Link building, as an online marketing strategy, has gone through a number of changes over the years. What started out as a simple, get-rich-quick scheme style tactic to boost your domain authority quickly has since evolved to a complex, multifaceted strategy that serves multiple different campaigns—including SEO, personal branding, and general PR.
But since some people never get beyond their first impressions, and some people fail to realize the scope of changes that this strategy has overcome, there are a number of lies and misconceptions that are still circulating in some circuits. Unfortunately, unless you’re plugged into the industry, you probably still believe these seven common link building lies:
- Link building will get you penalized. This one still gets people, and I can kind of understand why. Google understands what link building is, and the old style of link building was a terrible thing for the Internet—people spamming links to rank higher meant more easily manipulated search rankings and a web clogged with bad links. So it developed a number of quality criteria, enforced through the Penguin update, to reward sites with good links and “penalize” ones with bad links. I put penalize in quotation marks because unless you’re employing some grade-A spam tactics, you’re not going to be blacklisted; the worst that usually happens is a small, reversible drop in rank (and even then, it’s only for sites that aren’t building links properly).
- You need keywords in your anchor text. Yes, this was a best practice for a long time—the idea was to hyperlink text that included some of your campaign’s target keywords, further increasing the relevance of those keywords to your domain. But these days, if it looks like your keywords are unnatural, or if the anchor text of your link is “off” in any way, it could raise some red flags. You’re also not going to get that much of a boost for those keywords—especially considering Google’s semantic search capabilities these days. Instead, opt for anchor text that fits in naturally with your material, and that describes your chosen linked content accurately and completely.
- Quantity matters. Okay, now this one’s a bit tricky. Yes, quantity does come into play when it comes to ranking sites. Assuming an identical level of authority for all sources, a domain with 10 links from 10 different sources will rank higher than a domain with 5 links from 5 different sources. However, this doesn’t mean that quantity should be one of your main goals. The two priorities you should hold higher than quantity are quality and diversity; first, you’ll want to make sure that every source you utilize has a high authority, as even one high-authority link is more valuable than dozens of low-authority ones. Second, you’ll need to make sure you’re getting links from lots of different sources, not just lots of links.
- You can just attract all the links you need with awesome content. This is the link building equivalent of “you can do anything if you believe in yourself.” Yeah, it’s true, but it skips over a hell of a lot of important things—you can do anything if you believe in yourself, but only if you couple that belief with determination, perseverance, and a hell of a lot of luck. And you can attract links with awesome content, but only if you have a good reputation, a stellar promotional strategy, and just the right timing.
- Link building is all about building. As you might have figured out, one of the best ways to build links is to attract them through content. This isn’t a form of “building,” per se, because you’re not going to be manually placing them in any way, but it still counts as the same process of link building. In fact, you’ll probably want to use both sides of the strategy when promoting your domain.
- Link building will remain the same indefinitely. So many SEO professionals have this mindset, and it drives me nuts. They look back at the last 10 years and say, “yep, that’s a lot of changes we’ve seen,” but when they look toward the future, they tend to underestimate the number of changes that remain. Google’s updates have slowed down significantly both in volume and in intensity, so I can’t say the future will be as volatile as the past has been, but it’s almost certain that link building will be going through another evolution—and probably relatively soon.
- Links are the goal. Finally, there’s the misconception that link building is all about the links. But wait, isn’t it? Why else call it link building? Again, there’s a grain of truth here. Obviously, links are a big part of any link building strategy, but the links shouldn’t be your end goal. Your end goal should be an improvement to your reputation, which is something more qualitative and significant than a simple backlink pointing to your domain. Keeping this in mind will help you adjust and execute your strategy in a way that supports your brand’s reputation, rather than just using a cheap gimmick to rank yourself higher. The cheap gimmick approach doesn’t work.
If you still believed these lies at the beginning of this article, don’t feel bad. SEO is nothing if not a learning process. When you first start out, you’re going to mess up, you’re going to get things wrong, and let’s face it—your campaigns are going to suck. I’ve been doing this for years and I still mess up regularly! Success in SEO, or link building, or any other online marketing strategy isn’t about knowing everything or getting it perfect the first time around. It’s about always striving to learn more, and adapting to your environment based on the new information you gather.
If you’re interested in learning more about your strategy, or if you need some help getting started, be sure to contact us at dopplepop and we’ll schedule you for a free consultation.