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Blog > Link Building Scams: The Dangers of Outsourcing

Meet the author:
Jill Olkoski

Jill has a MA in Clinical Psychology, a BS in Computer Science, and a BS in Mechanical Engineering.

She currently owns Aldebaran Web Design in Edmonds (near Seattle WA) and enjoys educating her clients on topics related to small business website design.

In Jill's previous life, she spent 17 years in the engineering and quality organizations of a Fortune 100 tech company.


Link Building Scams: The Dangers of Outsourcing

April 13th, 2009

Like many of my blog articles, this one is written based on one of my client’s experiences that I’m hoping others won’t repeat. She has an online real estate tools website that helps real estate agents improve their marketing. She decided to outsource her search engine optimization (SEO) to a company she found on Biznik. After paying money to this company and waiting a month for the work to occur, she asked me to review what they had done. This article will focus on the link building portion of that work. Based on my investigation, I believe this is an excellent example of a link building scam.

Link building is a pain – no doubt about it. It takes a lot of time to get other people to create links to your website, and while I perform many different SEO activities for my website clients, link building is not one of them.

Even with my own website, I focus on adding content to attract links, rather than soliciting other website owners to give me links. I delete every single link exchange request I receive. So I was very interested in reviewing both the contract, and the evidence provided by a link building outsourcing company that one of my clients had hired. I was shocked and angered with what I found.

The SEO outsourcing company had given her a contract that included claims like:

“We will build 400 links from high-authority social media sites per month.”

“We will build 300 links per month from high-authority blogs.”

Wow, that’s like 700 links in one month! To be perfectly honest, I had no idea at all how someone could get 700 links from “high-authority” blogs and social media sites in one month.

Let’s review what “high-authority” means. In general, folks in the SEO world will use this phrase to mean web pages that have a high page rank that suggests that these pages have high quality content that has attracted many quality inlinks over time. For example, my home page has a page rank of 5/10 – you can use this page rank tool to see this. has a PR of 9/10, so for me, a “high-authority” site should have a PR of maybe between 3 and 6. Generally, it takes quite a bit of time and work to get your PR to increase from 0 (zero) to 1 and then 2 and on up the scale. A LOT of work. Getting a “high-authority” site or page happens slowly, after many, many months and possibly years of work.

I asked my client to get proof from this company of the link building they had done. They sent a “Link Building Report” that contained approximately 200 URL’s. Note, 200 is a whole lot less than 700. Upon closer inspection of the URL’s, it became apparent that half of them weren’t URL’s to web pages, but rather RSS feeds. So the list because more like 85 actual URL’s to web pages. Way less than 700.

I asked the client if she would put these 85 real URL’s into a spreadsheet for me so I could do further analysis. She did this, and I noticed another pattern – that the URL’s were all from free web page or free blog builder sites or free social media sites, 26 to be specific. Here’s the list in alphabetical order:

No doubt you’ll recognize some of these sites. And while there certainly are many “high-authority” blogs on, as one example, that’s not what these link building scam folks did. They created� brand new accounts on these websites. Then, they created pages with fake content (they repeated 4 different fake articles they had created) with a link to my client’s website. We could literally see the time stamps on the pages. All pages were created with a week of each other, at the end of the month.

I emailed several of these websites, and indeed they confirmed that this activity is in violation of their Terms of Service and told me that the pages would be removed:

From Newsvine:

“Newsvine is a social news site that prohibits advertising. Our content is focused on journalism, not traffic direction.

That’s really unfortunate that Newsvine is being ‘sold’ as part of a SEO package. Our system’s pretty good – users start out in an area called the Greenhouse, meaning their content doesn’t reach the majority of the site until they’re confirmed to not be spammers. The accounts will probably be gone by the end of the day.”


