Backlinks are a critical component of any SEO strategy because they help the search engines understand the quality and performance of websites and web pages. If the backlinks pointed back to your website are highly relevant, qualitative, and authoritative, Google (and the rest of the search engines) will perceive you as a relevant, qualitative, and authoritative site that deserves exposure and traffic.
Many years ago, Google was using an ancient ranking system that was calculating authority and relevance based on the total number of backlinks a site was featuring. When the system got abused by manipulative, black-hat SEO techniques, Google’s algorithm suffered significant modifications.
Nowadays, “good” backlinks must be built naturally, and they must bring a lot of relevancy. The bad ones? They draw lots of ranking penalizations and “sandboxing” punishments. As a webmaster, SEO practitioner, or digital marketer, you’ll need to acknowledge the potential Google penalties that your site could suffer due to “bad backlinking tactics” and optimize your approach as quickly as possible.
In today’s post, we’ll discuss several backlinking tactics that can harm your blog ranking position. Make sure that you avoid these approaches at all costs. Stick by the rules and your rankings will be rarely harmed.
The world of SEO is continuously changing as time goes by. A few years ago, article directories used to be one of the best methods of cultivating “working” backlinks. It was simple, cheap, and effective: post one blog post on ten article directories and get hundreds of backlinks from websites that “borrowed” your content with the condition of pointing one or more links back to your site.
As more and more webmasters used this tactic, the quality of the content has suffered big modifications: poorly written content, duplicated content, and keyword-stuffed content was all over the place. Google took action and started penalizing low-quality backlinks that came from exploited article directories.
Nowadays, posting your content on article directories is a high-risk attempt to grow in rankings, so you’d better avoid it. Guest posting is fine, as long as the website that links back to your blog doesn’t feature duplicated or spun content.
“If you want to rank your blog faster, you should write more content, engage with more relevant niche industry blogs, and create better experiences for your visitors. Of course, that takes time. Many webmasters are trying to speed up the process by purchasing backlinks from various sources, so they’ll eventually get burned.” – admits John Blackwater, marketing manager at Essays.ScholarAdvisor.
Whether you or anyone else is aware or not, Google’s hunting down anyone who approaches this tactic. Paying for links is an official unaccepted practice, and the consequences are severe. The benefits are promising, of course, yet the potential damage makes this backlinking strategy not worth it.
Here’s a screenshot that shows their official guidelines on the matter:
PBNs (Private Blog Networks)
A private blog network is a service that allows webmasters and SEO marketers to buy link space on various blogs and website domains. A PBN is comprised of more websites or blogs, typically managed by a single person and designed to offer backlinking space to anyone who pays for it.
There are two ways in which you can buy links from a private blog network:
- You can write a new blog post and place your link inside -> the PBN posts the article, you get the backlink.
- You can place your link into already-published blog posts within the PBN -> you get the backlink immediately after paying.
Can you see the problem?
The previous heading explained how paid backlinks represent a tremendous risk. Since 2012, Google’s actively pursuing and shutting down PBNs. Now. If you buy a backlink and the PBN gets busted, Google will discover your backlinks and will severely decrease your rankings.
Sitewide Sidebar or Footer Links
The sidebar and footer areas of a blog can be used in many ways. However, many webmasters have started cramming suspicious links inside them, so Google took action.
If you think about it, the average reader won’t pay much attention to these sections, so sneaking one or two backlinks has become a widely adopted practice.
Usually, these links are anchor texts that are very rich in keywords, and they are often variations of what the average person would insert in the search bar. Here’s an example:
Now you know exactly what you must avoid. If you come across these types of links on various websites, please check their rankings. More often than not, blogs and websites that adopt this practice will suffer negative ranking consequences.
Disguised Blog Comments
Even though blog comments aren’t necessarily a productive way of improving a blog’s rankings, many webmasters are tempted to try them. They count as backlinks, though they’re not as heavy as the regular backlinks that are part of the main editorial content.
A disguised blog comment is manipulative when it’s comprised of keyword-rich anchor texts that make no sense whatsoever. Here’s an example:
If you ever thought of faking your comments and using this manipulative SEO strategy, you should drop the idea now. If somebody else (who you don’t know) posts such comments on your blog, you should immediately remove them because Google won’t really investigate the situation. If your blog is featuring these types of comments, you’re subject to Google’s penalties.
Poor Quality Reciprocal Link Exchanges
Don’t get me wrong – building connections with various industry bloggers is a great way of improving your backlinks profile and an exceptional way of showing Google that you’re focusing on healthy link-building.
However, if a local Australian website that sells baby products links back to one of your graphic design articles, Google’s going to raise some questions.
If you link to a highly relevant website and they link back, once or twice, that’s completely fine. If you exchange links hundreds of times, you’re basically manipulating Google’s algorithm. Therefore, if you choose to use this tactic, make sure you’re always exchanging backlinks with blogs and sites that are within your specific industry and that you never exaggerate it.
Backlinks are an essential factor of all SEO strategies. Everyone’s building them, one way or another, some better than others. There’s no “safe haven” for backlinks, no shortcuts, and no concrete rules (unless the ones specified by Google itself).
Effective backlinking is a process that demands time, attention, and consistency. As you keep posting backlinks, you’ll eventually identify what works and what doesn’t, even if that means you might suffer little damage along the way. But, if you take our advice into consideration, you should significantly decrease your odds of hurting your rankings!