How to Identify a Dangerous Link

Although a single spammy link probably won’t get you into hot water in Google, a certainly can. Fortunately, there are a few red flags that almost any spammy link tends to have. In this video you’ll learn how to identify a dangerous link, including a number of real world examples from the black hat side of SEO to help guide your SEO campaign’s link building towards safe and effective strategies.

Video Transcript

Hey. What’s up, everybody? It’s Brian Dean from QuickSprout, and in this video I’m going to show you some examples of dangerous links that can get your site penalized. So the first one I’ll show you is a blog network. So, in general, you want to avoid any paid links, but especially blog network links, and especially those that are very blatantly obvious paid links, like this one.

So as you can see, this site is called My Medical Blog, but strangely the first piece of content that you see is called “Boost your home security – try these ideas.” This obviously has nothing to do with the topic of this site, and that is a huge, huge red flag that a site is a blog network. But in this case, it’s very, very blatant because they have a list of random, exact match anchor text links just right below every single article on the site. Okay? So this is obviously a paid link situation and this is something that you want to avoid.

So next we have forum profiles. So as you can see here, this is a list of people that have registered at a forum, and under the website area they have a link to their website. Okay? There’s nothing wrong with this if you participate in a forum and you have one or two of these out there.

But the problem is if you do this at scale, this can be very dangerous because this used to be a very, very popular link building strategy and Google pays special attention to forum profile links because they tend to make up part of a spammy link profile. So, you definitely don’t want to make these at mass. Like I said, if you participate in a forum, it’s okay to have one or two of these out there, or maybe even five. But definitely don’t go building hundreds of these for link building.

So, speaking of member lists, any sort of member website that allows you to create an About Me area can be an opportunity for link building. But you definitely want to do it the right way and you want to avoid sites that have been spammed. So as you can see, in the case of this member area for this site, all the people who are registered are basically spammers. Okay? You can see that in their About Me area they have exact match anchor text links to their website.

So if you’re going to maybe make a membership at a web design site, if you’re a web designer, there’s nothing wrong with putting a link to your website. The problem is if the site has been spammed, you don’t want to be associated with having a link on a spam site. Also, this is obviously a low-quality site if they don’t even moderate the site enough to let people do this sort of spammy link building on their own site.

So next we have blog comments. Okay? Now, there’s nothing wrong with blog comments. If you go to a site, if you see a piece of content that you like, there’s nothing wrong with leaving a comment or adding an insight, and that’s even a great way to get some targeted traffic. But the problem is when you do it for link building and when you use exact match anchor text.

So as you can see here, these are obvious spammy blog comments. Okay? So these people have never read the article. This has nothing to do with the topic of this particular article or the blog in general. This is just blatant spam. Okay? So you definitely want to avoid any sort of blog comments for link building. Blog comments are a great way to get traffic. But definitely don’t use them for link building, and when you leave a blog comment just use your name or your company name. Don’t use exact match anchor text.

Next we have partner links or any sidebar links that are paid. This is a very, very common black hat link building strategy, and I’ve found that it gets a lot of people in trouble because they don’t necessarily know that this is black hat. So as you can see here, they have a partner’s area and these aren’t partners of the website. These aren’t sites that the site owner likes. These are obvious paid links as you can see from the fact that this is a car audio site, and then they have a link to an attorney. These aren’t sites that this person likes. It’s not a blog roll. These are paid links.

So you can get these links if you want to get some traffic to your site. But Google advises that you no-follow these links. So definitely don’t buy any follow links that are in a sidebar under any sort of partner’s or sponsor’s area because that can get you into trouble.

So next we have forum signatures. So I spoke to forum profiles before and, again, forums are a great way to get targeted traffic. But you have to do it the right way. So when you make your signature link to drive some traffic to your site, make sure you don’t do something like this where it says “Website design company,” because that’s obviously very spammy.

What you want to do is just put your business name or your name or some sort of call to action here. Because once you start posting hundreds and hundreds of times in the forum, this is going to really, really mess up your anchor text diversity because it’s going to have a lot of anchor text that’s exact match, which can get you in trouble with Google Penguin. Or also it just looks spammy to begin with. So this is definitely something you want to avoid if you’re doing forum marketing.

So next we have web directories. Now, web directories are sort of a grey area because some of them can still provide value. But 99.9% of them are definitely spammy and even if they’re not spammy you want to avoid them for link building. So here is an example of one that I found called Web Net Click. Obviously, this isn’t a trusted directory like DMOZ or Yahoo or Best of the Web. This is a directory that you want to avoid. Or you don’t even want to waste time building links on it because it’s not going to give you any value to begin with.

So in general, I would avoid any web directory that isn’t a household name like the Yahoo Directory or Best of the Web. As you can see on this directory under the Web Software area, they have stuff about cheap prom dresses, wedding dresses, and it’s all exact match. Okay? So this has nothing to do with web software and this is exact match anchor text. So this site is obviously, basically, just accepting payment for these links. So that would be a directory that you’ll want to avoid.

So next we have article directories. Now, article directories, again, can be a way to drive some traffic to your site. But again you have to do it the right way. So in this case we have this article, “The Benefits You Can Receive from a Hip Surgeon”. Okay, so right off the bat you think, “Okay, this probably isn’t the best article in the world,” and then at the bottom you can see in the author bio area they have an exact match anchor text to their site. Okay? So that’s definitely something you want to avoid.

So if you do article marketing, there’s nothing wrong with that. But when you have your author bio area, don’t make it spammy like this. Okay? Now, I think article directories in general don’t provide any SEO value, but that’s obviously up to you. But just to stay on the safe side and to make sure a site doesn’t get penalized, in the author bio area you want to do something like this where it’s a raw URL and not something like this where it’s an exact match anchor text situation.

So finally we have press releases. Now, press releases used to be sort of a white hat link building strategy. But over the years it’s become spam and Google has recently recommended that press release links are no-follow. So no matter what you do with press releases, you definitely don’t want to use exact match anchor text. So there’s nothing wrong with using a press release to get the word out about your company, and maybe that press release will get picked up on a site and then you’ll get a legitimate link that way.

But you don’t want to do something like this where they talk about eerie Halloween props and that links with exact match anchor text to a site, or steam punk costumes and that also is exact match anchor text to a website. So if you do press release marketing, you definitely want to avoid any exact match anchor text and possibly even no-follow the links because that is the newest recommendation from Google.

So that’s it for spammy links. That’s pretty much all the types of blatantly spammy links that are out there. So if you can avoid these you’re probably going to be okay when the next Google update rolls around. So thanks for watching this video and I’ll see you in the next one.