How backlinks can hurt your website’s SEO, Google Page Rank, and traffic

Here’s a scenario: You thought you were doing something good by hiring a marketing company to do some SEO (search engine optimization) and social media/pr for you.  Ultimately, to increase your search engine ranking, your Google page rank, and traffic to your website – to “get your website on the first page of Google”.  But you forgot to ask how they were planning to do it.  It was going well for a while, you got more traffic, your website comes up as first or on the first search page for lots of your target keywords, and you got a higher Google page rank.  And then, all of a sudden you have to dig through Google search results to find your website, or maybe you have even been blacklisted on Google – totally removed from the largest and most popular search engine index.  Now the only way people can find your website is if they already know your website url – or they stumble upon one of your “backlinks”, a.k.a. now your website’s kryptonite.

What is a backlink and how can it be so bad?  A backlink is a link to your website on another website.  It can be good and it can be bad.  Good if it’s an organic link – someone is linking to your website because they like it, it’s related to the webpage/content.  Bad if it’s on a spammy webpage that’s unregulated, deserted, that’s there just for links wanting to get hits, not the content.  If the links are there just to drive traffic to your website, you are using  Google frowned upon “black hat” techniques.  It is not good marketing technique to send out lots of emails inquiring website owners if they would post a link to your website, with no discrimination of the website or its content, but with just the intention of purchasing as many links as possible.  In 2011 JCPenney got a big hit in its search engine rankings because The Times provided evidence to Google of this:

On Feb. 1, the average Penney position for 59 search terms was 1.3.

On Feb. 8, when the algorithm was changing, it was 4.

By Feb. 10, it was 52.

(via NY Times)

If you’re not that big and don’t hit hundreds of major target keywords, The Times or another company may not be doing research on you and reporting it to Google, but eventually Google’s algorithm can catch on to your “black-hat” strategies which they equate to  cheating.  Your website can suffer a big hit from it.  In 2006 Google blacklisted BMW  and totally removed it from the search engine index.  Google makes it easy to know what they want in terms of quality content and quality seo/marketing techniques in their Webmaster Guidelines.

So what should you do short of sitting on your hands waiting for some magic to happen and bring traffic to your website?  Work on getting real organic backlinks to your website by providing interesting and new content on your website and forming relationships and partnerships with others related in your field.   Use SEO techniques with what they call “white hat” strategy, outlined in our blog post, How to get your website top ranking on Google, Yahoo, and other top search engines.  Use clean urls and clean coding – or make sure to use software that uses clean coding like UltimateWB!

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One Response to How backlinks can hurt your website’s SEO, Google Page Rank, and traffic

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