How SEO link building can hurt your brand reputation. Real-life samples

brand reputation

Link building is a common SEO tactic that involves getting other websites to link back to your website. While this can be a useful way to improve your search engine rankings and drive traffic to your site, it can also have negative effects on your brand reputation if not done the right way.

In this post, I am going to show you some real-life examples of how link-building can hurt your brand reputation and how you can avoid it.

1. Bad email outreach

Well just take a look at an email sent from a big known brand to publishers.

twitter example

As you can see, these outreach approaches are the worst and could damage your brand reputation. Just take a look at how dismayed the recipient was.

Ok, let’s dissect the email outreach and find out why it’s a bad email.


Point #1: Subject Line

❌ Subject too long: Ideally, the subject line should be short and no more than 50 characters long. This ensures that they don’t get cut off in the recipient’s inbox.

❌ Zero personalization: a good subject line should Include the recipient’s name or other personal details that can make the subject line more engaging.

To improve it, write Curiosity-driving subject lines. These are useful because they encourage the recipient to open your email and engage with your content.

✅ Here are some examples:

“John, you’re missing some important details in your article”
“John, this tool is better than you listed”
“John, have you seen this surprising trend in [industry]?”
“You won’t believe what we found, John”

However, it’s important to be careful not to be misleading or trick the recipient into opening your email. The subject line should be a true representation of the content of the email and provide genuine value to the recipient.

Point #2: Opening line

❌ Opening line too generic – To make your emails more effective, try to avoid using generic openers that could be sent to hundreds of people. Instead, try to personalize your emails and make them catchy in order to increase the chances of them being opened.

✅As a reader, you may be able to use something from an article you have read as a starting point, by commenting on it or asking a question, or better use an email icebreaker.

One way to do this is by looking at their LinkedIn profile, website, and social media accounts to find common ground and inspiration.

Let’s take our CEO Konstantin’s LinkedIn Profile as an example.

profile example

As you can see he just recently posted a video about outsource link building and this is a good opportunity to write a personalized comment.

You can start your email like this:

“Hi Konstantin,

Saw your recent video on LinkedIn, an interesting take on outsourcing link-building services. Outsourcing indeed can be a viable option for those looking to streamline their SEO efforts. Love to see more videos from you in the future!”

See? By writing personalized opening lines you’re already setting yourself way ahead of other link builders/email marketers.

Point #3: Body

❌Excessive self-focus.

cat meme

Have you ever heard about the term Main Character Syndrome? It refers to the tendency of individuals to see themselves as the central or most important figure in their own narrative.

In the context of cold emails, Main Character Syndrome can lead to a self-centered approach to outreach. For example, the sender may focus too much on their own products or services and not enough on the recipient’s needs and interests. This can result in cold emails that are impersonal and not relevant to the recipient, making it less likely that they will respond positively.

To avoid this, it’s important to put yourself in the recipient’s shoes and make the email about them, not just about you. Go straight to the point and explain why it’s valuable for them to add your link, focus on their needs, offer value, and make a personal connection to increase the chances of successful SEO outreach.

In contrast, a good body email is concise, clearly organized, and focused on the main points, making it easy for the reader to understand and respond to the message.

Point #4: Bad offer

Although it was not mentioned in the email, based on the context of the tweet, I assume that the sender offers a monetary value in exchange for the links a.k.a “Paid links” which are perceived as cheap ways of acquiring quick links.

To be clear offering something valuable in return increases positive response. However, don’t limit yourself to offering monetary value only. There are many ways you can offer something in return, just think outside the box.

Here are some ideas for inspiration:

  1. Help them increase exposure and traffic to their website through the promotion of their content on your social media channels and other platforms.
  2. Promote their article in your newsletter.
  3. A testimonial or positive review of their products or services that can be featured on their website.
  4. A mutually beneficial collaboration, such as guest posting on each other’s websites or in-direct link collaboration.
  5. Refer their product or services to someone you know that might be interested.
  6. A free trial or demo of your product or service.
  7. Free consultation of your service.
  8. And other genuine offers that aim to build a relationship based on mutual benefit.

Next time you write your email remember to personalize it, be straightforward and concise. Cut the noise, simply say what you want and what’s in there for the receiver. Respect the receiver’s time!

Ok moving on to the next point why link building can hurt your brand reputation.


2. You can get your domain blacklisted

account blocked example

Sending too many spam emails can lead to your email or domain getting blacklisted. This can happen if your emails are marked as spam by a large number of recipients, or if you are sending too many emails in a short period of time. This can result in your IP address or domain being added to a blacklist, which can have serious consequences not only for your email deliverability but also for your branding.

