“When I first started (my) site nearly 3 years ago, my mentor told me lots of things I was doing were wrong. I should use my keywords more in creating content, I should use lots of color in creating my posts, and I shouldn’t worry about what I said, as long as I put up a lot of content. Luckily for me, I didn’t listen to my mentor beyond his technical advice because soon the world of Internet search changed dramatically.” Dr. Angela Hausman, marketing professor at Howard University and owner or Hausman & Associates.
Most anyone who has tried to improve their site’s ranking with the search engines have heard or read something eerily similar in the past. Some people might still be hearing the same advice today. Yet as anyone who has been around for a while knows, what worked yesterday to help rankings could get you a penalty tomorrow.
History of link building
In addition to advice about keyword density and content quantities, the practice of link building has drawn some serious ire over the past couple of years that has created a three-ring circus in the SEO and marketing world.
As we all know, backlinks were once considered votes for a site by the search engine algorithms. The more votes, the better the page did in the results – and the higher the page rank as a bonus. So to capture as many incoming links as possible SEOs started submitting links to directories. Then they started commenting on blogs and submitting guest posts to other sites, some of them without care for how well the post was written or how reputable the site that posted for them was. Soon the practice of commenting on other blogs and submitting to directory links was automated. Computers even took to writing blog posts as article spinning software could easily turn one article into 10 unique posts with the click of a button. Thankfully, this all came crashing down when Google started looking at the quality surrounding the link. Did it come from a quality site? Is the content surrounding it relevant and of high quality? Is the anchor text optimized or natural? All of these things were taken into consideration to help clean up the mess caused by the linking craze of just a few short years ago.
Many sites that existed but added no value soon withered up after Penguin update; while some pivoted their strategies and still limp along. Unfortunately, many good sites were also hurt by updates like Penguin. These sites had followed the advice of the experts and went on link building rampages to help their high quality sites rank as well as the spammy, low quality ones. In order to stay relevant after the fall, these sites were faced with the task of cleaning up their link profile in order restore their sites status after suffering from penalties doled out by the search engines.
The aftermath of updates like Penguin have still sent website reeling after almost two years. Unfortunately, it has also caused many sites to question backlinks altogether; whether they are handing them out or receiving them from other sources.
The truth is, backlinks will always be a good thing because links are what makes the Internet a web. They are a way to bring new people to your site, they are a way to cite sources and give credit and they are a way to strengthen your profile. But anytime they are used as a way to manipulate the search engines they will wind up doing damage.