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Top 10 Reasons Why Automation Is Risky For Links

Building Links Should Be Personalized

Simply put, automating your link building efforts is not best practice. In this post I’m going to give you the top 10 reasons it’s a risk not worth taking, with the goal of convincing you never to pay someone to get you a $#!^ load of links.

I’ve never been a daily consumer of the Late Show with David Letterman, but I appreciate the shows regular Top 10 segment. This segment began as Letterman mocking People magazine’s lists. If you’ve ever glanced at People magazine, you know the lists I’m talking about (Worst Dressed, Sexiest Celebs, Most Beautiful People, etc.).

There have been a slue of “lists” posts in our industry over the years, here are a few that I’ve enjoyed recently:

11 Things We Should Never Ever Do In Link Building Again by Erin Everhart

10 Top Link Building Tools to Make Your Life Easier by Brynna Baldauf

Ask the Experts: Top 3 Link Building Strategies in 2013 by Christy Kunjumon

So, in the spirit of good lists…reaches for bongo and begins drum roll.

#10 – There’s nothing natural about accruing a $#!^ load of links (with the same anchor text) over a short period of time

For most small- to medium-sized businesses, there are few instances where 100 new links with the same anchor text would be attained within a month’s time. If you create a piece of content that goes viral, this might happen. However, it’s not probable that all the links would be the same iteration. Rather, obtaining a $#!^ load of links over a short period of time is like raising your hand for the search engines to call you out.

Getting their attention can be good. But in this case, when they find a large number of links with identical text they’ll be suspicious of foul play, and likely penalize your site for over-optimization. Ever heard of Penguin? Tweet This Tip!

#9 – Personalization can’t be automated

I was on a call with AT&T the other day to get a quote for internet service. The call was longer than it needed to be, and the last 2-3 minutes was purely a sales pitch. During the scripted pitch the customer service representative said, “AT&T does care about you and your family, so please don’t drink and drive.” Wait, this is AT&T, right?

I know this was supposed to make me feel like I was getting personalized service, but it didn’t. It was obvious that the CSR had to read this script at the end of every call. Do you want to give off the impression that you’re faking personalization? Tweet This Tip!

#8 – Quality trumps quantity

Your goal shouldn’t be to attain X number of links. It should be to get quality links by doing #RCS (real company stuff). “Real marketing value comes from listening to what the target consumer is searching for and building content around those queries.” When #RCS is the foundation of your marketing efforts, quality links will come organically. Tweet This Tip!

#7 – Short-lived rankings don’t help in the long run

Ranking on the first page of the SERPs for several years by employing automated link building isn’t worth it if your site is permanently removed from the search index. 

Getting on the first page for organic search by trying to game the system is going to be less successful now more than ever. Google is regularly rolling out algorithm updates to find and penalize unnatural link profiles. Refer back to #10. Tweet This Tip!

#6 – What are you saying about your brand?

If you have a backlink profile full of low-quality links from irrelevant sites, what does that say about your brand? I doubt you’re trying to give the impression that getting to the top of search is your foremost goal.

You’re knowledgeable about your industry and you have unique value to offer, so use this as the foundation to build your brand around.  Tweet This Tip!

#5 – Who are your links bringing in?

Links allow us to navigate the web. Are you getting links from sites that aren’t related to your industry? If you’re automating your link building, the answer is most definitely, yes. What good is it to have unqualified visitor’s navigate to your site? Are you trying to increase your bounce rate?

If you focus on getting links from compatible websites, you’ll likely have better conversion rates. Think of it as pre-qualifying your leads. Tweet This Tip!

#4 – Obtaining links from relevant websites requires research & sticktoitiveness

Homo sapien, means wise man (or woman) in Latin. Being one is a prerequisite for acquiring links from relevant sites. Prospecting for links  is one of the more challenging aspects of link building. One of the other biggest difficulties (or should I say, time-intensive activities), is creating relationships with other websites.

It takes communication, appreciation and reciprocation. Automation can’t replicate human efforts. Tweet This Tip!

#3 – Don’t be a member of Club Spam

Link building tactics haven’t changed much over the years,  but the way we go about them has. In the past submitting to any and every directory and article bank was considered par for the course. Not surprisingly, this task soon became automated.

Rewind to the present and tactics pursued in this fashion give links a bad reputation. What are your motives for obtaining a link? Is it just to game the system? Refer back to #8. Tweet This Tip!

#2 – Remember what your momma always said

If your competition is exercising automation and getting hundreds of new links every month, shouldn’t you apply the same strategy? If your friend jumped off a bridge…

It’s beneficial to look at the type of links your competition is getting, but you have to one-up them. The nature of competition is to set yourself apart and win the head-to-head battle by being better. Let them be the one that takes the fall for automating their link building. Tweet This Tip!

#1 – It’s a back@$$wards approach

Trying to game the SERPs today, only to get penalized in the long run, is just plain stupid.

I can’t tell you how many clients I’ve had that don’t want to invest in the time it takes to build relationships and offer #RCS. They want short-term results, and I’ve gotten to the point that I won’t do it. Yes, it takes longer to do something well, but the outcome will be far more lasting and the risk of being penalized averted.

Stop trying to do things back@$$wards! Tweet This Tip!

Are you convinced that automated link building is a bad idea? Or are you going to pull a David Letterman and do a spoof of my count down? I hope this makes you think about your link building strategies and tweaks that can be made to improve your approach. Link building can be challenging (but mostly time consuming)—believe me, I get that. Think about the outcomes for both the short- and long-term and how you want to position your brand.

There are other reasons that link building needs a personalized approach, I’ve only covered a few. What did I miss? Do you disagree with any of the reasons I gave? Leave a comment; I’d love to hear from you.


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Annalisa Hilliard

Annalisa specializes in Link Strategy and Local SEO at Pole Position Marketing. Annalisa enjoys cycling, running and most other participatory sports. She is also a craft beer and coffee zealot. She resides in North Canton, Ohio but Pittsburgh, PA will always be her home. Read Annalisa's full bio.

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4 Responses to Top 10 Reasons Why Automation Is Risky For Links

  1. all of these reasons are rational, but i think it comes down to those who apply it (seos) wanting to make money, and the risk the client is willing to take in accruing their money before anything animalistic occurs.

  2. Thanks for the 2 cents and diamonds, Anthony :D

    I realize automation is one risky game some are willing to play, and (some) SEOs play it for the short-term results to pay the bills. But, I also think there are some SEOs out there trying to make the web a better place for consumers to get information and vote for goods and services with their dollar.

    Does this mean we avoid automation all together? Maybe not, but, I do think we need to adjust our approach and the way we talk about link building to our clients. Some risks are worth taking, but there’s nothing like serving the needs of others by listening and offering something to meet their needs – though it takes longer, I’d argue the results are more lasting.

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