10 Link Building Strategies You Should Avoid In 2020

Here we are at the beginning of 2019, and as most of us already know it, back links are still a top 3 Google ranking signal!

Having high quality, niche related links from trustworthy and high authority websites is what we have to come to accept and need to stay focused on and continue to practice.

Gone are the days of Web 2.0 spam methods and buying a 1,000 links for $50! Google’s algorithms have streamlined the SERPs toward a much more organic and natural way.

‘Black Hat’ link building practices are becoming more obsolete by the day, but unfortunately continue to be used. As a result, website owners are getting hit with a manual penalty, by violating Google’s Search Quality Guidelines.

Related: Should You Buy Backlinks In 2020?

As 2019 approaches, using high quality SEO practices has become more important than ever, and the following link building strategies should still be avoided at all costs!

Link Building Strategies

1.) Link Networks & PBN

Private Blog Networks (PBNs) – buying expired domains, setting up sites to boost and link to other sites…is really just not worth it. You are playing with fire here.

Google is much smarter, and will track down the foot print of the owner of these connected sites and destroy their efforts in a heart beat.

These networks have and will work, but the risk and stakes here are a bit high for the ROI.

The time and money invested in researching, buying domains, time spent writing to build these networks up, and worrying about security, is a huge investment. There many more healthy link building methods to use that wont destroy your business site and reputation.

Related: Semantic SEO: Go to Google page #1 without additional backlinks

2.) Blog Commenting (Spamming)

It still amazes me that people are still spamming blogs with their wreck less blog comments! Using ‘exact match’ anchor text keyword phrases in these comments is just begging to get manually penalized. Also, if the admin let these slip by in the beginning, they eventually will be deleted in time.

Why not take just a little bit of time, actually read the article, which most likely will be very helpful to you, and leave a great comment regarding the article and build a great relationship?

I happened upon and read a great article on Enstine’s fabulous SEO Blog. and wrote a great comment in response to the contributor. Enstine gets on my site, loves one of my articles, comments on it, then asks for me to contribute to his high authority blog. Bingo!

It is a good and healthy thing to have “no follow’ links as part of your back link profile. If you are not using blog commenting to build relationships and earning quality links from giving your tribe great content to read and link to, you are absolutely wasting your time with comment spam!

Recommended: Block commenting for editorial backlinks – This is how you should comment for backlinks

3.) Over Optimization of Anchor Text

Google has been and still is tracking down on ‘exact match’ anchor text keywords. Quality content needs to be written naturally with user intent in mind, and the same goes with contextual back links.

When your link strategy consists of only using ‘broad match’ (2 words usually) and ‘exact match’ contextual anchor links, then you are going to get yourself in trouble. In the eyes of Google…this is spam.

Stick to using naked, Branded, or natural contextual links.

4.) Link Exchanging

Exchanging links is not a recommended practice and something to just stray away from.

Linking to a high authority website in your niche because of the value of the content for your readers is another story. They may link back to some of your content that is relevant to their readers. It’s all fine and good!

Google is smart and knows the difference. Especially if you are swapping links with a completely different niche than your business.


5.) Forum Profile Link Spam

Like blog commenting spam, forum profile link spam is still a practice used by many and will most likely continue. These are just highly questionable practices at best.

Not only do signature links in forum posts look unnatural in a back link profile, but they are not actually a vote for credibility from that site to yours, in the eye’s of Google.

6.) Press Releases

Press releases have been on the decline with Google since 2013 and 2014.

Paid press release distribution services are generally downgraded links in the eyes of search engines. Google also warned these third party press release distribution services to “no follow” all the outbound links.

So for a link building strategy, press releases are not a very optimal choice.

On the flip side, having a press release on a site with relatively good traffic, could help bring some inbound traffic to your site regardless of the “no follow” links. Is the time and money investment worth the ROI?

7.)Spammy Article Submissions

Submitting articles to sites like Ezine Articles, was the thing back in the day. The increase of manufacturing lower quality articles has completely devalued most of these sites. You can try Medium and a few others out there, but for the time and effort, to me it really isn’t worth it.

