by Nick Stamoulis

It seems to be a common song and dance in SEO–once the search engines give the thumbs up to particular link building tactic like blog commenting or guest blogging the spammers come out of the woodwork to use and abuse that tactic for as long as they can. As the old adage goes, if you build a better mousetrap someone is bound to breed a smarter mouse. It often feels like it’s Google versus the spammers and I’m not always sure who comes out on top. With Panda, Penguin, the page layout update, the EMD update and many others, Google is definitely trying to put the kibosh on “easy” link building tactics that many site owners have taken advantage of. But even with all the algorithm updates and refreshes it still sometimes looks the spammers are dominating the SERPs and keeping the deserving sites out of the top spots. So what’s a site owner to do?

I know that it’s very easy to get tempted to invest in some of those “easy” link building tactics because, after all, if it worked for that guy and he’s getting away with it why can’t I, right? But in my experience those sites that “get away with it” tend to be the exceptions, not the rule. In my opinion it’s not a question of will those guys get caught; it’s really only a matter of when.

In a recent interview I did with Internet marketing expert Jordan Kasteler we were discussing the idea that Google might come out with some sort of guest blogging penalty, seeing as that’s becoming the “easy” link building tactic of the moment for some site owners (even though if you do it right it’s far from it!). He mentioned that;

“Some SEOs out there fail to realize that no individual algorithm metric or tactic works alone. There are many signals that all interact together with varying levels of importance based on your mix of signals. There’s no one size fits and gone are the days of trying to fool search engines with an array of tactics. I mean, it still works, you can still spam but it’s just not sustainable. So unless you’re a spammer trying to make a buck, focus on building quality content and a quality brand.”

Speaking as a site owner and not an SEO professional, I know how frustrating it is to try and “play by the rules” and do everything outlined in the Google Webmaster Guidelines and feel like you just aren’t getting anywhere. SEO is a long term process that builds on itself and sometimes it can feel like you’re just spinning your wheels, especially when the competition is doing things with their SEO program that you’ve always been told not to do AND they’re being rewarded for it! It’s enough to make any site owner wonder if maybe the competition knows something you don’t; that they found a way to slip past the algorithm and exploit the loopholes for their own profit. Maybe if you revere engineered their SEO program you’d find the loopholes too…

But here’s my take on it–if you really, really want to invest in the “easy” link building tactics (the ones that get used, abused and spammed to death) test it out on a site that doesn’t matter and not one that is your livelihood. If you’re a small business owner you can’t afford to take the chance that you might get caught. If your website is penalized and you lose 1/2 your traffic overnight how will you pay your mortgage? Your car payments? Your college tuition bills? In my mind, putting my family at risk isn’t worth any short term gain that might be had from a spammy SEO program. Is three months at the top of the SERPs worth 6-9 months or more of trying to dig myself out of the hole after Google catches me in the act? I don’t think so.

Yes, link building is time consuming and sometimes frustrating and definitely never-ending. It’s better to accept that fact now and move on than spend the next 6 months trying to stay one step ahead of the next algorithm update and keep your website flying under Google’s radar, only to spend the next 12 months after that desperately trying to recover from an algorithmic penalty. As Jordan pointed out, spam is just not sustainable. Personally, if I’m going to be investing any time in my link building and SEO program I want to make sure it’s going to be worth it in the long run and keep pushing my online business along for years to come and not just the next few months.

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How Much Longer Will Your “Easy” Link Building Tactics Really Work?

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