When Links Go Bad: SEO Linking Strategies

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I’ve talked here about the importance of creating organic content. It has two-fold uses. One, it increases the visibility of your site in search engines via keyword-targeted content. Two, it helps make your site informative and useful to web surfers – as well as to search engine spiders. The more content you have, the more power your links will have as well.

Let me explain. Search engine spiders hate link farms – a collection of links and not much else. You can look at a link farm in the same way that you look at keyword-stuffed content: an outdated method for creating a website that can now get you banned from search engines. Even if those links are reciprocal, search engine spiders do not respond well to a site with 1000 links and limited content.

Link Relevancy

Even if those links are relevant to your site, it is still going to cause you problems. Take this site, for example, SEOHosting could have a page of links linking to every SEO-related web page online and even receive links back from those places. But if the site doesn’t have relevant content to match those links then the site is going to just get tagged a link farm and be penalized. However, if the site also has a lot of relevant, on-target content (such as the blog entry you’re reading) then search engines will be much friendlier to the site overall.

As they say about a stock portfolio: you’ve got to diversify. Same goes for SEO. You need a healthy mix of content and links – a major reason why content is king, beyond the chance that someone will type in a keyphrase written into one of your articles. At the same time, the work doesn’t stop there. Even if you provide pages of relevant content, the quality of links you’re linking to can pose problems. Put another way: the poor quality of someone else’s site can have a negative impact on your own.

Bad Links = Bad Mojo

So you’ve got a lot of relevant content written and posted. You’ve done a bunch of link trades with site owners in similar fields. Are they putting in the same amount of work as you are? If you are a link partner with a low-quality link farm this can have a bad reflection on your site as well. Not only should content never be static, but your links shouldn’t be static either. What I mean by that is that you’ve got to check your links periodically to make sure they’re up to snuff. Sites go down, get replaced with dummy spam sites. Maybe a site becomes a link farm itself. Fact is, you can’t control how other web owners run their sites, but you can control what sites you link to.

After every major Google update it makes sense to check the Google status of all your links partners just to make sure they’re all on the up and up. Has their PR suddenly tanked? Does their website no longer exist? Every so often you need to go through a spring cleaning and clean house, in addition to looking for new quality link partnerships.

Creating Dummy Sites

Another fairly outdated practice is creating dummy sites of your own. Now, this isn’t as detrimental as a link farm and can still work to your advantage if done correctly, but you still need to tread carefully. Recent Google updates have penalized sites that are part of an interlinking network. Site owners create a series of sites all about a similar topic, with unique content aimed at linking to the main website. The early thinking was that this would automatically create a link partnership and clog up Google with more of that site’s network ending up in search results.

It makes perfect sense. Take a look at Oreos. There used to be two kinds: regular Oreos and Double Stuff. Now Oreos have gone hog wild and there are 75 different types of Oreos. The basic marketing maxim is that the more items there are on a supermarket shelf, the more likely it is that a shopper will choose some type of Oreo. That was the same type of thinking about creating a stable of sites all with the purchase of selling one major brand. In short, it was a way to fool Google.

Google does not like to be fooled. They’re pretty vindictive, really. But let’s go back to the concept of diversification: if you’ve got ample content and strong, relevant links, you could get away with creating separate sites that act as an affiliate site to your own business. The problem arises when sites rely too heavily on these link networks. Some sites used to make a habit of only linking on a centralized network. New Google algorithms were meant specifically to keep site owners from gaming the system in this manner.

All told, some of this should be common sense: don’t link to a site with horrible content and bad linking strategies. Always be updating your site to make sure that you are not crossing the boundary of what Google spiders deem acceptable. And trying to fool Google will more than likely make a fool out of you.

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