The Internet has been around for a while now, and so have Internet search engines. As time passes, those search engines – Google in particular – change the way they sort and display websites. As the algorithm changes, so do the techniques web marketers user to promote their sites. Very little has changed as often in the course of Internet history as link building. The way links are parsed, the way value is assigned and the way links are best used on and off-site is very different almost year to year. As an example, just look at these ten link building methods that were once effective.
1. Blog Comment Links
For a long time, Google treated any link on a page as a link that page posted. This became a problem when webmasters figured out that they could leech PageRank or link authority from a site by posting a link to their own site in the comments. The webmaster would have to actively monitor their comments and remove any links they found unsatisfactory. Pages that didn’t monitor links were easy targets for backlink juice.
Today, comments links have no SEO value. Instead, they are only used by old spam robots that don’t know any better, or by genuine users looking to post their link for awareness, not for SEO.
2. Reciprocal Link Exchanges
“If you post my link on your site, I’ll post your link on my site.” These sorts of mutually beneficial relationships have existed as long as the idea of trading or commerce has existed; long, long before the creation of the Internet. Only on the Internet have they been deemed disrupted and detrimental to the idea of structured search. Of course, like every other technique on this list, Google has taken to penalizing sites that use reciprocal links for link building.
The problem with reciprocal links, in general, was that they were often useless to readers. What good does a link to an online pharmacy do to the readers of a blog about making candy? Almost always, the users of reciprocal link building were making it a one-sided affair.
3. Article Directories
The idea behind article directories, originally, was to create a single hub where dozens of authors could gather to write whatever they wanted and link back to their site. Some blogs still operate on this principle, though they are skirting the line drawn by Panda. The problem was often one of volume and duplication, with a minor in lack of focus.
• Volume. Too many articles posted too quickly was seldom of value to users.
• Duplication. Webmasters were never content with a dedicated directory. They would write one article and post it on dozens of directories, all linking back to their site. Further, they encouraged other sites to repost their article if it seemed relevant. Obviously, this led to severe duplicate content issues.
• Lack of focus. Article directories were usually come one, come all. You could find articles about dogs, articles about shoes, articles about computers, articles about sports and articles about deep space all on the same site. The lack of focus hurt the site in general.
4. Link Pyramids and Other Schemes
The core concept behind a link pyramid is that, while the passing of link authority stretches from site to site to site in a chain, the passing of a link penalty generally stops after one or two jumps. Webmasters ran with this concept, creating thousands of low-quality spam sites linking to each other, all of which would link to a tier higher, less spammy sites all interlinked. This tier would link to a higher tier, which would link to a higher tier, until a half-dozen or more steps up the pyramid a small handful of sites with a huge amount of link authority would link to the target site. The problem, of course, was that none of those links were legitimate or organic, and the domain authority was entirely artificial.
Google has found ways to detect pyramids and aggressively penalizes them, though the line between a pyramid and legitimate link building can be slim.
5. Low Quality Blog Network Links
Similar to a pyramid, but with less subtlety, the blog network was an older spam technique. Instead of filtering through layers and layers of increasing quality sites, webmasters would just create hundreds of blogs, populate them with spun or scraped content, then link them to the target site. Pyramids sort of sprang from this idea, as a way to repurpose the blog networks that no longer worked.
6. Advertorials and Sponsored Posts
Instead of sneaking your link into a site with higher authority, why not just buy your way in? The idea of an advertorial or sponsored post is to offer a site a fee to post your promotional article. Of course, these sponsored posts seldom provided value to the users, just money to the host blog. Furthermore, they were often cloaked or not identified as paid. Google eventually determined that it wanted to limit the influence of money on SEO as much as possible, so it wasn’t easy to throw a huge budget at the problem and rank in the top spots as a result. Paid posts were right out.
7. Any Form of Paid Link
The above reasoning applies to every form of sponsored link, up to and including unmarked advertising on a page. About the only way you can pay for a link and have that link remain legitimate is to do it through an advertiser. Very few blogs offer private advertising any more, for this reason. It’s technically still legitimate, but it’s so much work and it’s so easy to earn a penalty that few blogs even try.
8. Infographic Summaries
Create an infographic. Write a quick description. Post that infographic on your blog, or on another blog, or on an infographic directory site, or on social media etc etc. Yes, you’re providing content to users in the form of an infographic. Unfortunately, you’re shoehorning your link in with little additional value attached.
Infographics are valuable on their own, so you don’t need to include a specific followed link along with the description. If the site posting your graphic likes it, they’ll link back organically. Otherwise, include your branding and a link in the graphic itself, where it won’t fall victim of being a link.
9. Press Release Backlinks
For a long time, it was a great idea to send out a press release to industry related blogs and news agencies when you released a new product or started an event. It got the word out and included a link to your site for more information. Unfortunately, this has many of the same issues as article directories, including duplicate content. Press releases still work, but they need to have no links or a nofollowed link to have any positive value. It’s better to announce your product on your own blog, and then contact other webmasters and ask them to write their own pieces to promote it.
10. Guest Blog Posts
Guest blogging isn’t completely dead, but it’s the latest in a long line of linkbuilding victims. As with all the rest, it simply got too spammy. Guest posts suffered from many previously mentioned issues, including the possibility of hiding paid links. To do guest posting legitimately today, a site needs to limit their volume, nofollow the links and make sure the posts are relevant and valuable on their own.