Backlinking – The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

If you rely on organic search traffic (and who doesn’t) then you’re well advised to keep Google’s reason for being at the forefront when optimizing your website.

Google’s mission statement is “To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” The operative word here is “useful” and over the past 18 months the search engine giant has made incredible progress ensuring that the most relevant links are returned first for any given search. Equally impressive is their ability to filter out spam and low quality content.

This is great news for every legitimate business.

Currently “useful” means that other people believe the content delivers on the search phrase. Who are these “other people?” They are the websites and social media messages that contain a link pointing at a page on your site.

Google examines the quality of these websites and sources linking to your page and then considers the total number of links to determine how popular or “useful” people think a particular page is. The key here is the quality of the referring sites. The old adage that “you’re known by the company you keep” is the driving force behind Google’s Panda algorithm.

Build backlinks that help not hurt

You can have world class content but if nobody sees it then it just doesn’t matter. You can hope that the work you’ve done with on page optimization will be enough to get you ranked high in the SERP or you can get proactive and start a backlinking campaign to get the attention of Panda.

If you’re going to embark on a backlinking campaign make sure you don’t shoot yourself in the foot. There are good, solid backlinking strategies, strategies that will do nothing but waste your time and strategies that will get you slapped down by Google. Building solid backlinks is time consuming but the payoff is huge.

The Good

  • Guest blogging. Perhaps the surest way to get a quality backlink or “vote” is to provide content for posting on someone else’s blog. This assumes that the blog is relevant (if you sell furniture you might look for interior design blogs), has a page rank of 3 or better (easy to check with the Firefox SEO feature) and has decent traffic. Basically guest blogging is trading quality content for two or three links. To find blogs that accept guest blogging Google “guest blogging policy.” This will typically take you to the Terms page for sites that welcome guest content. The next step is to contact the owner and build a relationship. This probably will not happen overnight but if you can line up 4 or 5 quality blogs and provide them with fresh quality content you can quickly build your reputation in Google’s eyes.
  • Make it easy for people to “vote” for you. As part of your on page optimization, make certain that sharing the content on Facebook, StumbleUpon, Twitter and other social media platforms is just a matter of a single click. If you’re using WordPress this can be accomplished by adding a simple plugin.
  • Selective Press Releases. If you’ve done something “newsworthy” submit a press release to relevant organizations like the digital version of your local newspaper, professional organizations you may belong to or to authority sites in your particular field.

The Bad

  • Article marketing. Sometimes referred to as “bum marketing,” article marketing was the ??? “all the rage” until February, 2011 when Google rolled Panda out. The idea was to submit hundreds of articles to article directories who in turn would offer the content for free to any publisher who wanted it. The articles included links back to the author’s page and it was an easy way to build Backlinks. Unfortunately the content on these directories were mostly keyword stuffed, full of fluff and of little value to the reader. When Panda was introduced, the largest article directory went from a Page Rank 6 to a Page Rank 2 and all of their page one returns were buried deep in the index. There are several of these still in business. Don’t be tempted by the idea of quick easy backlinks. It simply isn’t worth your time.

The Ugly

  • Black Hat. The quick definition of black hat SEO is any tactic or system that violates Google’s Webmaster Guidelines, and the penalties for violating the Guidelines can range from a serious drop in ranking to delisting from the index. Black hat does not pay…it costs. There have been all kinds of black hat backlinking schemes in the past but the one that is most common today is the spamming of blog comments. SEO companies who offer this service use an automated system to find unmoderated blogs and spam the comments with keywords in the form of anchor texts. You can quickly build 1,000 links using this technique but the links will have little value. In fact when Google realizes the speed with which your links have increased it will consider it “unnatural” and assume that your site has violated the Webmaster Guidelines (which of course it has) and slap you down.


Backlinking is the key to high placement in the SERP and you want to allocate the time and budget to do it right. You can have a go at it yourself or you can give us a call and we’d be happy to suggest campaigns that are suited for your objectives.


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