Saturday, September 18, 2010

How to avoid the SEO link building scam

Link building isn’t easy. It takes time and effort to research and create the links that will make a difference to your ranking. And it’s not the number of links that matter, it’s the quality of those links. Much better to have one link from a respected site than 1000 inbounds from spammy free-for-all directories.

There are however any number of companies who do sell link building services. Some are very good but most are a waste of time. What’s worse is the way they market their services, fail to deliver and scam you out of a wodge of cash.

Three that have come to my attention are FirstFound, and It’s Cold Outside. They have a convincing sales pitch but behind all the fine words are a bunch of serfs churning out some very dodgy links.

So how do they do their link building?

One common method used by link building companies is to set up a whole bunch of microsites and use them as link farms. This can get you penalised by the search engines. Use a link checking site like to discover what they have done. I did this for one client and discovered a link for jewellery in a blog post on heart disease. The actual post had over 70 links to a bunch of unrelated sites.

Another link building method is to add a so called ‘resource layer’. This is essentially a bunch of links to sites in their portfolio. Often not relevant to your content, these links do nothing for your reputation and are likely ignored by the search engines. So make sure they haven’t slipped in a set of irrelevant links to your site.

A more recent scam is ‘social bookmarking’ and related activities. It’s all a big con that the search engines have got wise to. The idea behind social bookmarking was to make public those sites you recommended. But like all good ideas the SEO scammers now flood the bookmarking sites making all those links just about worthless.

Directory submission is another waste of time and particularly favoured by the SEO companies in India. The search engines have regular purges on directory links, you will know when it happens because everybody relying on these links for their ranking complains that their websites have fallen off the ranking perch.

Forum spam is another game played by the link builders. There are a number of methods employed the most common being the new member asking a question to which another new member replies with a handy link to the site they are promoting. These post invariably get deleted within an hour or two so it’s a pointless exercise.

Blog commenting is another waste of time. Most blogs have no-follow links in their comments so those that do allow the links to be followed are spammed to death.

There are many more ways there scammers will link build for you. Not one of their methods is any good and just about everyone who has been caught out has seen their ranking drop like a stone.

It’s a life sentence you can’t escape

If you do get caught then it’s a real bugger to extract yourself from the mire. There appears to be a minimum 12 month contract that requires all sorts of hoops to jump through in order to cancel. And even those that have been successful in cancelling the contract have still found money being taken from their account.

Those unable to get out have seen their ranking drop because of the link building and it has proved almost impossible to track down which links have been created. One company selling cleaning products discovered a link on an Asian sex-change website!

Best advice if you are caught by the snake oil salesman, contact your local trading standards, they quite like investigating this sort of thing.

Don’t get fooled again

The moral of this story, don’t employ any ‘SEO’ company who promises wondrous results on Google. If they don’t even consider optimizing your site then it means they are going to use their automated link building machine. And Google hates this.

So when FirstFound or It’s cold Outside ring you up, just ask them where your site is ranking at present. They won’t know the answer because they have just been given a company name and a phone number to call. It’s a scam.

And if you don’t believe me, here are a few forum threads:

Prachar is the owner of IndSEO, A India based search engine marketing firm offering a variety of SEO related services including reputation management, social media marketing, email marketing, website conversion metrics and mobile phone application development. Please contact to learn more

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