SEO Michael Martinez got on his soap box about link schemes recently. It’s understandable. There is a lot of confusion about what a link scheme is, especially among SEOs. So I’d think there is at least an equal amount of confusion among non-SEO small business owners.
Michael defines a link scheme as any type of link building you do with a strategic purpose. That pretty much includes all of us.
However, he goes on to say that Google isn’t so much concerned with most types of link schemes. Rather, they are concerned with “manipulative” link schemes. I’m sure that he is aware that “manipulative” is as subjective a statement as anything else he rants about. But what does he mean?
A manipulative link scheme is anything Google considers black hat or gray hat SEO that you do for the purpose of boosting your site in its search rankings. More succinctly, I’d say Google would probably define “manipulative” as anything you do not for visitor or user benefit. Here’s the problem: No one knows what Google considers manipulative except for Google. For the rest of us, it’s a guessing game.
For that reason, it’s safest just to go about your business of building great content that is right for your visitors. Should you ask for links? Sure. I see no reason not to. But where most SEOs go wrong in building links is in thinking that they can do anything they want and get away with it.
Here’s an analogy. Speeding is illegal. You can’t drive above the speed limit. That doesn’t mean we all don’t do it. But if you think you can go 55 in a school zone, then you’re asking for trouble.
What’s the lesson? Don’t do anything stupid. Don’t do anything that any reasonable person would consider risky. Learn as much as you can about best practices and try to stay within reasonable limits.