“It is a violation of our terms. Your profile must describe you, an individual person. Examples of inappropriate profiles include, but are not limited to, profiles that purport to represent an animal, place, inanimate object, fictional character, or real individual who is not you. The Multiply Web site is for the personal use of individual Members only and may not be used in connection with any commercial endeavors. Organizations, companies, and/or businesses may not become Members and should not use the Service or the Web site for any purpose.”


We generally frown on using Wetpaint as a link farm in order to try to increase search rankings. Also, most link building companies don’t realize that Wetpaint imposes a “nofollow” on all outbound links, so the benefits of using Wetpaint for such purposes are probably negligible.

According to the Wetpaint Terms of Use, you agree not to use the service to:
Upload, post, email, transmit, or otherwise make available any unsolicited or unauthorized advertising, promotional materials, “link farms,” “junk mail,” “spam,” “chain letters,” ‘pyramid schemes,” or any other form of solicitation.

So let’s review:

1. They claimed to create 700 “high-authority” links in one month.

2. They provided evidence of building 85 pages that contained links to my client’s website.

3. All 85 links were from 26 domains, all of which are free places online where you can create a webpage.

4. All 85 pages had duplicate content, the same 4 articles were copied and pasted over and over.

5. All 85 pages were brand new subdomains and pages with ZERO authority, ZERO page-rank.

6. Some of the 85 pages were created in violation of the terms of use of the core service providers, and will be removed as they are discovered.

What does this mean? It means that every single one of the links they created are completely, utterly, worthless at best.

At worst, Google might even detect this paid link building scheme and penalize my client’s website. Seriously – paid link building can actually be damaging.

What’s the moral of the story?

If you’re tempted to outsource your link building to a company – be very, very sure you know exactly all the details of what they plan to do BEFORE you pay them any money. Be sure you understand what Google considers good and bad link building. After looking all around online for advice, I’m not even sure that I now think outsourcing link building is a worthwhile endeavor – this is one of the best discussions I could find and many of the commenters recommend never outsourcing link building. Here’s one of my favorite quotes:

“Outsourcing link development is risky business whichever way you look at it. I know of recognized SEM agencies in the UK who offer this service to their SEO clients, but who, upon hearing you wish to terminate your SEO contract, claim they will have to remove all the inbound links they’ve been maintaining. Now this may be calling your bluff to make you sign another 1 year extension, but the fact of the matter is that if these guys are doing it and doing it well, they probably own the network from whence your inbound links come.

Do you want to be held to ransom like this? I don’t.”

And another great quote from the discussion:

“We need to be honest with ourselves here folks… sooner or later the engines will identify these “highly effective, yet 100% ethical” bought link networks. If you’re paying someone to link their network of sites to you, you are effectively manipulating your listings by artificial means…. in other words the natural/organic listing ain’t so natural after-all.

Short term gains may be there for the taking, but long term we need to stop chasing algorithms and get on with developing great user content and websites that make other sites WANT to link to us. “

So before you hire an SEO company to outsource your link building – you need to really do your homework to make sure you understand exactly what they are doing, why they are doing it, and whether it’s really doing your website more harm than good.

I did manage to find one good article that contained tips on link building – but be warned, it’s a ton of work over a long period of time. And maybe that’s exactly as it should be.

J. Olkoski
Aldebaran Web Design, Seattle
Jill Olkoski has a BS in Engineering, a BS in Computer Science and an MA in Clinical Psychology. She delights in using her advanced technical and psychological skills to help small business owners develop cost-effective and successful websites.

11 Responses to “Link Building Scams: The Dangers of Outsourcing”

  1. Kate Phillips Says:

    Thanks Jill, you explained that well enough for a non-techie like me to “get” it! I hope she can get her money back. (And maybe avoid anything that sounds too good to be true, which that did – 700 quality links for $1,000.)

  2. Jill Olkoski Says:

    Hi Kate,
    Thanks very much for the feedback – I was worried it might be too long, but really wanted to explain in detail the rationale for my opinions and help others hopefully avoid this in the future. I too hope that she gets some, or all of her money back. Again, thanks for reading the article and giving me the feedback.

