First, not all links are created equal. Not all backlinks to your site will work to increase your page ranking. In fact, some links may actually hurt your SEO efforts. Other backlinks may simply be ignored. According to Google and Bing, there are basically three types of backlinks that may appear on a website:
1.) Links that are ignored by search engines
2.) Links that help build page rank
3.) Links that hurt page ranking
Evaluation of links by search engine algorithms is basically on a continuum. On one end of the continuum, the link may be interpreted as “manipulative.” Google and the other major search engines frown on manipulative links. Manipulating backlinks is known as “black-hat SEO.” On the other end of the continuum, backlinks are deemed “beneficial” and will actually work in the site’s favor to increase page rank. In the middle of the continuum is the “ineffective” or ignored link. These links neither add to nor detract from the site’s ranking.
Link Building Sites, Link Farms and Blog Networks
Recently, a rash of sites that were utilized by SEO pros to build backlinks have been shut down, or at the very least, rendered completely ineffective, by Google. Google has gone so far as to de-index certain link building sites, link farms and blogs, causing the sites to completely shut down. In the past, SEO pros would list backlinks to client sites on these link building sites. Google and other search engines weighted these links as valid and the page ranking for corresponding sites was enhanced by the practice.
Google has determined that link farms and link building sites were violating the “organic” nature of the Google search by contriving rank based on these manipulative backlinks. Therefore, Google rewrote the algorithm for page ranking to estimate the positive or negative SEO “signals” that are displayed by the site. For example, the new iteration of the algorithm reviews anchor text listed in the link in light of the keyword phrase that is used to search for the page.
How Google Estimates Organic and Beneficial SEO
The new iteration of the Google algorithm estimates the chances that the site is over-optimized or manipulative. Using statistical strategies, Google estimates the quality of the backlinks, anchor text and keywords to evaluate the site for being optimized enough to lend to an organic display in page ranking, or if the site is over-optimized in attempts to manipulate page ranking.
The latest version of Google’s algorithm looks for naturally occurring trends within a website. The algorithm determines the level of optimization for a site based on statistical trends. Therefore, one or two paid backlinks or links on link building sites will likely not get the site evaluated as manipulative. This is because, statistically, the algorithm expects that there will be a few outliers. Therefore, a link on a site that is not relevant to yours probably will not have a negative effect on your site’s page ranking. These outliers will simply be ignored.
Evaluation of Link Types
For SEO pros, it is greatly beneficial to know how to link build without doing harm to clients’ sites. Some link building methods are considered “organic,” and others, even those that have worked in the past, are now considered manipulative and will harm a site’s ranking.
1.) Content Links
One of the best places for link building is relevant content. Content links in relevant, high quality blog posts, as well as white papers, Word documents and eBooks are all great for link building. However, the link must be organically utilized in the content. For example, posting a relevant and rich article with links to your site is great, but add the practice of sending a heads-up to quality bloggers and others who will write some additional content and link to your article. Keep in mind, however, that the content must be quality content. Develop your network to include others, such as bloggers and writers, who will promote your work, and then return the favor. This is an organic network that is useful for promoting your site.
2.) Social Media Links
Consider the relationship between the social media site and the search engines. For example, Google+ is indexed by Google and will show links from those in one’s Google+ circles in personalized search results and rankings. Bing will index Twitter links from those people who are associated and display the links in two places: People You Know and News.
1.) Text Links
Text links that link to off-site content, such as those that often appear in footers and sidebars.
2.) Article Sites
The old school practice of listing links in spun content on article sites is no longer effective. This practice has been deprecated by algorithms for a long time now.
3.) Link Farms, Blog Networks and Link Building Sites
Avoid listing backlinks on these sites. With the next updates to the Google algorithm, listing on these sites will possibly even have a negative effect on ranking.
4.) Apps and Badges
Though once thought to be a clever SEO strategy, apps and badges are no longer effective for link building.
5.) Directory Sites
Though your site should be listed in directories, when appropriate, over-use is simply a waste of time and money. Google ignores many directory listings that are not considered relevant.