In my last post I went into some detail about the SEO problem businesses slip into when using outsourced copywriters for much of their web content. I call them inorganic copywriters because they often have no idea what makes the business really valuable simply because they are not on the inside.

Now I want to tackle another SEO problem… most businesses are aware that building links to your site can cause rankings to tank, but did you know that most links that Google counts today are a direct result of a business relationship that you already have?

There’s too much fear today about link building because of Google’s Penguin algo and Matt Cutts war on link spam – handing out tons of manual penalties “Unnatural links to your site.” These have resulted in a flood of link removal requests with many SEOs and webmasters admitting fault and others left wondering what went wrong with a trusted business partner. Businesses are anxious and unsure about linking to anyone now for fear of losing trust from Google.

Challenge #2: Forget about Google when building links

Link gluttony was responsible for a plethora of cottage businesses all created for the purpose of building links that would improve search rank. Many of us in the SEO world bought into this concept and got burned when Google turned up the heat on links for obvious SEO benefit.

I’ve evaluated numerous link profiles in the past year and it’s fairly easy to detect whether SEO was the main cause of a link placement or not:

  • A large number of links all have the exact same anchor text, a competitive keyword phrase
  • A big percentage of links from directories that no one has heard of before
  • Abuse of article directories for the purpose of getting links
  • A batch of links from pages containing lists of unrelated links, non-relevant links to the topic or links placed with no editorial discretion

I could go on but do you see how easy it is to detect unnatural links? Even an algorithm can detect them.

Google did the Web a service by requiring SEOs and webmasters to re-evaluate their motivation for building links.

So are SEOs to blame for this huge link building mess?

Yes and no.

Back in the early days SEO people knew that links improved rankings and usually attempted to build reputable links to client sites. There were a few SEOs like Jill Whalen who would not touch link building at all for fear of what search engineers might do about it. There were link builders like Eric Ward who advocated that the value of a link is in the traffic it drives.

But soon enough online directories sprang up everywhere with no clear value or purpose except to sell SEOs and anyone else easy to get links.

That’s where the downward slide of compromise began and continued with the creation of article directories and all manner of automated (stream lined) ways to build cheap links.

As the online marketing industry grew lots of people came in who were taught or did not seem to question the practice of cheap link building. The goal was to build as many links as possible to a site or web page to increase it’s ranking in Google.

Professional SEOs saw this problem and began reforming their strategies to build higher quality links, but the damage had been done. Although search engineers at Google had made algo updates along the way to dampen the effects of cheap link building, they launched the Penguin update in April 2012 to rid search results of sites and pages that possessed an unnatural link profile. And the Penguin updates keep coming.

Search algorithms are getting better at ranking sites and pages that gain links organically, but Google still has more to do in that area. For instance, does Googe know what is authoritative to a human?

Make the transition to organic link building/earning

Organic links are usually not automated, scalable or bought. If you are still thinking about how to automate, scale, acquire links or take short cuts to boost your ranking, you aren’t ready for this section yet. Remember to forget about Google when building links.

It’s time to out your fears of link building/earning and start moving forward again!

Organic links often build, foster or acknowledge real relationships. Here’s a quick and easy tip to take action on right now… Reach out to your business partners, networking partners, vendors and perhaps certain customers and ask them to acknowledge your business relationship with a link to your site. Don’t tell them how to do this, just ask.

The businesses who gain lots of organic, natural links to their pages have a much bigger goal than link building. They don’t care so much about what Google does as they do about how to engage their ideal prospect.

They form teams to collaborate about building a huge audience of people who love their brand. These teams find ways to use social media, SEO, PPC, creative, content marketing, branding, video, email, public relations, ad networks and even offline marketing to build up that audience of ideal prospects and customers.

When an audience likes how a business engages or makes offers to them, you will likely see them tell more people about it. That is where organic link building begins and from there it can grow, grow, grow.

Anything that promotes or inhibits link growth, helps or hurts SEO – Rand Fishkin

Now that you’ve come this far, did you lose your way in the thicket of online marketing or link building? This is a rescue attempt to bring your business back out of the jungle so ideal prospects can find you again. Leave a comment, shoot me an email or call, I’d love to help if I can.

Tom Shivers
Tom Shivers

I'm a ecommerce SEO consultant and President of Capture Commerce. I've managed digital marketing campaigns for scores of clients since 2000 and found that every business is unique with its own challenges and opportunities. When I see that I have contributed to the success of a business by helping them grow, it makes me feel awesome! That’s the coolest thing and I’m so thankful for the opportunity to do this.

    5 replies to "How To Earn Natural Links For SEO"

    • Reginald

      Hey man,

      This is well said to be honest. I think we shouldn’t think too much on what Google thinks about SEO. I mean, what happens when we think too much about it?

      We get obsessed and bad things happen (trust me on that). For me, the best way is grow your link building step by step (do it naturally).

      Thanks for sharing!

    • Tom Shivers

      Thanks for your input Reginald

    • Anthony Capetola

      I am posting an article about the history of negative link building practices soon! So cool that I found this. Great article Tom.

    • Daniel Daines-Hutt

      Very interesting article
      Our link building profile now for clients is much more organic (to an extent)

      We still create personas and find our best customer may be, but after that its mainly creating the content that the customer is asking for, and then linking back to where they asked for it

      Not only is it a contextual link (Usually) but its targeted and drives traffic so win:win

      New reader btw, love the content so far!


    • Tom Shivers

      Hi Dan sounds like you are engaged in a conversation with the customer with your content – that’s a great content marketing plan that can result in good organic links.

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