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7 Beginner Link Building Misconceptions

Posted by Jon Ball on Sep 19, 2013 3:36:04 PM

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The SEO world is full of myths and misconceptions. As soon as one myth gets busted, another pops up and replaces it. We’re constantly arguing about best practices, Google penalties and the “right way” to do things. That makes the SEO industry, and particularly the world of link building, daunting for beginners. We sometimes forget that not everyone has been at this for years when we go on our witch-hunts and build haunted houses.

It’s because of those attitudes that I thought I’d take a moment to address some common myths that beginning link builders frequently encounter.

If you‘re new to link building, these 7 myths and misconceptions might be holding you back.

Link Building Misconceptions

1. Link Building will be Penalized

Penguin and Panda Paranoia are pretty common these days. Online publishers are scared and SEOs are pointing fingers. Some even go as far as saying, “If you build links instead of earning them, you will be penalized.”

That’s not true. If you go into your link building campaign with a certain mindset then you’ll be just fine.

You can’t just buy thousands of links on irrelevant websites, you can’t spin articles and you can’t rely on the easy way out—spam.

Instead, you have to think in terms of relevancy. Every site needs to make sense. Would you click that link? Is it relevant to the page’s content? Does it work for the site’s audience? If you said ‘yes,’ then you’re good to go.

Approaching a link building campaign with relevancy in mind and building links on a human scale (because human beings still run websites and click links) is the way to go. Build links for people, not just to trick search engines. It’s not that hard to do and it won’t get you penalized.

2. Page Rank/Domain Authority is the Best Metric

I’ve written about the fallacy of using Page Rank and Domain authority as your dominant metric before, but I’ll summarize it again here because I think it’s very important.

It’s an easy mistake to make—sites with higher PR and DA generally have more viewers. They pass on more link juice. But those things are just small parts of the puzzle.

I’m not saying you should ignore PR and DA. If you can get a link on a relevant, high DA site that’s a huge win. But what about a link on a mostly-irrelevant high-DA site? I’d say that’s worse than getting a relevant link on a low DA site. This goes back to the ‘does the link make sense?’ question I posed earlier.

Low DA/PR sites are often fantastic. Just because a site lacks Page Rank doesn’t mean that it lacks a great community, niche authority and relevancy. Many “smaller” sites are the best possible places to get a link to your site.

What’s more, just because a site isn’t a “big name” today doesn’t mean that it won’t be tomorrow. Keep your eye on DA and PR, but relevancy always comes first.

3. More Links is Always Better

We talk to clients all the team who think they need thousands of links rather than hundreds—or even ten. It’s simply not true.

Building thousands of spammy links is a sure pathway to Google’s penalty box. Even if you manually build thousands of somewhat relevant links in a small amount of time, you’re going to leave a huge, unnatural footprint. Building a thousand links that way also takes an unfathomable amount of time and resources.

Ten links in the span of a few months is totally doable, and that amount of links for a good website can help boost search rankings and traffic. There are other factors involved, of course, but we've seen it happen many times. Thinking in terms of thousands is dangerous, not to mention overwhelming—this is one of the few cases where it’s better to think smaller.

4. Links Always come Naturally to Good Content

“Link earning” is one of the big industry buzzwords right now and there’s some merit to the notion. Good content earns links. Valuable resources earn links. The problem with the term is that it totally stigmatizes building links, asking for links and doing anything but sitting back and watching the links roll in.

Your guest post content should be good enough to earn either an in-content link or an author bio link. Your site should be a good enough resource to earn the link you’re asking for. I would never say otherwise.

The thing is, though, if you’re not connected or “networked” well enough, those links just won’t come in at first. There are a ton of generous, helpful people in the SEO community (and in any online publishing niche) but it many ways, it’s also a popularity contest. Once you build up a certain amount of “authority,” those links might roll in naturally. But until then, your excellent resource or well-researched piece of content will just collect dust if you don’t go out and proactively build something with it.

5. Link Building Requires Some form of Content

Link building doesn’t always require a blog post, an infographic or a video. There are plenty of other ways to build links.

Sure, your website needs to have good content on it. You need your site to be solid, but you don’t always need to produce new content to build a link.

Instead of producing new content, you can:

  • Monitor brand mentions and ask for a link
  • Do 404/broken link building projects
  • Use HARO (help a reporter out) to share your expertise in exchange for a link
  • Start a badging campaign, a contest, etc

IF you already have great content or a useful resource, you can easily send it out to influential sites that haven’t seen it before. You don’t always need to be writing guest posts or churning out infographics.

6. Link Building Requires Expensive Tools and Extensive Knowledge

There are a ton of amazing link building tools out there. If you’re operating on an agency level or if you can just afford them, some of them are more than worth the asking price. If you’re just getting started out, however, I doubt that you have the extra money to spend on expensive tools.

The good news is that you don’t really need them. Your brain is the only link building tool you really need. You’re capable of finding sites, producing content, writing outreach and building links with just your brain, a computer, an internet connection and a couple of spreadsheets to keep track of everything.

Link building also doesn’t require ten years of industry experience. You can learn everything you need to know (for entry-level link building anyway) from industry blogs or just by hanging around on Twitter. Ask questions, people are happy to help you.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t learn as much as you can, because learning is essential. I’m just saying that you don’t need to hang out on the sidelines for two years before you try to build a few links. Use common sense, learn what you can, avoid anything spammy and go for it.

7. Link Building is the Only Online Marketing you Need

Link building is perfect for moving a site to the top of the SERps. That comes with increased traffic and conversions. Link building is not, however, the only marketing strategy you need.

If you’re planning to go anywhere with your website, produce or service, then link building is just one part of an integrated marketing plan.

To put it another way, you can’t just build some good links and ignore everything else. There’s also social media, traditional outbound marketing, PPC, less traditional inbound marketing methods, conferences, banner ads and a multitude of other marketing venues to think about. Link building is super effective at what it aims to do, but it can’t solve everything. Think of it as a piece of the whole.

Starting out as a link builder can be intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. Remember that there are people who are actively trying to scare you away, but also remember that there are plenty of genuine people who want to help you. Always use common sense and build links on a human scale. Consider these myths busted.