The Weakest Links in Link Popularity Building
By Joel Katona
As one of the most important ranking factors on today’s modern search engines, link popularity starting to gain public exposure, the misinformation about what link popularity is and what it isn’t also starting to grow. Everyday thousand of new webmasters jump head first into their first search engine optimization project after reading a few SEO forum posts or news articles.
Unfortunately these new webmasters have only a partial view of the search engine optimization process and link building that will actually produce lasting results on the top three search engines, Google, Yahoo and MSN. The key I would like to emphasize here is achieving and maintaining “lasting results”. If your want your website to do well on the search engines even 5 years from now, it’s imperative you play by the rules and gain as much understanding about safe and effective link popularity building as possible.
Considering the sophisticated ranking algorithms used by especially Google, it’s very easy for inexperienced web masters to do irreparable damage to their sites by using spammy on-page optimization and link popularity building techniques that Google frowns upon. The real problem is, most of these search engine fooling tricks or sometimes referred to as “black hat SEO” techniques are not even known to new website owners.
Straight answers on link building methods that can hurt your ranking In this article I would like to shed light on some of the link popularity building techniques that will produce very limited results or worse will get your website banned on Google.
Before we start, I would like to introduce you to some basic concept about link popularity. A link in its simplest terms is a connection from one website to another. You can read more about web links on World Wide Web Consortium website. Search engines use the number and relevance of links to a website to measure its popularity. Therefore it naturally follows, the websites with the most links and the most relevance of those links will come out on top of the search results. Well, as I will reveal below, there is a whole lot more to links than you can imagine.
The risks of link building mistakes Since the link popularity building methods below have varying degrees of negative effects on your search engine ranking from no effect to an outright ban by the search engines, I will place a “Danger Score” next to each of these techniques to better illustrate the risks associated with each method.
A “Danger Score” of 10 will most likely result in a search engine ban while a “Danger Score” of zero will have little or no negative effect. Please also keep in mind Google, Yahoo and MSN have different levels of link spam tolerance. Google clearly leads the way in weeding out link spam and is much more vigilant in defending its search results against sites using link popularity building methods listed below.
Lets start by listing some of link popularity techniques that will not get you brownie points on the search engines.
The weakest links in link popularity building are:
1) Website links in forum posts signatures used to be a favorite method a few years ago to gain link popularity in a short amount of time. Although contributing to community forums is a great way to get your site noticed by other forum members, it’s not an effective link popularity building method anymore if you try to rely solely on a website link in your forum post signatures. (Danger Score:0)
2) Blog comment spam involves posting comments to blogs with a hyperlink pointing back to a website using a well targeted anchor text. This link posting method usually automated with the use of scripting languages and bots. This is a very popular method used by many sites peddling porn, pharmacy and many other products. Don’t get discouraged posting blog comments if you have something worthwhile to say, you can only get yourself in trouble if you over do it by adding a large number of links or try to automate comment posting. (Danger Score:7)
3) Guestbook posting spam is very similar to blog comment spam. The guestbook posts are sometimes automated and if there are a large number of these links identified by search engines pointing to your website, it can results in a ranking loss or a ban. (Danger Score:7)
4) Large number of inbound links from no Page Rank or low Page Rank pages can send a sign of low website quality or link manipulation to Google. Although the Google Page Rank is not as important as it used to be, nonetheless it serves as an acid test for minimum site quality. It’s becoming harder and harder to find new websites with a high Page Rank score as Google updates its Page Rank less frequently. (Danger Score:2)
5) Large number of links from the same C class IP block indicates the website is most likely involved in inbound link spamming. Since class C IP addresses use the first three octets to identify a network, the search engines substantially reduce the link popularity score being passed from one website to another in the same network. A large number of inbound links from the same class C IP addresses also suggest the use of the same hosting company or web server. (Danger Score:8)
6) Large number of links from unrelated sites suggest a link manipulation scheme since the website may lack unique content to attract links naturally. This type of scenario can often be observed in new websites involved in indiscriminate link exchanges using link exchange networks whether it’s automated or manual. It’s inevitable you will have some low quality unrelated links pointing to your website, but if the majority of inbound links are unrelated, you can quickly find yourself in a lot of trouble. (Danger Score:7)
7) Link farms and web rings are setup with the sole purpose to manipulate link popularity by using a central database, automated scripting and a network of websites. This method is usually beyond the reach of the average webmasters as it takes technological savvy and a large number of servers and other resources to execute. (Danger Score:10)
