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Algorithm updates. Manual penalties. Unclear guidelines. Contradictory statements. If you’re just starting out in the SEO world (or even if you’ve been around a while), it can be hard to know exactly what Google approves of and what they don’t. How can you be sure that you’re getting the most bang for your SEO buck while still playing by the search giant’s rules?

This post will go over some SEO strategies that you should definitely avoid as well as some sustainable practices that you should put into place. Neither list is meant to be comprehensive—you should instead use them to consider your own marketing approach and make changes as necessary.

2007 Called. It Wants Its Link Building Strategies Back.Depositphotos_34260665_l

The short of it is this: if you’re still doing “easy” link building—anything automated, massively scalable, manipulative, or low quality—you need to stop. It’s not a matter of if you get penalized by Google, but when. That rules out a lot of linking strategies that used to be considered standard practice such as the following:

  • Blog or forum commenting – If you’re trying to get a few fast links by leaving comments on blogs or forums, you might as well not waste your time. Most blogs and forums use the “no follow” attribute for links left in the comments, which means they have no influence on search rankings. Even if you can find sites that pass link equity, it’s easy to get into trouble if you post the same over-optimized anchor text every time.
  • Directory submissions – Once a staple of SEO link building, directory submissions are now poison. There may still be a few relevant, human-edited directories out there (DMOZ is one), and if you’d like to submit to them you can, but you should proceed with extreme caution.
  • Guest blogging and article submissions – Low-quality content produced and submitted en masse has been a bad idea for a while now, but you should also reconsider any content that’s being written strictly as a way to obtain links.
  • “Widget” or infographic links – Google’s guidelines specifically call out “keyword-rich, hidden, [and] low-quality links” embedded within widgets (such as a visitor counter) or infographic embed codes. The problem here is that people who copy the code you provide may not realize that they are also copying links.
  • Compensated links – This should go without saying, but don’t pay for links. You should also be cautious when sending out free products or samples in exchange for reviews—you can do so, but you should consider this as advertising rather than link building and treat it as such.

So, What Should You Be Doing?

So, what are your options for a sustainable SEO strategy? Really, a lot of it comes down to your mindset. If you’re doing anything “just” to build your back-link portfolio, there’s a good chance that you shouldn’t be doing it. If you’re more worried about link equity and metrics like domain authority than you are in getting real traffic and brand building on relevant, industry-related sites, then you need to rethink your priorities.

A lot of the “bad” SEO strategies listed above can actually be valuable if approached in the right way. Let’s take a look at how:

  • Content marketing – Okay, so you’ve likely read a blog article or two in the last six months about how guest posting is supposedly “dead,” and that’s true. As discussed above, if you’re writing blogs just to get links, you need to stop. On the other hand, content marketing for the purpose of getting in front of your customers and generating real traffic is alive and well.
    This takes time and dedication.

You should identify sites and platforms where your customers are already going for information and work to establish relationships with the site owners or editors. Offer them something of value rather than simply asking for something. Getting a link should be a secondary (or tertiary or quaternary . . .) concern.

  • Interact with the community – Whatever your type of business, there’s a community or blog or social media hub or forum (likely several) out there dedicated to it. Find out where people are going to ask questions or talk about the pros and cons of your product. Get involved. Contribute to discussions.

Yes, as mentioned above, blog or forum commenting can be abused, but not when done to legitimately provide information of value. Think about it: would you rather people find out about your product from you or your competitors? You can even include links or information about promotions when they’re a natural fit. The point is to be real—use your real name and be open with people about any conflicts of interest you may have.

  • Create great content for your own site and social properties – Do you have content on your blog that people want to share? Are they interacting with what you post on your social accounts? If the answers to these questions is, “no,” you need to rethink your content production strategy. What are your customers interested in? What do they care about? What’s working well for your competitors? Creating excellent content can help you earn links instead of build them.

Once you’ve created great content, get it in front of people. Reach out to blog owners that you have relationships with and tell them about your piece and see if they wouldn’t mind sharing it. Post it on any communities that you’re actively involved with. Repurpose it into different formats (slide decks, videos, memes) and share it on content aggregating platforms (SlideShare, Visual.ly, etc.). Keep doing this on a consistent basis, and people will start coming to your site for your awesome content.

What You Should Expect from Your Internet Marketing Agency

I should hope it’s obvious from this post, but in case it’s not, let me say it: if you’re still expecting to see long lists of links built by your internet marketing agency, you’re asking for trouble. Link building on a massive scale is dead, and anyone who offers to do it for you is not looking out for your business’s best interests.

What you can and should expect from your marketing partners are well-researched content strategies that are designed to locate your potential customers and reach them by creating the type of relevant content listed above. Ask about titles and topics and places where they’re planning to post your content. They can also help you out with your social promotion and community building.

In order for them to be successful, you need to be willing to work with them and provide information about your business and your industry. Are there any publications you read that they could check out? Have you produced any informational pieces in the past (white papers, brochures, etc.) that you could send over? The more information you can provide, the more successful your marketing campaign will be.

Share your thoughts below. What marketing strategies are working for you? What’s your formula for successful content?