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Can Link Building Give You or Your Client a Bad Reputation?

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Can Link Building Give You or Your Client a Bad Reputation?

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 Facebook 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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Google Quietly Ends Covid-Era Rich Results

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Google Quietly Ends Covid-Era Rich Results

Google removed the Covid-era structured data associated with the Home Activities rich results that allowed online events to be surfaced in search since August 2020, publishing a mention of the removal in the search documentation changelog.

Home Activities Rich Results

The structured data for the Home Activities rich results allowed providers of online livestreams, pre-recorded events and online events to be findable in Google Search.

The original documentation has been completely removed from the Google Search Central webpages and now redirects to a changelog notation that explains that the Home Activity rich results is no longer available for display.

The original purpose was to allow people to discover things to do from home while in quarantine, particularly online classes and events. Google’s rich results surfaced details of how to watch, description of the activities and registration information.

Providers of online events were required to use Event or Video structured data. Publishers and businesses who have this kind of structured data should be aware that this kind of rich result is no longer surfaced but it’s not necessary to remove the structured data if it’s a burden, it’s not going to hurt anything to publish structured data that isn’t used for rich results.

The changelog for Google’s official documentation explains:

“Removing home activity documentation
What: Removed documentation on home activity structured data.

Why: The home activity feature no longer appears in Google Search results.”

Read more about Google’s Home Activities rich results:

Google Announces Home Activities Rich Results

Read the Wayback Machine’s archive of Google’s original announcement from 2020:

Home activities

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Google’s Gary Illyes: Lastmod Signal Is Binary

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Google's Gary Illyes: Lastmod Signal Is Binary

In a recent LinkedIn discussion, Gary Illyes, Analyst at Google, revealed that the search engine takes a binary approach when assessing a website’s lastmod signal from sitemaps.

The revelation came as Illyes encouraged website owners to upgrade to WordPress 6.5, which now natively supports the lastmod element in sitemaps.

When Mark Williams-Cook asked if Google has a “reputation system” to gauge how much to trust a site’s reported lastmod dates, Illyes stated, “It’s binary: we either trust it or we don’t.”

No Shades Of Gray For Lastmod

The lastmod tag indicates the date of the most recent significant update to a webpage, helping search engines prioritize crawling and indexing.

Illyes’ response suggests Google doesn’t factor in a website’s history or gradually build trust in the lastmod values being reported.

Google either accepts the lastmod dates provided in a site’s sitemap as accurate, or it disregards them.

This binary approach reinforces the need to implement the lastmod tag correctly and only specify dates when making meaningful changes.

Illyes commends the WordPress developer community for their work on version 6.5, which automatically populates the lastmod field without extra configuration.

Accurate Lastmod Essential For Crawl Prioritization

While convenient for WordPress users, the native lastmod support is only beneficial if Google trusts you’re using it correctly.

Inaccurate lastmod tags could lead to Google ignoring the signal when scheduling crawls.

With Illyes confirming Google’s stance, it shows there’s no room for error when using this tag.

Why SEJ Cares

Understanding how Google acts on lastmod can help ensure Google displays new publish dates in search results when you update your content.

It’s an all-or-nothing situation – if the dates are deemed untrustworthy, the signal could be disregarded sitewide.

With the information revealed by Illyes, you can ensure your implementation follows best practices to the letter.


Featured Image: Danishch/Shutterstock

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How to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to Ahrefs Evolve

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How to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to Ahrefs Evolve

There’s one thing standing between you and several days of SEO, socializing, and Singaporean sunshine: your boss (and their Q4 budget 😅).

But don’t worry—we’ve got your back. Here are 5 arguments (and an example message) you can use to persuade your boss to send you to Ahrefs Evolve.

About Ahrefs Evolve

  • 2 days in sunny Singapore (Oct 24–25)
  • 500 digital marketing enthusiasts
  • 18 top speakers from around the world

Learn more and buy tickets.

SEO is changing at a breakneck pace. Between AI Overviews, Google’s rolling update schedule, their huge API leak, and all the documents released during their antitrust trial, it’s hard to keep up. What works in SEO today?

You could watch a YouTube video or two, maybe even attend an hour-long webinar. Or, much more effective: you could spend two full days learning from a panel of 18 international SEO experts, discussing your takeaways live with other attendees.

How to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to AhrefsHow to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to Ahrefs
Evolve speakers from around the world.

