Not all link building campaigns are created equal

Link-building, the result of an irrational obsession with the ‘green bar’ can damage your health.

Why? Two reasons:

  • Your main focus should be on delivering a regular stream of good content, peppered liberally with good keywords, marked up in an accessible way. Link building obsessions can take your eye off the ball.
  • The approach towards link building campaigns vary wildly with some tactics used that are downright dangerous!

Just as unnatural sounding product descriptions stuffed with keywords will undermine a user’s trust, poor link-building campaigns can produce similar effects.

Dangerous link-building campaigns

Last year, I had to evaluate a link-building campaign and it generated a few horrific gasps as I looked at each backlink in detail.

The site had been associated with low quality blogs containg bad or hardly any content.  In one instance the backlink was sandwiched between links to other sites which were either poor  pornographic.

Any development on your site including SEO strategy must be focused through the prism of your ultimate goals, in the case of an e-commerce site you should be gaining targeted traffic and persuading visitors to buy.  If a user stumbles upon less than reputable link partners, this could undermine your attempts at persuasion and lose sales.

Beware of link farms

The number of SEO companies that create link building campaigns based on ‘link farms’ is still worrying.  Following some research, I found that the majority of backlinks in the campaign I mentioned earlier had been purchased from a few users on a blackhat SEO forum.  The domains had lapsed, individuals would buy the registration and post them on the forum for sale with thread titles like ‘PR 5 domain for $10’.

The majority of these links came from the same IP range, the danger here is that Google will see these as ‘link farms’ and see it as a cynical attempt at cheating your way to a good ranking, rather than appearing to be a genuine set of links from webmasters who have seen your content and like it.

Review your link-building campaign

If you’ve outsourced your link-building campaign insist on as much transparency as possible – ask for a regular spreadsheet of links that have been acquired, research those links yourself or ask your IT team to do it (I recommend SEO Spyglass for obtaining a good list of backlinks, the competitor analysis is worthwhile using too), and ask the following questions:

  • Is it a good quality site?
  • Is it related to the topic of your site?
  • Was the domain name sold within the last few months (if so, it’s a fair bet it’s been bought by vultures and part of a linkfarm – avoid!)?
  • Are there a suspicious number of links from the same IP range?

There’s nothing inherently bad about link-building, but make sure your campaign doesn’t actually harm your SEO and persuasion efforts – you have been warned!

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