When I was a child growing up my parents warned me to stay away from Bad Neighborhoods.
Today, nearly one half century later, I find myself giving that same advice to my clients. However, rather than rough parts of town, my advice is to stay away from Bad Neighborhoods on the Internet when building links to your website.
Incoming links to your website continues to be one of the most important things you can work on to improve your ranking in the search engines. You must get serious about link building if you want long-term success and lots of free traffic.
However, when building links you need to be careful with which websites you build the links. Not All Links Are Created Equal. Some have the power to dramatically boost rankings, while others can actually drag your rankings down or even get you penalized. Links from some websites could be 10, 20, or even 100 times as valuable as links from some other websites.
Bad Neighborhoods are certain types of websites that you want to avoid receiving links from as well as questionable linking practices. These types of links provide little value to your website. In addition, receiving a substantial number of links from these Bad Neighborhood websites can trigger a penalty from the search engines or in serious cases get your website banned from the search engines altogether.
In the past these Bad Neighborhoods were limited to the main topic of the website. These include gambling websites, pornography websites, prescription drug websites, and any others that are known for ‘Black Hat’ tricks and Spammers. Avoid at all cost building links to your website from these.
Search Engines, however, recognize that in the process of Internet marketing you cannot control who links to you. So don’t worry if you happen to have a link or two coming from them. Penalties are only applied to the actions that you have complete control over and/or if you begin having a large amount of this type of link.
The New Bad
The Internet is constantly changing and Google typically makes over 600 changes a year in their algorithms to reflect the changes in their search results. Most of these changes are minor, but they do make a few major changes during the year. In February of this year Google made two major changes. The first was called the “Farm” update because it dealt with ranking links from Link Farms. The second was called the “Panda” update named after a Google engineer. Both of these changes involved items that Google has been warning about for several years, but up until February had not penalized anyone for.
In February Google heavily penalized numerous websites and banned several from their index for violations of their Link Building Best Practices. You may have read about several companies (including one major department store that sells a lot of jewelry) whose websites ranked near or at the top in searches for a number of keywords. After Google made the changes they could not be found on any search in Google.
The reason this happened is because the companies hired to do their Internet Marketing and Search Engine Optimization used questionable linking tactics and placed numerous links on off topic websites. In spite of Google telling companies not to partake in these behaviors they did it anyway and finally got caught.
What to Avoid
In the past avoiding links from Bad Neighborhoods was fairly easy. What constituted a Bad website was very black and white. Now with these new updates the Bad Neighborhoods have become very grey. The following are a list of items to consider when building links to help you stay out of Bad Neighborhoods.
These are websites whose sole purpose is to provide links to other websites. If you find a website that has more links than content stay away, and don’t add your links to them. Google has warned webmasters about Link Farms for many years now, and frankly, it is surprising that it took them until this year to start penalizing sites for those links.
Lots of Advertising
Having advertisements on a website is NOT bad. Google owns YouTube and there are certainly ads on their website. In addition, Google owns AdWords the largest advertising network on the Internet. However, Google is now penalizing links from websites that are primarily advertising. If there is little content on the website and it looks like the main focus is to sell advertising space, avoid adding your links to the website.
Placement of Advertising
When you go to a webpage and you see quality content and you have to scroll down the page to see the advertisement you are fine getting a link from that website. However, if the main item you see on a webpage is advertisements and you have to scroll down to see the content, then you want to stay away from that page.
Lack of Quality Content
This includes websites that contain a majority of Scraped Content (content scraped off of other websites and re-published) and/or contains short posts (under 200 words) and really has no information to share. Most all Article Directories fit into this category. Some links from these websites are still alright, but you don’t want to have more than 10% of your links coming from them. If you do use them, be certain that you write a quality article and that the article is not duplicated anywhere else on the Internet.
Off Topic Websites
Don’t link to your website from a website that has nothing to do with the subject of your website. For example you do not want a link to your webpage about engagement rings from a webpage about dog food. In the past these were considered low quality links. A trick used to increase the value of these links was to use on-topic anchor text. To do so you would type the words Engagement Rings on the dog food webpage and link those words to your webpage on engagement rings. Now you can be penalized if you have too many links from off-topic websites, especially if the anchor text does not relate to the topic of the webpage.
Off Topic Blog Comments
Commenting on other people’s blogs and including a link to your website is a popular tactic used today by many Internet Marketers. It is an easy way to build a quantity of links and get a quick boost in your search rankings. Even though this type of link building is not being penalized at this time, it is at best a questionable link building tactic which I caution you to avoid. If Google changes their algorithms and you get penalized for this type of link building, all I can say is, “I told you so!”
If you want to create links in blog comments at least find blogs that pertain to the jewelry industry. Then write a comment related to the subject matter of the blog post and include a link to your website in your signature. But avoid spammy comment links on off-topic blogs.
What You Should Be Doing
It is more important today than ever before to have links to your website from authority websites in your niche. Getting links to your store’s website from other jewelry related websites, and from local geographical websites should be your main goal.
While many techniques can get you a top ranking in the search engines for the short term, they do more damage to you in the long run. Take a long term approach to your link building. While sometimes it takes a little longer to see results, it is the best way to market your store for long term results.
Brad and Debbie Simon are 30+ year veterans of the retail jewelry industry and have been marketing on the Internet since 1999. Their company Internet 4 Jewelers provides On-Line Marketing services for Retail Jewelers using Acceptable Internet Marketing Practices (not one of their clients was affected by these changes). For more information log onto Internet4Jewelers.com or e-mail Brad@Internet4Jewelers.com.