​​Being associated with spamming can damage your reputation and brand image, potentially causing your target audience to view your brand in a negative light. It can be perceived as an indicator of poor email practices and a lack of credibility, making it more difficult to establish trust with your target audience and potentially losing customers.


Here are ways you can avoid getting your email blacklisted

– Make sure SPF, DKIM, and DMARC are properly set up. 

Warm up your email before running the actual outreach campaign.

– Gradually increase the email sending. 

– Clean up your list of prospects to avoid high bounce rates. 

– Write compelling emails

– Monitor your sender’s reputation

3. Connecting the wrong way

Link building is about building relationships with relevant people in the industry and this can be done using various social media channels such as LinkedIn. However, a lot of link builders don’t fully understand how to utilize this channel to connect with people. 

Here’s a bad example of network invitations I receive on a daily basis. 

bad outreach example message

What do they have in common? SELLING SPAMMED LINKS.

These guys can’t even put up a decent LinkedIn profile and worst they are dragging their brand name reputation into this mess. 

So, how do you connect with key decision-makers in your industry? 

Tip 1: Use a professional profile headshot.

Tip 2: Use a Banner photo that conveys a clear message without promoting a sales agenda.

Tip 3: Send a personalized connection request explaining why you want to connect and how you can potentially help them or benefit from the connection .

Tip 4: Share relevant content, comment, and like posts to keep the connection active and show your interest.

Tip 5: Add value: Offer valuable insights, resources, or knowledge in your initial interaction and continuing conversation.


4. Hurting your reputation with Low-quality links

Another potential problem with link building is that when you’re building low-quality backlinks.  These types of links are often created through tactics such as buying links or participating in link schemes. Links can negatively impact the credibility and trustworthiness of a website in the eyes of search engines and users. 

If a website is associated with a large number of low-quality links, search engines may view it as spammy or untrustworthy, which can lead to a lower search engine ranking. This can make it more difficult for users to find the website, leading to a decline in traffic and revenue.

This is bad, especially since Google just recently updated its link spam algorithm implying that “it can now detect both sites that are buying and selling links” which could lead to both sites being penalized. 

For marketers that are following Google’s guidelines, this update is good as people will be forced not to sell or buy backlinks and will link more naturally. 

Still, a lot of marketers are buying links as their main tactic for building links. Why? because they believe that it’s no longer possible to build links for free. But this is absolutely not true, maybe they’re targeting the wrong websites because from our experience sites that sell links as their way of monetizing their website are usually bad ones. 

Worst they could be linking to unethical sites such as casinos and adult sites which you don’t want your brand to associate with. 

link building meme


5. Hurting your reputation with Irrelevant Links

Another issue is that link building can sometimes lead to the creation of unnatural or irrelevant links. For example, if you are a fashion brand and you get a link from a website about plumbing, this may not provide any real value to your website and could even hurt your reputation by making it look like you are trying to manipulate search engine rankings.

Building irrelevant backlinks can also lead to increased bounce rates, as users may arrive at a website via an irrelevant anchor/backlink and quickly leave due to a poor user experience or irrelevant content. Google suggests that anchor text should be concise and informative, offering context for users to understand their destination when clicking the link. In essence, the anchor text should give a clear indication of the content on the linked page.

In general, it’s important to be strategic and selective when it comes to link-building. Focusing on building high-quality, natural links from reputable and relevant websites can help improve your search engine visibility without damaging your brand reputation.


6. Misrepresenting your brand

Remember when doing link-building outreach you are representing your brand and often times you will use a branded email. This can be risky if you misrepresent your brand. 

Think about being a website owner and suddenly receiving spam requests from a company you admire. Or, imagine your blog being spammed by someone claiming to work for a brand you like. It would be a major turn-off, right?

How to maintain a positive brand reputation when building backlinks

  • Review your email outreach to see if it fits with your company values 
  • Respect the publisher’s time, and don’t be a nuisance. 
  • Be real, personalize your emails. 
  • Don’t build low-quality links. 
  • Maintain consistent brand message: ensure that your brand messaging is consistent across all your emails.
  • When outsourcing, make sure to engage only with trusted link building agency. 



SEO link building can be an effective way to improve your search engine rankings and drive traffic to your website. However, it’s important to be transparent and ethical in your link-building efforts in order to protect your brand reputation. 

Avoiding manipulative or spammy techniques and focusing on building high-quality, relevant links from reputable websites will help you maintain a positive reputation and build trust with your audience. By following best practices for link building, you can effectively improve your search engine rankings while also maintaining a positive brand reputation. 

If you’re looking for an agency that takes care of your brand while building links contact us. 


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