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3 Link Building Tactics to Avoid in 2020 for Sustainable SEO

It seems like every few months there’s a new story floating around the SEO community that indicates links are becoming less important for search engine visibility. As far as we can tell, these kinds of articles will float around for one of two reasons.

  1. SEO professionals are trying to throw other marketing professionals off the scent. It seems crazy, but when thinking about why people diminish the importance of links in an SEO strategy, it seems only logical that one of the reasons is that they are trying to throw digital marketers a curve ball. Perhaps they want to convince other marketing professionals to spend their time looking at other areas of SEO.
  1. Because getting links is really hard. Ask any SEO professional and they will tell you that link building in a legitimate white hat manner is it the most difficult aspect of search engine optimisation. Depending on how you go about it, link building can involve writing huge pieces of informative content in the hope that you attract links, or you are reaching out to webmasters hoping that they will let you publish a Guest Post. Irrespective how you go about it, link building is the most time-consuming and difficult aspect of search engine optimisation.

If you’re seeing these scaremongering articles floating around diminishing the importance of links in SEO, it’s best to look the other way. As of 2019, backlinks still play a critical role in the search algorithm.


Buying Backlinks – Addressing the Taboo

Link building takes time. For new businesses in particular, building links when you do not have a brand or reputation to fall back on can seem almost impossible. As a result, SEO professionals look for way to ‘game’ the system. However, if you’re heading down this path, you must proceed with extreme caution. Buying backlinks goes against one of Google’s webmaster guidelines:

“Buying or selling links that pass PageRank: This includes exchanging money for links, or posts that contain links; exchanging goods or services for links; or sending someone a “free” product in exchange for them writing about it and including a link”

 Google is obsessed with providing the best search engine experience for its users. They want to show companies who perform well in search engine results because they deserve to – not because they have the highest link building budget.

Buying backlinks for your website is risky business. In most cases, the risk vs. reward of buying backlinks for your website simply does not add up. If you are trying to build a legitimate, sustainable website that can withstand Google’s many algorithm updates, buying backlinks is not a good strategy. There may be short term gain, however, Google is becoming increasingly sophisticated in how it detects and punishes websites with low quality backlinks.

What Is a Bad Backlink?

A bad backlink comes from unrelated or I’m trustworthy sources from around the web. Bad backlinks will usually come around for one of three different reasons:

  1. You have worked with an Sydney SEO Agency or link building company who have generated low-quality backlinks for your website
  2. you have unknowingly created content for a guest Post or submitted to your website to a low-quality directory.
  3. your content has been linked to by a website that you don’t want to be associated with.

It’s important to regularly monitor backlinks coming to your website and perform a backlink audit. This can be done using Google search console or any number of paid SEO tools.

This guide will explain six types of backlinks that can get you penalised and what you can do to avoid them.

1. Bulk Directory Submissions

Not all directory submissions are negative for your SEO. In fact, there are a number of reputable directory submission sites that can enhance your search engine presence and provide link diversity for a healthy link profile. But you need to be careful when building directory links.

Submitting your website to low-quality directories will do a lot more harm than good for your website. There are a number of directory submission services that claim to deliver rankings boosts by using their services. But you need to avoid these like the plague.

When submitting your website to directory submission sites within your niche, a good rule of thumb to remember is how often have you viewed this directory site in the past? If you’ve never heard of the directory site or it’s the first time you’ve used it, it’s best to stay away.

2. Blog Commenting for Links

Building links through blog comments is one of the most used & abused Blackhat SEO tactics. As a result, Google (almost without exception) completely ignores blog comment links. One simple step that most webmasters take to avoid blog comment spam is to mark them all as ‘no-follow’.

If Google detects that you are building links in a manipulative way through blog comments, then there is a high chance you could be penalised.

So, if you’re thinking about building links through blog commenting the best-case scenario is that they will be completely ignored by Google, the worst-case scenario is that they will result in a penalty for spam. Don’t waste your time.

3. Over-Optimised Anchor Text

Google is more perceptive than ever, which means you don’t need to include your most important keywords in your anchor text. While it was once considered favourable to have an exact match anchor text when building links to a specific page, this practice is now considered “spammy” and could be a good enough reason for Google to slap you with a penalty.

If we are going to put anchor text into percentages, it should look something like this.

Brand Anchor Text: 70%

Naked URL Anchor Text: 15%

Generic Anchor Text (i.e. ‘click here’ or ‘website’): 10%

Partial Match or Secondary Keyword: 4-5%

Exact Match: <1%

There are a lot of people who still harp on about the importance of exact match anchor text. The most important thing to remember is that your anchor text needs to be natural. If a website is genuinely citing your website as a reference, the chances of them using your exact keyword is extremely low.

A website that we worked on recently was the victim of a negative SEO attack from a competitor. The Negative SEO involved sending 100+ exact match anchor text links from low quality websites to several of the highest performing pages. Take a look at how that impacted rankings:

negative seo attack example

While It was fairly straight forward to recover, the practice of sending dozens of exact match links was an automatic red flag from Google. If you’re flooding your website with a high quantity of extremely targeted links, Google is going to get suspicious.  The value of links isn’t derived from the anchor text, it comes from the link.


Link building continues to be the most difficult and time-consuming aspect of search engine optimisation. As search engines becomes more sophisticated, it is more important than ever to build links that can withstand algorithm updates and will continue to benefit your website for years into the future.

With the right strategy in place, link building is one of the most effective ways to boost your rankings, drive referral traffic to your site, and build your brand. Focus on delivering high-quality content and networking within your industry with high-authority sites that may be interested in linking to your content.

Need help with your SEO? Contact Safari Digital SEO agency for search engine optimisation campaigns and link building tactics that can transform your business.

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