Common DIY Marketing Fail: Link Building

This is part two in our series, “Common DIY Marketing Failures,” in which we examine some of the common pitfalls for businesses who attempt to market themselves online without the guidance of a professional.

“My content is good, but I’m not ranking… I need to build lots of backlinks!”

Backlinks definitely factor in to Google’s ranking algorithm! So you’re on the right track. But if you do some research on updates to the algorithm in the past few years, you may stumble across some spam-fighting changes, notably, the “Penguin” algorithm update.

Let’s say our hypothetical pants store owner from our last article decides to set out building some links, but has no idea about Penguin and the spam updates. He’s read that part of your PageRank is calculated based on how many backlinks you have, so he makes a new resolution: “it’s time to build a whole bunch of links so my website will rank higher!”


More links is better, right?

Friday evening, before leaving for the weekend, he places an order with some foreign company who promises 5,000 backlinks for $50. He also sets up some black hat “link building software” that he lets run over the course of the weekend.

A month later, his rankings have dropped off the face of the Earth. He also receives a handful of emails from Google Webmaster Tools telling him that he has been penalized for having an unnatural link profile. What went wrong?!

It seems like Mr. Pants Store Guy didn’t do quite enough research on the spam-fighting techniques implemented by Google. Back in the day, more links was a plus… but as black-hat SEOs learned to exploit this, search engines had to step their game up. The Penguin update in particular aimed not only to kill spammy sites and link-rings, but to actively penalize websites Google felt were exploiting these tactics to rank higher.

Backlink software and cheaply purchased links might be legitimate, in the sense that they will do what they say they will in terms of building links. But unless you know exactly what’s going on behind the scenes, it might be best to reevaluate your link strategy. Many of these services rely on spammy sources or web forums that don’t implement nofollow links in their responses.

Real links are best built naturally. A strong, natural link profile will have incoming links from a variety of sources with a variety of anchor text. If you want to build good links, you should first build content that people want to link to.