Where Not to Link From: Future-proofing Your Reputation Management Strategy

2011 has been a big year for reputation management and SEO in general. The past year saw some pretty big changes to the way Google evaluates websites for ranking purposes, including an increasing reliance on social networking activity to determine the quality of a website.

And as the online world continues to move forward, become more intuitive, and ever-dependant on the signals of users to determine which websites are the best and most useful, the crutch of old link building tactics will continue to weaken. In terms of reputation management strategy, that means that molding a search engine results page to reflect positively on your company will continue to get more difficult. Forcing reputation management practices away from low-quality link building tactics toward a more careful evaluation of where links are coming from.

So, moving into 2012, here are a few tips on where and where not to link from when optimizing your reputation strategy.

Where Not to Place Your Links:

  • Sites with a lot of ads: The internet exists because we can make money on it, but when advertising overtakes a site to the detriment of its content, Google notices, and downgrades that site, making links from that site worth less.
  • Sites with bad content: Site that are not useful and don’t provide any type of value to their visitors are sites to stay away from. If you look at a site and it reads like it was written for search engines instead of humans, stay away. Users will shun those sites, and so should you.
  • Content farms: There are a number of websites out there that focus solely on ranking high for a wide variety of searches so they can make money off advertising. If the content of the site is not focused, but rather is made up of scattered articles on a wide variety of unconnected topics, you don’t want links from those sites. Google doesn’t like them and is specifically targeting them for search engine manipulation tactics.
  • Crowded sites: Crowded sites are sites that don’t seem to be taken care of by a human. That is, they link to any site that asks (of will pay them enough), they don’t moderate their comments, and their sidebars are filled will irrelevant links and RSS feeds from other spammy sites.

Where to Seek Links:

  • Sites with Quality Content: If a site is focused, well written, and provides useful content—it’s generally a site that a normal human being would consider “quality.” That’s the type of site you want a link from. Quality sites will always rank well in a Google search and links from quality sites will always be more valuable than links from spammy sites.
  • User engagement: One of the marks of a low-quality site is the amount of comment spam that appears on the site. When you are evaluating a site for backlinking purposes, take a look at the comments section. Are real people responding? Is useful discussion taking place? If so, great. If all the comments contain non-specific compliments about the blog  being “great” or “ well written” and they all contain links to irrelevant sites, move along.
  • Social Shares: As social signals continue to rise in importance, it’s important that you link from a site that is popular with users—a site that is regularly shared on Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, and more. It doesn’t have to have a lot. But if most blog posts have a handful of shares, that can’t be a bad thing.

Future-Proofing

The simple fact of the matter is that the old ways of article spinning, article directories, comment spamming, and more are becoming increasingly less effective. Mass producing a large quantity of low-quality links may be easy, but they will eventually die. And you don’t want your reputation management efforts to go to waste on strategies that will eventually fail you.

Instead, you need to look at the future of search engine algorithms and where they are headed—toward quality sites and content. If you can get links from sites that are popular and provide users with sincere, useful, quality content, you’ll be safeguarding yourself against future changes in the Google algorithms that attack low-quality, spammy tactics. Build a stronger, longer-lasting reputation management strategy today by focusing on linkbuilding from quality sites, and you won’t have to worry about your company’s reputation online.