Early SEO practitioners quickly realised that links were an extremely powerful aspect within Google search, and that acquiring links had a significant impact on results. As the number of sites online increased dramatically, so did the number of those attempting to use links to increase their rankings.
This led to some marketers to adopt aggressive tactics to increase the numbers of links to their sites, including:
- Creating networks of sites that were all linked together, typically with the bare minimum of content
- Changing all anchor text to target keywords
- Paying influential sites to link to them
These aggressive tactics revealed that links were Google’s “Achilles heel”, leaving search rankings open to ready manipulation by those with sufficient resources. In response, Google has adopted increasingly aggressive tactics of its own to combat these practices. This includes:
- Demoting sites that have a large number of links that have keywords in anchor text
- Demoting, and even banning sites that pay third parties for links
- Demoting sites that have large numbers of links, but few links from important sites
How and when Google applies penalties and demotions is a complex topic – and beyond the scope of this guide. However, be aware that penalties applied by Google can have a substantial and long-lasting effect, in essence, preventing your site from ranking for your desired keywords for a considerable time.
Avoiding a perception of link spam is a critical factor when undertaking offsite SEO.