and are designed to rank highly in search results for those keywords.
We have seen a lot more doorway page schemes with the rise of GPT-3 tools as companies have created hundreds of location and industry services pages at scale, but keep in mind, when done at scale and then linked to, these fall within the definition of a doorway page.
When it comes to link building, doorway pages can be used for sitewide links and creating links to more legitimate pages in an automated and scalable way, all of which are bad for your SEO.
Rather than providing value to users, doorway pages often redirect users to a different webpage or website, or are designed to capture user information such as email addresses.
Avoid doorway pages at all costs.
Did you know that Google is starting to deindex a large portion of the web’s content?
And what they don’t deindex, they are likely fully ignoring.
Sitewide links, while they can help are most often a gray area in the world of SEO and unless marked as nofollow, we suggest avoiding sitewide links where possible.
In fact, Penguin squashed blogroll links and sitewide links long ago, but they still remain as a strategy.
Such sitewide links can be especially bad when they target very specific anchor text for the term in which the page’s owner is looking to rank.
Link Building Service Features That Matter
It’s not helpful to give a list on what not to do unless we can provide details on a list of what you should do when it comes to building backlinks.
Here are our main areas of focus when it comes to building links.
Does it makes sense to have a link to a law firm website with the anchors “Los Angeles employment law” from a mommy blog whose site is mostly about baking?
Google doesn’t think so either.
Your links to should be relevant and in context to the site on which they reside.
There are various third party tools that can gauge authority, but keep in mind, the metrics for authority can be manipulated. We always gauge authority by looking at whether or not a site has real search engine traffic. I don’t care if Moz domain authority (DA) or Ahrefs domain rating (DR) is high if the traffic metrics are super low and terrible.
Your content should be interesting, entertaining and educational regardless of whether it appears on your site or is referenced from another site pointing to you.
High quality links are the hallmark of any good SEO strategy.
The content and link within the context of an article should create and add actual value to the user who will actually be reading it. It should not be generated for the sole purpose of “link building.”
In general, it’s best to avoid any link building service that uses tactics that are intended to manipulate search engine rankings, as these tactics are likely to be ineffective and could even result in your website being penalized.
Instead, focus on creating high-quality, relevant content that will naturally attract links from other websites and bloggers.
While the practice of building links is declining as a means of outranking your competition in online search, they remain a relevant component to your overall SEO. Let us help you build the links you need with our white hat link building service.