Sites in need of a digital detox usually have been seduced by quantity over quality with regard to backlinks. Backlinks, or inbound links, are links to your site from others. Google and other engines have long used them as a factor in their ranking algorithms. To search engines, links are endorsements — they help gauge how popular, authoritative, and respected a site is.
To trick the algorithms, some sites began using black hat SEO techniques, relying on link farms and backlinks from spammy websites for boosts in rankings. As search-ranking algorithms evolved, however, the quality of backlinks became more important than quantity. Consequently, sites that relied on black hat techniques plummeted in the rankings due to toxic links.
You’d think that companies would’ve laid short-sighted SEO linking tactics to rest after that hard-learned lesson. But sites continue to suffer the consequences of myopic link-building strategies; the problem has just assumed a new form. This time, the issue is not so much toxic links but rather the toxic accumulation of quality links. Read on to find out if your site is in danger of falling prey to the new SEO kiss of death.
Link Building: Too Much, Too Fast Equals Search Obscurity
Simply put — beware of too much link building that happens too fast, with low relevance and/or that are of the same type. This is a major red flag because it looks unnatural to Google.
Fly-by-night, cut-rate SEO services often advertise their ability to get you copious amounts of backlinks in no time, thus causing your site to surge in the rankings. As appealing as that sounds, it will end up being the nail in your site’s coffin. In reality, search engines see a lot of backlinks accumulated quickly as unnatural.
As a result, search engines penalize the rapid accumulation of good backlinks the same way they do the accumulation of toxic links —search obscurity. If you’re lucky, that means dropping from first or second to 10th or beyond. For those less fortunate, Google may actually expel your site from certain keywords, meaning that you will not be able to rank at all for those keywords until you clean up your act.
Digital Detox: Potentially Saving Your… Domain
Believe it or not, those consequences aren’t the worst-case scenario, which can happen after repeated violations. Google can actually expel your domain from its search results altogether. While less common than keyword expulsion, domain expulsion can and does happen.
To avoid that fate, you’ll need an expensive link cleanup, known as a “digital detox,” in order to save your domain. This kind of high-level SEO work can cost anywhere from $5,000 to $30,000 depending on the severity of the damage to your backlink profile. That price tag is the direct result of the time-intensive nature of link detox, which requires an SEO expert to manually review every single backlink to your site.
Should You Detox or Just Get a New Domain?
Even when a full detox works, your website will have to start again from zero, and it may take years to reattain the same level of performance it exhibited before being hit with a Penguin penalty.
If your brand is fairly large, this might be a good investment. However, for most brands, it’s a massive gamble because there are no guarantees that the search engines will ever readmit your site for certain keywords or your domain itself.
The moral of the story is that SEO is only a long-term tactic. The era of link-building is over — link-earning is the new name of the game. Website owners should focus on earning links by creating content that is so interesting and useful that other sites are compelled to link to it. This is why investing in sustainable, white-hat SEO strategies will spare you from the nightmare of a high-priced digital detox down the road.
These strategies may take longer to enact, but as we’ve seen time and time again at LeadBuilder, this is how you go about building a true asset for your business. Learn more about how our specialists combine sustainable SEO, high-end Web design, and compelling content to create sites that perform without needing any digital detoxification.