Link Building vs. Building Links: Is there a Difference?

Question Mark Man(Photo-Flickr Creative Commons: SMJJP)

“Better to be safe than sorry.” We have all heard that saying at some point and it is something that can be applied in many areas of life–this includes Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Especially SEO.

Social media is on the rise, and it has so much room for innovation that who knows what it will bring on in the near and (relatively) distant future. Search Engine Result Pages (SERP’s) will soon more than likely be very dependent on social media and what our “friends” read. It’s a matter of time and trial and error. It is because of this reason that we need to approach link building like the SEO pioneers did before Google even recognized it as a valuable tactic in ranking websites. Or more appropriately put; it’s time to start “building links” instead of “link building.”

What do you think about when you think of “link building?” A few words that come to mind could be: 1) Tedious. 2) Overwhelming. 3) Submissions to article directories. 4) Submissions to link directories. 5) Manipulative of the search engines (If not done the right way). Do any of these adjectives sound good?

The main difference between link building and building links is that link building is something that you can put on autopilot while building links isn’t — unless of course you have the money to outsource everything to a company that provides a good link building service.

When it comes to link building, there are three forks in the road in terms of what direction you can go–just like there is with every other SEO strategy whether it be on-site or off-site.

The Dangers of Black Hat Link Building

Everytime someone comes up with a new way to manipulate Googles algorithm, either by providing some software or service that builds links, they are kicking themselves (well the developers might get rich off of a hit and run) and everyone that uses the tactics in the butt.

There are many ways to be involved in black hat link building. Some methods are quite obvious, while some black hat methods are more well thought out. Unfortunately, sometimes you may be negatively affected by what Google looks at as “black hat” and you don’t even know it. This is especially true for beginners. Here are a few tips for steering clear of these methods.

Spamming

These are some of the most obvious methods of black hat link building. Flooding blogs with comments, submitting to endless link directories, and spamming forums via signing up or posting useless threads, are all things that can end up hurting your SEO rather than helping it.

Recognizing Bad Blog Networks

A bad blog network is one that’s sole purpose is for either A) SEO needs of a company, or B) to make money by charging for links. As a webmaster, if you have ever tried doing a decent amount of link building, you will always come across a blog that may seem like a good idea to get a link on, but behind the scenes may be another story. And if you have done your fair share of link building, you may have come across people that are able to submit posts to thousands of different blogs. Sounds good at first, but these are the types of blogs you may want to stay away from.

Many of these people will charge you, say $20 per post, and provide you with a list of blogs that they can post on. When this is the case, the red flag has been shown to you, and you should stay clear.

The key is taking your time and analyzing the blog. Here are some methods for tagging a blog as being in a bad blog network – or just not a good idea to publish on:

  • Repeated templates
  • Poor grammar
  • The “About Me” section still says “This is an example of a wordpress theme…”
  • Posts unrelated to the topic with links to company websites
  • They charge to plug a link in and do not care about the content whatsoever
  • Generic title after generic title
  • Non-unique IP address
  • The page rank looks good, but its showing low outbound links
  • Filled with links that just don’t make sense

Summary: When going with a link building plan, you should simply ask yourself: “Is Google trying to eliminate methods like these from giving web sites advantages in the SERPs” or “Is there a good chance I could get penalized for this?” If the answer is yes, choose another strategy.

Different Shades of Grey

Will you get penalized for using grey hat methods? Probably not, but as this article about the Panda update in Google’s algorithm (aka the farmer update) nicely puts it – there is a difference between an algorithm update and a penalty but “Panda is a penalty by algo” – and you can be sure that there will be more updates like it to follow.

Grey hat techniques are usually what’s “in” right now in SEO. They are the methods that Google find annoying, but there is no clear solution at the moment, and penalizing the tactics, or to a lesser degree devaluing the links, would wrongfully put a lot of quality websites in the dumps – and like what was said, there are different shades of grey.

An example of this would be when a company is trying to scale up their link builidng campaign at really low costs. Good quality links at high volume never come at low costs as they are impossible to aquire without in depth-research and tedious execution of a long term plan.

Summary: Using grey hat methods limits your flexibilty for the future. They may provide more instant results, but are usualy short term, and you never know when your website might be slapped by another Panda-like update. The last one was aimed at “content-mills.” We may not be far away from a “linking-mill” algorithm update.

Building Links with White Hat Methods

Many Internet companies have changed their whole game plan in terms of building links. Instead of investing tens of thousands of dollars in link building, they are making sure that everything on-site is at a high standard, and hence have invested money otherwise spent on links that would just contribute to their linking domains number to make sure they can get the highest quality of content as possible.

And that’s where building links start. It can be hard for a webmaster to build links if their site is of no use to their audience. Building links is really about building relationships, building trust, and builidng a reputation.

Proven Readership vs. Page Rank

Page rank is not a magic number. There are many great page rank 1 and 2 blogs, and many poor page rank 4 and 5 blogs.

A link that will bring you traffic is worth more than a link that is on a blog with a high page rank but has no readers. The more people that see your blog, the better chances you have that they will link to it naturally.

Just take the structure of every good blog post for example. Most good blog posts have these things in common:

  • Great and valuable content
  • An interesting topic, or a new outlook on an old topic
  • Multiple links to relevant sites that make the article better
  • The potential to start a good conversation
  • The allure of wanting to link to it naturallly

Attention-grabbing blog posts have infographics of some sort, or some other multimedia that makes them interesting and alluring.

Summary: White hat link building isn’t really link building at all. It is using the same tactics that people used before ranking websites based on the link count ever came into play. It’s about creating long lasting value that your website can benefit from. Everything else is the icing on the cake.

This article was written by Philip Rudy. Philip helps to run and maintain iNetZeal.com – which is an Internet marketing company specializing in White Label SEO.