  3. Irene Dorang Says:

    Hey there Jill,

    As the subject of this blog post I wanted to say thanks again for your help, professional advice and yes, the heartfelt sympathy too. 🙂

    I just wanted to make clear, in case anyone reads the article and thinks I was trying to take a shortcut on SEO, that this was really about trying to (for once) successfully delegate something that I was hoping to not have to become an expert in.

    I’ve done plenty of studying up on SEO over the past few years, enough to ask this company beforehand whether or not they were going to do certain things the right way, and I heard enough to feel like they were going to use good content to do a decent job. After a certain point you have to decide if you’re going to go ahead and delegate, or rip the project out of the person’s hands and do it yourself (which is what usually happens.) Delegating always involves a risk, as was proven here.

    As an entrepreneur, the cry I hear coming up from the ranks of my fellow business owners is the same as mine – how incredibly hard it is to find good help, no matter how carefully you try to filter the people you hire. Jill is one of those few, rare people who as soon as you start talking to you realize is truly competent and determined to provide every bit of the value you were hoping for. It’s like lying down on a couch after a rough train ride.

    So thanks, Jill. I’d write more, but I’m off hyper-tasking on a hundred do-it-myself projects, including (now, again) SEO. 🙂

  4. Bart Says:

    Great Article, Thank you

  5. John Says:

    THANK YOU for posting this very informative link. I’ve never outsourced linkbuilding (I prefer to do it myself), but I have several clients who have. In every case, they’ve gotten hosed by poor links like the one you mention. As the designer for several high-traffic sites with blogs, it’s amazing how much comment spam and other C-R-A-P is put out there in the name of linkbuilding. People looking for these deals just don’t “get it”.

    One prospective client I’m talking to who sells corporate gifts has over 23K links built to his site and gets like 300 organic visitors a month. Over 5K of the links are coming from some news blog in the Middle East. He hired a US company that offshored the link building. A TBPR of 1 says it all for this site.

    Another client I’m helping with an eCommerce site has less than 600 incoming links that she built meticulously herself. She has 17K unique visitors per month in less that 2 years online and ranks #1 or top 3 for several moderately competitive terms.

    Your opinion is dead-on. I’m going to share your post with a few of my clients. Take care,


  6. Martha Says:

    Thanks for this awesome article. You’ve probably saved the reader a great deal of money.

  7. alland Says:

    Link building is like a double-edged sword. Swing it the wrong way and it’ll be like cutting your internet traffic short.

    It is best for business owners who wants to try SEO outsourcing know at least a thing or two about how the concept of SEO and link building really works.

    I hope your client gets her money back.

  8. Frank giancarlo Says:

    Hi i must admit I’ve been in the SEO business for a few years, and i’m doing link building for some of my clients, However i’m building links after this formula links a day = N * 4, where N is the sites age, i don’t know if this is the right way to do it, but it certainly got my clients some great results. but honestly in my 2 years of business, I’ve seen like 5 scammers for every real SEO person out there.
    So now I’ve decided to do something about the problem by publishing a free E-book,in which i will teach the reader the basics about seo.
    By the way to the author of this blog I’m using a fake name for this comment and the reason being, that i’ll got the tax Authorities of my country up my ass.
    even though I’ve only earned like 250 by doing SEO for website owners in my country.

  9. Sherwood Tallon Says:

    We just couldnt leave your website before saying that we really enjoyed the useful information you offer to your visitors… Will be back often to check up on new posts

  10. Jill Olkoski Says:

    Thank you very much for the kind feedback 🙂

  11. John Biddle Says:

    Please be careful when hiring these companies. They actually could care less about your website in most occasions. I hired an SEO company, and exactly like Jill said… I got about the same service I think I could have hired at They totally killed off all of my keywords. Upset to say the least.

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