Devious link building or just normal business practice?

Devious link building or just normal business practice –  A little bit of background to start with, I run two businesses an ethical online marketing agency and a social enterprise which is a training business. Online marketing and training are two highly competitive market places to be in. Have I ever needed to stoop to underhanded tactics in order to get ahead in either of my businesses? No I have not. I did however work in the financial services industry for almost 20 years so I am not naive. I am fairly well acquainted with shady business practices and doing anything to get the competitive advantage.

I should state very clearly from the outset that any SEO is manipulation of sorts because you are actively trying to improve the websites rankings and therefore traffic by optimizing the site itself and the links that point to it. In SEO terms there are perceived to be gradients of manipulation:

  • White Hat – as ethical as possible – marketing of the site using ethical means. Delivering quality content readable to the human eye.
  • Grey Hat –  uses some forms of marketing tactic that could be questionable but have not yet been banned by the search engines
  • Black Hat – uses exploits or loop holes in order to trick search engine algorithm to get the competitive advantage in SERPs

I keep a watching brief on what is going on in my industries. When it comes to the marketing agency, one aspect of this means keeping abreast of new trends in SEO and specifically link building. A watching brief on all aspects means looking what is emerging in the White Hat, Grey Hat and Black Hat spheres.

Link building and how the search engines view and weigh the links change through time so the art of link building is an ever changing one. White Hat tactics involve obtaining links as naturally as possible over an extended period of time. This way of doing it tends to build a more robust profile because it does not generally take into account whether or not the link that you are obtaining has “the right” attributes i.e PageRank, nofollow, domain type, domain age and so on. If you give too much attention to obtaining specific types of link your link profile can become skewed and detrimentally impact your SERPs – yes catch my drift – too many spectacular links can be a bad thing just the same as a slew of spammy links is a bad thing!

So what sort of practice am I talking about when I say devious link building well one example would be a strategy that has been out there for a while that could provide you with competitor links to your product:

  • Build a review site about your competitor.
  • Make sure that the reviews that you post to it are flattering.
  • Your competitor’s reputation monitoring will pick the site up and will most likely lead to them linking to the site.
  • Once the site is old enough and the posts archived you then redirect the domain  to your main site providing you with links from your competitor(s).

This should be classed as a questionable business practice as well as a Black Hat/Grey Hat tactic. The review to start with is a fake and there is deception involved. This could get you into all sorts of trouble from a reputational stand point if it ever got out. It is also something that might be investigated by various agencies should an allegation or complaint be made to them.

I am putting this post out there because I get asked about link building so often, it is always one of the hottest topics in online marketing. There is so much misinformation out there that I thought it would be good to get a debate going over which strategies have worked for you and which ones have not?

I am going to open a thread over on the Business Marketing Answers Forums so that we can start a healthy discussion going. It does not matter which sphere your tactics fall into but it would be great to see some really good empirical evidence to show what strategies really do work and which ones have gotten you penalized in the search engines eyes.

More about Kittie Walker

Born and bred in London, I have a decades-long background in business management working for an international investment bank. In 2007, I left the corporate sector and founded my own company, wanting to provide the kind of services that I’d always felt small business really needed; someone on their own level who’s been there themselves and faced the problems. I love seeing the people I work with succeed in their endeavours. That’s my favourite reward of all.

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