We all make mistakes, what is important is how we react upon learning of those mistakes, do we embrace them, try to correct them and learn from them or keep going at it thinking that we know the best. As SEOs we have to adapt to the changes, and the techniques we used a year ago may no longer work, so we need to adapt and change with the times and avoid mistakes. I have compiled a list of 20 common link building mistakes that are active now, some of them may change over time, but I think the ones mentioned here are pretty much evergreen, and you should avoid them in the future.
1. Link Buying
Link buying, the most common bane of the link building world. Buying links is wrong, if you get caught. I won’t try to talk you into staying away from it, but for your own sake, improve the level of the links you buy and the way you analyze the safety of those links. Look for obvious link selling giveaways (common anchors like “buy Viagra”, “loans”, “casinos” and even “seo company” in some cases), look for quality of the page, link proximity, number of outbound links and everything you can use to determine the quality of the website.
2. Mass Link Exchange
Link exchange is so 2005, but people still use it, they use it to the extreme. Why would you link to hundreds of websites that give you a link back? You will create a page with a grand number of outbound links, which is bad unless it’s a useful resource and even than it could be scaled by categories, oh yeah, that’s called a directory! What will you get in return, links of the same quality, relevance, referrers? I don’t think so, you will negate one another at best…
3. Avoiding Link Exchange
On the other hand we have people that took the above mentioned to seriously and avoid link exchanges at all costs, wrong! Look at our footer, we exchanged links with Jason’s SEO Strategies blog as we feel he is a great SEO mind and our blogs complement each other, the same goes for other links. A few highly relevant link exchanges can help you, those people can refer you as your topics are the same and can get you some direct traffic and not just link juice.
4. Mass Linking and Unstable Link Velocity
Controlling link velocity is hard; you are not the only one that is building links, if you have quality people will link to you on their own. Even so, you should avoid building a mass number of links at any time, doing it steady will keep you under radar and will get results. Steady also means going at it at all times, I have seen too many websites hiring a company to do mass link building for 3 months and then stop, and once they do stop their rankings and traffic start falling back.
5. Too Many Exact Anchors
While doing some research for this article I was amazed to see how many outdated articles rank in top 30, top 10 even, urging you to go for exact anchors to get those ranks. Yes, you should use your keywords in your links, but without focusing on a single anchor, you can vary the anchor in hundreds of ways and keep the main phrase in it. You can also use plain URls to link, nothing wrong with that, it ads link diversity, don’t forget brand terms as well.
6. Ignoring Social Media
Social media have mostly nofollow links, so we shouldn’t use them for link building….Wrong again! Social media are the greatest platform for link building, not just for direct links, which are counted for certain aspects, but they are a jump board for link building with connections and engagement, check out Rand’s post to get a better feel how to use Twitter for link building.
7. Not checking up on a website you get a link from
Building links blindly without checking up on the website or simply looking at the page rank is wrong. The website can seem fine at first sight, but it doesn’t mean it is. I have personally made this mistake several times, so before you build a link check if the site has some authority, social presence, is it indexed, are the deeper pages indexed and how often, are there paid links, maybe it is a known link seller, and always look for the number of outgoing links on the page you will get a link from.
8. Going Only for Dofollow Links
Nofollow links are useless and all that noise doesn’t fly anymore. Link diversity people, link diversity. Not just that, Google has admitted to use Twitter links and I have seen my share of news nofollow links that can pack a punch for our campaigns. The mistake is that most link builders and bloggers look at a link only from the search engine perspective and will it pass link juice and how much. Try looking at the importance of that link, will it pass direct traffic, will it help your brand and presence, pass the word around, don’t get stuck up on page rank.
9. Using link buying and link exchange platforms
Buying and exchange platforms are not safe at all, yes most of the websites that advertise they sell link are hidden behind a login, but is that really safe? Google has a spam team you know, they do check manually the sites there, and not to mention a useful search query most people forget, “filetype:”. Example that some link sellers have no clue how open they are, just run “filetype:csv” or “filetype:pdf” with their domain and you will see a whole list of sites that sell links, in other words, busted!
