Link building is a highly effective way to build your domain authority and enhance your website’s visibility on search engines. Getting quality backlinks is one of the best ways to boost your rankings in the SERPs, and it’s a great long-term SEO strategy.
With that said, there are definitely good ways and bad ways to get backlinks.
Some link-building tactics are outdated or don’t work. Others can actually trigger a penalty from Google.
As an expert in this field, I’ve identified ten common link-building strategies that you should avoid at all costs.
1. Paying for Links
There are lots of online services out there that make it easy to purchase backlinks. The idea here is straightforward—you’re just paying for links as a shortcut to SEO success.
While this might seem like a good idea, it’s actually awful. I do not recommend this strategy to anyone.
The problem here is quality control. When you purchase links, you really don’t have any idea where those links are going to end up. Many of these services place your links on sites that are completely irrelevant to yours, and they don’t use any relevant context or anchor text.
You’ll likely end up on link farms, which Google tends to penalize and ignore.
Google clearly states that paying for links can be considered a link scheme, which can negatively impact your site’s ranking in the SERPs.
2. Unpersonalized Cold Outreach
Cold email outreach is an excellent way to build quality backlinks.
However, times have changed. Things are a little trickier now when you’re sending a message to content editors and editorial teams.
Years ago, you could send a message saying, “I just read your article on [subject] and found it really insightful! We just wrote a blog on [this subject too] and thought your audience would find it extremely valuable if you linked to it.”
Their inboxed are flooded with these messages, and most get sent straight to the trash.
You need to put in a little more effort and personalize the messages instead of following an outdated template. While this will take a bit more time and effort on your part, it’s worth showing the recipient that the message is truly unique to them—increasing the chances you’ll be rewarded with a link.
3. Creating Content That’s Not Linkworthy
Lots of people make the assumption that just by asking for a link, they’ll get it.
But even if another site is going to consider linking out to your content, it better be a really good piece of content.
If your content isn’t actually adding value, it’s going to be extremely hard to get backlinks. So focus on real quality when you’re writing. Don’t just spit out below-average work for the sake of publishing something new. Take your time and establish a content strategy that’s actually going to move the needle.
Things like in-depth how-to tutorials, complete guides, case studies, infographics, and quality research all have a better chance of being linked to than a 300-word blog post.
4. Focusing on Domain Authority Instead of Relevance
Domain authority measures how successful a website is for search engine results. The metric was initially developed by MOZ, and it’s ranked on a 0 to 100 scale.
In terms of link building, it’s typically better to get backlinks from sites with a high domain authority. This tells Google that a trustworthy and authoritative site is linking out to you—therefore boosting your chances of ranking for different keywords.
However, looking at domain authority alone is not effective when you’re building backlinks.
It’s better to target quality websites that are relevant to your niche and content.
For example, let’s say you want to write a guest post on GolfDigest.com in an attempt to get a backlink to your homepage. If you use Moz’s free domain analysis SEO tool, you’ll see that this site has a domain authority of 81, which is very high.
But if you’re an insurance agent, lawyer, real estate agent, or content marketer, this link is completely irrelevant to your website. So it’s not really going to help your strategy.
You’d need to have a website in the sports industry (ideally golf) to pursue a backlink from this site. Otherwise, this is a wasted effort.
5. Not Using the Right Tools
This piggybacks off of my last point. To truly have an effective link-building strategy, you need to take advantage of different SEO tools.
As your link-building strategy scales, it’s nearly impossible to stay organized with a spreadsheet, handwritten notes, or pen and paper. You don’t need to go out and buy every piece of software under the sun, but you should at least invest in some quality tools for SEO and project management.
Moz is just one example of where you can start. I also really like Ahrefs for SEO purposes and Trello for simple project planning. You should also invest in a CRM solution to help you manage your email outreach strategy.
6. Using Just One Link-Building Strategy
Like most content marketing initiatives, you need to be versatile to truly see success. Think of this like any other type of marketing strategy.
What if you were only using Facebook for lead generation? Or what if you only used ebook downloads to collect email addresses? You’d leave tons of opportunity on the table.
The same concept can be applied to link building. You need to diversify your strategy to get the best possible results.
Examples of quality link-building strategies include:
- Personalized outreach
- Guest blogging
- Broken link building
- Link reclamation
- Content syndication
- Creating linkable assets
- Networking and community linking building
- Skyscraper technique
- Reclaiming unlinked mentions
While you don’t need to try and implement all of these at once, you should definitely be using more than just one of these strategies.
7. Illogical Internal Linking
Before you start asking others to link to your content, you should be linking to it first.
Neglecting internal links doesn’t only make it more challenging to get backlinks, but it also makes it harder for search engines to find and rank your web pages.
As you can see from this recent study from Databox, most bloggers include two to five internal links in each blog post.
With that said, you shouldn’t just be randomly linking to your blogs or forcing internal links. That’s not effective.
Instead, your internal linking strategy must be logical. You should keep your content organized by category so it’s easy for you to pull in links that are highly specific to what you’re writing about.
For example, let’s say you run an agency that develops mobile apps. If you’re writing a blog about app development budgets, it’s a great opportunity to link your app cost calculator page. This is much more relevant than just randomly linking a blog post about design inspiration or the best apps of the year.
8. Trading LInks
Here’s something that lots of content marketers think is a good idea—and they’re wrong. They’ll send a message to another site saying, “I’ll link to your content if you link to my content.”
Seems like a good deal for everyone, right? Nope.
Doing this once or twice might be ok. But Google considers “excessive link exchanges” to be a link scheme. They also don’t want you to create partner websites exclusively for exchanging links between sites.
It’s also in poor taste to do this unsolicited. You could ruin your chances of getting quality backlinks from authoritative sites if you initially approach them with this type of black-hat strategy.
9. Ignoring Broken Links
As you’ve probably realized by now, backlinks can be hard to get. But lots of website owners don’t monitor their backlinks once they’re live.
Let’s say an old blog post of yours has been linked from 20 different sites. However, that blog is no longer relevant, and it’s been removed from your site without a proper 301 redirect (that’s a problem for another day).
Now those backlinks are worthless because they’re linked to a 404 error. So you need to be diligent about broken links and ensure they’re actually driving people to a working page.
Furthermore, you can steal backlinks from your competitors if you monitor their broken links. You can swoop in and message other websites with replacement content any time an existing backlink from your competitor goes down with a 404 message.
10. Spamming Comments
This strategy is outdated and no longer relevant. In fact, using blog comments to build links became such an overused tactic years ago that search engines had to create the “nofollow” link attribute back in 2005.
Yes, you read that correctly—2005.
Now links in blog comments typically have a “nofollow” attribution, meaning it’s not adding any value to your link-building strategy, and it just makes you look like a spammer. Don’t even consider using a tactic that’s been outdated for 15+ years.
Link building is important for SEO.
I encourage you to have both short-term and long-term link-building strategies for your website. If you stick to the plan, you’ll see your domain authority increase, your SERP rankings rise, and your traffic scale.
Just make sure you’re not using any of the tactics listed above. If you need some help creating a quality backlink profile, you can reach out to our team here at McDougall Interactive for a free consultation.