Link building isn’t illegal.
It’s not immoral.
Link building is still in-line with Google’s guidelines.
It’s HOW you build links that can land you hot water with search engines.
So, continue to build your links, but make sure you’re doing it within the guidelines the search engines have outlined, remembering that Google makes the rules, not a government agency.
As such, Google’s punishment may be a loss of rankings/traffic, de-indexation or both, but they can’t fine you or put you in prison 🙂
Table of Contents
Why People Say Link Building Is Illegal
People usually mean many things when they say the practice is illegal. First of all, link building isn’t technically illegal because there are no state or federal laws against the practice.
What people usually mean when they say it’s illegal is that it’s against Google’s rules. In the SEO universe, violating Google’s rules is as bad as doing something illegal (and sometimes the punishment is worse!).
Many of us associate link building with old-fashioned black hat methods and spammy methods that makes legitimate website owners think they’re doing something shady.
Link building has long been associated with link wheels, link farms, blog networks and article websites, which we all know are against the rules today. These ancient ways to manipulate search engines will get your site penalized or banned outright.
That is why many people are leery of any practices to attract links to their sites. However, it’s important to remember that Google won’t punish you for generating quality links that are acquired naturally.
The Fear Of Black Hat Link Building
Because of bad impressions site owners have of link building, many believe we should run away from all link building. Some prefer not to use the phrase and now prefer to say ‘link earning.’ Whatever you call it, attracting quality links is perfectly fine.
The idea behind legitimate link building should be taking actions that boost the number of authoritative links, not just any link under the sun. Keep in mind in the SEO world that link building by itself is not the goal. You don’t win by having the highest number of links on your site.
The end goal is to obtain higher rank and visibility, as well as more sales and traffic.
What Matt Cutts Really Means
Nearly a decade ago, Matt Cutts outlined a detailed description of what ‘bad links’ are and what legitimate link building is. He notes that any practice that involves bribery and hacking is clearly against the guidelines and will get you punished. But some link building is legitimate.
He also notes in an interview that your website should be encouraged to engage in legit link building, as long as you are using approved practices.
Cutts says that SEOs should focus on making the best site and content possible and having many ways to reach their clients and prospects and fans.
It all boils down to creating a fantastic product and marketing it so people will want to link to it.
Types Of Links That Can Get You In Trouble
Ok, so we know link building isn’t bad, but which links can get you in trouble with Google? There are many types, but here are a few:
- Press release links: There was a time these were popular because they were a breeze to get. You just wrote a press release and sent it out to 100 sites. It worked great but it was abused. Google now says a press release is a link scheme so you don’t want to try this.
- Discussion links: Not all of them are bogus; if you get the link from an authoritative site, it is fine. But if you have thousands of links from many discussion forums, it will get you banned.
- Too many NoFollow links: If you think you can fool search engines by using a random footprint so your spammy links aren’t detected, it won’t work. It’s hard to make a randomized footprint that Google doesn’t find out about. In addition, too many dofollow links can also make your backlink profile look unnatural. A natural profile has a mix of both dofollow and nofollow links. Too many links of any type can look unnatural, including curated links.
- Directory submissions: Submitting to many directories will not make you look good in Google’s eyes. However, you can submit to relevant, targeted directories in your local area.
- Blog comments: This was always one of the most abused ways that people tried to game the rankings. Comment spam is the oldest link building scam out there and it will never work. It’s amazing that so many people still thinks it works but Google will hammer you for it. One way it is ok is if you leave a relevant comment on a relevant site.
The Bottom Line
Anyone who is an SEO knows that all site links need to be organic and not purchased. That way, you stick to Google’s guidelines and provide content that the user finds useful. The old days of link farms, and it’s not about how many links you have. After all, Google isn’t in the business of simply counting your links.
Remember to write and shoot content that is focused on the user. Then, legitimate links will follow as more people want to share your content.
As far as what link building strategies to use, there are many fantastic resources you can access for best practices. But if you would never tell a client how you got a link, you shouldn’t do it.
Link building is not illegal if you use the right methods and remember it’s a long-term, ongoing process. Your goal isn’t to acquire a ton of links quickly to boost rankings. But if your aim is to create a good website with the best content for your audience, you will find that links will follow.
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