From the top of Google to closing the doors - the importance of good external links and the dangers of poor quality links
There was recently an alarming story of a small company forced to close the doors of its business after Google demoted it into 'nowhere land'. Before we discuss what led to this disastrous event, we will explore the differences between good link building and bad link building.
First of all, many SEO agencies offer to build external links to their clients' websites to maximise their search engine rankings. However, Google is becoming increasingly impatient with websites that it detects are building links purely with the intention of manipulating search engine rankings.
Why are external links so important?
Although Google has started to look at other metrics, it still places a heavy weighting on the value of external links. Most people use search engines to access information if they don't know where to find it elsewhere.
For each request, Google will attempt to provide the most accurate and relevant information, which will be customised to your location. The 'Search Plus Your World' feature saves previous searches and visited sites so that Google links you to the most relevant results, based on your past search terms and browsing history. Websites with the most relevant and 'natural' external links are most likely to appear at the top of Google.
How do SEO agencies achieve good quality external links?
There are numerous tactics that SEO companies can employ to attract good quality, natural links. However, businesses need to be aware that this process takes time; anyone looking for a quick win rather than a long term strategy will not take this route.
Example 1: External link building for an insurance company:
- An SEO agency could devise a regular blog on insurance advice with links to the website's products and services. The more readers the blog acquires, the more value Google places on the information, which results in improved SEO.
- Posting comments on news articles about the insurance industry to create valuable back-links to the website
Example 2: External link building for a London tourist company
- Posting on travel forums, websites, social media platforms and any other travel-related website to advise tourists. This generating back-links to the website through forum signatures and subtle 'calls for action' at the end of each post.
- Creating a Facebook profile with links to blogs in the website. The more Facebook users link themselves to the profile (through commends or 'likes'), the better the SEO.
The alternative: Quick and dirty link building
Why do some agencies use this approach?
Unfortunately, some SEO companies resort to building poor quality links to earn a quick profit from their clients without considering the long term consequences.
Firstly, they may be under pressure to deliver fast results and may not have the time or the budget to complete the job properly. Secondly, they may not be paid for their services until the website achieves its desired or target ranking.
Let us now take a look at an extremely unfortunate situation where a business had no option but to cease trading because of an unsustainable, ill-conceived link building campaign.
A clear example of the disastrous consequences of bad linking practices
The Children's Furniture Company, led by Charles and Sarah Codrington, was a small business that depended entirely on online marketing for its customer base. Selling a range of items from bunk beds to bedroom furniture, the company hired an SEO agency to optimise its website content for Google two years ago.
In the short term, the link building campaign appeared to be a success. The company rose to the top of Google and enjoyed unprecedented success. Of course, little did Charles and Sarah Codrington know what was to come next.
The plunge into 'nowhere land'
Following the Google Penguin update in April 2012, the business ran into difficulty. It practically disappeared from Google's search engines, suffered a dramatic fall in traffic and a subsequence loss of trade.
The company found that the agency it had used in the past had adopted black hat SEO techniques to artificially boost its online search engine ranking, which culminated in devastating, irreversible consequences, particularly as the external links could not be removed.
The Children's Furniture Company's website links are now considered 'web-spam' and the business has recently been forced to close That's because Google has removed the company from its indexing, hiding it from the online world and plunging it into 'nowhere land'.
What can be learned?
Rule 1 - Don't trust guarantees
No one can really make any guarantees when it comes to SEO. Google's algorithms are highly variable and little is known of how the search engine indexes each page. An agency that makes guarantees either has very little understanding of the dynamics of SEO or is simply trying to tempt businesses with false promises.
Rule 2 - Google doesn't rate spam – and spam serves no purpose
Google regards poor quality links as irrelevant and uninformative. Spamming on forums, through emails or any other communicative means fails to connect businesses and potential clients. It also fails to deliver a concept or a marketing campaign in the way that good quality link building does.
For a business to truly optimise its SEO, it must be able to link with other businesses in a genuine manner – fulfilling a need or a purpose that will prevent Google from interpreting it as spam.
Rule 3 - Poor quality link building is useless in the long run
Poor quality link building tactics just don't achieve their objectives, even if they are targeting social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. That's because they are simply not useful to anyone other than the individual or agency involved, or a client looking for a fast, effective solution without being told about the long term risks.
Although spam marketing has provided temporary success for businesses in the past (when Google was far more relaxed about online content in general), the criteria for SEO is now much more advanced.
SEO is an ongoing process, constantly adapting to Google's algorithm changes
When it comes to maximising your client and customer base, the golden lesson of SEO is that it takes a lot of time and effort and cannot be achieved overnight.
Fortunately, good SEO agencies have the the perfect blend of experience and expertise to build, maximise and maintain their clients' SEO strategies.