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SEO has gone through some rapid changes in the past few years. Unfortunately, whether due to simple ignorance or a reluctance to give up some easy profits, many SEO providers have been slow to catch up. Here’s some quick info on one former SEO “trick” that many startups still pay for, but that can hurt their business tremendously.
All Backlinks Are Not Equal, and Most of Them Are Bad
Wait, what? Most backlinks are bad? That seems like a totally unfounded, unhelpful, even destructive thing to say. Without backlinks, how will people on other sites find my business, and how will Google know how much authority and value my information has with my audience?
Don’t get me wrong: the right backlinks are still immensely valuable, both in terms of directly driving traffic to your site and in terms of generating SEO juice with Google and other search engines. But most of the backlinks sold as part of SEO packages or otherwise purchased, traded, or otherwise finagled will at best do nothing for your site, and at worst result in your site being blacklisted—removed entirely from search engine results.
Seriously. It happens. More often than you might think.
When Backlinks Went Wrong
Search engines like Google are interested in giving users pages that are most relevant to their queries. Backlinks were seen as a good way to measure this relevance or “authority”—the more external sites linked back to your information, the more valuable your information must be seen by others, right?
The problem is, people figured this out and started gaming the system with extensive “link farms” (sites that existed solely to provide backlinks to other sites) and “link networks” (large groups of sites that all linked to each other). “Organic” backlinks (a link to your information because someone decided your information was actually valuable) became harder to identify, so Google reduced the SEO value of backlinks altogether.
The right organic backlink from a site with high authority of its own can still give you a great SEO boost, so keep producing great content and keep your fingers crossed! As a general rule, though, if you can control the placement of a backlink it won’t be doing you much good, and paying for backlinks is just bad business.