Link Building Is...
Link building is puzzling, confusing, interesting, frustrating, awesome, unpredictable and a host of many other things too and maybe that's why we do it even though there are no guarantees. In spite of this reality, in spite of the fact that Google changes the rules all the time, in spite of knowing that doing it wrong carries painful penalties, yet on the flipside doing it right has the potential to be one of the most gratifying experiences you'll ever have in SEO. So in this continuation on the discussion of link building and link profiles, lets talk about how achievable safe link building and building a natural link profile really is.
Matt Cutts On Quality Links
Matt Cutts in this video talks about the kind of links that Google would give weight to verses the kind of links that the algorithm wouldn't give weight to. Keep in mind that everytime I'm referencing links, I'm talking about what is going to impact your link profile. That link profile is any link that is associated with a particular webpage or domain that the link is pointing to. This video speaks directly to links that are achieved through article marketing, widgets and themes.
With respect to article marketing, this method has been used heavily in the past and has been deemed a pretty easy way to get links in SEO land. In full disclosure, I've certainly made my share of mistakes on my journey in SEO over the last decade. Even I've been guilty of "thin" article marketing in the past for the sake of getting links, but good practice is that when you make mistakes.. you learn from them which has certainly made me more effective as someone that builds links, participates in social media and in content marketing too.
Link Building Tactics And Anchor Text
Matt goes on to say that developing widgets and themes for the sole purpose of distributing these items with "specific anchor text", while they may have been given more weight in the past are not given much weight these days and quite frankly is a very bad idea. The primary reason for this is that if we're focused on what is natural link building and what is safe link building.. not having any control from the person placing the link as to what the anchor text would be doesn't exactly make it an organic link now does it ? This is all in accordance with my understanding from Matt Cutts.
When the anchor text has been predetermined this lowers the quality of the link in the eyes of Google. This is something to keep in mind as you build your links in the future. It is my own personal belief that anchor text will carry less and less weight with respect to the future of link building. I think that the algorithms will continue to get better in determining placement and context around the links and what weight is given to anchor text specific links in the future of SEO and link building.
In short, creating widgets, articles and Wordpress themes for the sole purpose of link building is a tactic that has had it's moment and that moment is over. Yes, you may still get credit for the links but you're not going to be able to rank what is targeted in your anchor the way you used to using that strategy. Natural link building is the future of SEO and tactics such as what Matt has explained in the video is a thing of the past and isn't worth anyone's time anymore.
Matt Cutts On Un-Natural Link Building
In this next video with Matt Cutts, there's a discussion about how being "un-natural" affects your website in terms of how the algorithm would evaluate your domain and it's pages. From my standpoint, I'm going to say upfront that being "un-naturual" will adversely affect your link profile too so taking an intentional look at what kind of links you're building will help you to a large extent steer clear of building a link profile that is not natural.
The MOST obvious point is to avoid spamming. So here's my plug or rant on SPAM within the context of this post.
Spamming degrades the integrity of the internet and the whole purpose of utilizing search engines is to acquire information that is relevant to what the user is searching for. However spamming, most notably on blogs in blog comments has been done for the sole purpose of link building typically occurring most egregiously on websites that are not moderated or on comment auto approve pages. This is a practice that certainly needs to stop. The penalties for comment spam are growing and in remaining on topic does nothing to improve or benefit anyone's link profile.
Nevertheless, in recent years, there have been all sorts of methods used to acquire links to beef up a websites link profile. As Matt Cutts summarizes, un-moderated blogs that allowed blog comments (abused, which turned into blog comment spam), links in forum profiles, un-moderated guest books with poor or very thin comments left just to get a backlink, excessive reciprocal link building or software that has anchor texts that have been embedded into the software without the end users knowledge.
So with this information, here's the conclusion that I've arrived at for the sake of summarizing what is conveyed in the video... If you want a link, don't go out looking for them.
The direction that safe link building is going is that for much of the link building associated with your website.. it should happen with very little intervention from you. Now granted if you're adding pages to your own website, obviously each time you do that you are creating new links for your own website. However, in the case of links that are coming from outside sources that are highlighting or giving you credit for content that you have put together those links should not be incentive based or influenced by you in any way.
Link Building And SEO Footprints
Methods that have been discussed in this post do leave noticeable "footprints". Have you ever heard of an SEO footprint ? If you've been looking into SEO for any amount of time, chances are good that you have heard this term. An SEO footprint is simply put.. a very clear sign that you have manipulated the search engines for the purpose of getting backlinks. Footprints can be traced back to you and be used to demolish your business online, your website traffic and completely deindex you from the search engine depending on the severity of your manipulation.
If we're thinking about natural link building, there is nothing natural about using an SEO footprint. For example if you're trying to build links that target the keyword "seo tools", it's not uncommon to look to leave a comment on a blog that allows you to leave your website link. You may type in something like the following: site:blogwebsite.com "leave a comment". In that example you're looking for a website that has the phrase "leave a comment" on it's page. It's a very simple example, but it's also a way to find websites that allow you to leave a comment. Once you're on that site, you would leave your comment and your website targeting the anchor that you want to rank for and then proceed onto the next website to do the very same thing. It's a rinse and repeat process, but as you get credit for these links, going through your link profile will show that you have the "same" anchor text for many different links that you own and that is a sign of search engine manipulation that can result in a manual webspam action from Google. Further more it does not look natural and is not natural in your link profile.
As I close this post, good practice and good advice to bear in mind is that "looking" natural should never be the goal as you build your link profile in your safe link building journey. Write your content and leave the process of link placement to others as you focus on generating material that others will find useful, interesting and worthy of placement on their respective websites.
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