Some website owners seem to feel that there are three steps in creating a successful website. These are:
- Design the website
- Do on-page SEO (Search Engine Optimization) for the Web pages
- Get links to the website from others.
That approach could certainly explain the following e-mail message I just received:
Since I offer a more holistic approach to making websites perform, I suggested a Google search might bring up names of people who could better meet their needs for this more limited service. I wondered at the time whether I could have offered some further advice to help the writer in his search. There are a lot of somewhat shady characters offering link creation services just as there similar individuals offering SEO services. Perhaps if I had been able to offer a simple 10 Commandments for Links, that might have been more helpful. A simple one page document with a list of things to avoid. Something like the Biblical 10 Commandments that gave unequivocal advice on what was not acceptable.
I looked around and thought perhaps The Ten Commandments of Link Building by Jai Nischal Verma might do the trick. However it’s not a list of things to avoid doing but rather some suggestions on possible ways of creating links.
- Link Exchange
- Social Bookmarking Websites
- Link Baiting
- Web Directory Submissions
- Article Submissions
- Press Releases
- Blog Commenting
- Forum Posts
- Link Programs
- Creating Contests
On further reading, I did not feel this was the solution I was looking for.
By chance I noticed a reference in Sphinn to a post on Defining Link Building Best Practices. The author’s nickname in the Sphinn discussion was LinkMoses. Surely he might have run across a suitable 10 Commandments if anyone has. The nickname is that of Eric Ward, who has been involved in Content Publicity & Link Building Strategies since 1994. Regrettably it seemed from his post that he was even reluctant to nominate Best Practices.
That’s hardly surprising. If everyone is made aware of Best Practices then everyone can use them and no one can stand out from the crowd. Perhaps defining 10 Commandments is easier. It’s a list of things to avoid doing, since they may almost guarantee failure. It’s a way of avoiding being grouped with the goats rather than the sheep. Perhaps just as for Moses, such a list is only available from on high.
As it happens, Google (Mountain View, CA) has almost developed this list for us. Just check out their Webmaster Guidelines. Most of the following are directly taken from those Guidelines with one or two additions. Some of these are more ‘evil’ than others.
Ten Commandments For Google Links
- Avoid Me-too or irrelevant content that gives users no reason to visit your site.
- Avoid broken links and incorrect HTML.
- Keep the links on a given page to a reasonable number (fewer than 100)
- Avoid hidden text or hidden links.
- Avoid “doorway” pages created just for search engines.
- Don’t create multiple pages, subdomains, or domains with substantially duplicate content.
- Don’t participate in link schemes designed to increase your site’s ranking or PageRank.
- Avoid valueless links from unrelated websites
- Avoid links from low PageRank pages with many outgoing links
- Avoid links to web spammers or “bad neighborhoods” on the web.
Obeying these 10 Commandments should keep you out of trouble, although Google does add the following:
Google may respond negatively to other misleading practices not listed here (e.g. tricking users by registering misspellings of well-known websites). Webmasters who spend their energies upholding the spirit of the basic principles will provide a much better user experience and subsequently enjoy better ranking than those who spend their time looking for loopholes they can exploit.
This is only a personal interpretation of the 10 Commandments and could undoubtedly be improved. If you think the list should be amended in any way then your comments would be most appreciated. Please add them below. Based on such feedback a more polished version of the 10 Commandments will be produced.
Footnote: Thomas Schmitz (SOEinSeattle) has pointed out to me that Link Moses has produced his version of the Ten Commandments in a slightly less serious vein. Jim Boykin has also recounted how The Google Gods (in our heads) Speak to Us about Link Building. I did not find these when I searched. Apologies. Perhaps the best of these can be combined.