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The dangers of overzealous link building

I read an article recently about a company who’d paid a considerable sum of money to ‘link builders’ and then watched their search engine rankings go in the opposite direction to what was intended. What happened?

What the search engines have always looked for are ‘naturally’ occurring links to a site increasing over time. They now have years of data on how this works with the best sites on the web.

Links won’t necessarily build up gradually, in a straight line. Quite the opposite: from time to time certain content will be published on a site which will generate a burst of links. Then there’ll be quiet periods. But the search engines know the patterns. And they know when links are appearing ‘unnaturally’.

It’s quite likely that in the case of the link building own goal, the search engines will have seen some form of ‘unnatural practice’ going on. However, this in itself is probably just likely to be ignored. People ask for links all the time, and there’s no law against it.

To go backwards in the rankings probably indicates that the search engines saw a link-creation pattern more associated with spam sites: links from sites where inclusion can be automated, links in comments with weirdly focused anchor text, that sort of thing. It’s probably hard to step over this line when we do our own link building, but specialists have all sorts of tools that can be used disastrously.

Don’t be afraid to ask for links. But be very careful about asking someone to do it for you.