Is There Such a Thing as a Safe Link?

Good LinksIn the months behind us more and more blogs closed their doors to guest posting. More and more clients ask about safety of links, will they get penalised? All of that is understandable; however, in light of these questions and happenings I’ve seen certain SEO’s promote safe links on their website. So my question when I saw those claims was, is there such a thing as a safe link?

I thought about it for a while, full 6.5 seconds, and I came up with an answer, NO. There is no such thing as a safe link and anyone trying to sell you a story that they are going to build 100% penalty free links is shady by my standards.

What I can understand is promoting a safe campaign that will avoid getting caught in any kind of penalty or bad algorithmic update, but claiming to provide only safe links 100% is not possible, I’ll explain why.

Things Change

Let’s start with the basic premise, things change. Most of you probably understood by now what I mean, but let’s go a bit deeper with our explanation. What once were considered standard links or standard link building practices are now considered spammy. In 2006 all we had to do is write an article with some sense, post it almost anywhere with some PR and slap our most sought out anchor text and we would see some positive movement and we weren’t afraid of losing rankings. Try doing that now and see what happens!

Websites that were good up till 6 months ago should now be avoided, they got hit by Penguin or Panda, or a manual penalty, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that no one can predict what exactly Google will change in the future.

We have site A, a clean, high authority site we all want a link from. It’s cool, informative and safe, so we can assume it is safe to get a link there. But one thing we can never assume, and that is the fact that the link will be safe. In 3 months that website might get a penalty and the link becomes bad apple and there isn’t an easy way to predict which websites will and will not get penalised. So even though we thought we were creating safe links it can turn out in a month, or six months that we actually harmed our clients with such links.

To clarify one thing, there are safe ways of promotion which include link building as part of overall promotion. We can guarantee to some extent the safety of the campaign, but not of an individual link.

What is Safe?

Generally speaking, what I write here may be outdated in a few months if things continue to change at this pace, but I’ll give it a shot. I’ll add my personal thoughts on safe link building practices and general marketing and branding practices that make up a safe campaign.

Improving Links Safety

There are two ways to improve link safety:

  1. Create great content that people will link to naturally
  2. Try to replicate the natural effect (impossible in most cases)

Number one is easy to understand, not easy to do, but I won’t go into detail with that one.

Number two on the other hand is very hard, but not impossible, here are some pointers to remember, a mix of things that almost always make a good link:

  1. Good reason for a link (example: news worthy content)
  2. Trusted website with good authority
  3. Natural anchor (URL, brand name, image link, or a long list of words put together that explain what user will get once clicked on the link)

These is what almost makes a safe link, but remember that we cannot guarantee that the website won’t get penalised, the link won’t lose value, so even though we created what seems at that point as a safe link, we can never guarantee that it will stay that way forever.

Combine with X to get the right results

X in this case being everything from branding, authorship, creative content, online participation, social media and so on… If you haven’t moved from link building as your primary source of getting traffic and good rankings, you are probably looking at the last boat leaving the port, if it hasn’t already sailed!

Google is obviously moving in a different direction. They want authorship; markup, social media participation, real user reviews, brand awareness and brand trust, and going with links alone you won’t get there.

To sum it up, stop with the links, links and more links, safe links, good links and high PR links crap!  The entire market has moved onto to bigger things, if you don’t keep up with the rest of us you will be left behind, just like the guys that still optimise meta keywords! Don’t promise what you can’t deliver, and teach your clients all the risks along with the benefits you promise. Get the client aware and work with him, as in my opinion, without a clients help and involvement, there is no good SEO!

Zac is a link building specialist and a seasoned SEO professional. He manages a team of link builders and actively promotes some of Australia's biggest brands. Zac is an active blogger and also maintains Dejan SEO's news and updates section.

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