Unwanted links can damage your digital marketing

You need links
Building links with other high quality websites has distinct benefits and is a vital element of digital marketing.  It gives you the opportunity to expose your web content to a wider audience and generate additional traffic.

Not only can you dig for more information, demonstrate appreciation or add value to someone else’s though process by commenting on their blog, at the same time, you can build links for your own website.

But there’s a big difference between organic link building (the natural process of building links, over time, by connecting with other content marketers and commenting on their sites) and the frenzied building of irrelevant links to sites with no synergy with your brand.

Is your digital marketing strategy outdated?
Links are considered so vital that many so-called experts offer paid link-building.  For a fee, they promise to create an agreed number of links for your website.  And in days gone by these links may have had some value.

But today things have changed.  Google constantly updates their search algorithm, and many people have been hit hard by low-quality links.  And paid links are invariably low quality.

In the past, SEO techniques like paid link-building, syndicating poor quality articles, “spinning” articles and creating spam through anything from comments to guest books to blogs may have worked.  But not any more.

I thought long and hard about writing this article, because it may seem disrespectful to you if you already know about the dangers of paid links.  But a friend asked me to review an SEO proposal he’d received a couple of weeks ago and it included the recommendation of a paid link building service.  And I suspect that he’s not the only one getting bad advice.

Sadly many of these companies are still in business today – there are about 284 million listings on Google.  Most of those listed on page 1 offer “natural link building” or “manual link building” and some of them may actually provide a valuable service, but I’m sceptical.  Particularly of the companies that offer a guaranteed page 1 ranking.  I mean, that’s like promising a singer a Number 1 hit.

There are just too many variables to make a guarantee like that.  And if they really did know to do this, they wouldn’t have to pay for Google ads either!

I looked at a couple of the companies offering the service, wanting to find some kind of client testimonial.  This one is wonderful: 

“I have been doing SEO and affiliate marketing for over 10 years. I own several hundred websites. I use several software programs to get links. Yours is consistently one of the best at getting links from great Web 2.0 sites.”
Mark G.

So we’re supposed to believe that someone with several hundred websites isn’t prepared to give his name or that of his company?  Or that even though he’s so successful and has been doing this for 10 years he still hasn’t found the one link-building programme he can rely on?

I’ve a good spam catcher on my website, but now and then I still have to manually delete spam comments.  Some extol the virtues of my site, others how helpful an article is.  Others still masquerade as a novice looking for help, while some are barely English. I rather liked this one:

“Pretty section of content. I just stumbled upon your weblog and in accession capital to assert that I acquire in fact enjoyed account your blog posts. Any way I will be subscribing to your augment and even I achievement you access consistently quickly.”

And if you’re paying for links, this is probably the quality you’re getting.

Sadly the URLs provided are often legitimate-sounding organisations, like a hotel, a picturing framer and even an ophthalmic association.  People who’ve been suckered into paying money for poor quality links that will add no value to their business.  Or mine – which is why they’re deleted instantly.

Google hates low quality links
Today, this isn’t just a waste of money, it can actually backfire.  Google penalises poor quality links to the point that web masters complained loudly, pointing out that they can’t control who links to their websites and that it’s unfair to punish them.  Google didn’t take this lightly; they created a Link Disavow Tool for companies who can’t remove links to their sites that, in the past, they may have paid to create.

If you think I might be overstating the case, have a listen to what Matt Cutts, head of Google’s webspam team has to say about it.

So while link-building is valuable way in which to build your site authority, don’t be tempted to pay for instant results.  Rather earn your links with good quality content and engaging with others in the digital sphere.

Like all marketing, successful digital marketing and content marketing is the product of well-considered strategy, a sustained schedule of activity, and a clear picture of your target market and way in which you can help them solve their problem.

Related posts:
How to Drive Traffic to your Website with Content Marketing
The hard facts about internet usage and social media in South Africa today
Capitalising on other people’s content marketing




  1. Randy Kershner on October 31, 2013 at 19:44

    Thanks, Ann – very helpful. Always appreciate your insightful comments and tips. Cheers!

  2. Ian Webster on September 19, 2013 at 16:38

    Okay, so here is a second comment on your site in a matter of moments, but (if you will believe me) this is a real question, not a drive for your customers. But, hey, if anyone wants to visit, I have coffee!
    If I am deleting spam comments like those you mention here, will that be it? No backlinks? I worry when I receive trackbacks, which (I think) means they have put a link to my site on theirs. I delete it on my side, but it’s still (presumably) sitting on theirs? Is that a problem?
    Thanks, Ian

    • Ann Druce on September 21, 2013 at 08:53

      Hi Ian,

      Trackbacks can certainly be low quality links. If you have a WordPress site, you can choose to allow them or not so unticking the box in your dashboard will help.

      However, this is a bit too technical for me, and I’m not the best person to answer your question, but here is a good reference on deleting unwanted trackbacks.

      Hope this helps.

  3. Arleen on September 18, 2013 at 17:57

    I have been on the internet since the early 90’s. I pad an SEO to the tune of $154,000.00 a year. I did this for three years and the ROI was poor. Google adsense is great for Google but when you are in a market where keywords are running $8.00 a hit, adsense makes no sense. I am finding that ramping up my social media appearance has made the biggest difference. Today I am concentrating on social media.

    • Ann Druce on September 18, 2013 at 18:06

      That’s a scary investment for a poor return! I think the problem with SEO is that so many “gurus” are as ignorant as the rest of us.

      I agree that social media has a big role to play; it takes time, but like any other marketing, it demands an investment. (And, of course, a strategy.)

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