SEO agencies or consultants typically offer backlinks as part of their standard SEO packages, mainly because increasing the number of healthy and authoritative backlinks to your website can dramatically improve your organic rankings and traffic.
In fact, the primary objective of your SEO campaign should be to prove to Google that your content deserves to rank well. Backlinks from independent 3rd parties signal to Google that your content is worth finding. However, what happens when the backlinks you are generating through link building or guest posting come from low quality, irrelevant or spammy websites?
What Is Guest Posting & Why Is It Problematic?
Guest posting is a popular link-building tactic that involves writing a blog post for a 3rd party website. In return, you typically get a backlink to your website within the content or in the author bio. The website owner gets a payment (typically $50 to $100 or more) in exchange for publishing the article with the backlink.
Working in the SEO industry for 20 years, I’ve learned that SEO agencies typically generate backlinks for their clients using this type of guest posting strategy.
Google hates guest posting because these backlinks mimic the natural links that your website earns by publishing helpful or entertaining content. However, you didn’t get the link because your content was useful. You got it because your agency paid for it.
Guest posting for backlinks is like paying someone to be your friend. It may give you the appearance of popularity, but it lacks the genuine endorsement and trust that comes from earning links organically.
The best backlinks come from someone else choosing to link to your website because they found your content valuable, or they have a good relationship with your brand. Backlinks from highly reputable and established websites are vastly more valuable than backlinks from low quality websites.
You should focus your efforts on becoming Google’s preferred website in your category. Do this by building authority with Google and avoiding link building traps that diminish your authority.
Why Google Ignores Guest Posts
If your SEO agency is generating backlinks using a guest posting strategy, it’s probably ineffective for the following reasons:
1) Irrelevant Websites
Backlinks from relevant websites are much more powerful than backlinks from websites that lack relevance to your brand and your content. If you sell shoes, a backlink from a car dealership won’t help you build search engine authority. It’s important that your backlinks come from relevant sources. Review the backlinks your SEO agency is generating for you and make sure they are on relevant websites.
2) Incentivized Backlinks
Google explicitly states that links intended to manipulate a website’s ranking may be considered part of a link scheme and thus incur penalties. Offering any incentive in exchange for a backlink– like a cash payment or free content– is considered manipulation. Google wants you to earn links based on the strength of your brand, customer who love you and the value of your content. This way, Google can use backlinks to identify brands that the Internet loves, not just brands with the biggest pockets.
3) Private Blog Networks
A Private Blog Network is a network of websites used to build links to a single website for the purpose of manipulating search engine rankings. PBNs can offer quick ranking wins, but any gains will be short lived. Some agencies create their own PBNs or simply buy links on 3rd party PBNs. to be clear, PBN websites are not built for humans, they are built to trick Google. That’s why Google works so hard to detect PBNs and ignore them. Google has gotten incredibly sophisticated at detecting these networks, and if you’re caught using them, Google will likely ignore the backlinks or penalize your website. Ask your SEO agency if they post links on PBNs.
4) Over-Optimized Anchor Text
Link builders often stuff link anchor text with target keywords to improve rankings. Over-optimized anchor text screams “unnatural link profile,” and it can hurt you more than it helps. Google can see that all the backlinks to your candle website have the anchor text “Soy Wax Candles”. That’ not normal. It’s obviously the result of aggressive link building tactics. We’ve cleaned up several websites that had been led into this trap by their previous SEO agency.
5) Low-Quality Content
If your content isn’t helpful to the reader, then why would Google index the article? Google loves content that solves problems, answers questions, or entertains. Content that isn’t helpful or interesting is ignored by Google, and so are the backlinks in the content. Most guest posting content is awful to read and useless to Google. Examine the guest posts your SEO agency writes for you and decide for yourself if anyone who find it valuable for any purpose whatsoever.
6) Too Many Outbound Links
Sometimes SEO agencies include links to multiple clients in the same guest post. Here’s the problem: SEO agencies that include links to multiple clients in a single guest post are essentially diluting the “link juice” or value of each individual link. Each outbound link passes a portion of the page’s authority to the linked site. The more outbound links you have, the less value each link passes. Check your SEO agency’s guest posts for links to their other clients.
7) Neglecting User Experience
Websites built for Google (not humans) are filled with ads, pop-ups, or a terrible layout can have a detrimental impact on user experience. This makes sense. These sites were never mean to be seen by humans. Google has made it abundantly clear that your website visitor is king. So, they ignore websites and content with awful UX. Even if your guest post is helpful to the reader, posting it on a website with poor user experience can reduce the value of the backlink to nothing. Look at the websites your SEO agency publishes guest posts and evaluate the user experience for yourself.
Examples: Guest Posting SEO Fails
This guest post article on the Outside The Box Mom blog details 5 strategies for making money online. There is nothing wrong with sponsored articles, but they will not help you build authority with Google. Links in sponsored blog posts are paid placements (not naturally occurring backlinks).
Low Quality Content
This guest post article is essentially unreadable. While the guest poster did secure a backlink, the low-quality, spammy content in the blog deems that backlink worthless in the eyes of Google.
Shameless Link Placements
The backlinks on this page were published by an ‘influencer” who doesn’t exist! After only 30 seconds of investigation, it is clear to see that the profile is fake. In the article, he links out “roadloans.com” in every paragraph. These are clearly paid link placements. If you and I can figure this out, we must assume Google knows exactly what’s going on here.
Content Isn’t Useful To Users
This guest post article links to cars.com. If you read the article, you’ll find grammatical errors, typos, and not much useful information. This is clearly a low-quality article. It’s not even indexed by Google. That means it’s not findable and its backlinks are ignored.
Build Your Brand Story, Not Just Links
To build real search engine authority with backlinks your brand must stand for something and offer a compelling story.
Here’s an example:
At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, we worked with the founder of a manufacturing company whose founders cared deeply about helping nurses get personal protective equipment (PPE) that was in short supply. Their goal was to identify nurses and other medical professionals who needed PPE. We reached out to nursing organizations, media outlets, and healthcare facilities to promote the campaign.
Our client distributed tens of thousands of face shields to frontline healthcare workers. In addition to helping frontline workers who were at risk due to the shortage of PPE, Google noticed the backlinks, engagement, and mentions of our client’s brand. Seeing the 3rd party recognition and trust factors of the manufacturing company, Google rewarded them with increased organic rankings and traffic.
Use Links To Reach Your Target Customers
One of the biggest issues with typical guest posting is that revenue is not one of the determinants of success. Since the websites posting guest blogs are most likely spammy and irrelevant, you will never reach your target audience or get meaningful brand exposure.
When link building is done with conversion in mind, you should be featured on websites that align with your product or service offerings. This will allow you to reach more potential customers, get more brand exposure, and generate more revenue.
For example, if you are a running sneaker company, it would be beneficial to be featured in running and sports-oriented publications in order to reach your target audience.
Promote Your Brand Story, Not Your Content
Your brand story will help you develop more compelling content, connect with like-minded influencers (without paying for write-ups), build search engine authority and do good in the world.
Google rewards websites backlinks from authoritative websites and with high levels of engagement. Reach out to like-minded individuals and organizations to develop content partnerships and generate backlinks.
The connections you build around your brand’s story will generate the backlinks, reviews, content partnerships and engagement that Google is looking for. As your search engine authority improves, your organic traffic will increase.
To make these connections, the key is to promote your brand’s story, not your content (or your products).
Don’t know where to start when creating a conversion focused backlink strategy? Contact Fire&Spark today for customized backlinks using proven SEO strategies and top-notch SEO experts