The history of building links for SEO purposes is filled with change. Ever since it's inception, critics have declared it dead. But it is far from it. SEO has evolved from the days where George W. Bush ranked for ‘miserable failure,’ and so with it has the concept of negative SEO. Negative SEO should be understood to be the exact opposite of SEO, kind of like its evil twin with a goatee from an alternate dimension.
But since Google rolled out its Panda and Penguin updates to curb the tide of spammy links, negative SEO has become something beyond the realm of science fiction. Instead, negative SEO can be something that is triggered by a link building campaign or even by a someone attempting to sabotage your website. But since 2014, Google has had a strong handle on reining in the effects of negative SEO resulting from offsite link building. With that in mind, here are four commonly held myths about negative SEO as a result of link building, as well as one way you can legitimately hurt your rankings through a link building campaign.
When building links to your website, you might be most concerned with getting featured on large publications. While building high quality backlinks should certainly be the cornerstone of any successful link building campaign, it doesn’t mean that pages with a lower domain authority don’t have value. If you’re looking to conduct a full-scale link building campaign and not a digital PR campaign, you should have a variety of sites with different levels of link authorities. Even nofollow links can help in creating a diversified link portfolio. As long as a link is organic it will affect your website in a positive way.
Having a large volume of organic links created in a short time span will not penalize you in and of itself. Where it will hurt you is if you build 20 to 50 links over a short period of time and then stop building links altogether. This would be akin to bulking up at the gym over a one month period and then stopping cold turkey; it will be obvious to everyone (including Google) that you took steroids. Instead, make sure to build links to your website at a continuous rate, even if some months see a higher acquisition of links than others.
A lot of people see link building as a one-and-done kind of affair. But just because your site has been featured on a domain before doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be again. While it would likely be harmful to use the same page to link to the same domain every month, using different pages on the same site (particularly in the form of an article or blog post) can actually be helpful as long as they're spaced out appropriately. In fact, if the site has good authority it could actually help you rank the page you want to quicker.
While you may be concerned about your branding, having links from different niches is actually recommended. This is especially true if the niche is related in some way to your own site’s niche. For example, if you run a travel company, being featured on a business site in the context of entrepreneurship will definitely help your rankings. It’s only when links are built inorganically *from* totally irrelevant (and spammy) websites that negative SEO will actually take effect.
This is the one area where you should actually be careful within your own link building campaigns. Not only is exact-match anchor text frowned upon by websites with high editorial standards, but it will also signal to Google that you are inorganically building links. Done occasionally, exact match anchor text for your target keywords can definitely help you rank for those keywords. But done repeatedly and without abandon, using exact match anchor text can bring upon the devastating effects of negative SEO.
While there are certainly cases where negative SEO has tanked someone’s website, its effects can be overblown in the context of a link building campaign. As long as you are building links in an ethical way and legitimately spreading the authority of your website then it is unlikely that you will suffer the effects of negative SEO.
Sean is Chief Operating Officer at SimpleTiger, responsible for operations, process creation, team utilization and growth, as well as sometimes direct client consultation.
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