Back linking is one of those SEO techniques that can be very effective if done right, but can do your website a lot of damage if done wrong. Sadly, many business owners aren’t familiar enough with the way backlinking works to do it effectively.
A back link is a link on the Internet that points back to your website. The link can either be located within your website (referencing another page on your site is called interlinking), or from another one entirely. Search engines use these links to gauge a website’s authenticity and its relevance to a user’s search query. Having a lot of good quality backlinks can positively affect your search engine rankings.
But back linking has a dark side, also—one that most entrepreneurs and executives aren’t aware of until it bites them in the hand.
Backlinking Isn’t Universally Effective
Note that, in the above definition, I emphasized good quality backlinks. Good quality backlinks include those driven by genuine interest in your site, such as links shared by customers in social media, posted by bloggers reviewing products, or listings in online business directories. It also includes internal links such as pages that link to each other within your website structure, or a separate company blog that references pages on your website.
Backlinks generated from less trustworthy sources, such as link farms or link buying, aren’t given the same weight as genuine links. This is because link farms and the like are built exclusively for the purposes of raising search engine rankings and hold absolutely no value for a consumer. Many link farm web pages contain nothing but links to other sites, and no content for actual web visitors to peruse.
Link trading/buying is the same thing, where links are exchanged for the purposes of increasing rank. The two companies will often be in entirely unrelated businesses and share nothing in common except for the links. The best way to exchange links is for two companies to be genuinely relevant to one another and post the links in a “good” environment, such as a blog post or via social media.
Link spamming is when people visit Internet forums and other blogs and drop links in all of their forum posts and comments, even if it’s not relevant to the discussion, as a way of boosting the numbers. Forum moderators and blog owners are usually aware of these tactics, and use a “no follow” setting that prevents backlinks from being counted by search engines.
Search Engines Can Tell the Difference
All of these black hat link building techniques are meant to fool search engines into thinking a site is more popular than it really is. But really, the only one being fooled is the site owner. Search engine companies have seen these tactics before, and in countless variations. They are constantly updating their search algorithms to reduce the effectiveness of link farms and spamming, and are very good at ferreting out offenders. Just because you don’t hear from them, doesn’t mean they don’t already know what you’re doing.
It Can Actually Hurt Your Ranking
Let’s get this out in the open: improper back linking can actually hurt your site rankings in both the short- and long-term and you can get penalised. As mentioned above, search engines are already sophisticated enough to detect link farms on their own, without human intervention. Not only do the search engines disregard these backlinks, they may even flag the offending site for punitive action by the search engine admins. This can lead to a lower ranking for you and, if your case is severe, may lead to you being banned and excluded from future search engine results.
So the next time an SEO “guru” approaches you and launches into a pitch about a quick, easy way to generate quality links for your site, stop him in midsentence and send him packing.