Website standard practices

Deliberate Link Building Can be Offensive to Google

Last Updated: November 8, 2023By

In over a decade of research and writing on Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Search Engine Marketing (SEM), we have observed with some certainty that the Google search engine algorithm seems to be offended with deliberate link building.

In this post, we identify and discuss link building tactics which fall into this category and have the tendency to hurt your website ranking.

What is Deliberate Link Building

Deliberate link building (DLB) is any link building effort that is aggressive and solely designed to target link earning and not necessarily emanating from the value of the link to the page content and the website users.

DLB could be internal linking or directed at inbound external links. The focus of deliberate link building is to earn links and gain search engine ranking and not necessarily to provide further information for website users to add value to content.

Why is Deliberate Link Building Offensive to Google?

Google is very interested in eternal (also called inbound links) as well as internal links. Here are some key reasons you should be mindful and run away from Deliberate Link Building and why Google dislikes this strategy as a ranking strategy:

Links Carry a Lot of Weight

Links carry a lot of weight in Google ranking and so people try to manipulate Google to think a website has some deserved links when it actually does not and this practice can be very offensive to Google. Links usually suggest that a website content is very useful to the user and found worthy to be referenced and so Google considers such content to be most likely appropriate to serve user intents. The usual result is a higher placement in the search engines for search terms involving the relevant keywords. When the Google algorithm discovers that the links to a website were intended to manipulate its assessment of the website, it can come hard on it.

If Google simply ran websites based on link volume and does not consider its quality and relevance to the search intent, it simply means websites can get ranking advantages with low quality links.

Imagine getting a copyright link on a website with over one million articles and your link appearing on over one million pages without offering any valuable content that are useful to searchers? Allowing all links to have equal weight in ranking calculations will simply fill the top search results with low quality websites who have invested in link purchases to earn massive external links.

Smart and unethical SEO practitioners take advantage of these to source for links by all means including engaging in unethical deliberate link building which could give undue advantage to low quality websites.

Search Quality is Important For Google’s Reputation and Business

Because Google is very concerned about the quality of its search results and will not want to rank poor quality websites at the top of its search results, Google won’t tolerate deliberate link building which could offer undue advantage to poor quality content.

Google pays attention to the experience of users and wants to prevent, as much as possible, websites that do not provide the answers searchers seek from ranking top of its search results. It is therefore very important for Google to improve, or at least, maintain its search quality.

Google Encourages Fair Competition

The search engine is some sort of survival of the fittest but things have also changed a lot and Google now has improved its ability to track unfair competition and penalize for unethical practices that attempt to manipulate the system to gain advantage. The Google algorithm today is remarkably different from what it used to be some 10 years ago when keyword stuffing was advantageous, exact mach keywords gave a lot of advantage over competitors and so was exact match domains.

Today, Google is giving room to all websites to compete fairly and get ranked based on their content quality and not based on their ability to manipulate its algorithm and get well placed in the search results.

Most Common Deliberate Link Building Strategies

Here are common deliberate link building strategies that are not acceptable to Google.

Footer Links

Many website owners have used this strategy to promote link growth and increase their link popularity. But that was rewarding yesterday. Today, it no longer pays to build links that way. But using footer links is an aggressive link building strategy which will place your website links on every page on a website you control. Google does not give much value to footer links anymore and engaging in link building using footer links can be very damaging to a website reputation and ranking.

Massive and Unnecessary Internal Link Building

By aggressive internal link building, it means deliberately adding internal links to web pages just to gain advantages and not necessarily to enhance user experience. One common way this is done is to add lots of links to an existing article.

While we recommend updating existing article to incorporate new practices and update content to contain modern features, the practice of editing an existing article just for the purpose of adding internal links is a deliberate link building strategy and Google seriously will not love that if it is not intended to add value to content but aimed at just creating internal links.

This however may not always be bad if, for example, you are updating an orphaned page to be more useful – one that does not have a single internal link. Any content that does not have internal links that further direct users to deeper knowledge and to sources of certain information is considered a poor quality content. Note however that updating an existing web page should not be just for the purpose of including links. In such cases, it is important to update the entire content if possible, with some few links to information sources. Generally, much caution is recommended here.

