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7 Link Building Footprints You Should Avoid

Link Building Footprints header image
Link Building Footprints header image

Executing link building at scale and in volume is a skill in itself. Whether you are outsourcing your link building or handling it yourself in house, the volume and the types of links you build are probably the most important decisions you’ll make on behalf of your SEO clients.

Google and other search engines detect manipulation based on ‘patterns’. For example if you keep building 50 links every month using the same anchor text, targeting the same URL and using the same kind of link building technique then, sooner or later a pattern will be forming and Google’s algorithm filters will almost certainly be tripping!

Avoiding typical link building patterns and thinking like a computer is probably one of the smartest things you can do to avoid future updates and penalties. Search Engines are still very much ‘machine based’ and are ‘trained’ to detect these patterns so if you think like one you will know what to avoid. Instead, keep your link building varied by employing different strategies and avoiding the cardinal sins below.

Over-Optimization Of Anchor Texts

Yes you’ve seen it all before, this isn’t rocket science. Building links with the same keyword link text (you want to rank for) over and over will cause serious problems. An unnatural or unlikely pattern will emerge and you will surely be heading for some kind of penalty. Generally websites and pages naturally get linked to each other with very little keyword based text. Mostly it will be brand anchors and a lot of generic ‘click here’, ‘more info’ type text.

Don’t believe me?

Take a site you know for a fact aren’t doing SEO (or a site that are very unlikely to be doing SEO…), like Facebook for example. Put them in your favourite link analysis tool.

You’ll find the anchor text distribution will be in this order of quantity: Brand name, followed by URL text and a load of generic click here texts. Very few keyword anchor text links.

See above in OSE, the biggest anchor text is ‘Facebook’ followed by image links and the URL as the anchor text.

If Facebook did want to rank for anything other than their brand name it would probably be ‘Social Network’. Anchor texts like ‘Social Network’ or ‘Social Networking’ are nowhere to be seen. Not that a social network should use SEO as a route to get sign-ups, but you get my point.

Now let’s take a site that is obviously doing some manipulative SEO… the Pay Day Loans sector is a great place to start. The sector is so cutthroat that being manipulative with anchor texts is a minor, minor crime. Look at PayDayUK –

The top linking anchor text by a mile is ‘payday loans’. If the industry wasn’t pay day loans I would bet this particular domain would be heading for a penalty, if not already there.

You need to mimic natural anchor text distribution with clients. Have very few, if any keyword anchor texts. When it comes to SEO footprints over-optimized anchor texts are one of the biggest red flags there can be.

Avoid this SEO footprint by making your links natural, even if that means avoiding ideal optimization. Avoiding the SEO footprint is more important than securing temporary ranking boosts before you incur a penalty.

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Check out our guide to using anchor text for link building:


Avoid Same Length Content Placements

If you’re doing a lot of guest blogging or content placement, make sure whatever you’re doing or whatever link building service you use, allows for you to vary the length of the content.

Having a disproportionate chunk of your links come from 500-word length pieces of content can leave a pattern and should be something you think about. Cast your mind back to those Facebook links. Do you think they all exist within content that is always around 500 words in length? Probably not. Google’s algorithms are smart enough to detect these patterns and it’s up to you to avoid this one.

If You’re Going To Graffiti, Don’t Sign It

Author boxes are all well and good, but if you’re doing scalable guest posting or content placement, don’t leave the same name across all of your links. This leaves a really easy detectable pattern for the boys at Google.

Better Still, Don’t Use Author Boxes or Labels

A better strategy would be to bin the author boxes and guest post labels altogether in your scalable link building. Make the posts look as natural as possible. Have the site owner pass it as his or her own content. This is something we’ve perfected at Fat Joe, we’ve coined it ‘Ghost Blogging’.

Of course author boxes are great for your true personal persona, when you’re doing the odd guest post here and there for the industry you excel in. If you’re plastering your author box across all of your clients guest posts, this will be leaving a serious pattern.

Vary Link Quantities and Think about Seasonal Trends



Building the same number of links for clients every month is an easy thing to manage and fit within your processes however, if you want to get that little bit smarter then think about varying the quantities month on month taking particular notice to the seasonal peaks and troughs your clients business experiences.

For example lets say your client is an online Toy Shop. You’d expect their busiest period to be Christmas right? Well then you would expect more people to be talking about the brand and mentioning the brand on the back of their other marketing efforts so getting a few more links around this period would be expected to any algorithm or human.

Avoid Private Link Networks


Of course, we should be avoiding networks and footprints. That includes sites that are on the same hosting, same IP, same theme design and so on.

As a general rule of thumb, if you go for real sites, with real readership for your content placement, you can’t go wrong. Your gut feel of the site alone is a good (if not the best) indicator on whether you’d be wanting to get a link from that site.

Vary Your Link Building Techniques and Types

Make sure you completely mix up your link building. Don’t rely on one type of link, have a nice safe balance and incorporate multiple methods like guest blogging, press release distribution, infographic submission, directories, editorials, link exchanges, a mix of follow and no follow and so on. Another new buzz word on the block is local citations which in essence is website directory listings in the major directories in your country. It is a slow and painful process as 90% require phone, address or email verification.

Slow and steady, (and random) always wins the race! Don’t build the exact same number of links every week or month. As mentioned, a robotic increment of 10 links per month all of the same type leaves a very nice pattern that those Google robots love to eat… We don’t like patterns, remember?

Final Takeaways


Sometimes the very nature of SEO is robotic, with all the numbers, metrics and keyword density crap flying around. SEO is about mimicking popularity. Popularity isn’t robotic. Be random. Imitate nature.

What would happen to your client’s site in terms of inbound links if it became really popular? After a few directory links and a press release, you’d maybe expect some blog post mentions. Some social bookmarks… some more blog post mentions… you get my drift here?

Daniel Trick
Daniel Trick

Head of Content

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