Web Marketing for Small Business

Web Marketing for Small Business

Should you hire an SEO Company for Link Building?

There are plenty of SEO Companies out there offering to look after your search engine optimisation through link building. They'll tell you that off-site optimisation is the best way to go and will give you the best results. But is this still the best way to do it?

Link Building has been synonymous with SEO since the beginning.

The reason behind this is that Google needed to have something to help them rank websites for search. How could they decide which website was better than the next? Remember that this ranking isn't done by a human, but rather a computer program. So they decided that a website with lots of links pointing to it must be a good site. After all, someone wouldn't add a link to your website on theirs if they didn't think it was a good site. In effect, a link to your site was the same thing as a referral from someone.

Now when you look at it like that, it all makes perfect sense doesn't it?

But, while this made sense in the beginning, what about now? To answer this, let's start with looking at a short history of Links.

The History of Link Building in SEO.

Once SEO Experts worked out that links made a big difference to website ranking, they then looked at ways to build links to their websites. They were in effect manipulating the search results as this wasn't the way that Google viewed links. Google believed that you got links to your site because it was so good that other people wanted to refer to it. Not just because an SEO company worked out how to build links. As these SEO Companies worked out how to manipulate ranking through links, Google had to react to stop this manipulation. So here are the main changes to links throughout the years:

  • Buy links from websites that do nothing more than sell links (Link Farms).
    As Link Farms took off, Google changed their Algorithm to stop recognising these links.
  • Swap links with another website (Link Exchange).
    Google changed the Algorithm to balance out these links. What you gain from the incoming link you lose from the outgoing link.
  • Get a group of Websites and link to each other one way (Link Wheel)
    This was designed to bypass the balancing out of links. Rather than swapping links with one other website, you link to one website, who then links to another, who then links to another......, who then links to you. Sometimes all these websites were your own. Google tweaked their Algorithm to depreciate these links.
  • Write Articles to post to Article Sites with a link back to your website (Article Marketing).
    This might not have been too bad if the articles were worth reading, but in many cases these SEO companies would write one article and then use something called an "Article Spinner" to spin your article into as many variations as you wanted. These spinners basically mixed up the structure and swapped out words for synonyms to give you something that doesn't always make sense. One response from Google was to depreciate the value of a link from a website that isn't about the same thing as your site (eg. your plumber website needed links from other plumber related websites).
  • Post on Forums and Comments and include a link to your website (Comment or Forum Spam).
    These are my pet hate as they are just lazy and incredibly annoying. Someone has taken the effort to write a great blog post and then some spammer (or their spam bot) comes along and posts nonsense with a link to their website. Google has tweaked these as well and are now even penalising websites that have these dodgy links going to their website.

Find out more about Link Spamming.

Now I don't claim this is an exhaustive review of link building, but it gives you an idea of the changes link building has been going through. So should you even bother with Link Building?

Does Link Building still work with SEO?

The short answer is YES. But Google is continually trying to devalue it in their Algorithm.

Have you heard of Google Penguin? If not, this is what Google calls a project to try and eliminate link spam from their algorithm. Whenever they work out a way to tweak their algorithm to remove another version of link spam, they update and release it. If your website has been benefiting from this form of link spam, the results can be catastrophic. Not to mention they will also give your site a manual penalty if they uncover link spam. Here is the Analytics report for a website we worked on for a few months to try and help recover from such an event.

Website Traffic - Google Penguin and Manual Penalty Affect

Now this is a perfect example. This website had benefited enormously via link spam and was delivering enormous amounts of leads to the business in question. They had been growing at a great rate and had put on more employees to handle the extra business. Then overnight they fell off the Google rankings as this graph shows. You can imagine the impact this had on their business.

So back to our original question.

Yes, building lots of links to your website still helps it rank well. But if you are building those links using spammy techniques (which most of them are), then be prepared to take the risk of losing it all.

If you're not prepared to take the risk, then I recommend that you focus on your website content and layout and let the links happen naturally (after all, that's how Google wants it to happen).

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