Cheap Guest Blogging Campaigns

Guest blogging itself can be rewarding when done on authoritative websites and intended to create real value for users. However, as a link building strategy, people have created shabby content for cheap blogs and have their links inserted into those content just to earn some external links.

Google has become smart enough to detect such cheap guest blogging campaigns and will rather punish than reward a website for such links. Usually, Google will simply ignore such links and they will not add any value to your website ranking.

Guest blogging is something you should properly evaluate before you opt for it because there are lots of cheap guest blogging sites offering to provide you with links even for very low prices. You have to run away from such websites. Guest blogging can give you some temporary ranking advantage but ultimately, Google will detect their low quality and that can put you into some trouble which will also come with ranking losses. Google’s John Mueller has suggested that guest post links should always be marked as rel-sponsored / rel-nofollow links to avoid any damaging consequences.

Further reading:

Developing and Managing Your Unique Selling Proposition

Links From Irrelevant Websites

Links from relevant websites and those in the same business or related industry are far more valuable than links from websites that are not relevant nor related to your niche. When building links, it is far more rewarding to websites that are not related to your business.

Building Links From an All-Comers Website

By all-comers site, we mean a website without editorial control. Some websites will allow publications without editorial control. They will publish every content automatically allowing people to insert all kinds of spammy links into their content. This is what ezine articles suffered with the Panda update which eventually brought the website down as it was filled with all kinds of spammy links that triggered a Google penalty.

Being linked to such websites that do not have editorial control simply imply that you are promoting spammy websites and that could trigger a Google hammer on your own website as well. So, as much as possible, avoid easy link building opportunities involving posting on websites that do not offer editorial control so that your many links are not found on spammy websites which in most cases eventually get penalized by Google. Once you have a significant amount of links on a penalized website, it raises a red flag for your website and affects the quality of your link profile.

Further reading:

5 SEO Winning Tips You Should Take Seriously

Building Links Through Blog Comments and Forum Posts

One easy way people build links is to comment on blog posts and forum posts. While it will be okay to help people with answers to their questions and provide a link to further help users with more information on a subject of discussion, this opportunity has largely been abused by website owners and people who are paid to build links for websites.

Let it be known that quality link building today no longer considers this approach as a good strategy. Google largely sees such comment and forum posts as spammy and will simply disregard them while it also tells Google about the poor quality of your link profile. We recommend that you simply avoid building links with form and comment posts.

Further reading:

4 Easy Steps to Reduce Your Website Bounce Rate

Buying Links

All over the internet, you will find websites advertising links and offering to provide large amounts of links cheaply. This is actually a death trap for your website and you should not fall for it. Buying links will crash your rankings and you may never be able to recover from such penalties. We strongly advise that your link profile should be natural and you must avoid anything that suggests unethical behaviour.

Free Products Link Building

Some webmasters will offer free products in exchange for a link. This is also a form of paid link building which Google strongly detests. In some countries, this does not violate Google’s guidelines but could also be illegal.

Further reading:

Leverage your Branding for eCommerce Growth

Discounts For Link Building

This is known particularly for edu and gov domains where website shop owners offer discounts to students and government website administrators to have them post a link for them on their websites. They understand that having a ling on a .edu and .gov domains can get a lot of weight. This practice is manipulative and Google strongly frowns at it and could penalize any of these practices.

Brand Mention Links

This can be very tricky and sometimes may lead Google to see the link as natural. But in most cases, Google is still able to detect the scheme. Brand mentions usually involve paying a developer to insert a link in an article. It is unethical and should not be adopted. All links that will add value to your website ranking should be natural.

This practice could create a problem for company reputation when exposed because the content writer is paid by the company hiring him and an external website owner further pays him to insert a link into his content. It is harmful and could be illegal in some countries.

Link Bait Link Building?

Link bait link building has been a popular strategy used to build links by promoting content on other websites. It involves writing good content and promoting it on other websites with the hope that people will link to the original content.

First you create good content which people will find interesting, then you promote it on popular blogs and websites with the hope that people will link to the original content.