10. Avoiding linking with images
Most people argue that image links are useless or less worthy than an anchor text link, well, it just depends on how you look at it, again, if you are only looking for link juice then you will see it that way as well. I say go for it, using alt tags pass some relevance and helps with rankings, but the best part I love about image linking is that it does wonders for branding and improving brand presence and reputation.
11. Homepage links only
Homepage link story is as old as SEO and link building, yes your homepage as the portal to the rest of the website needs to have good authority and be able to pass some link juice internally, but it shouldn’t be a black hole for all links. Deep linking is very important, and your global site authority will improve significantly if you have some external link backing up your inner pages.
12. Not linking internally
Linking internally is great for improving some pages rankings, we already know that, but if you have a blog, you probably talked about some topics that you mention in your new posts, so why not link to them? Get people to read more and stay more on your site, not everything is about rankings and page rank, in my book everything is about traffic and conversions, which should be our ultimate goals.
13. Going only for one type of links
We mentioned link diversity for anchor texts, well it’s the same for the type of links. Is it so hard to build 3 link via comments, 5 links on forums posts, 3 guest posts and 2 directories a month? Why do people get stuck on one type of link building, because they find it easy? You need a natural link profile, simple as that, and the only way to do that is to vary your links in very way you can.
14. Thinking that link is a link, especially if you look at the page rank
Relevance and topic are the most important things you should look for, then traffic and value of the link regardless of page rank. Page rank doesn’t tell you how popular the site is, how visited it is and what are its rankings or standings in social media. Think outside the box, not all links are created equal, some have more value than others, some have more value than thousands of others, so be careful where you place your link, look at number 7 to get a clue.
15. Turning down PR0 links, or judging a website by homepage PR
Homepage page rank is often talked about as domain page rank, well, there is nothing like a domain page rank. I’m sure that Google has a metric for the domain authority but they are not telling us, so it’s not PR. Just because a homepage has a solid PR it doesn’t mean that the site is good, check the inner pages, check their PR and indexation, you will be surprised most times to see how many of those websites are shallow. Also, don’t turn down PR0 links, maybe it’s a new website, a new page that hasn’t been given PR yet, check other metrics that will tell you of the quality before you blindly turn it down.
16. Thinking that linking from a non-crawlable page is a bad thing?
Again, people think of links only as a means for rankings and influencing serps, which is why most people will tell you not to build links that are not crawlable, like a page that can only be accessed by a logged in user (from pure link power side, this is bad, but from the SEO side, you have a link to your website that users can follow, which is a good thing, it helps you to connect and can get some direct traffic).
17. Failing to do proper competitor research
What I mean by “failing to do proper research” is giving up on “hard” links, when you should be going for those and not the 5 minute ones. Some people do proper research, but don’t act on it because they think some links are too hard to get and focus on comments and profiles which are easy. Well the hard ones are the ones you need to pursue if you want to beat the competition.
18. Not promoting yourself enough
Yes your name is a brand and can be used for link building (check number 6). By connecting yourself with other experts and real audience you can scale a great number of links to your advantage. Simply by becoming a known online persona every effort you make will be more fruitful, so don’t ignore brand and name promotion on the web.
19. Not doing link consolidation
Link consolidation can improve your ranks greatly, unfortunately it is often neglected. The idea is simple, you already have a number of backlinks, are those backlinks used to their full extent? If not, why aren’t you doing anything to use them?
20. Failing to understand your market
This is the most painful mistake of all, in which case you go after wrong type of websites, and create content for the wrong audience, build links with wrong anchors, market defining keywords and spin around in circles going nowhere while putting in genuine effort.
People tend to get obsessed with rankings that they forget about the really important stuff, like quality and conversions brought by that quality. And I am talking about quality of everything, starting from your design to your content and links, everything counts, don’t of a half-assed job, you are the only one that will suffer from it. Doing link building only to game the serps will lead you to miss the big picture and achieve the wanted results.