For years, link building via backlinks or any inbound links was an essential part of SEO. Having other sites link to yours was like showing off votes during an election. Search engines used to rank pages based on these links, but not so much anymore.
The main motivation has been Google. The reason being is that so many webmasters used unscrupulous methods that cheated both surfers and honest webmasters from untold numbers of traffic. Complaints rose to the point of overwhelm and Google finally put their foot down.
Google’s search engine update Penguin has really been a thorn in the side of the backlinking gurus of questionable intent and the past year of 2015 saw Google stomp a mudhole in the sites that had unethical backlinking going on. This hurt many an SEO expert who had to scramble to do levels of damage control never before seen on the web. Google penalized sites with inordinate amount of backlinks, links from webrings, links stuffed into copy and more.
Webmasters had to regroup and study what Google was in favor of. It all boils down to one thing, quality.
Google wants its surfers to get relevant, useful, entertaining, and engaging content, not spammy or misguided webpages and webmarketers’ livelihood was nowhere on the top of the list of Google’s priorities, but surfer satisfaction is.
This calls for webmasters and webmarketers to reconsider their backlinking strategies. Don’t even think Google is unaware of your tricks and tactics. Google is on top of every way to backlink there is and hasn’t banned it totally, but looks for backlinking that is natural, well placed, and most of all, relevant. Stuffing another site’s content with your links is a no no. Adding your links to blogs as a guest poster is a no no. Hiring people to add your links to their copy that they post on social media, blogs, forums, is a no no. Google knows when the links placed by surfers are natural. An example of a real link would be like, “a helpful tip you might find at xyz.com where I went when I had this problem. They took the time, charged me not too much and my problem has been solved.” whereas a bad link would be, “Just go to xyz.com, they’re the best, everyone likes them, click on this link to see.”. As you can see, one comment just mentions the site and what it did for them, the second comment is nothing more than spam with a call to action by the surfer. Google knows the difference and such a link won’t do you any good.
Social media is another way that backlinking is done and Google knows when a link to your site is valid or not. They look for the right type of engagement to the post with your link in it. Just having a link in your post or shared content that has nothing to do with the thread will get you penalized. Backlinks on commercial social media pages are very iffy. It’s a matter of natural feeling backlinks vs obvious spam and link stuffing.
It’s going to get even more tough for people who rely on backlinking as Google’s software is getting better and better by the day. More updates are assured and it would be a good idea for webmasters to go back and fix any backlinking that they can, but if they’ve invested years in it, and those backlinks are still coming in from spammy sites, it’s a task that’s going to be almost impossible to achieve as it calls for asking everyone who is linking to you to stop and far too many sites don’t even have anyone around to change them so your site is going to get links forever.
Never the less, there is hope. Just keep up to date with SEO and remember, honesty is the best policy.