This strategy for link building can be considered unnatural when deliberately deployed for link building. It can however be useful and beneficial under certain circumstances:

  • When emanating from an interview granted by the website.
  • When the site publishes an exhaustive resource on a given topic and the website is cited and linked.

Link baiting can raise a website link profile incredibly and so should be carefully managed because Google pays particular attention to links. If used effectively, link baiting will expose a website to a large audience and result in lots of relevant inbound links.

Link baiting can be very beneficial in cases when an article is innovative and especially when it contains a new content, terminology or methodology or some kind of new discovery about what people do or will find very relevant in advancing their business or lifestyle.

Instances Where Link Bait Campaigns Will Fail

  • It results in irrelevant links.
  • Involve contests, humor, and stunts.

Link bait is not worth it. It can create thousands of links with no positive effects on ranking.

Sponsored, Donor or Scholarship Links

Some organisations can offer a donation in exchange for a link.This practice can lead to a manual action just as it no longer helps for ranking purposes.

Google’s John Mueller warned against this practice and had this to say on Webmaster hangout:

“…if with your website you’re sponsoring… different clubs and sites where it looks like the primary intent is to get a link there, then that’s something the web spam team might take action on. …So I’d try to take a look at the bigger picture there and consider whether or not this is really something that you’re doing systematically; like going out and sponsoring other sites or products with the intent of getting a link or if this is something that’s essentially just a natural part of the web.”

On the other hand, displaying a badge of membership in or support of an organization communicates that the ideals of the business match those of the client and can increase goodwill and trust between the customers and the business.

The better way to handle sponsorship links is to use a nofollow attribute.

Scholarship links have the same effect on websites. People will advertise a scholarship opportunity and link their business to it especially if they have written an article on the scholarship offer, they then promote their article using the scholarship opportunity. This type of link bait campaign is clearly intended to get backlinks and are a violation of Google’s rules. It is quite a smart one but it hurts.

Expired Domains

Buying expired domains is a tactic that had been used way back. Let’s call it an old until 2003 tactic that worked before but can really be very harmful today.

Before now, you could buy expired domains with the hope of transferring page rank through a 301 permanent redirect. But Google’s algorithm update has rendered this practice useless as it will simply reset the PageRank for an expired domain and no longer transfer PageRank.

This tactic no longer works. It last worked in 2003.

Widget Links

Do you remember those codes that are generated with a subtle request to paste the code in the HTML section of your website? That will be after you have used a widget to perform some operation. The widget will usually contain a backlink to its source. Well, this worked for several years but no longer does.

Well, it worked before but today, it is an easy road to a manual penalty.

Press Release Link Building

Adding links in press releases can earn some links to a website but the links embedded in a press release are not really valuable. Google’s John Mueller has spoken about this stating that press release links are something Google tries to ignore.

As a website owner, while you may want to publish news about your business using press releases, it should not be used as a link building tactic.

Profile Links

Posting comments in forums will usually require that you create a profile. On some websites, commenting also requires creating a profile which allows you to add a link from your website. These are all useless links and are as damaging as a spammy link. You need to run away from those tactics as they will only damage your link profile, crash your ranking and could sometimes lead to a manual penalty especially when they are aggressively pursued.

Theme Link Building

Most CMS like WordPress, Joomla Drupal, OpenCart and hundreds of others include a credit link at the bottom of their themes. Commonly called a “powered by ” link. While we want to state that links of these kinds are also useless and will not really add value to the link profile of the developer, we have also seen people edit this link to give credit to a website they desire to promote.

All of that is useless and will only harm your SEO efforts rather than helping with any ranking gains.

Final Words

Beneficial link building must be natural. This is a golden rule and all your link building efforts should be guided by this rule.

It should be noted that no persuasion should drive you into building links with any of the spammy tactics discussed above. You can look at our recommended link building techniques here:

Finally, keep in mind that Google takes link building very seriously because it is a weithy factor that impacts search engine ranking. You should never be deceived to think that any aggressive or manipulative tactics to link building will go undetected and benefit your website with better ranks. Google will detect any unethical practice and could choose to ignore or punish them. The safe way to go is to keep away from what Google dislikes.

Want to share your thoughts on this post, link building techniques or anything else, use the comment form below.

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