In this age of online reviews, your brand’s reputation is paramount.
Before visiting a business, 63.6% of consumers check Google reviews. And 35% of people ranked “trust in brand” as one of their top reasons for choosing a retailer.
Because a bad review can cost you sales and a negative reputation can be disastrous, reputation management has become an important part of every digital strategy.
But even if you’re doing all the right things, promoting good reviews, responding to negative posts, and carefully monitoring your mentions, you can still hurt your reputation or even gain a bad one through bad linking.
And it’s not just people who might view you negatively – the bad backlinks can also negatively impact your reputation with search engines.
But don’t worry, we’re here to help. In this piece, we’ll look at how bad link building can hurt your reputation and give you some ways to help you keep yours spotless.
But first, let’s look at how external sources can impact your website’s authority and reputation.
How External Links Can Positively Affect Your Domain Authority
You probably already understand the correlation between backlinks and search engine optimization. If not, or you need a little refresher, read this (but come right back).
And one of the ways in which external links impact your SEO strategy is by the effect they have on domain authority. This can be both positive and negative.
For example, if you have a lot of incoming links pointing to a page, it may increase that page’s PageRank.
Google may, in turn, take this as a sign that your content has good authority and will reflect this in your search engine ranking.
Quality links also increase your domain’s ranking. Google weighs incoming links differently, depending on the site they originate from.
For example, an incoming link from a government agency or reputable university tells the search engine that your content is credible, which is reflected in your ranking.
Building A Bad Rep Through Link Building
Unfortunately, it’s not all sunshine, ice cream, and puppy dogs with backlinks. The wrong incoming link can also negatively affect your ranking and reputation.
Let’s look at how your link-building campaign could negatively affect you or your clients.
1. Links In Bad Neighborhoods
We hear it repeatedly: Try not to get links in a bad neighborhood. It seems like it is pretty easy to avoid bad neighborhoods when link building, but sometimes they are unavoidable.
Let’s look at blog commenting, for example. You find a blog and throw in your comment with a casual link to a website. Everything is fine at that point. But then you come back to check on your comment to see it followed up by the following.
If a potential client came across these comments, they would not want to click on any link on the page, assuming it was similar spam, including yours.
WordPress blog owners can go one step further. If they see a comment they consider spam, they can mark it as such using spam filter programs. This will log the website URL in a database and prevent comments, including that URL, from being added to other WordPress blogs.
And this means if a client hires a service to link building, and that service gets the client’s URL entered into the spam database, the client will (usually unknowingly) be blocked from commenting.
Now imagine you find the perfect blog, which all the right people are seeing, and a well-placed comment could reap big rewards for your business.
Only you can’t post a comment with your URL, which means you miss the opportunity, all because some spammer tagged on to your comment.
2. Being Exposed As A Link Builder Or Using A Spam Agency
This warning is especially aimed at agencies that send out un-personalized, bulk link requests.
Programs that do these kinds of link requests often send multiple requests for several clients to the same website owners.
Needless to say, if the website owner becomes annoyed by them, they can do anything from adding the company’s information to a blog post (including the link requester’s name, agency name, and client’s name).
Annoyed webmasters can also report agencies to spam denylists.
Sites like Domain Name Systems Blacklist, or DNSBL, will list the agency and any clients that are linked to that agency. It doesn’t take much searching on their site to find a list of commonly known agencies and clients who use them.
If your business is built around generating links for your client and you end up on one of these denylists, that will be problematic.
3. Misrepresenting The Client
Alternatively, if an agency gets an email from their client’s domain, that agency now represents them in any communications or requests they make.
Can you imagine if you were a website owner and you started getting spammed by requests from your favorite company? Or if your blog was getting spammed by a brand you liked by someone who appears to work for the company? Your opinion of the said brand would probably plummet, wouldn’t it?
4. Overdoing In With Directory Submissions
Web directories can be beneficial for boosting your search engine ranking.
They were more popular and impactful on SEO two decades ago, but they still appear to be a small ranking factor, particularly for local search.
And a good, usually industry-specific directory can be a good source of traffic and trust. But, of course, not all directories are created equal.
And if we’re being sincere, a lot of them, possibly even most, are (at best) doing nothing for your ranking and (at worst) actively hurting it.
That’s because many directories are filled with nothing but spam.
If you’ve submitted your site to be listed in one of these spammy sites, search engines will devalue it.
Remember that bad neighborhoods thing I talked about in the first point? This is another iteration of it.
5. Being A Bad Member Of A Community
Forums are a great place for people to discuss their interests and ideas online.
Facilitating conversation can also be a good way to attract attention and garner clicks via a URL in your signature.
But there are a lot of ways this can go south on you.
For example, if you join a forum and then make the same comment in all the subforums in the hope of creating positive links, generating clicks, and building your reputation.
It won’t take long for the moderators to figure out what’s going on and label you a spammer. And just like that, you’ve created negative links.
Hurting Your Reputation With Search Evaluators
So far, we’ve only mentioned how bad links can cause you to run afoul of search engines. But you must consider another part of your website’s reputation – the experience of real users – including Google search evaluators.
And one of the things they measure when evaluating your site’s E-A-T (expertise, trustworthiness, and authoritativeness) is your external reputation.
To determine your website’s authority, these evaluators use several third-party sources to monitor customer concerns and complaints.
Sites like Yelp, Amazon Customer Reviews, and Buy Facebook Verification Badge Ratings and Reviews help them understand the typical customer experience.
And if they determine your site has low authority, they can flag it as a low-quality return to a search query – even if Google’s algorithm has you ranked highly.
How To Keep Your Reputation Intact
Now that you know the dangers low-quality backlinks can have to your reputation, how can you prevent getting a bad rep while link building?
These are just a few simple suggestions:
Don’t Take Shortcuts
Link building takes work – and so does developing your brand reputation.
Remember that many people’s first exposure to your brand will be when you show up in search engine results – and if you’re not showing up, you’re not getting any exposure.
So, please don’t play it fast and loose with your linking strategy.
Be thoughtful and intentional, and ensure you’re seeking high-quality backlinks – the kind that will help your search ranking rather than harm it.
By taking a little care and putting in the effort, you’ll be able to build the links you want and keep your reputation pristine.
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