Manipulative SEO Link-Building Schemes That You Should Avoid

Expressions-13-450149-edited.jpgYears ago when businesses realized the importance of search engine optimization, they sought to find the best ways to have their site rank number one in the rankings. Over time Google and other search engines have updated their algorithms in attempts to stay one step ahead of those who, in their eyes, manipulate search rankings. Let’s walk through three manipulative SEO schemes as they unfolded and discuss how they can in turn be hurting your search engine rankings instead of helping.

Mutual Backlinking

Mutual backlinking started it all. The original premise was that when a site was linked to from many other sites, that must mean it was important. When people discovered this, they began attempting to get their site linked anywhere and everywhere. This worked for a time. Initially people were posing links in places that were relevant (blog comments and link directories for example) which were useful for a time, but when people began to include five to ten links at a time, it became excessive. In an effort to avoid having blog comments deleted people began including links hidden in the website code and the colors of the site. At its worst, mutual backlinking included entire websites of just links meant to build a site’s “rank”.

When Google realized the issues that mutual backlinking was causing they began to take steps to stop this scheme from happening. Google gradually devalued the links so that they were no longer providing any rank authority to the linked sites. After Google squashed mutual backlinking, people went to link wheels.

Link Wheels

Link wheels were the next step in the search engine optimization scheme. This was a more complex step up from mutual backlinking. In this scheme, people would connect through two similar sites before linking back to the target site. In theory this scheme could be a legitimate SEO practice, until marketers began to abuse the system. When this scheme worked, businesses that were similar would link to each other in an effort to build mutual content and help build each other’s SEO ranks. When it became abused, people were building whole armies of small, useless sites simply to try to use them in a link wheel to build the rankings of their main site. Google eventually started detecting and devaluing the links from these link wheel sites as well. But link wheels were not the last manipulative scheme that people tried. After Google squashed link wheels, people went to the next thing: closed link networks.

Closed Link Networks

Closed link networks are run by businesses provide artificial SEO building services. The business will build up an extensive network of websites directly under their control, sometimes numbering in the thousands. In this link building scheme, a business pays for links to their site to be spread throughout the Internet — however, the SEO provider is really only building out links on the group of sites directly under their control. It is called a “closed link network” because there is no public acknowledgment by the SEO provider that these sites are not actually independent sites but are instead all manually controlled by them. This is why it’s an artificial link-building scheme. A closed network operated under the assumption that they could beat the search engines. Through creating a closed system they believed that they A. spread the links out farther than they could with a traditional link wheel, and B. hidden the evidence of their control of the sites in their network well enough that search engines would not stop them. However, Google has for the past several years gone on a systematic effort to sniff out and detect closed link networks; then when it detects one, it will devalue all the links from all the sites in that network. When that happens, people who relied on the closed link networks to boost their site authority lose all the authority they had spent their money gaining over the years prior.

We have noted three types of manipulative schemes that try to shortcut the process of building site authority. While there have been many businesses that have used these schemes at one time or another, at the end of the day they almost always end up being devalued or even penalized by Google. Then all the time and money they spent on these schemes goes up in smoke! As a way to avoid any penalties, the best practice that a company can have is to build their site authority organically. Building site authority naturally is hard and slow process, but at the end of the day, it is the best long-term option for a company to pursue.