Our world-class speakers are tackling the hardest problems and best opportunities in SEO today. The talk agenda covers topics like:

  • Responding to AI Overviews: Amanda King will teach you how to respond to AI Overviews, Google Gemini, and other AI search functions.
  • Surviving (and thriving) Google’s algo updates: Lily Ray will talk through Google’s recent updates, and share data-driven recommendations for what’s working in search today.
  • Planning for the future of SEO: Bernard Huang will talk through the failures of AI content and the path to better results.

(And attendees will get video recordings of each session, so you can share the knowledge with your teammates too.)

View the full talk agenda here.

There’s no substitute for meeting with influencers, peers, and partners in real life. 

Conferences create serendipity: chance encounters and conversations that can have a huge positive impact on you and your business. By way of example, these are some of the real benefits that have come my way from attending conferences:

  • Conversations that lead to new customers for our business,
  • Invitations to speak at events,
  • New business partnerships and co-marketing opportunities, and
  • Meeting people that we went on to hire.

There’s a “halo” effect that lingers long after the event is over: the people you meet will remember you for longer, think more highly of you, and be more likely to help you out, should you ask.

(And let’s not forget: there’s a lot of information, particularly in SEO, that only gets shared in person.)

The “international” part of Evolve matters too. Evolve is a different crowd to your local run-of-the-mill conference. It’s a chance to meet with people from markets you wouldn’t normally meet—from Australia to Indonesia and beyond.

How to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to AhrefsHow to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to Ahrefs
Evolve attendees by home country.

If you’re an Ahrefs customer (thank you!), you’ll learn tons of tips, tricks and workflow improvements from attending Evolve. You’ll have opportunities to:

  • Attend talks from the Ahrefs team, showcasing advanced features and strategies that you can use in your own business.
  • Pick our brains at the Ahrefs booth, where we’ll offer informal 1:1 coaching sessions and previews of up-coming releases (like our new content optimization tool 🤫).
  • Join dedicated Ahrefs training workshops, hosted by the Ahrefs team and Ahrefs power users (tickets for these workshops will sold separately).

As a manager myself, there are two questions I need answered when approving expenses:

  • Is this a reasonable cost?
  • Will we see a return on this investment?

To answer those questions: early bird tickets for Evolve start at $570. For context, “super early bird” tickets for MozCon (another popular SEO conference) this year were almost twice as much: $999.

There’s a lot included in the ticket price too:

  • World-class international speakers,
  • 5-star hotel venue,
  • 5-star hotel food (two tea breaks with snacks & lunch),
  • Networking afterparty, and
  • Full talk recordings to later share with your team.

SEO is a crucial growth channel for most businesses. If you can improve your company’s SEO performance after attending Evolve (and we think you will), you’ll very easily see a positive return on the investment.

Traveling to tropical Singapore (and eating tons of satay) is great for you, but it’s also great for your team. Attending Evolve is a chance to break with routine, reignite your passion for marketing, and come back to your job reinvigorated.

This would be true for any international conference, but it goes double for Singapore. It’s a truly unique place: an ultra-safe, high-tech city that brings together dozens of different cultures.

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Little India in Singapore

You’ll discover different beliefs, working practices, and ways of business—and if you’re anything like me, come back a richer, wiser person for the experience.

If you’re nervous about pitching your boss on attending Evolve, remember: the worst that can happen is a polite “not this time”, and you’ll find yourself in the same position you are now.

So here goes: take this message template, tweak it to your liking, and send it to your boss over email or Slack… and I’ll see you in Singapore 😉

Email template

Hi [your boss’ name],

Our SEO tool provider, Ahrefs, is holding an SEO and digital marketing conference in Singapore in October. I’d like to attend, and I think it’s in the company’s interest:

  • The talks will help us respond to all the changes happening in SEO today. I’m particularly interested in the talks about AI and recent Google updates. 
  • I can network with my peers. I can discover what’s working at other companies, and explore opportunities for partnerships and co-marketing.
  • I can learn how we can use Ahrefs better across the organization.
  • I’ll come back reinvigorated with new ideas and motivation, and I can share my top takeaways and talk recordings with my team after the event.

Early bird tickets are $570. Given how important SEO is to the growth of our business, I think we’ll easily see a return from the spend.

Can we set up time to chat in more detail? Thanks!

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