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Web masters have been putting extra efforts building links for their websites. As a search engine optimization strategy, link building has been known to contribute to page rank and Google ranking. Traditional belief which still most follow is that the more sites linking to your page (links coming from anywhere), faster you get the rankings. Today, the situation has become entirely different. Numerous but low quality links act as deadly arrows that can hit your website and destroy them rather than help to get high ranking. With the latest developments in Google Algorithm, many web masters got confused by statements of SEO masters which they pronounced and promoted few years ago. So, are there any clear cut guidelines on how the link building should be done?

Traditional Link Building Strategies

Traditional link building strategies has jeopardized the ranking of many websites, including the well-known ezinearticles.com, an article submission directory. The hit was caused by more and more low quality articles proliferating the site. Here are some of the traditional link building strategies that can hurt your ranking based on Panda and Penguin updates. These are considered traditional black hat strategies.

Traditional vs. Current Link Building Strategies

It is evident that there is a difference in the way link building was done in the past and today. Here are the major traditional link building used by SEOers, which in today’s world, will cause a problem for website ranking or simply blow it off the search engine results along with modern link building strategies.

  • Use of keywords

In the past, SEOers would post content with keywords stuffed with the hope of getting noticed by the Google crawlers fast, indexed early, and get ranked for the desired keywords. This is known as keyword stuffing where the keyword is placed all over the text making no sense most of the time. Some others would hide the keywords – they would use color that is the same as the background so that the text added is not seen and the article would not look spammy to the human eyes.

Contrary to the traditional practice, later a myth came that the percentage of keywords that must be included in the content is limited to 2% to 3%. Well, keywords must be used logically; they must be relevant to the topic being discussed. In addition, unseen keywords can now be detected and a website using hidden keywords can be penalized. There are SEO tools that help web site owners to get an exact count of the keywords found in the write up. This way, adjustments can easily be made. There is no thumb rule that states that you have to use keyword X number of times in a content.

Currently,what matters is, your content should be unique and something that is contributing to the topic and adding value. So, stop worrying where to put the keyword and how many times to use, just write content around the keyword/topic and use related words, words from same family, and keep it natural. In short, while reading you should not be able to make out the targeted keywords used in the content.

  • Commenting

Many web site owners make comments on posts on other sites for the purpose of link building. Usually, the comments made are not relevant or related to the post. The comment would include a link to their website so that when someone clicks it, they land on your website. All websites have a page for comments and by itself commenting is not bad. But when this privilege is used for the commenter’s benefit, Google would know and the owner’s site could be penalized.

Here is one example, I received an email from a friend asking me if this comment is something to care about. So, when I reviewed I found it was neither relevant to website content nor to the blog content. Even more concerning was that the URL added was linking to some money making website talking about stocks, FUNNY!.

  • Guest Posting

Some website owners try to get links by posting articles on other sites that publish all type of content without checking if these articles are of high quality and are they even relevant. Obviously, the purpose of these articles is to get links. In the past, a website owner would feel honored to have someone express interest in writing a blog on his site. It was only later when Google caught on what was happening and Matt Cutts gave reasons why Guest posts are now not considered to be a good practice anymore. Guest blogs must be of high quality but it appeared that the articles written by many guest bloggers appeared inferior and irrelevant. Their only aim in writing was to get link. Sites that use this strategy are penalized by Google now.

So, what we can do about it now? The way forward is to hire a good blogger and ask him/her to write a post which is content rich, that adds value to the topic and is for readers not Google. The purpose of the guest post should be to allow someone to express his/her feeling on a topic but this should not come from a random person. If you have a friend who write on topics related to your niche, inviting him to write for you won’t be considered spam, that is what Matt is trying to explain in his blog on guest posting. Another thing to take care now is to make the outbound link as “No-follow”, Google says any link made intentionally to pass on the page rank is spam. Well it’s hard but this is Google, so mark the link no follow. Here is how you can make the link no follow. eg. <a href=”www.domain-name.com” rel=”nofollow”>Anchor text</a>

  • Article Submission

In the past, website owners spent tons of money for thousands of articles to be submitted on Article directories. Some used original content but many used spun content, which was a very low quality article. These articles were submitted on directories to get a direct link to the money site. A back link from these websites was believed to increase the ranking in search engines.