You are better off writing your own articles with a great content strategy, or contributing great articles to high authority blogs!

8.) Web 2.0 Spamming

Registering for free blog properties on websites like Weebly, Blospot, Tumbler along with others that put up a low quality reel of articles stuffed with links, will have very little impact on your back link profile.

A simple rule that I follow to decide if a link is valuable or not: if I created a link that I am pretty confident nobody will ever see and click, it’s probably either of no value or potentially harmful.

Nothing worse than to have to go in and disavow more links on my profile!

9.) 301 Domain Redirects

This is a fairly recent tactic used more often by SEO’s and can bring in link juice when done and executed properly. But the serious downside here is that in no way is it Google proof, and this can create a bad user experience when they click and land on a completely different website.

Google takes the behavior of your user and bounce rate as part of their ranking signal, and being directed to a site that is not relevant to the link they clicked, will in turn, completely increase your bounce rate…which is not good!


10.) Lower Quality Directory Submissions

Directory submissions used to work pretty well back in the day, but in a post Penguin world, low quality directories and their effects are increasingly obsolete for quality links. They tend to be periodically deindexed and generally a waste of time.

There are several good quality directories for Local SEO and citation building. It is just a matter of distinguishing their site authority.

Most of the other good directories will cost money, but this is part of the SEO campaign and budget. It is just important to remember to get your links on the niche related directories, especially if you are paying for their service.

Wrapping it up…

A lot of these back linking practices may not be new to some of you, but for others just learning the ins and outs of back linking, I would stray away from including any of these practices in your SEO Strategy.

Google has evolved rapidly with their algorithms to improve and streamline search for the better, in my honest opinion.

Today, and in 2019, Search Engine Optimization should really be focused on quality, relevant, and trustworthy content with user intent completely in mind!

Quality back links are going to require more reaching out and building solid relationships with other blog and website owners. A great content strategy has never been so important as it is today.

“White Hat” link building strategies will sustain long term reward in the world of organic SEO.


18 thoughts on “10 Link Building Strategies You Should Avoid In 2020”

  1. Excellent article, Brad!

    Over the last few years, Google has gotten smarter and smarter, so Black hat link building is definitely something to stay away from.

    Also, this is another reason why I never recommend to pay for link building campaigns. Instead of doing that, I recommend focussing on building a brand with your name, and building relationship valuable relationships with other people in your industry, which will result into natural links and authority for you.

    Keep it up buddy!

    • Hey Ronald –

      Excellent advice! I like the sound of natural links and building your Brand. I am guessing Google seems to as well these days.

      I think if you are patient and sticking to the practice and focus you are recommending, your long term efforts will reap the sustainability and benefits.

      I am enjoying just making connections, sharing and linking up to their content, and opportunities galore for guest posting…with people I get to know in this community!

      Thanks for sharing!

  2. Hi Brad,

    thank you for this article. I needed the refresher on what types of links are still bad for Google rankings. It’s so easy to forget and start thinking how link building automation in small doses couldn’t hurt.

    Yes it could, and it would!

    Relationship building with your fellow bloggers is key to long term success with link acquisition.

    As for comment link spam. People who do that waste valuable opportunities.

    Leaving blog comments can lead to not only you getting the attention of the blogger, but also to getting future work from them.

    For example, I left a decent comment on a website, Then 3 days later, out of the blue, the webmaster contacted me on my contact form and asked, “what are your rates? I want to hire you to write for me”.

    That’s what one well-placed comment can do for you.
    Thanks Brad:)

    Nikola Roza

    • Hi Nikola –

      I love your story about leaving an excellent comment then, out of the blue, getting a great lead and work for your talent!

      I cannot express enough of the value and reward I have received from building relationships by just chiming in, and writing an honest and well thought out comment that is helpful for the topic.

      I get invitations to write on great blogs, then the links start building, but more importantly, my network and connections just really start to balloon.

      To me, this is fun as well. I like writing and connecting with other great writers!

      Thanks for sharing!

