Could link building become illegal?

There has been so many changes in the way Google has been handling link building over the last 18 months or so there are lots of SEOs out there who are still scratching their heads or worse still have completely given up, others are still using old link building techniques which will burn their clients’ websites and worse still there has been the rise of negative SEO, where a link builder is employed to build links to a businesses competitors specifically to damage their rankings.

Why does Google Penalize You for Bad Links?

Google really had to do something, the basis of their algorithm is the hyperlinks that are out there – this is what made Google different in the beginning and it’s what the SEO community have been manipulating for years in order to get better rankings and in the process the SEO industry has grown exponentially to include all manner of people (including guys like me!).

The thing is, if you speak to the average SEO, under the cover of darkness, maybe plying them with a beer or two, they’d probably admit to you that they’ve done some dodgy link building in their time, the smart ones stopped doing it a good couple of years ago opting to build the not so dodgy links and maybe even a few half decent ones.

The problem for Google is the more links there are out there, the harder it is for Google to process all that data coming in so the easier it is to game the system, so what did Google do, it reduced the number of links that it will count and therefore make it easier to work out what’s really going on through all the noise.

In order to do this Google has to come up with a way of working out what are good links and what are bad links.

How does Google work out what are good links and what are bad links?

I’ve covered this before in several posts on Grow Traffic however briefly I’ll go through a few ways in which Google works out what are bad links.

Blog Networks

Google de-indexed blog networks, basically blog sites where spun blogs are posted across several different basic blogs with the sole aim of linking out to a paying customer. If you’ve got these kind of links it’s likely you’re either not going to rank for the terms that they point at your website or worse still you might find that you’ll get some kind of penalty (which I assume will be time based).

Anchor Text

Google hinted that it was changing the way it dealt with anchor text – it seems now that what it’s looking at here is the distribution and variation of anchor text within the linking profile. If you’ve got too many of just one type of anchor text then you’re website might burn for that term – or for more ranks than just that one term.

Directories

A few days ago it came to light that Google was starting to de-index free directory sites – these have been a fundamental element of a number of link profiles over the years but I think it’s fair to say these have no gone the way of the dodo. Paid directories and high quality free directories may still count but forget those free directories – don’t go near them with a barge pole!

What is negative SEO?

As Google is penalizing websites because they are using dodgy link there is a whole new industry growing out there that aims to build dodgy links in order to de-rank a business’ competitive websites this is being known as negative SEO or more simply NSEO.

Could link building become illegal?

I’m no lawyer however I can’t help thinking that if you are doing something to intentionally damage your competitor, other than attempting to legitimately compete for their customers by price, packaging or promotion etc there is a chance you are going to get pulled up and punished for it.

I can see the days in the not too distant future when a company could sue a competitor as they believe they’ve intentionally had links built to their website to damage its rankings.

I also think this puts the SEO link builder in quite a strange position, in the future it could be possible to sue the SEO provider for having built links that have damaged a company’s rankings. No wonder SEOs are leaving the industry in their droves!

Conclusion

Links are the fundamental and most basic element of the Google algorithm, this step could move Google so far away from it’s original USP that it loses its relevance in the market in place of rising stars such as Facebook or Twitter even!

I doubt it’s going to ever become illegal but if a competitor finds out that you’ve been systematically trying to use negative seo to damage their rankings I’m confident this could result in a court case and the party carrying out negative seo would be in the wrong.

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