What are the dangers with these types of tactics?
These tactics must work to some degree as there's an entire industry that people are paying to build links. Surely they must be getting some results, but given the examples above there are some pretty legitimate concerns:
- You may see a slight jump in visitors, or even a big one for a while, but are all of these visitors legitimate potential customers?
- Google's constantly working on downgrading sites that use these tactics as they're really just trying to circumvent the system, which makes Google's search results less useful to its customers. A less useful Google translates to less people trusting and using them. Less visitors means less profit for them, so it’s in their best interest to deliver good results.
- If you're abusing the system enough your site could get banned from Google all together. Many of the sites we monitor get 60+% of their traffic from search. Is it worth the risk of losing 60% of your traffic for a bit of short term gain?
- Google is always adjusting how it ranks sites, so tactics that took you to the top one day may stop working without notice the next. If you're paying someone to circumvent the system, you'll have to keep paying them if you want continued results.
- What about user experience? Imagine a potential customer landing on a link exchange page within your site that talks about something you don't even sell, or perhaps it talks about another company in the same industry, but in a different city. At best, the visitor is confused and yes you just lost them.
- What about your brand reputation? If your company is the one that's posting to thousands of contact forms, blog comment forms and online discussion forms, the legitimate users of those sites are thinking your company is a cockroach that they'd like to crush instead of ever doing business with.
- The money and effort you are putting into link building could be put into something legitimate that will help your business in a different way.
How can I tell if an SEO company's link building is legitimate?
SEO certainly has an important place in marketing and there are great companies out there that offer inbound marketing. Link building is only one part of SEO. With that said, there are tactics that you probably want to consider staying away from. If you're choosing to work with an SEO company that offers link building you might want to:
- Ask them how they build links and get specific examples that you can reference on-line yourself.
- Ask them about the strategy behind where they choose to build links.
- Ask for examples of sites they've worked on. When you have a few sites, try this for each:
- Go to Google and type ‘link:www.sitename.com’ this will allow you to see all of the back links to that site that are actually indexed by Google.
- If they legitimately build links, you should be able to go through the list and see where they've contributed.
- Are the links from garbage sites or from legitimate industry related sources?
- If they are posting on blogs and forums, are they adding value to those posts so that your company not only gets a link, but is also seen in a good light by the readers?
- If your search in Google reveals no back links that should raise the question: What are these people actually doing besides taking someone’s money?
- Ask if they use software to automate their link building process and if so, ask them what it does and how it works. Does it do anything illegal? I'm sure they'll tell you no.
Another Approach that Might Work
Think about the last time you were looking for a solution to a problem and you followed a link to something great. It might have been an interesting article, video or graphic that explained something. The author of that content took the time to create something that had real value to you. Because it helped solve your problem, your opinion of the site is higher and your potential to trust the site or brand is greater. You might consider telling a friend, sharing the link on a social network or adding it to your site or blog if it's topical. This topical content is not only valuable to you and other visitors, but it's also a great resource for the company that created it to use for sales, service, training and more. Good content drives link potential.
Now take the same approach and look outside your own website. Where can you find the people online who have the problem your products or services can solve? Be there and be helpful. Build up trust and link back to the legitimate content on your site, but only when it makes sense.
These are different approaches to link building that may require more effort, but the long term benefits are worth it.
Too Good to Be True
Some forms of link building are too good to be true. Before heading down the link building path, you should seriously consider the benefits and risk. Your money and effort might be better spent on other tactics. Like most things in life the tactics that pay off often take a bit more effort, but are usually worth the investment.