Links are extremely important for positioning/ranking. To speed up things, in forcing the positioning, webmasters and online business owners are tempted to choose the easier way even though, on the long run, it proves to be a bad choice.

The easiest, most known and by far the most dangerous way to get links is by using a link network, website network or articles network (article directories, paid advertorials, etc). In march 2012, Google has removed from the index a very large part of the network’s content.

Even though it looks and feels easy to get links this way, it’s never a bad idea to have other options in mind. To avoid falling into temptation and the imminent danger that this method brings, you must understand what kind of network this is, how to identify the websites that are part of such network as well as the impact of those links.

What is a link network?

There are still a lot of confusions regarding this subject. To be brief, a link network (websites/blogs/articles) is a group of intertwined websites, owned by a person or more, in a most obvious way.

Here are some obvious ways in which a website is presented as part of such a network: one hint could be the language used on the website, statements such as “ Partner of X network”, “ Here are some other sites from our network”, network badges (logos, badges). These refer to pages that have listed a lot of other websites. Very often the anchors used are “Friends” or “Partners”, and even though they don’t always lead to a network, they denote the need of interest. Some other clues that may indicate a network, are the use of the same IP, they use shared hosting (because they are cheaper) and the same template for all the websites.

There are a few ways in which you can find out if you’re dealing with a link network. Sometimes it’s a good idea to do some research on your own, even though the people that are selling you the links guarantee that they are not intertwined.

  • The templates are identical or very much alike for a lot of websites.
  • They use the same Google Analytics and Google AdSense number (use ewhois to check)
  • The same owner for multiple websites
  • They have the same IP. This one is hard to check if they have shared hosting, but it could be a good idea. There aren`t any guarantees that websites with the same IP are part of a network.

A webmaster becomes suspicious if :

  • In his email signature there are a lot of websites present
  • When he contacts you, he asks you to look at some of his websites
  • He sends you a list of websites that he owns, without asking you

What does Google have to say about all these?

They, obviously, have no kind words. There is more and more emphasis placed on the penalties given for obtaining links by using the methods described so far. Google has given warnings about the eventual penalties applied for using these link schemes and automated software.

Links, that are evidently not natural and that are obtained so easily, are not pleasing Google at all. It often happens, that you are aware that you’re getting links this way, even though you hire someone to do this for you. Even more serious is when you don’t want to be part of these link obtaining tactics but the SEO company that you’ve hired is not exactly professional and chooses not to share the way in which they get links (please see the article in which I wrote about how to choose a SEO agency).

Ask around and inform yourself about the way in which the link building process works, because it`s not only a risky one but it can also harm you on the long run. Pick your information sources carefully and don’t let yourself tricked by people that insist that you’ll get amazing results with a minimum of effort and in a short time.

The comparison between these link networks and a castle made out of playing cards is very interesting. If a website is positioned because of the links from website networks, the penalty and imminent removal from the index could cause financial disaster for these websites. Even more, it is very hard and it requires a lot of time to reposition them.

Link Networks: the good kind (for the moment)

There are link networks that, for the moment, seem to be OK. Not all websites that are part of a network are without value or dangerous. Such networks exist, meaning that there are websites part of a network, that are very well indexed by Google, that are positioned because of competitive keywords and brand, that are not excessively linked between them, not owned by the same person and they’re goal is not selling links.

One of the important aspects is that when searching such a network by its name, there are not a lot of negative results generated. As I was saying, if a network fulfills the characteristics mentioned above, it means that it’s OK.

Our advice would be to avoid getting links from any of these networks, because sooner or later, Google will act against them.

Link networks that are not exactly OK.

The characteristics of such networks are: a lot of websites from the same network are not indexed, the websites are not positioned because they don’t have any defining keywords, many of them have the same IP address and they’re name generate a lot of negative results.

Link networks not OK at all.

Most of the websites that are part of such networks are not indexed by Google and even if they are, they are not positioned for the brand or URL or for the fragments on the homepage. Most of the websites publish a list with the other websites from the network and have a link for them, the content is of a low value and there are problems with content duplication.

To wrap this up, we advise you to take some time to think about your link building strategy and avoid relying on a link network. Be as careful as you can be about the place where you get your links from. Last but not least, the link building strategy should be in your advantage and a penalty will bring only headaches and make you lose: time, money, energy and resources.