You may have heard the urban legends about the dangers of link building and agencies who offer it as a service.
The truth is, the world of links has changed so much in the past few years and gaining high-quality links are an essential part of SEO. Here are some of the most common agency link building myths, dispelled.
Myth #1 – All SEO agencies are the same; they just take your money and spam your site with directories.
Myth #2 – SEO agencies don’t do the link building; they just farm it out to Indian freelancers on low money.
Any of these sentences sound familiar? If you have researched ‘SEO agencies’ for just a few minutes online then chances are you would have come across forums or message boards with this kind of discussion.
But is it true? Do SEO agencies just take your money and spam your site with low-quality article submission sites?
Until early 2012, SEO link building was largely based on spammy techniques. But at the time, it wasn’t spam. It was simply the method of link building to ensure your site reached the top of the search rankings.
The methods that were most commonly used were article directories, forum links, directory listings, comment spam etc. You get the idea.
Whilst these weren’t the whitest of white hat linking methods by any means, they were nowhere near as forbidden as they are now. Instead, that type of link building was more frowned upon in SEO circles rather than damned to the depths of online marketing hell.
As a result, some SEO agencies took advantage of these methods and rose to prominence during a time when search engines were just not smart enough to understand the low-quality tactics.
Another reason this type of link building was so successful was that it was so easy to achieve. Need 2,000 directory links? Get on Fiver.com. Need 500 comments on different articles with your link in the comment? The guys in the dark corners of Digital Point can help you out.
Low-quality link building was easy, fast and very successful!
Luckily search engines have gotten a lot smarter thanks to updates such as Panda and the Penguin update in early 2012. SEO agencies that previously manipulated the algorithm with spammy link tactics are now desperately trying to clean up their past work with disavow files.
I worked at a different agency when the first Penguin update hit back in April 2012 and the office resembled World War III. Sites were walloped with massive drops in both visibility and rankings thanks to the link tactics that were working fine the week before.
Whilst you would hope that these tactics are long gone, I wouldn’t be surprised if many SEO agencies were still utilising these practices today.
Agency Link Building: Now Vs Then
As I mentioned earlier, old link building was just horrible. It was spammy, easy to obtain and didn’t offer anything to the user.
These days most reputable SEO agencies have a variety of link building methods from contextual links on relevant websites to infographics and further areas of content marketing.
An example of link building from the dark ages is below and you can see just how poor and manipulating it is:
This would have been set up either automatically and blasted across hundreds of sites or a shady webmaster would have had his palms greased with silver to place this shoddy link.
In contrast to the above example, below is a link we built for one of our clients and you can see how different it is in almost every way:
The site is genuine, relevant to the niche (in this case home improvement) and offers value to the user and search engines alike. There are high-quality images that break up the text and it includes relevant links within the body of the text to provide value to the user.
Building good quality links is essential to creating a strong link profile. Filling it with spam and low-quality links will quickly land your site in hot water with Google and will knock you straight out of their search engine index.
How To Avoid These Agencies
Some agencies are well known for their low-quality link building and a quick Google around their brand name is all it takes to find forums and damning articles that are more than happy to shine a light on their ill-behaved ways.
Another way to avoid these companies is just to ask them to show you examples of their link tactics for current clients they might have. If an agency refuses to show you this then chances are they have something to hide.
You want an agency to be up front and honest with what they are doing and how they are doing it. Any agency worth their salt will be offering to show you examples of past work without you having to chew their ear off for it.
So do SEO agencies take all your money and spend it on low-quality spammy sites? Well yes, the bad agencies do.
However, that doesn’t tell the full story as there are agencies refusing to spam their client’s sites in favour of genuine high-quality links that will benefit both the users and the search engines.
Nowadays, we build links properly. Our Digital PR Approach explains it in more detail.