This is a guest submission by Mark Scott.
Ah! Link building – the holy grail of SEO.
Link building makes your website discoverable to the search bots of Google, Yahoo!, Bing or other, more niche search engines.
It makes your website rank higher on the search engine results page (SERP).
It gets you punished, even de-indexed by search engines.
Yes, you read that right.
Link building can be the reason your website is penalised or completely de-indexed by search engines!
But before you begin questioning your faith in this popular SEO tactic, here is some clarification – these bad things happen only when you do link building wrong.
Committing link building blunders is the easiest way to get on the wrong side of search engines and have your website face their wrath.
Stay close to Google's guidelines, while actively avoiding the following mistakes, to ensure the link-building potion doesn't become your poison.
(P.S. If you'd like to download a free list of 220 profitable buyer keywords click here or the image below)
1. Forgetting your brand
This is perhaps the most common, albeit unfortunate mistake webmasters make in link building.
Links that include the name of your company or brand in the text show search engines you engage in white hat SEO tactics and provide content that is actually relevant to your industry.
A lack of enough brand mention typically indicates link baiting or spamming, since very few links actually talk about your company and what you do.
As such, ensure your brand is not forgotten in the text links you get or create. A good idea is to use brand names in your own content, linking the name to your website homepage.
2. Building links from irrelevant websites
You want to get backlinks from websites that are actually relevant to the content you provide.
These again, show your trustworthiness and your use of white hat SEO techniques.
Ensure the backlinks you get are from good-quality websites.
Links from bad, spammy websites will take down your reputation as well.
3. Using paid links
Up until a few years ago, you could get away with paying for inbound links.
But with the Panda update in March 2012 (Panda 3.4), buying links is now a crime – one that is punished heavily.
Search engines crackdown heavily upon websites that either buy or sell links.
And if you think you can risk taking the penalty, if paid links ensure you a position on the top three or five SERP positions, remember this – paid links bring low-quality traffic.
So by buying links for your website, you –
1) spend huge marketing dollars for low-quality traffic
2) lose the traffic without any significant increase in revenue
3) get caught and penalized by Google and its peers as well!
4. Getting no-follow backlinks
Backlinks to your website, which have the no-follow attribute, are frankly useless for any SEO function.
Check your website periodically for such backlinks and have them removed promptly.
5. Getting links with meaningless anchor texts
Poor anchor texts (irrelevant and meaningless) are frowned upon by search engines so much so that they make an otherwise high-quality link (say one you get from an authoritative website) useless.
Request, if possible, for relevant anchor texts with keywords in back links to ensure you are not penalised for the links you get.
6. Using image links with no alt texts
The term “alt” as you probably already know, is short for “alternative”.
Your alt text gives search bots (who have frankly no understanding of images) an alternative source of information (text-based information, which can be scanned for keywords and relevancy) about your image.
Now high-quality image links are valuable in attracting organic traffic and overall, in SEO.
But only when search bots can actually understand what your image is about and how to rank it!
Image links without alt texts can mistakenly be deemed poor quality or spammy, resulting in rank cuts. Further,
7. Eliminating all junk anchor links
Text links like “click here” or “buy now” are called junk anchor links, primarily because they are not specific to a certain website and can be used anywhere on the Internet.
They look natural and in fact, count as links.
Panda 3.4 actually counts the number of junk links you have and checks their quality.
Now you don't have to populate your website with these links, but you don't have to avoid them altogether as well.
Use junk anchor links like “click to continue” or “continue to article” to show search engines you provide clear call to actions.
8. Ignoring semantic keywords
Stop obsessing about getting exact-match keywords in the anchor texts of links!
Panda 3.4 (again!) also keeps a keen eye on webmasters who try to manipulate the system by getting too many exact anchor text links that actually have irrelevant content.
So stop worrying about not having enough of such links and focus on the real way people conduct searches – the semantics of your keywords.
Semantic keywords help you rank better on SERPs by allowing you to be found for the different contexts in which a user may have entered a search term.
You can research for semantic keywords on your social media profiles, Google Trends and websites like TweetVolume, which keep you updated about the trending topics of the time.
Optimizing keywords around the trending topics will help you rank higher.
It will also attract high-quality links from other authority websites, because of the relevance of your posts.
9. Ignoring the importance of social signals
Have you heard that Google is focusing on social signals as a measure of websites' value and popularity?
Since social signals (the number of fans, followers, likes, comments, shares you have on your social media profiles) are harder to manipulate than inbound links, search engines are increasingly using them for ranking websites on SERPs.
Say you've complied a list of “100 cost-effective marketing strategies”, and promoted it well, such that the post now has some 1200+ shares/tweets, 176 likes, 675 comments and 24 +1s, you can rest assured Google is going to rank you higher on its SERPs than competitors with poorer social signals.
If on the other hand, you've created an exceptionally high-quality white paper on the same topic, but it has little to no social signals, you are going to be ranked low.
Up your game in social media and actively promote your work to improve social-signals strength.
Actively promote your content with the industry influencers to increase the exposure of your content.
Similarly, actively ask your loyal readers to share your content.
Include social-sharing buttons on all your posts, preferably on a scrolling side bar, and not at the bottom.
You can use sponsored Tweets and posts to drive more likes, comments and shares.
But, as is the case with paid links, the actual leads you get from these signals will be of low quality.
10. Exchanging links quid pro quo
Search engines are constantly uncovering and penalizing webmasters who follow the you-scratch-my-back-I'll-scratch-yours approach in link building.
And if you're doing this on a large scale, you are in for big trouble!
Your website can be buried away under thousands of SERPs or, worse, taken offline (de-indexed).
Plus, such quid pro quo link exchanges provide no value to your target audience and decrease your reputation further.
So stick to creating high-quality posts while following the general guidelines by Google (or other search engines you're targeting) to get the best of both link building and SEO.
Author Bio: Mark helps his clients first understand what Social Media can bring to their business, be that brand awareness, customer engagement, customer service or income generation and then developing, defining and implementing a plan for their business. Mark is the owner of DOC Marketing - a social media and SEO company. Find him on Twitter or G+