Today, according to Matt Cutts, head of Webspam team of Google, the best way to build links is to write high quality content that is useful to readers and is interesting enough so people link to it by themselves. This is the reverse of the traditional link building practice, which is to get as many links as websites can. Nowadays, the strategy is to have excellent content, which other writers would love to mention on their web pages. This way, you are earning links with your quality content.

Another issue is on quantity versus quality. Traditional link builders put importance on the number of links; modern link building strategies give due emphasis on the quality of the links. A few links from authority sites will impress search engines more than numerous links from unknown sites. This shows how article submissions in numbers have become an obsolete strategy now.

  • Reciprocal links

Reciprocal links have been popularly used by traditional link builders. This technique refers to an exchange of link. A website owner will link to another site with the understanding that the site will link back to it. There is nothing wrong with this when both web sites belong to a similar niche and they are both authority sites. But you would mostly find directories and other free links submission websites promoting this technique.

However, this does not mean that reciprocal links must be totally disregarded. You can follow a different approach, build a relation with a business in your niche and plan to create a product together. In this way you can link to each other and this won’t be considered as a spammy link. The product is the outcome of a partnership and both the companies invested their experience and money in creating it. So, if you link to each other with this product in common you are making a “quality reciprocal link.” I will give you an example from online marketing industry itself, Distilled started their online course and used most of the videos from Moz, and also mentioned about their other tools in their content. In return, Moz blog also mentioned about Distilled in some of their blog content, so what is this? It’s quality reciprocal link they are passing to each other without any fear of penalty. Note, it is not that Distilled is linking back only to Moz, they have mentioned about other website in the same niche and talked about their products too. Using reciprocal links seems outdated but if used sparingly and appropriately, it can be of help in the SEO efforts.

  • Commenting on Forums

Some people make comments on forums and attempt to place a link within the text. Website owners who are careful with what is seen in their pages review the comments and comments not related to the topic are not accepted.  It has been observed that many follow this strategy to comment just to get back link.

Joining forums relevant to your site will benefit you more than making comments on topics that have nothing to do with your content. Search engines can detect this and you will end up being penalized by Google by removing your pages from the search engine results.

  • Directory Submission

There are directories where website owners can submit their website and relevant information about it, including keywords found in the site. The manual submission can help in link building but when automated submission is used, Google will notice the unusual method of building links and discover what is happening. This act will subject the website to a penalty, which can wipe it out from the search engine results. Over period of time these links have lost their relevancy so if you are depending on these links then you are surely closing doors for your business. You can find more info about directory submissions and its future here.

Don’t worry story does not end here there are still some curated lists that you can find online and make a direct link to your website. You are advised to check the authority of these websites and follow the guidelines mentioned by each one of them. You will find thousand of lists online with number of websites that fall in directory niche but remember all are not relevant to your industry. So, look for directories from you niche. My personal advice is make backlinks from niche based directories, local business listings, or even you can approach Local Chamber of Commerce.

Better Business Bureau: The BBB has incredibly high domain authority and it’s widely trusted in the eyes of search engines and the consumers. So getting a link from BBB would be valuable. Similarly, Chamber of Commerce provides same type of value and they are too worth approaching.

So, where does this leave SEOers? Does this mean link building has become useless for search engine optimization?

I will post some link building strategies in my next post, I am reading about what people are following and practicing and making my notes on that. BTW, Google made some changes in their Google Webmaster Tools and there is some change in the Title Tag Length recently where they are now following some pixels. So, if you use capital letters vs small letters you will get less space to put your titles. Check this post to know more.