Link building is an excellent way to increase your site’s visibility, but, as with all things SEO, there is a right and wrong way to go about it. Done properly, you will see additional traffic to your site and, over time, your page rank will increase. Indulge in black hat tactics, however, your site might not simply rank lower, but could disappear from search results altogether. Still, people try to take these shortcuts all the time, and if link building is new to you, you may not even realize you are doing something wrong. Hopefully, this will clarify the difference between optimization and manipulation.
Google has always frowned on paid link networks and artificial links. Recently, however, there has been a flurry of activity that suggests Google is being more aggressive about penalizing these unethical practices. It recently deindexed sites associated with BuildMyRank.com, causing the service to shutter its doors and provide refunds to its customers. Google has also been sending warning notifications to sites that have unnatural or artificial links pointing to it, which is a clear violation of Google’s Terms of Service. In the past, Google would “silently distrust” these links, but they have decided to make their actions visible. This new level of transparency could prove to be quite powerful. People who thought they were getting away with something are being reminded that their consequences have actions, and it could serve as a stronger deterrent for people who are tempted to try their hand at some black hat SEO tactics.
Now, not all paid links are bad, as long as they are clearly identified as advertising, which is exactly what they are. Artificial links are essentially paid links masquerading as something else. They provide value to the site owner or a third party, but do not really serve the best interest of visitors. Think of a link as a vote or recommendation. If someone of their own volition and without any tangible incentive suggests something, we value it differently than if someone is offered compensation for his endorsement. There is nothing wrong with either practice, but you need to be honest about what you are doing. Advertising, of course, does not factor into page rank. If you want to appear higher in organic search results, then you need to seek authentic, substantive interactions with your content.
The best way to build links is to create excellent content that people will want to link to and recommend to others. One component of truly engaging content is interesting and meaningful links to others, who in turn may eventually link back to you. That is link building in its purest form. Of course, the internet is a big place and even stellar content might need some help before receiving the attention it deserves. Fortunately, in this age of social media, expanding your reach and growing a genuine community has never been easier, but it still requires a considerable amount of time and attention.
Obviously, establishing profiles and being active on Facebook, Twitter, and now Pinterest is a must, especially since social search has been integrated into Google’s algorithm. Now, keep in mind that you should not be spamming your followers, who oftentimes are family and friends. You will not only annoy everyone you know, but also be in violation of those sites’ Terms of Service. Posting a link to unique content or a status update that refers to something related to your site, however, is fine and helpful. People can easily find and share what your site has to offer. On the other hand, that should be only one aspect of your activity on those sites. Truly engage with others. Craft a presence that is distinctly separate from your site. Your social media activity should be a legitimate extension of your web presence that can stand on its own but also enhances the other online contributions you make.
Another great way to build links is guest blogging. The best way to secure a guest blogging spot is to build relationships with other bloggers. Regularly comment on posts you enjoy and make sure you are adding something of substance to the conversation. Do not be afraid to interact with other commenters. It makes for a richer dialogue and many of them also have sites of their own. Check out those other sites and, if you find something of interest, do not hesitate to link to it. While it is possible that someone will extend a guest blogging invitation without any prompting from you, you may need to approach someone directly. If you are going to suggest a guest blogging opportunity, make sure that you have a topic in mind and can articulate its relevance to the site. You should also reciprocate with an invitation of your own and an explanation of how this person’s contribution would enrich your site. If someone refuses, accept it good-naturedly and with grace. People are understandably protective of their sites and are very busy. Besides, you never know what the future may bring.
There are a myriad of other ways to legitimately build links and expand your web presence. There are unpaid blogging networks, Web 2.0 properties, and other platforms for your unique contributions. If you operate authentically and in good faith, you will see results. It is not quick or easy, but most things worth doing never are. Choose optimization over manipulation, and you will never need to worry about disappearing from Google again.