  3. Great post as always, But Curious to know, As you mentioned Web 2.0 is not much effective, I know thousand’s of blogger or SEO’s are building web 2.0 sites for a client or personal use, but what happens if we maintain those Web 2.0 as like our blog with fresh content?

    By the Way, I love this content, and if you are interested, I am inviting you to do a Guest post on my blog like this one.

    • Hi Saurabh –

      I think Web 2.0 can be set up in a way for getting your brand out there and reaching your personas. For me, it is setting up social profiles/platforms that I am actually going to be active on and what best suits my end goal.

      I am more into the blogging and content marketing side of things these days, as I have seen the long term value and reward of these efforts. Good, quality and trustworthy links – via guest posts and marketing my articles on Twitter etc.

      I hired a person to do Web 2.0 for a client of mine about a year ago, and after analyzing (links – traffic source), it just really wasn’t all that effective.

      I would be honored to write a great article for you blog! I like what you have on there. I will send you a message later in the day on Twitter, and we will come up with some topics…awesome!

      Thanks for sharing!

  4. Hello Brad,

    The article is an informative and content worthy. Marketers take link building as a tool to enhance the website visibility. But sometimes they misuse the strategies and try to accelerate the website ranking using illegal way of Google algorithm. You have pointed out the best mistakes which are on the verge of digital marketing.

    Thanks for writing a valuable article and share with us.

    • Hi Shilpy –

      Ye, the misuse of linking tactics will eventually come to an end and no longer be effective. This is why I think sticking to mostly ‘white hat’ from here on out, will totally benefit you in the long run!

      Thanks for sharing!

  5. Hi Enstine,

    In short everything which is not natural or created just for the sake of links must be stopped.

    Time is to go genuine, create link worthy content that attract links. Don’t be maniac link builder. Grow wisely and follow these tips.

    Glad you have shared these.

    • Hi Gaurav –

      Perfect advice. Don’t be a maniac link builder! If you create great content for user intent, chances are you will get links as a result!

      Google is getting better about streamlining things, and I am glad most commentors on here are putting out awesome content…and get what is going on.

      Thanks for sharing!

  6. Hey Brad,

    A comprehensive post as I always see you on your site. Guest posting like you are doing here is always a great way to give people value while also getting a link back to your site. If you have time to practice these shady techniques, it’s better to write an article worth something to people. Great job as always!

    • Hi Taka –

      Glad to hear from you! You are absolutely correct in my opinion. A lot of those shady links end up getting dropped within time and there goes that whole effort!

      Better to go the quality route, build those relationships, and keep those links for a good long time!

  7. Its always the best practice to allow and follow others links to be going to a great site. I know some people are new and we can accept them if their article is good. Always check before accepting.

    I’m kinda glad Google is changing because it limits the spammers.


    • Hi Donna –

      Nice to hear from you! I like your advice on checking the article before accepting. Yes, the streamlining of spam and horribly spun and generic content is no longer as prevalent, making the search and web more enjoyable.

      Will be popping on your blog soon…thanks for sharing!

  8. Link exchanges are horrible for SEO Brad because if someone begs for a link exchange it means their content ain’t too great and they have no friends LOL. Links are earned, not handed out like candy to babies. Excellent post.

    • Hey Ryan –

      I totally agree! It is always a good practice to build relationships, then when the opportunity arises, then go out and earn it!

      Thanks to Enstine, I took the opportunity and feel I made the effort to earn any credit I receive from the search engines.

      Thanks for sharing!

  9. Hello Brad,

    Link building has been changed so much in recent years. What works in 2008 won’t work in 2018 or beyond. Google constantly changing its search algorithm and it is quite hard to rank you better in search engine result. Fortunately, if we stick with genuine and authentic SEO practice then it will definitely give us a boost in search engine result page. Thanks for sharing these helpful tips here.

    • Hi Vishwajeet –

      You are right on point! This article is just a reminder that these practices, which still are happening, should just be avoided by all the smart SEOers.

      Why risk a manual penalty over some bad links you are probably going to have to disavow anyway?

      It’s all about making the effort in a genuine fashion these days…

      Thanks for sharing!

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