Evelyn Johnson
August 24, 2021

These Four Link Building Strategies Can Backfire Badly (Do this Instead)

Link Building Strategies

Back in the day, link building was extremely simple; you needed to maximize external links. It didn’t matter whether you bought these or got them through an exchange, more links meant better ranking on Google.

But things have changed over the years. The algorithms that determine the fate of webpages are now much more sophisticated. Using questionable tactics to attain backlinks can now get you penalized by the search engines. In the worst-case scenario, your website could get on Google’s blacklist and completely disappear from search results.

However, there’s a lot of grey area when it comes to link building. Some backlinking tactics are not inherently bad but are still risky. The trick is to minimize the risks and look for alternatives wherever they are available.

In this article, I will discuss four link-building strategies that can backfire and also highlight their alternatives.

Let’s dig in.

1. Excessive Link Exchange

Exchanging links to upgrade a website’s ranking is a tactic that goes back to the early days of SEO. It’s also known as reciprocal linking and is a pretty straightforward exercise – a website links you and you link them back. Websites use this strategy to get quality links in a short time and without much hassle.

While this may sound like a win-win situation for everyone involved, there’s a chance this tactic could backfire. According to Google’s guidelines, it discourages websites from excessively exchanging links. Among the things that can negatively impact a website’s search results, it includes “Excessive link exchanges (“Link to me and I’ll link to you”) or partner pages exclusively for the sake of cross-linking.”

The above statement makes it abundantly clear that you shouldn’t go berserk with cross-linking. However, the word ‘excessive’ does imply that Google has tolerance for some natural and moderate reciprocal linking.

1.1 Alternative: Cross-promote more naturally

Google leaves some room for reciprocal linking because it understands that websites do exchange links from time to time. Let’s say that two websites are running an event together; one should expect them to link one another.

This means you can collaborate with other sites as long as you focus on relevancy and organize a campaign that benefits both parties. Don’t pay much attention to expected SEO benefits. Instead, consider them as a bonus.

You may also want to read: The Top 6 Link Building Mistakes We Might Be Making

2. Spamming Blogs and Forums With Discount Offers

Blogs are often spammed by comments advertising products and services for certain websites. Most of these comments are cheap attempts at getting backlinks from high-authority websites.

By now, of course, most blogs have spam catchers that block any comment with a URL. But even if you happen to find a comment section or a forum that allows links, this is still a poor strategy for two important reasons:

  1. These comments are likely to be removed by moderators
  2. Spam comments create a bad image of your website/product. Pretty much nobody will click links that don’t get purged

To explain this further, comments that are nothing but loud advertisements will not create a good impression of your website. Leaving a comment along the lines of “Try this Moisturizer at 25% Off” under an article about skin care would make people think you’re marketing subpar products.

And, as already stated, while you may be able to get the desired backlink through a comment, there’s every chance it will get deleted by a moderator later on. It goes without saying that having your links regularly removed doesn’t do your website any favors.

2.1 Alternative: Be a part of the discussion

If you have found an article that’s relevant to your niche then address the matter that is being discussed. Either offer a fresh perspective or provide practical solutions. If people like what they read, they may click on your name to see what else you say.

Don’t blatantly market your product or service and advertise a discount code. Remember that discount promotion is a complicated exercise and it can do more harm than good if you’re not careful.

You may also want to read: Your Authoritative Link Building Guide (Courtesy of Ahrefs)

3. Buying Links from Websites

Another strategy that Google actively discourages is buying links. The search engine warns against:

“Buying or selling links that pass PageRank. This includes exchanging money for links, or posts that contain links; exchanging goods or services for links, or sending someone a “free” product in exchange for them writing about it and including a link.”

Marketers resort to this practice because getting backlinks from well-recognized websites is often difficult. What they fail to realize is that Google can track sites buying questionable links that bear no relevance to the articles they are found in.

Sometimes it’s the spammy anchor text like “best plumber Naples Florida” that gives it away and other times, the search engine finds you getting 50 links a day from doggy domains.

Google insists paid links to be NoFollow, but most websites don’t pay for such links as they don’t directly reflect on search rankings. And when the sites provide DoFollow links, it makes it easier for Google to track these down and penalize the parties involved. This puts online marketers in a tricky situation.

Many websites work around Google’s guidelines by donating to charities and getting a backlink in return. In recent years, this practice is being penalized as well. So, no matter how you go about it, buying links isn’t worth the risk.

3.1 Alternative: Go for relevant and strategic guest posting

Rather than paying for backlinks, provide quality content to websites that have a similar niche to yours. Write research-based and original posts for reputable websites. Use SEO tools to determine if the website has authentic Domain Authority and Domain Rating.

Avoid PBNS (blogging networks built to increase search engine authority of other websites) and sites that link to casino and adult businesses. You don’t want your name tied to a dubious website.

Linking organically to existing text is another alternative. Google is unlikely to impose a penalty on such activity. However, you should approach this method strategically as well to avoid any unnecessary risk.

You may also want to read: If You Want To Be A Guest Blogger, Stand Out From The Crowd

4. Unnecessary Press Releases

When done with a purpose, press releases are a fantastic way to naturally incorporate backlinks. The problem is that these links don’t provide as much value as marketers desire.

In response to businesses using mass press releases to maximize their links, Google has begun ignoring such efforts. The platforms that generally distribute these releases have also built a bad online reputation due to being constant sources of spam.

What this means is that press releases now provide little-to-no value for websites looking to increase their standing on the search engine. There’s an element of risk here as there are a few instances of ‘deranking’ websites that release overly-optimized press releases.

4.1 Alternative: Combine strategic press releases with HARO

If you have published a case study that you believe should be read by more people then there’s no harm in going for a press release. However, don’t write for an algorithm and have multiple optimized keywords linking back to your product pages.

Keep the press releases to a minimum and sign up on HARO (Help a Reporter Out). HARO connects reporters to experts in the field. If you’re able to provide useful insights to journalists who are working on new articles, they will include your quote with a backlink to your site. Unlike press releases, you can regularly use HARO to get quality links.

You may also want to read: Create Viral Press Releases and Content

Final Words

The secret ingredient to good link-building is patience. Using dubious practices to manipulate search engines is like breaking the speed limit to reach your destination. You could make it before time or you could get a ticket. There’s every chance that you may also end up crashing the car.

So put in the hard work, use strategies that are safe, and let your website grow organically. Don’t take any unnecessary risk. The search engine can be pretty unforgiving at times.

Evelyn Johnson is a full-time cat lady & part-time blogger. who writes about Digital Marketing & Technology. You can follow/tweet her @EvelynJohns0n

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