Link Building Strategies to Avoid

7 years
    Press Release

Few things are as full of outright misinformation as “linkbuilding guides”. In truth, everyone has their own preferences and what works in one context might not work in another. But everywhere you read and research on the web today, you will hear industry voices saying, “Don’t get blog links.... don’t get footer links... don’t use standard link broker networks,” etc. These things probably sound like they make sense a lot of the time.

But have you ever stopped and looked at the top 30 sites in your sector by target keywords and analysed their back links? My guess is of course you have, and most probably the same as me you’re wondering how the hell they’re getting away with such obvious link buying strategies. All those industry voices are proved wrong time and again by real world examples that you probably know about in your own market.

Well I have a theory: that every link has either a positive points or negative points value. Imagine a scale that runs alongside PageRank like this:

  • PR3 = 10
  • PR4 = 50
  • PR5 = 250
  • PR6 = 1250
  • PR7 = 6250

(This is a really basic scale, but if you want to go deeper you can create a scaling model using the pagerank equation versus links on page for an alternative score) You can quickly work out that a PR5 link passes nearly 25 times more points than a PR3 link. Now imagine that these pages have a positive or negative value assigned by Google according to various quality signals. If you have 2 positive scoring PR5 links (total score 500) alongside 5 negative scoring PR3 links (total score 50) you still have a positive score - although you could still collect a keyword penalty, which we’ll now look at. Let’s flesh that out by imagining links going to a particular site:

  • Pr 5 Link text = Anchor text = 250 +
  • Pr 4 Link text = Anchor text = UK Seo 50 – (negative)
  • Pr 3 Link text = Anchor text = UK seo 10 +
  • Pr 3 Link text = Anchor text = UK seo 10 +
  • Pr 3 Link text = Anchor text = UK seo 10 +
  • Pr 3 Link text = Anchor text = UK seo 10 +

My overall score is still a good positive 240. But, that -50 score on ‘uk seo’ could cause a keyword penalty, which would most probably see my ranking drop a few pages in the SERPS or maybe even lose the interior page all together. Of course I may have enough domain equity to ride that -50 link. Let’s face facts here: maybe some blogger mentioned me in a blog post and his site is now under a link selling penalty. I can’t stop this type of link nor can I stop a competitor buying low quality links and throwing them at my site, but with good internal link structure and a positive link building campaign I should be OK.

So here is my tip: download all of your Backlinks from Webmaster Tools and you will see the screenshot below. This isn’t going to be a human inspection job unless you’ve only got 11 links:

Link Building Strategies to Avoid

Then build a script - at present I like a mix of Python, PHP and MySQL but these are religious matters :) - and create a database to store:

  • Anchor text
  • Page rank
  • Number of outbound links
  • Date

...and any other factors that might be important to you.

Now crawl through your links and fill that database up accordingly. What you now have is a dataset to analyse for positive/negative scoring factors against links. This is the critical part of the process and one that will test your mettle more than merely being able to crawl a few links. You’re now looking for indicators of strengths and weaknesses in your links which might make a big difference to your rankings. And you’re not Google, so you won’t have a handy algorithm to do the work for you.

For example, if you want to go a little step further you could setup a second database that collects all the link text of every outbound link on every page you have a link, and check this against what you feel is a bad keyword list - or at least mark up for a human review any sites that don’t match your criteria. Remember, you’ll be second-guessing what things might give a site a negative score and then looking for an overall positive balance with particular emphasis on anchor text you’re hoping to rank for.

A couple of things to note, if the toolbar says it’s a PR2 don’t be fooled, it may have been a PR6 and is now passing -1250. Yep, I believe that the negative score isn’t just related to the toolbar PR but to the PR the site used to have. You don’t know when you are getting links if that site has already been hit by a penalty already, so do some due diligence and ask the right questions:

a) Has the site always been a PRx or did you get hit in the last update?

b) How long have the other links been on the site? Then check the older ones for PR passing and rank check them for the anchor text.

c) If you place a link on the site for your client in the Travel sector, can you get assurances that the site won’t then place gaming or pharmaceutical links on it.

Obviously, to keep your rankings up, you need to revisit these factors constantly. It’s no good doing a one-off audit and then moving on whilst a couple of domains are going bad in the background. Keeping an up to date contact list is also an absolute must, because if a site starts to drag you down you’ll need to get hold of a site owner to get your link removed. Hopefully that’s sparked some ideas for you about the kind of things you need to do to make this strategy pay off for you. Automation will take you so far, and then you’ll need to rely on your own smarts to keep pushing forward.