The Hidden Dangers Of Link Building

The Hidden Dangers Of Link Building

We’re all so focused on building backlinks and link building these days that it’s easy to get carried away with the latest “whatever”. I can only hope that as your marketing knowledge grows that you’ll soon see that just because the sales letter is good and that Tom, harry, and Jane are promoting it… doesn’t mean that it’s GOOD! IN fact there are many things that can HURT your website being promoted online these days as magic cures, especially in the areas and realm of backlinks and link building. This article from long-time marketer Louis Allport shares some great examples. Don’t miss this one.


When outsourcing your search engine optimization work, or even if you’re managing it all yourself, there’s a number of potential dangers you need to be aware of.  Let’s quickly list them, and then I’ll go through them in more depth.

Now first of all, let me say that in this article I’m going to be focusing largely on link building since that’s still an incredibly important aspect of any search engine optimization work, but SEO also of course covers on site optimization (good linking from one page to another on your site, readable but also keyword rich title tags, including keywords on your pages but no overdoing it…etc.) and also even getting ‘social signals’ (ReTweets, +1’s…) pointing to your site.

I’ll save those points for another day, and today will focus on potential link building dangers:

  • Link building that hurts your rankings
  • Link building that removes your site entirely from Google
  • Link building that damages your brand
  • Link building that gives you short term results but that can hurt you long term

Link Building That Hurts Your Rankings

I’ve mentioned this in other articles too, but at the danger of repeating myself, the more disposable you consider a site, the more aggressive you can be with your link building.  If you’re in the business of creating ‘thin’ (just a few pages of content) affiliate sites you may not care if your site loses its rankings, as long as the time and money spent creating and promoting the site is profitable for you.

So if you don’t really mind what happens to your site long term, you may feel quite happy throwing thousands of automated profile, comment, and other low quality links to it, as you know sheer quantity of links will have a positive effect, even if just briefly.

But if you value your site, and want it to get traffic through the search engines very long term, you’re going to have to use higher quality links – or – if you do use any low quality links in bulk, either drip feed them very slowly so they mix in with higher quality links, or use them to build authority to ‘buffer’ pages/sites, that then in turn link to your main site.

For example, creating a Squidoo Lens and sending lots of low quality links to it may either result in the Lens being removed from Squidoo, or the Lens actually gaining some authority in Google’s eyes (Google’s algorithm still has many such holes it’s trying to plug).  So if the Lens does gain authority, and it then links to your main site, that link holds a lot more weight than if it came from a Lens with no backlinks.

So when outsourcing SEO and link building work, you’ll want to be very clear with the company you’re giving work to what kind of links they build and whether that’s a good fit for your site.  If they say they’ll build one type of link, but end up actually building another, that’s a huge black mark against them of course, and using a service like Majestic SEO can quickly show you where links are coming from.

Link Building That Removes Your Site Entirely From Google

This naturally follows on from the previous section, but usually you need to be incredibly aggressive about your link building for this to happen.  Getting a site you own de-indexed is obviously a huge set-back, but I have seen sites recover, and even thrive. For example – many, many years ago I owned a site that had thousands of pages created automatically.  The content was worth very little, but at that time big sites with poor quality content could still get a lot of traffic through Google and Yahoo.

And it did, and made a good income, until suddenly it was gone from the search engines.

So I cleaned up the site, and then forgot about it.

A couple of years later, I checked back (this was now just a one page site with perhaps 200 words on it) and amazingly it was Page Rank 3 and doing quite well for some fairly competitive searches.

Now during those two years link building to the site had continued in a viral way due to the nature of the site and I’ve just now done a quick check in Majestic SEO and it has 16,354 links from 3,226 unique domains.

So if you stop doing what got the site into trouble, and continue with high quality link building, a site can recover and even thrive.

That said, I’ve heard of instances where the type of links pointing to a site were causing a severe penalty, and there was nothing the owner of the site could do to remove these links, or stop the links continuing to appear.  So they actually ended up ditching that domain.  So bear that in mind too.

Link Building That Damages Your Brand

As a website owner, it’s possible to be hugely concerned  about a potential client finding a poor quality article that links to your  site and it reflecting badly on you.  Honestly though, much of the  lower quality (or even atrocious quality) content some people submit for  links (unreadable spun articles to blog networks for example) are rarely if  ever seen by humans, such links are generally just for the search  engines.  So the risk of a valuable potential client/lead/visitor  stumbling across an unreadable article linking to your site is incredibly unlikely.

But you can remove this risk again by being clear with any company you give work to the type of links you’ll accept.

And if any  content you’re not happy with is ranking for your name or your business  name, often it takes very little to push up other more favorable results  into the top 10 or even top 20, and therefore push the results you don’t  like down the listings and largely out of sight.  This is what’s known as Reputation Management.

As an example – one client of mine sold a  digital product, but a number of sites were giving it away and those sites ranked quite well in Google.

All we had to do is find around 20 sites  we’d rather have ranking for that term (the client didn’t own all those  sites) and just do some light link building to those sites/pages with the  appropriate keyword.  Within less than a week the free download sites were gone from the top 20 for those terms.

Link Building That Gives You Short Term Results But That Can Hurt You Long Term

This comes  back to link building that can damage your rankings.  Sometimes, overly  aggressive link building can work, and for months it seems as if your site’s  gotten away with it, but then suddenly the site drops by hundreds overnight and doesn’t come back.

Or what’s also been happening a lot recently  is messages appearing in Google Webmaster Tools asking the site owner to  remove certain types of links.  But obviously, not every type of link can be removed once it’s out there.

So aggressive link building can  cause issues down the line, but again that may be part of your business  model, and you may be happy to lose certain sites as long as they made you a profit.

And the current situation may not last but for now many thin  sites propped up by poor quality links are slipping through Google’s  algorithm and ranking well for very valuable terms.  Affiliates are  definitely making the most of these current loopholes, but they may not be around that much longer.

Louis Allport is the founder of Build My Links, a site dedicated to helping you get more traffic and customers through the search engines.