Like life itself, there is only one constant in link building: change.
Many tactics that worked in prior years no longer do since Google caught wind of them and reconfigured its algorithm to make those tactics a liability rather than an asset.
The key for any link builder or webmaster is to stay one step ahead of any such changes. By focusing on natural content geared toward the end user, you can usually stay in the clear. After all, there’s always a reason that the strategy at hand stopped working.
Here are five tactics, some of which have worked in the past, that no longer help sites rank with search engines:
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1. Unnatural Anchor Text
Obtaining a keyword-rich anchor text link on a quality site used to be the gold standard of link building.
Now obtaining too many unnatural-looking head term anchor text links will get your site tumbling down the search engine results page (SERP). This penalty is because any sizable quantity of such links clearly must be gamed, according to Google.
It’s obvious why in a perfect world this is such a good link. The linking site is telling Google that the linked-to site pertains to the topic in the anchor text, which is what Google wants — so long as this is not being done for the sole purpose of SERP manipulation. Even still, a couple of selectively chosen anchor text links won’t hurt you; in fact, they are still what you want.
With a natural methodology on the web, a site will likely be linked to with a wide variety of different kinds of anchor text, such as branded anchor text, terms such as “click here,” long tail keywords and perhaps a few head term keywords. You want that diversity in your backlink profile as well, or at least you don’t want a profile with anchor text that is clearly gamed.
Again, strive for naturalness and you will steer clear of this tactic that no longer works.
2. Bad Content
We’ve all seen this tactic at play, as bad content exists in abundance on the web. I’m talking about articles written with links purely for the purpose of the link juice it will generate.
Most bad content is pretty easy to spot based on the lack of quality in the writing and production. You can also discover it on sites with many random articles about completely varying topics, and in articles in which a keyword is repeated ad nauseam.
Well, in today’s post-Panda/Penguin world, such content can actually do more harm than good. It just clogs up the Internet, makes users trudge through poorly-written articles before coming to the kind of piece they are really looking for, and makes it more difficult for search engines to attach value to legitimate articles.
To reassert my statement from the previous section, if you write natural, quality content for the end user, you will steer clear of bad content and the consequences it entails.
3. Exact Match Domains
This one is particularly new. In late September, Google’s head of search spam Matt Cutts announced that an upcoming algorithm change “will reduce low-quality ‘exact-match’ domains in search results.” Exact match domains encompass domain names that consist of the anchor text said website is trying to rank for, like poker.com.
The biggest surprise about this news is that exact match domains worked for as long as they did. Before this recent patch by Google, if your URL included an exact match term, you were very likely to find yourself near the top of the SERPs for said term.
That’s why domains used to be sold for so much money. According to Domaining.com, Sex.com is the highest-selling domain name in history with a whopping $13 million sale price. Diamond.com went for $7.5 million, toys.com for $5.1 million, and shop.com for $3.5 million. It was worth it for these buyers to essentially acquire space at the top of the SERPs, but now some of these deals may seem like a waste of money.
Before this algorithm change, it was common to see a relatively poor website ranking with the big dogs for a big-money term based almost solely off the strength of its powerful domain name. Now that won’t help you nearly as much. If you don’t have the quality content and links to back up such a ranking, it will simply vanish from the rankings.
That’s just as it should be: now you need more than an exact match domain name to rank, and companies are no longer incentivized to squat on a domain name hoping to earn a fortune by selling it.
4. Sidebar/Footer Links
Sidebar and footer links are relics of link building from many years ago. These days such links will often hurt you more than help you (if they even impact you at all).
Footer links have always been somewhat deceptive — they don’t add much value to the website since they are practically hidden at the bottom of a site.
Sidebar links come in a couple different flavors. There is the general blogroll link, which often won’t do much to hurt or help you because it is essentially designed just to be a list of links you like.
What can hurt you is a list of random keywords with exact match anchor text in the sidebar of a blog because these scream “paid link.” Like footer links, these kinds of links don’t really add any value and are largely instituted to dupe the search engine spiders into passing link juice to your site.
Now, a relevant sidebar link using natural anchor text would still be fine, but anchor text sidebar links only for the sake of passing link juice may end up hurting you.
5. Article Sites
Years ago it used to be a sound strategy to post a slew of articles on general article sites and reap the accompanying link juice. Like so many things these days, that’s not the case anymore.
An article site that accepts any and all stories will possess a river full of the kind of bad content mentioned earlier, and that sort of thing devalues the whole website.
What you want instead is to get articles posted on authoritative, niche sites or to be naturally linked to by bloggers in your area of influence.
Many of these article sites have been devalued by Google as a whole and their links within don’t possess nearly the same bang they used to. Your time and efforts would be better spent elsewhere.
Be sure to avoid these 5 tactics that no longer work in your link building efforts. Tell us about link building strategies that you feel are outdated in the comments below.