One way to create links manually in social media environments is by visiting social media sites, forums, and blogs and leaving behind comments with self-referential links in them. However, the great majority of these environments no-follow their links, and obtaining links by putting them in comments and forums is a practice that is not approved by Google or Bing. Doing so is also very bad for your reputation; as we mentioned earlier, it is akin to showing up at a neighborhood party and asking everyone to give you money.
Another useful way to view these activities is that “you can’t vote for yourself”—that is, any link you obtain by linking to yourself is highly unlikely to be valued by the search engines. A more useful way to obtain links from blogs, for example, is to build a relationship with the blog owner. The major steps of this process are as follows:
- Build a list of blogs that are related to your topic area.
- Start visiting those blogs and adding comments of value without linking back to yourself, and develop a relationship with the author(s). The early stages of the relationship begin when the author starts responding to your comments. You can even start by reaching out to the author and interacting with him through one of the major social networks, such as Twitter, Facebook, Google+, or LinkedIn.
- Once the relationship has been built and seems solid, let the author know about a related value-add resource you have, ask to interview him, or suggest a collaborative content development effort or study, either through direct contact with him (preferred) or in a comment. Make sure there is a real connection between what you propose and the content from the author.
These steps are meant to be conservative to avoid a backlash from blog owners and/or authors. You can extend this process to forums or social media sites as well. The key in all these cases is to avoid implementing links to your site/page and instead use these techniques as a way to build relationships with people. The payoff comes when you later publish a great piece of content that they decide to link to because they started following you as a result of your interactions online.
Gray Hat/Black Hat
As we previously discussed, some publishers choose to push the limits or ignore the webmaster guidelines in their quest for links. In the following sections, we will look at some of the more popular tactics in detail.
Purchasing links for SEO
Historically, one of the more popular spam techniques was to buy links. This had two significant advantages:
- It is easy. There is less need to sell the quality of the content of your site. The only things that need to happen are determining that the third party is willing to sell a link, and setting a price.
- Because the link is an ad, you can simply specify the anchor text you want. Anchor text is a powerful ranking signal, and this is one of the major reasons people engage in link buying. The practice of buying links has fallen out of favor, even among aggressive SEO professionals, as the risks with this practice are very high.
Strategies that are not considered buying links
In some strategies, money is involved in obtaining a link, yet the link is not considered by the search engines to have been bought. Here are some examples:
- Paying a PR firm to promote a site
- Paying people to create great content for you and paying someone else to tell other people about it
- Paying someone to ask for (as opposed to actually buy) links via direct link requests The key point is that these strategies do not compensate the site itself for the links given, so they are considered legitimate approaches if the links are given freely.
However, the search engines potentially view this as barter, and therefore these arrangements are not considered real endorsements. The search engines are not likely to question a few selected link exchanges with sites closely related to yours. It’s a problem only when the link swapping becomes a significant portion of your backlink profile. That is a situation that looks manipulative, and the engines will most likely discount those links.