Linking has evolved a great deal in a very short period of time and not everybody has managed to keep up. As a result, there are an alarming number of outdated, ineffective and even damaging SEO link building practices which still somehow persist. Tread very carefully indeed if you are considering any of the following:

Buying links is pretty much always a bad idea

Despite the warnings plenty of webmasters are still tempted to buy links. Well perhaps Google will be able to convince you otherwise “Buying or selling links that pass PageRank is in violation of Google’s webmaster guidelines and can negatively impact a site’s ranking in search results”. Hopefully that should do the trick!

If you are determined to buy links, don’t add insult to injury by being taken to the cleaners. When it comes to pricing links the normal rules of The High Street apply: only pay for something what it is actually worth. Often webmasters haven’t got a clue how to price a link and will pluck an outrageous figure from thin air. If so, it might be worth haggling, but it’s probably better to walk away.

Whatever happens don’t be tempted by any online ‘link brokers’. The better brokers do jump through hoops to disguise their link networks, but on balance tying yourself to a network that actively sets out to violate Google’s guidelines isn’t worth the risk.

Pay per post might work if you’ve got deep pockets

If you haven’t heard of ‘pay per post’ it’s pretty much as the name suggests. You pay a fee and a blogger publishes a post about your website. Sounds great, how do I get involved? Don’t.

A year or two ago ‘pay per post’ made a brief appearance in the SEO spotlight, but has since been returned to its rightful place in the shadows.

At a concept level getting links from bloggers who are excited about what you have offer is a great idea, and you’ll soon notice a knock-on effect in the search results. However, you need to get the blogosphere genuinely excited for it to work.

‘Pay per post’ companies take a lazier approach and the results are transparent to Google. The quality of the blogs themselves is generally lacking, the English is at best mangled and you are aligning yourself with a network that is regularly battered by Google’s algorithm.

If you want to solicit blog links you need to think carefully about who you are going to approach, and give them reasons why they should sit up and take notice of your site (and money isn’t a good enough reason!).

One exception to the above are big companies with big budgets who continue to get useful SEO mileage out of thinly disguised advertorials in national and local online press. Google hasn’t yet cottoned on, but the practice is so transparent (especially in the high competitive financial services sector) that it’s only a matter of time until the penny drops.

Reciprocal linking is so last millennium

Once upon a time reciprocal linking was the mainstay of many a successful SEO campaign. And while those days are long gone, for some they are not so easily forgotten.

Reciprocal linking, or link exchanging, worked on the principle that if I scratch your back: you scratch mine. Webmasters met online, swapped links, and harvested the rewards.

SEO was becoming child’s play and it was time for Google to exert their authority. In a wave of algorithmic updates Google managed to devalue reciprocal links to such an extent that they were virtually worthless.

Webmasters fought back with ‘three way’ linking, whereby links are exchanged in a ‘triangle’ of three websites. One of the problems with ‘two way’ linking was it was easy for spiders to get ‘caught’ bouncing back and forth between the same websites. And just as easy for Google to see that you were up to no good.

Triangular linking proved more difficult for Google to detect and optimisers were able to squeeze a little more life out of the practice. But as Google’s algorithm became ever more sophisticated, even three-way linking lost its potency.

Today it is best-practice to avoid reciprocal linking altogether. Google is very clear on this point and it’s more likely to do your site harm than good. Websites which are involved in link exchanges tend to be low grade, and you won’t earn any kudos by being associated with them.

Having said all of the above; you can find web sites who owe their rankings to reciprocal links. But you can bet they won’t be around for long.

Link farms never really worked

If you accept that reciprocal linking is likely to cause your website a slow and painful death, then link farming is SEO suicide. Link farms are automated exchange systems where every page of one site is linked to every page of another site, and vice versa.

If you know anything about Google, you know that dumping hundreds of irrelevant, low quality links on a website at once isn’t a good idea.

Outsourcing your link building is a tightrope walk

If you don’t have the drive, resources and know-how to undertake a campaign you might consider outsourcing the task to a third party link building specialist. And here a little knowledge goes a long, long way.

A good link hunter should play an integral role in developing your online profile. They can make or break your SEO ambitions and your website. They’ll be responsible for everything from variable anchor text to deep-linking. And of course they will be spending your money.

The point is that you need to choose wisely. There are plenty of cowboys out there and just as many ‘linking gurus’ who don’t know one end of a link from another. Be meticulous, spend time carefully reviewing previous sites they have worked on, and don’t be afraid to ask questions.

Why syndicating articles won’t work for SEO

You don’t need to travel far back in history to discover a time when most optimisers had one or two ‘article syndication’ websites bookmarked in their favourites.

Also known as ‘article submission’ sites, they enable: link-hungry webmasters to distribute articles which link back to their site, and copy-hungry webmasters to get hold of free content.

Article syndication sites helped webmasters to spread their message while building links at the same time, and for a while Google was smitten. However, as is so often the case with anything that’s of tangible SEO benefit, it wasn’t long before spammers gate-crashed the party.

The quality of articles began to slowly decline, while the quality of sites republishing them plummeted. Optimisers began to ask themselves if they really wanted links from such low-grade websites, perhaps they could do even more harm than good? And besides, surely RSS was a much better way of controlling the distribution of your content?

Today the SEO community’s attitude towards article syndication is mixed. You don’t have to spend long in the results to find syndicated articles which are ranking, but on balance the cons must outweigh the pros.

Distributing a handful of articles can’t hurt as long as you create fresh content which isn’t pulled from your website. And if you are going to the trouble of writing copy from scratch, your efforts would be better rewarded by approaching key-players in your online market and offering them bespoke content in exchange for a link, otherwise known as guest blogging in SEO circles.

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