In the dating world there are some guys and girls you want to avoid for their lack of "relationship material." When dealing with links, you run into a lot of the same issues.
There are some folks you just shouldn't get in bed with. Only in link building it's not because they will most likely steal your kidneys and leave you in a bathtub of ice. It's because these are the links that probably aren't going to help you get where you want to go.
And like choosing a life mate, you want someone who's going to help you achieve your goals, not stand in your way, bring you down, or even stand idly by doing nothing of use. So here are a few different kinds of links that you really don't want to take home.
Link Exchanges and Users
Link exchanges specifically got brought up in the comments last month, with reader Nick calling them a "slippery slope. " Indeed, they are slippery.
We all get e-mails every day from people who want to give us a link on their "highly relevant" home page which isn't actually relevant at all. Or they want to give us a link in their fabulous link section, which is a hot mess of completely unrelated sites.
Agreeing to this kind of link exchange is like going out with someone who you know is using you to make someone else jealous. They don't actually care about your site and probably haven't ever been there, nor will they go back after they've confirmed their link is placed. And you just gave them a valuable shot of your link juice.
But the link you get back is cheap and devoid of value. In the end it's a one-sided relationship with someone who doesn't deserve it.
Not all link exchanges are bad. Links are legitimately exchanged by websites all the time.
Someone links to a useful article from a blog post. The owner of the attributed article then includes the new blog post in a weekly roundup. That's a link exchange, but it's based on mutual interest and merit -- not a vague and generic template e-mail.
A website that sponsors a charitable organization may link to those groups' upcoming fundraisers. The charity may link to its sponsors. Again, links are exchanged but it's completely valid and mutually beneficial in a way that goes far beyond search engine optimization (SEO).
No Juice Losers
Some sites really just have nothing to offer. These are the sites where even if you get the link, it won't even matter because most of the pages aren't cached or are full of duplicate content.
There's nothing wrong with getting a link on a legitimate, relevant site that just hasn't gained much traction, but has potential.
If you know what you're looking at you can tell which sites aren't ever going anywhere. These sites scrape content, or some of my favorites have content that is comprised of auto-generated pieces of English strewn together to give the vague impression of literacy. Until you try to read one.
If you've been link building for a while you can begin to spot these kinds of wastelands a mile away. If you aren't in link building and someone tries to pass these off as good links, I'm really sorry. Sites with no meaningful back links, no real content, and no value have nothing to pass along to your site.
Getting involved with a site that has no power is like dating a stoner who still lives at home with his parents. Come on, he can't support you, and he wants you to do his laundry when his mom is out of town. There's no future, and no substance.
Links from losers are just like dating them. You wind up frustrated and unfulfilled, wishing you hadn't wasted the time in the first place.
Tramps and Trollops
There's a more colloquial term for sites that stand on street corners soliciting Johns -- but I'll just stick to tramps and trollops. These are the sites that exist for the purpose of selling links or trading links or come from Old McDonald's link farm. Yeah they're easy, but if it's easy, it's probably not worth having.
You might also classify some "Free SEO Directories" in this category. If a directory picks up anyone that asks, it's a trollop, and unless you have no links at all it's probably not going to help you much.
Sometimes you need the low-hanging fruit to get a brand new site off the ground. It's like a rebound relationship. You know it's not going anywhere, but you need a quick pick-me-up to forget about your current situation.
It happens, there's no shame in it. But if you're looking for long-term value, none of these guys is "The One."
As a general rule, if it looks like this site links to anybody, they'll most likely link to you. So OK, maybe it's good for a lonely link-less Friday night. But if you're trying to satisfy a client, or a boss and actually move your rankings up, this probably isn't the way to do it.
These links are like dating the kinds of dirty guys that make you think you might catch something just by sharing a cab with them. And if you get mixed up with a really bad site that has already been red flagged for spammy behavior, you could wind up with your own severe case of linkorrhea.
OK, you probably won't get banned for having a link from a "bad neighborhood." If that were the case we'd all get porn sites to link to our competitors.
But why bring unwanted attention to a site that is generally, trying to do the right thing? Unless you aren't generally trying to do the right thing, in which case you really don't want the attention.
There are plenty of fish in the sea, so why do we insist on dating jerks? Half the time it's the same reason we get flaccid links: they're easier to find and get.
Whether you're looking for someone to build a life with or looking for links to build solid rankings, the relationships worth having take work. But if you're not willing to put in the effort the truth is, you're probably not ready for the relationship either.
If you respect yourself, and your site choose your partners wisely.
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