Contrary to what you may have heard, Google isn’t entirely opposed to the practice and idea of link building. Because of some abusive link building schemes in the past, link building has gotten a bad reputation. While it is true that a 100%, natural and organic back-link is the best, it’s not the only legitimate way to bolster your back-link profile.
The Link-Building Controversy Expands
Following a post on Google’s Portuguese Webmaster Blog on July 6th, a lot of people had misgivings and second thoughts about their online link-building strategies. You should note that recommendations made on webmaster blogs don’t necessarily correlate directly with search engine algorithm ranking signals. All of the best practices that Google posts could be related to ranking signals, but some are purely attempts by Google to clean up the web and discourage unethical behavior that would otherwise take advantage of their algorithm by means of exploitation.
The Biggest No-No’s
There are specific ways you can violate Google’s back-linking policies – and most people who do are already aware that they are infringing upon Google’s guidelines. The three easiest ways to violate their policy is by buying, selling, and trading back-links. This is especially true if you are exchanging, purchasing, or selling back-links in unrelated industries.
But do you think the Google algorithm really has a way to track your online payment activities and then punish your site accordingly if they found that you engaged in dubious activities? What a joke, it is doubtful at best. You should note, however, that I don’t condone people who manipulate the system and sell back-links in an effort to cheat their way to the top.
Exceptions to the Rule
And as for exchanging back-links, there are a rare few times when this could be beneficial – but only if it adds value to the user experience. For example, if another website is in a related industry but you aren’t direct competitors, mutual back-links could be beneficial to the user experience. The websites need to complement each other, though.
For example, pretend that two websites are in the auto industry but aren’t direct competitors. One website sells mechanics tools to consumers and provides valuable content showing visitors how to, say, change the oil on their specific model of cars. Another website offers oil filters and education on regular versus synthetic oils and information regarding how they affect the lifetime of your automobile. In this example, these two sites aren’t direct competitors, and visitors to either site could benefit from information on the corresponding site. In these situations, useful back-links could easily benefit visitors, and mutual back-links could create a win-win scenario.
While this is just a fictional example, there are many “peanut butter and jelly” relationships that exist among different websites. There is synergy in linking these sites together, and as long as you link responsibly and aren’t buying or selling back-links, everyone could come out ahead. This certainly isn’t a problem, because it improves the user’s experience.
On the other hand, there are sites that spam as much keyword anchor text as they can, have a back-link profile rich in unrelated sites and forum posts, and use cloaking techniques in an attempt to trick the Google bots. This kind of manipulation and scheming is exactly what the Webmaster Blogs are talking about.
The Truth about Google’s Stance on Links
The truth is that Google doesn’t mind building legitimate back-links. People have misinterpreted what is posted on the Webmaster Blog as a message from Google saying that building a back-link profile is frowned upon – but this simply isn’t true.
In fact, that’s why the Penguin update was created in the first place – to weed out these crummy sites. There will certainly be further refreshes and updates to the Penguin algorithm in the future, but as long as you use legitimacy and user experience as your moral compass, you needn’t fear getting wiped off the map with a future update.
In fact, believe it or not, John Mueller even stated that it is acceptable to ask for links. Matt Cutts had even stated that not all link building is bad. Though he confirms that trying to get links using illegitimate techniques is likely due to the fact that the website is low-quality to begin with, you can use legitimate techniques to bolster your back-link profile.
So, to summarize, despite what you may have heard, Google is not opposed to back-linking techniques. Just make sure you keep your nose out of trouble by focusing on adding value to the user experience and don’t exchange currency for back-links!