Backlink Fail of the Year!
The backlink fail of the year award goes to EDIT: I have since been in contact with the company in question. It seems they were unaware how SEO work was being conducted on their behalf by a “reputable Irish company” . Accordingly, I have removed their name from this post. I would have no problem naming and shaming if I was convinced it was willful, but on this occasion it appears the blunder was foisted upon them rather than directly created by them. Business’s make mistakes, just like all of us. Something tells me they should have read this blog before they started their SEO campaign.
A while back I wrote about link building (or off-page SEO as I put it). In that article there is a sub heading about what NOT to do when link building. One of those things was paying somebody to do your link building without knowing what they were doing. Today I found an example that really illustrates the dangers of outsourcing your SEO.
I was researching a clients competitor on Alexa when I came across this little gem of a backlink…
Embarrassing for the company in question, since recruitment and a fetish site are not really related. Theoretically It could happen to anybody. I have no power over who links to this site and from where they link.
However, according to my research, in the case of this particular company they have actually paid for these links. How did I come to this conclusion? Well, lets have a look at that fetish site and in particular where the link is (purely for professional reasons you understand)…
The links in the case of the Fetish site are in a signature of a profile in a forum on the site. They use two keywords as the link text directed to two separate pages on the target site. The forum “user” has made no posts, just created a profile with the signature.
Looking at further backlinks to the to the same company using Alexa and other better tools it quickly becomes apparent that this process has been repeated across a multitude of forums with no regard to the forum topic. In fact the number of links from completely unrelated sites far and away outnumbers the small number of relevant backlinks obtained. I even found a post about a rival company with the links pointing to the site in question.
Another recurring theme is the location of the user being given as Delhi. It is not a huge leap of logic to conclude therefore that this company have either directly, or indirectly outsourced a link building SEO campaign to a less than scrupulous Indian SEO company. Edit: It turned out to be that they outsourced to an Irish company who in turn outsourced their work. I say less than scrupulous because what they are doing is forum spamming. Spamming is rarely a clever move when it comes to SEO. I did say rarely. Here is why…
When is Spamming a good idea?
Spamming works. This is how this particular company came to my attention. Their intense session of forum spamming led to a quite radical jump in their rankings. This makes it a good short term, if highly unethical, practice. It is perfect if you need to promote a once off event like a concert and you don’t care if the site gets hammered by Google afterwards.
Why outsourcing your SEO to spammers is a bad idea
Search engines like Google spend a lot of resources on counteracting spam and paid links. They brought out a set of Webmaster guidelines. With that they are effectively saying that anything that falls outside those parameters is liable to be punished when caught. In Google’s own words….
However, some SEOs and webmasters engage in the practice of buying and selling links that pass PageRank, disregarding the quality of the links, the sources, and the long-term impact it will have on their sites. Buying or selling links that pass PageRank is in violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines and can negatively impact a site’s ranking in search results.
In other words, if you get caught you can expect your ranking on Google to take a huge nosedive. It can be really difficult to recover from this too. Removing all the offending links is not always possible, particularly if you have not kept a careful record of where they are and what your usernames and passwords are. Until they are all removed you can find yourself on page 50 instead of on page one.
If you are in a competitive niche its an even worse idea to use black hat SEO tactics. That is because it is so easy to report a site for breaking Google guidelines.
How to report a website for buying links
Reporting a website for buying links is really easy. All you have to do is follow this link http://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/spamreport
Other problems with this particular case of outsourcing SEO
Any good SEO trainer will tell you that links from RELATED sites are important. Links from unrelated sites carry less weight. In my experience this only becomes apparent after some time. If I want my site to be an authority on SEO then I need to have inbound links from sites and pages that are also about SEO.
The logic is simple. If other people are writing about SEO and pointing to what I write about on SEO within their text then I am essentially a reference source. The more people that use what I write as a reference source the better source I must be (otherwise people would use somebody else). Thus links from related pages carry more weight. If I am getting links from a site on boa constrictors then it may help me rank for boa constrictor SEO (theres a concept), but will not help much for SEO, even if that is the link text.
It is the old quality vs quantity argument. It has been shown time and time again that quality wins out in the long term. That is why I always advise clients not to build as many links as possible but to go about link building in a methodical and logical fashion.
How to outsource SEO without the risk
If you want to outsource your SEO then there are some simple steps to take to minimise the risk of ending up in the same predicament as my hapless example:
- Ask Questions. Ask how the SEO campaign is to be carried out. What methods are going to be used. You can bet that the Irish company used in this instance said that they only practice “White hat SEO”, but they clearly don’t.
- Insist on detailed SEO reports. Your reports should include the addresses of where links have been created.
- Get references. Get feedback from other clients. Ideally you want clients that have been using the services for years, not weeks or months.
- Get informed. Read the Google Webmaster Guidelines yourself. Know what is likely to be risky and what is good practice within those guidelines.
- Keep it local. While it is tempting from a cost perspective to go with a company half a planet away, they are less accountable than somebody who is in business just down the road.