If you own a website, you’ve probably received unsolicited offers to swap links, invitations to buy links, or promises of thousands of links for your website at economical rates. You might have tried automatic link submission software or hired cheap linkbuilding services in hopes of getting that large number of links that makes your site look good to the search engines.
We’ve always told you that poor quality linkbuilding could harm your website’s rankings, and Google has frequently spoken out against unnatural linking and paid links. Now the most recent algorithm update is targeting websites that haven’t been paying attention.
Google sent out notices to hundreds of thousands of sites that were violating best practices in their linkbuilding. However, these notices arrived through Webmaster Tools. If you don’t have Webmaster Tools, or don’t check them, you might not receive notice. The sites that got the warning were given a few weeks to clean up their acts, and then were slapped with penalties.
Innocent site owners sometimes accept offers that sound good. They also sometimes use strategies that aren’t wise, because they don’t know those strategies are bad choices. If you dabble in SEO for your website, how can you be sure that you aren’t facing penalties for unnatural links?
- First, don’t worry about natural links — that is, people linking to you without being asked to. Google knows that you can’t control who links to you, and you can be sure they have enough experience to distinguish someone’s natural links to you from those you’ve paid for or swapped for. If you’ve never done bad linkbuilding, you have nothing to worry about.
- Requesting links from relevant directories and building profiles at sites like Brownbook, Merchant Circle, or Google Places is absolutely okay. Those directories are like phone books: places which list businesses for the convenience of people looking for goods and services. Paying for premium listings at such places is also fine.
- Paying for ads on websites, as long as it’s clear that they are ads, is also fine. Advertising is not frowned upon by Google — they are in fact the world’s largest seller of ads. Paying for links which are not clearly ads is not okay. If you’ve done this, undo it as fast as you can. Read more about paid links.
- Natural links swaps are okay. For example, we link to designers we work with when we mention them, and many of them link to us, too. If your bed and breakfast links to restaurants in your neighborhood and some of them link to you on their “Local Accommodations” page, that’s fine. On the other hand, if you have a page of links to everyone who will link back to you, from overseas massage parlors to link farms, you’re going to be in trouble. The basic rule here is simple: make sure the links are valuable to your readers. That bed and breakfast’s visitors will be glad to know about local restaurants, but their experience wouldn’t be improved by links to a distant puppy mill.
- Note that it is not any better to do that kind of unnatural linking by using complex linking schemes where you link to the puppy mill, who links to the massage parlor, who links to you. Google is specifically cracking down on sites that do this.
- Requesting links from other website owners and showing them how your content will be valuable to their readers is absolutely okay. If they agree and link to you, you’ve simply sped up the natural linking process by drawing their attention to your website.
- Social media links — linking to your blog posts at your Facebook page, for example, or to your website at your LinkedIn profile — are completely okay. You’re supposed to do that.
What if you realize, upon reading this, that you have some shady links out there? You should try to undo the damage. It may not be easy — especially if you hired a shady company to get those shady links. Do your best, remove all questionable reciprocal links, cancel all unwise paid arrangements, and request reconsideration from Google if need be.
If you need some help with your linkbuilding, we’ll be happy to help. We never use automatic submission or any questionable methods. Call Rosie at 318.572.6002 to get on our calendar, or email Rebecca@HadenInteractive.com with any questions and concerns about your link profile.