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Could link building become illegal?

There have been so many changes in how Google has been handling link building over the last 18 months; there are lots of SEOs out there who are still scratching their heads or, worse still, have entirely given up. 

Others are still using old link building techniques, which will burn their clients’ websites and worse still, there has been a rise in negative SEO. A link builder is employed to build links to a business’s competitors specifically to damage their rankings.

Why Does Google Penalise You for Bad Links?

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

Suppose you speak to the average SEO, under cover of darkness, maybe plying them with a beer or two. In that case, 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 and the easier it is to game the system, so what did Google do? 

It reduces the number of links that it will count and makes it easier to work out what’s really going on through all the noise. To do this, Google has to develop a way of working out good links and what are wrong links.

How Does Google Work Out What Are Good And Wrong Links?

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

Blog Networks

Google de-indexed blog networks, basically blog sites where spun blogs are posted across several different essential blogs to link out to a paying customer. 

If you’ve got this kind of link, you’re likely 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, your website might burn for that term – or for more ranks than just that one term.


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 several link profiles over the years, but I think it’s fair to say these have not 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?

communicating with senior managers include building positive relationships

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

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.

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!


Links are the fundamental and most essential element of the Google algorithm.

 This step could move Google so far away from its original USP that it loses its relevance in the market despite rising stars such as Facebook or Twitter even!

I doubt it will 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. The party carrying out negative SEO would be in the wrong.

Could Link Building Become Illegal?

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