8) Interlinking your own websites is a similar linking scheme to getting links from the same C class IP block, but in this case the WHOIS website registration information may be also used by the search engines to link the owner to all the websites involved in the link network. (Danger Score:8)
9) Co-op Ad networks such as the Digital Point CO-Op Ad Network are used to automatically interconnect websites involved in the network by inserting a small piece of code on their web pages. Every website participating in the network has to be validated first before joining the ad co-op. Google recently took a much harder line against sites using these type of link networks and the risks of getting banned has increased. (Danger Score:9)
10) Paid links is a very controversial subject in the SEO industry, since Google itself is making most of its revenue from selling small text ads next to its search results and other web services. As long as the paid links remain “under the radar” of the search engines the link popularity boost can be very significant to a website. Google is using both human power and automated tools to detect paid text links. When a website it identified as a known seller of text links, the link popularity benefits are no longer passed on to the target website, while the website owner continues to pay sometimes astronomical monthly fees for the text links. (Danger Score:2)
11) Automated link exchanges using server side scripting and databases are still popping up as the lure of easy and fast link popularity building attracts thousands of new website owners. As the saying goes “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is”. In most cases automated scripts are used to execute the link exchanges and they usually leave a very large “foot print”. The search engines can easily identify the websites involved, and punish them accordingly. The automated link exchange services using server side scripts are sure way to loose your search engine ranking or get your site de-indexed by the search engines. (Danger Score:8)
12) Identical anchor text used in a large percentage of inbound links are unnatural and can be picked out by the search engines very easily. When linking occurs naturally people use all kinds of different anchor text to link to a website. When the same anchor text is used in a large number of inbound links, it’s a sign of someone trying to manipulate the inbound links and the search results. (Danger Score:5)
13) Run of site links are placed in the footer or side navigation of a website that is repeated on every page using a server side include or other HTML scripting method. Run of site links can also suggest the use of paid text links to the search engines. (Danger Score:4)
14) 3 way link exchanges occur when a website is invited to participate in a link exchange, but the inbound link is placed on a third website participating in the link exchange. Despite what many people think, three-way link exchanges can be easily identified by search engines and if there are a large number of these types of links are present, it can result in a ranking drop or ban. (Danger Score:3)
15) Low quality directory links could give a decent ranking boost to a website a few years ago, but that is no longer the case. Inbound links from brand new, template based general directories are not going to result in a link popularity increase for your website. These new directories are a waste of time and money to submit to. If you want to submit to well established, older directories, please visit our internet directory list page. (Danger Score:2)
16) Inbound links from sites which are heavily optimized without contact information, phone number or a physical address imply a website that was created with the sole purpose of getting higher ranking in the search results and/or pass link popularity score to other websites. Most of these websites don’t have any real products or services to offer, they are sometimes also used by SEO companies selling permanent text links for a fee or used to place their own clients’ website links on them. If you can’t find contact information on the web site, only a web form, it’s most likely a low quality resource. (Danger Score:1)
17) Inbound links from new sites under 1 year old will not pass as much link popularity score as older domains. The fact is Google favors old websites in its search results especially for very competitive keyword terms. (Danger Score:1)
18) Inbound links from affiliate or Google Adsense sites are relatively poor links due to the fact these sites contain very little unique content. Most of these site solely exist to generate ad revenue from Google’s Adsense program, or affiliate relationships.(Danger Score:2)
20) Adding too many links too fast is a sure way to get noticed by the search engines for the wrong reasons. Except in some special cases when a website gains a lot of public exposure and links due to a TV ad, website blog or other forms of advertising medium. Inbound links appearing too fast especially from unrelated websites can result in a ranking drop or complete ban. Slow and steady, natural link building is the name of the game. (Danger Score:5)
In Conclusion Search engines are much more sophisticated than people give them credit for. Avoid damaging your web site’s link reputation on the search engines by staying clear of the above link popularity building methods. Fixing link popularity building mistakes is hard work and can take a long time to correct. Before you start your search engine optimization project, learn all you can about effective and safe link building methods that will guarantee your web site’s long term success.
Joel Katona is the founder of Trendmetrix Software a full service SEO Company and the architect behind SEO Studio a leading SEO Software. Don’t forget to check out his free step-by-step SEO Training guide. For more timely website promotion tips and search engine optimization advice please sign up for his free SEO Newsletter
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