In the early days of SEO, ‘black-hat’ techniques such as hidden ‘keyword stuffing’ and ‘link farms’ were prevalent. Thankfully, things have progressed significantly since then with Google’s enhancements through the Panda/Penguin algorithms penalising such unscrupulous techniques. However, there are still some shady link schemes so it’s necessary to be cautious about emails that offer to put strong links to your site upon reputable, powerful ones, as these offers are usually too good to be true!
These type of offers violate Google’s quality guidelines and can harm your site rankings. Such ‘spammy’ link-building tactics, defined by Google as ‘link schemes’ are, buying or selling links that pass PageRank (which includes exchanging money for links, or posts that contain links); exchanging goods or services for links; or sending someone a “free” product in exchange for them writing about it in a blog, for example, and including a link.
Google considers these schemes to be an attempt to fool the search engine algorithms. If lower-quality content can rank high just because it has amassed a high quantity of backlinks, that is not a great experience for the searcher. So Google strives to rank quality content that will meet user needs.
When it comes to spammy link building techniques, there are two types of penalties that can impact your site: algorithmic and manual. An algorithmic penalty occurs when your site loses rankings as a result of an algorithm update – in this case, Penguin. Webmasters may be able to restore rankings by getting rid of spammy backlinks before the next Penguin update, but that is not a guarantee. In any event, steps should be taken to remove or disavow spammy backlinks.
An algorithmic ranking demotion is bad, but it is not as devastating as a manual penalty, which can cause a site (or some of its pages) to be removed from Google’s index entirely. Essentially, the Google ‘Spam’ team manually reviews your backlink profile and places a penalty on the site. To remove a manual penalty, you must work to remove or disavow spammy backlinks and then file a reconsideration request, which is a process that can take weeks or months.
Ideally, all links to a site would be earned naturally, rather than acquired through deliberate link-building efforts. To gain natural inbound links, webmasters and SEOs should build content that is engaging, shareable and easily linkable. So, when receiving emails from SEO practitioners, make sure that you follow these guidelines:
- Ignore offers of paid link-building or link schemes;
- If the email states the person is from a reputable organisation, they would use the email address of that company, not a generic one, such as from Gmail;
- Punctuation and spelling errors in the email should also ring alarm bells!
It’s certainly beneficial to remain cautious and ideally stay away from link-building offers that do sound too good to be true, as doing that will help to avoid link penalties, which can severely damage a sites rankings, traffic and consequential conversions.
If you want more information about how unscrupulous link-building prospecting, or black-hat SEO techniques can impact your business, contact us now.