Your Link Building Strategies Might Actually Be Hurting You on Google
There are two kinds of truths in SEO: absolutes and those that change with the tide.
An absolute SEO truth, for example: the more effort you put into your search engine optimization and online marketing, the bigger the benefits you’ll see in the long run.
Which kinds of efforts should you make, though? Those are the truths that come in tides. What worked a few years ago might not work anymore. Case in point: linking strategy.
In the early days of internet marketing, the rap on hyperlinking was as simple as “the more links, the better.” Search engines were fairly nonjudgmental webcrawlers back then, and they liked just about any bridge they could cross from one site to the next.
So savvy webmasters started stuffing their web copy with links. Shrewdly, they enticed tons of other sites to link back in return too. And up the search rank they rose.
Sneaky and geeky… but effective.
Eventually, though, the webcrawlers wised up. They developed standards… a sense of self-esteem… a persnickety penchant for “high-quality” links that you might even call “judgy.”
Today, only the “right kind of link” will give you the SEO boost you bargained for… while the wrong kind of link can have exactly the opposite effect, sending your search rank on a full-speed free fall.
You might already know enough about SEO to understand that the sneaky linking tricks of yore are a no-go today. What you might not realize, though, is that the old way of thinking about linking still survives in many popular-but-counterproductive link building strategies today.
In other words, you might be guilty of stinkin’ linkin’ without even realizing it — and unwittingly suffering the effects.
So in today’s article, we’re teaching you how to:
- Distinguish good SEO links from bad ones
- Right the wrongs you’ve already committed
- Implement a better, 2017/2018-proof link building strategy
The Seven Signs of a Bad SEO Link
You might think of harmful links like a disease… call it “malignant hyperlinkism,” if you will. Like any illness, it has warning signs and symptoms. Here’s what to look for you as browse your site (and the other websites that link back to it):
- Too much of a good thing — If the same outbound link appears again and again on your website (excessively throughout the site, or especially many times within the same page), Google and the other engines are likely to see that as spammy. Likewise, if another website links to yours over and over, Google’s virtual eyebrow will rise in suspicion. This is important to know because a third-party site might think it’s doing you a favor by frequently linking to your website, but their good intentions can have an adverse impact on you. The golden rule here: in all things, moderation.
- There’s no “there” there. When you link to an article, blog post, or web domain, the destination needs to have some relevance to the topic at hand. For example, your college buddy’s Chicago engineering firm probably shouldn’t link to your Atlanta Birth Injuries webpage. Google’s webcrawlers are surprisingly good at picking up on context clues. In SEO, as in the ROE (the Rules of Evidence), relevancy matters.
- It’s buried. There are at least two places people “bury” a link in the hopes of scoring some SEO mileage by flying under the radar: anchors and footers. Once upon a time, you could embed relevant key phrases in your anchor text and get a boost. Likewise, if the links didn’t make sense anywhere else, you could stuff a bunch of them in the footer. Both of those can score major penalties these days, though, so steer clear of stuffing.
- It’s broken. A broken link is an instant frowny face. No one wants that. Links that once worked might now direct users to no man’s land, the remnants of a website or webpage long since deserted. Broken links can happen to anyone, but if you have more than your fair share, it’s a problem.
- It seems sketchy. Whenever you visit a website for the first time, you form some immediate impressions about how trustworthy it seems. Search engines do the same thing. In fact, they assign “authority scores” to domain names. If a high-authority site links to you, that’s Google gold. But if the link is from a low-authority site, the net effect can range from nil to negative. Even worse: if a malicious site links to yours — or if you unknowingly send your users to a site that Google has associated with malware, viruses, phishing, etc. — it could absolutely kill your search rank. Be very careful about the websites you associate with.
- Typing in tongues. Backlinks can backfire if they’re from foreign-language websites, especially those in countries associated with a higher level of malicious internet activity. Of course, if you’re linking to/from a foreign site for good reason, go ahead. It’s the suspicious links that land you in hot water. Here again, relevancy is key. Can the search bots detect a clear connection between the origin and the destination?
- It reeks of payola. Did you pay someone to link to your site? Did they pay you for the same? Or maybe you agreed to scratch each other’s backs, free of charge? Google’s algorithm writers know all about the reciprocal exchange game, and their tolerance level gets closer to zero every day. Escape their wrath by:• Avoiding linking to any one website with disproportionate frequency
• Diversifying the websites and even the servers you link to (and the websites/servers that link back to you)
• Ignoring anyone offering to “trade” or “exchange” links with you
• Never paying for a link
- It’s naked. Never create a page that is comprised mostly or entirely of links. Older websites sometimes feature a “Links” page, which amounts to nothing more than a directory of “recommended” sites. Those pages won’t get you anywhere (at least not anywhere you want to be). Step up your link building strategy by using links sporadically within web copy that is useful, well written, and highly relevant.
Fix it Fast: How to Hunt Down Your Bad Links and Wipe Them Out ASAP
Have we left you feeling paranoid, regretful, or overwhelmed? Feeling helpless in the face of third-party backlinks you can’t control, or exhausted by the mere prospect of confirming whether all your old links still work? Don’t worry. There are some tools and strategies that can help you fix any extant problems and improve your link building strategies going forward. Here are just a few:
- Use free online tools. You might be surprised by how many online tools are available for analyzing both inbound and outbound links. Most will require you to create an account and offer only a limited trial for free, but if you’re only checking one website, it’s enough to get you started.• WebMeUp.com crawls the web to find many (though not quite all) of the backlinks to your domain, complete with analysis of whether those linking sites are good or bad.• Look for broken or dead links within your own website using services like Broken Link Check or Dead Link Checker.</b
- Use common sense. It’s easy to start obsessing over backlinks and worrying about whether Google has assigned a high quality score to any given website. More often than not, though, you can go with your gut. Visit the website in question. Look for blatant signs of spam or scams. Does it seem like a pretty legitimate site to you? If so, it probably is.
- In the future, focus on “editorial links.” When another website’s editor likes something on your site so much that he or she links to it without you even asking, that’s called an editorial link. Google loves editorial links. Why? They’re natural quality control. They indicate that (A) the linking site has some standards as a curator, and (B) your site meets those standards. (Google’s ultimate goal is to bring great content to its users, after all.) In a perfect world, third-party sites would find your content all on their own… but that probably won’t happen, at least not often. You can facilitate the process ethically, then, through things like guest blogging, or by reaching out to highly relevant sites to let them know about your complementary content. Just stick with high-quality websites, and stay away from anything that seems sleezy.
- Hire the professionals. If you’re already using a legal web marketer like Black Fin, talk to them about link building and link management. There’s a lot they can do. For example, we use powerful link assessment software (with databases and analytic capabilities that go far beyond the free-trial tools available on the web), combined with our expertise in link building strategy, to get our clients the very highest link scores. Our web content teams also work to put high-quality copy on your site and to get highly scored editorial links for your firm.
Talk to Black Fin About Managing and Marketing Your Law Firm Website
Black Fin is a team of law firm SEO experts who do one thing and one thing only: market law firms online. Through web design, content creation, link building strategies, social media management, PPC advertising, and more, we get our clients top spots on Google.
Even more importantly, we boost their bottom line by getting them bigger, better legal cases. That’s the only reason law firms hire us, and we deliver.
Come find out how we have the #1 spot on Google for Attorney SEO, and why Inc.com recently recognized us as one of the fastest-growing, privately owned companies in America. Contact the legal marketing experts at Black Fin today.