Unnatural Link Building Examples

Article by: Matt Polsky

Back in the day, Google was sending out an average of 20 unnatural link warnings a day, and slapping manual penalties on quite a few sites (I had the pleasure of working on a few of those). 

However, in September of 2016, Google released Penguin 4.0, which instead of penalizing sites with unnatural links, merely filtered out the links that were unnatural and then adjusted the rankings.

Even though Google's strategy has been more gentle lately, it's still important to realize what an unnatural links is so you aren't wasting your time and money on assets that get filtered - or that may still result in a warning or penalty.

Exact Match Keyword Anchor

If you have been in SEO for any time at all, you know that to help boost a term, you should include said term in the anchor text of the link. But, if all you use is exact match anchor text, then you can bet it's unnatural.

Look at it this way, if your link profile has 10,000 links from 10,000 domains (to make it simple), and 6000 have the same anchor for keyword one, 2,000 have the same anchor for keyword two and the last 2,000 are a mix of junk anchor and partial match, then odds are you likely aren't going to see much equity being passed from the exact match links. Sure, some will definitely pass, but not all and you'll be putting your site at risk.

You want your link profile to look as natural as possible, with a healthy amount of partial match, junk anchor, exact match, followed and nofollow links.

When you're building links, and control the anchor, make it fit with the surrounding content. The link to your site should be a natural extension of the page that is linking to you - it shouldn't be forced.

Buying Links

Not only have websites been penalized for buying links, but, more recently, SEO agencies as well. Buying links is a definite move to manipulate rankings, meaning Google will shoot you down the second they think you are buying links.

So instead of buying links, use your budget content assets that naturally acquire links and pitch that content to people who will link to you. Check out other tactics here with this guide.

Sidebar and Footer Links

Too many sidebar and footer links will immediately set off a warning.

Some sites can't help it. They've been on a blogroll since 1998 and it's not coming down anytime soon. However, if you start adding tons of new site-wide links, Google's algos are going to take notice.

Forget building links like it's 1999 and work to get those links in the content where they are seen, clicked on and are useful.

No or Low Moderation Directories

You want links meant for users, not search engines, and if you come across the opportunity that seems too good to be true, then it probably is. Danny Sullivan wrote a great article for Search Engine Land called Link Building Means Earning "Hard Links" Not "Easy Links" that really hit this one home.

Anyone can get a link at any point by going to a directory, especially those with little to no human moderation, and submit their site to be included on the list for a small payment. The main problem with this is the fact that your site will be associated with hundreds of irrelevant sites that could deal in the shady areas of porn, gambling, payday loans, etc. Remember this could be a huge hit on your reputation as well, and anyone with an online profile or website should use tactics to keep their reputation clean.

So instead of wasting time and money on these kinds of directories, find niche directories that would actually give your site a chance to be viewed by its target audience.

Blog Spam

If you have ever owned a blog, then odds are you have seen the hundreds of spam comments that come with it. These links provide little to no value and if you are using this spammy strategy, please stop.

Instead of commenting for a link, comment for a relationship. Build a rapport with the person and turn that relationship into a link opportunity. Think of how much easier it is to ask a friend to promote some piece of content over a cold call or random stranger.

Profile Links

I recently saw on Fiverr someone selling followed links from "high DA sites" (wahoo). Those links were coming from profile pages across the web that didn't moderate whether their content was visible, followed or nofollowed. 

While you want to add links in your online/social profiles, you don't want to create idle profiles just for links.

No Link Balance

On the subject of followed to nofollow links, sites that only have followed links tend to look unnatural. Having hundreds and thousands of only followed links with keyword anchor may raise some eyebrows - or scream PBN.

When you're building links, don't neglect every nofollow link. If you can get a nofollow on a site that sends qualified direct traffic, then that's a win. 

However, take this with a grain of salt. I personally don't go after nofollow links (unless it's a highly qualified site) because sites that are doing things right will naturally acquire nofollow links.

Article Directories, PBNs, Link Farms, etc.

I've seen some private blog networks (PBN) kill it, but I've also seen people lose their livelihood over putting all their stock in a PBN. It's a risky move, as are article directories and link farms. They are unnatural to the core, as content on these are traditionally meant for link building.

Instead of wasting time on tactics like these, focus on high-quality link building tactics. Build links for the future, not for the now. When you can accomplish this, you have less of a chance to be hit with future updates and warnings.

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