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Why gamble with your website reputation?

In my recent post about the hoo-ha surrounding guest blogging, I explained the types of content marketing activity that are likely to be regarded as spam by Google.

Now you can see some action being taken against websites that encourage that kind of activity. Could your site be penalised or lose rankings in search results because it is engaging in this type of link building?

Blogging for SEO, not for readers

If you write articles just to place them on third party sites, just to create links for Google to read, you should take a serious look at this practice. I won’t say you shouldn’t do it – after all, you have a right to publish anything anywhere if you see fit.

If you are doing it blindly though, or if you are paying someone else to do it and they are doing it badly, you could soon be seeing a drop in the traffic you get from search results.

This sounds all a bit drastic, and it may not happen, but I’d like to help you understand what behaviour is most likely to make it happen.

There are several bad signals that a search engine can look for, in order to judge articles as spam:

  • Do you publish articles in lots of places where the same links, with the same anchor text, appears in all those articles? (This is an attempt to gain rank for that phrase by creating an artificial popularity.)
  • Do you publish articles on websites that have a low quality score? (Your links will not have much value.)
  • Do you publish articles in relevant places? (The more relevance there is between linking pages, the better the link is)
  • Do you pay to place articles on sites that routinely charge? (This is a massive signal that the site is low quality. Top, credible publications pay you to write content, they don’t charge you to place it.)

Google removes spammy networks, are you affected?

Google’s head of web spam, Matt Cutts, has started making the announcements that many expected after he declared guest blogging to be “dead”.

On 29 January he announced that Google had blocked, a French blogging network that was in breach of Google’s quality guidelines.

Matt Cutts on Twitter - Google blocks Buzzea

Buzzea was a network to help content marketers link up with blog publishers, who would then charge fees in return for publishing articles containing links.

Buzzea made a statement in its own defence after Google blocked it, saying, they “oppose this assertion since we never stopped wanting to keep the ethical side of sponsored articles focusing on quality and natural links created.” The irony there is that Buzzea is claiming that it is ethical to accept money to publish articles as long as the article is good quality. It’s oxymoronic.

In December, Matt Cutts announced that a link network called Anglo Rank had been blocked, which affected all clients using the service. Anglo Rank boasted that it was Matt Cutts’ favourite backlink service (it is not) and that it was “Black Hat at its finest”.

Matt Cutts tweet - Google blocks German link network

This week Matt said Google had turned its attentions to link and blogging networks in Germany – taking down an agency, which will impact all the clients of that agency.

So why would you gamble? How do you know if you are gambling?

Here are things you can examine with regards to your website’s link-building strategy

The good

  • When real people share your links naturally, in their own way, within articles or on social networks, that’s good.
  • When you distribute content, such as press releases, to quality publications that have credibility, that’s OK, because they are not likely to just duplicate your press release.

The bad

  • If you use article directories like eZineArticles, GoArticles or other simple self-publishing sites, you are likely to harm rather than help your website’s reputation.
  • If you distribute press releases through auto-regurgitating feed sites, so that the press release appears automatically, verbatim, in several low quality sites, you could be damaging your link profile.
  • If you pay a blog owner to publish an article just so you can get a brand mention and a link, you may get penalised if that site owner gets penalised. They may get penalised if they are openly selling links or if they are connected to a network that encourages the selling of links.

The ugly

  • If you pay any agency or for any network service that promises to get you high quality links quickly, with guaranteed ranking success, you are asking Google to punch you in the face.

Keep it real. Keep it natural

If you pay a third party to build links for you, take a look at MajesticSEO to see what kind of domain names and pages point to your website. If you see lots of links from domains relevant to your site, that’s good. If a lot of the links come from irrelevant, low quality sites with no trust signals, you should take action.

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