7 Link Building Mistakes Every SEO Newcomer Makes
Link building is a complicated strategy that used to be a very simple one — back in the day, you could build links wherever and however you wanted, and see a corresponding gain in your search visibility. Today, the link building world is more diverse, harder to penetrate, and is riddled with myths and misconceptions due to the ghosts of its past.
As a result, almost every newcomer to the link building world ends up making the same rookie mistakes. As a search marketing expert, I’m always glad to help people correct their mistakes, but it’s better for everyone if you don’t make those mistakes to begin with, especially since link building is such a potentially valuable strategy.
If you’re unfamiliar with link building and you’re looking to get started, avoid these 7 common newbie errors:
1. Prioritizing quantity over quality. It’s a temptation almost everyone gives into at some point in their link building careers. One high-quality link is better than potentially dozens or even hundreds of low-quality links. But high-quality links are difficult to acquire, whereas low-quality ones are usually very easy to acquire. This sets up a trap if you follow the path of least resistance, thinking that the quantity of links you can get will make up for the lack in quality. It won’t. High-quality links have much more value than just an SEO boost — they offer branding and referral traffic benefits as well. Not only that, but too many low-quality links can actually earn your website a manual or algorithmic penalty that can be extremely difficult –sometimes impossible — to recover from.
2. Over-optimizing anchor text. The concept of optimizing anchor text was once absolutely necessary for an effective link building campaign — but that was years ago. Now, the anchor text of your inbound links can earn you a penalty they create a pattern of unnaturalness or manipulation. Instead, ensure your anchor text is natural and helpful. I’ve found that using the title of page you’re linking to (assuming it’s a well-written, catchy title) is not only natural, but drives a good amount of click-throughs, too.
3. Rushing the content. Your links should be framed in the body of high-quality content. If you rush the content, or if you prioritize the link over the content, not only will Google view your link as suspect, you’ll run the risk of getting rejected by publishers too. Take the time to ensure your material is worthy of being published.
4. Failing to diversify. Your link building strategy needs to be as diverse as possible; that means relying on multiple different external sources, offering a strong lineup of on-site content, and rotating your patterns of distribution. It’s hard to achieve a level of orchestrated randomness, but it’s what you’ll have to do if you want to see real benefits from your link building campaign.
5. Forgetting brand mentions. Your brand mentions, both linked and non-linked, are an important indicator of your site’s overall authority. Don’t neglect them. I covered this in more depth in my article, Implied Links, Brand Mentions and the Future of SEO Link Building.
6. Treating relationships as secondary. When you start hitting a groove in link building, your relationships are going to mean everything. Landing an opportunity with a specific publisher isn’t just a chance for you to build one link. It’s a chance for you to build an ongoing relationship, where you can continually publish guest articles, earn inbound traffic, and get exposure to new audiences. This relationship needs to be your priority — make your publishers happy.
7. Failing to scale. If you want to keep seeing momentum in your link building campaign, you have to scale upward. That means writing better content, working with higher-authority sources, and (assuming your quality is scaling as well) building a higher quantity of links. Managing this growth process is tough, but the last thing you want is to end up plateauing.
These mistakes range in severity from innocuous to devastating, but they’re all somewhat easily preventable if you know what you’re looking for. You can’t become a link building expert overnight, and no matter how hard you try, you’re going to make mistakes (even the professionals do), so do what you can to mitigate your losses, and commit yourself to keep adjusting and refining your strategy. The only way to see the long-term results you want is to be willing to adapt.