Common Link Building Mistakes to Avoid
When it comes to marketing for small businesses, most people agree that recommendations and word of mouth are still the best and most effective ways to acquire customers and grow your reputation. And in the realm of SEO, link building performs a similar function. Trusted websites linking back to yours are one of the best ways to not only direct people to your site, but also to improve SEO ranking and results organically.
Just like a recommendation from a friend or colleague that you trust, a link from a trusted site or source is inherently more valuable than random recommendations or search results. And to help you strengthen your link-building campaign, we gathered several UpCity contributors and experts in marketing, SEO, backlinks, outreach, and more. They offered up their advice on some of the more common link-building mistakes that you want to avoid, as well as their tips for SEO strategy, quality backlinks, and content marketing too.
Link Building Mistakes According to Experts
Our panelists and UpCity experts offered a wide range of feedback and common mistakes that you should avoid. Everything from backlinks and quality content was covered, and so was casting too broad a net and not being selective.
“There are two main mistakes I see over and over. The first is wasting time getting a link from a site that covers topics from gardening to business to fashion; Google rewards sites that focus on a niche, not sites that cover everything under the sun. And second, make sure the website you are getting a backlink from is ranking for keywords and receiving organic search traffic. Google rewards quality sites with rankings and traffic. If a site doesn’t have either, then in most cases it’s not worth getting a link from.” – Andrew Peluso, Founder and CEO at Pesty Marketing
Missed opportunities for developing and fostering organic traffic were one of the key concerns among our panelists.
“If you do not reach out to the sources and brands/influencers mentioned in your blog, then you’ve missed an opportunity to generate backlinks that will benefit SEO. One-way links are much more valuable than two-way links, and outreach gives you a chance to generate both as your article receives increased exposure.” – Michael Bernieri, Application Manager at Mystic Media
Broken links on your site and in your content, whether internal links or quality links to relevant sites, are a big source of trouble as well, and can have a negative impact on search engine results, your Google ranking, and of course the user experience.
“Broken links will negatively affect your SEO and are generally bad practice in web design. You’ll see decreased traffic as a result. Users can also get frustrated when they encounter them. It looks sloppy and can turn potential customers off—especially for tech and digital marketing companies. We run a broken link check on our site every three weeks and promptly make any fixes to ensure our site is always running smoothly with active links that are up to date.” – Michael Bernieri, Application Manager at Mystic Media
Unreliable and untrustworthy sources were a key concern among all of our link-building experts. They pointed to any number of potential pitfalls when utilizing these kinds of links, including the negative impacts on your search engine rankings, metrics, and organic traffic.
“Number one mistake–purchasing links from SEO companies. These are usually low-quality links that will actually harm your SEO instead of improving it. The risk to low-quality links is that your website can get devalued in the eyes of a search engine when unrelated or low-quality websites link to your website.” – Dotty Scott, Owner and Web Designer at Premium Websites, LLC
Google algorithms, and of course all other search engines and their various ranking factors, have gotten wise to the old “black hat SEO” tricks that some companies and organizations used to use. And what that means for small businesses these days is that gaming your link profile, backlink profile, and types of links are going to have the opposite effect on your optimization efforts.
“While sponsored links that are appropriately marked as nofollow links or with sponsored attributes are acceptable, blatantly buying links for SEO benefits should not be part of your link-building strategy. Whether you are a business owner, marketing department head, or an agency, you will no doubt receive several emails asking you if you are interested in ‘guest blogging.’ You should just hit the big old ‘delete’ button when you get these.” – Daniel Sarao, Owner/Lead Consultant at Macaw Digital Marketing
“The most common link-building mistake in 2022 is being ‘honey potted’ by the hundreds of people ‘selling’ guest-post lists. Most guest posters that reach out via email will either try to scam you with UTM embedded links or will swap your links after you pay the money. A backlink is extremely important to ranking for SEO, and fabricating links via guest post buying is against Google’s content guidelines.” – William Chin, Digital Consultant at YourDigitalaid.com
Being careful with your outreach to website owners, and looking specifically for High-DA (high domain authority) sites was a key piece of advice to help you avoid losing search-engine ranking and credibility.
“One of the top mistakes is contacting companies that do not have high domain authority or which are considered ‘toxic links,’ (meaning the website is involved in spam or other activities that act negatively against your rankings). These are typically websites that have a relatively new domain name, are hosted outside of the USA, and typically are coupon or deal websites and considered ‘link farms.’” – James Byrne, Owner and Information Architect at After Dark Grafx
“If the website you are posting a backlink to is low quality and has little or no authority, the link will not have a meaningful impact on your SEO. And if that site has a high spam score, it may hurt your online reputation. Carefully consider every link exchange and guest post invitation you receive.” – Jacqueline Sinex, Managing Director at WEBii
It may be tempting to jump at opportunities that come your way from guest bloggers and content farms who promise results, but our panelists were quick to warn against those “too-good-to-be-true” offers and guarantees.
“Avoid at all costs those websites and webpages that have a ‘Write for us’ option. Those sites tend to have a lot of irrelevant content and are heavily used by other link-building services. Because their purpose is to sell links, you’ll often find that their domain authority is lacking and their page is devalued by Google.” – Kevin Heimlich, CEO at The Ad Firm
Other attempts at “gaming” the search engines and the ranking process can also backfire, and will definitely cost your business any kind of pagerank that you have built up.
“Trying to game the search engine by including your local city or town name is a bad idea. First, nobody talks like that—it makes for awkward reading in your content and makes it look obvious that you care more about rank than quality content. Second, Google already knows your location. Adding it to your anchor text signals to the search engine’s algorithm that you are actively trying to work the system, instead of focusing your site on your services.” – Travis Souders, Communications Director at Method Marketing
Is your link building a part of your overall marketing strategy? And, just as important, do you have a strategy specifically for your link-building efforts? Several contributors and partners pointed to examples of businesses that leaped into link building without a strategy, and the results you can miss out on without one.
“The biggest link-building mistake that small businesses can make is not having a strategy. Without a plan, your link-building efforts will be haphazard and ineffective. You need to know what kinds of links you want to build, where to find opportunities, and how to approach potential link partners.” – Clint L. Sanchez, Partner at BlakSheep Creative
In addition, all good things take time–including link building. You don’t want to leave things to chance, and you certainly don’t want to rush any of your marketing efforts. Otherwise, you are likely to miss your target audience completely, and the metrics will indicate it.
“Building links takes a ton of time and effort. It is best to build links through organic channels meaning guest blogging, broken link rebuilds, and providing relevant and linkable site content. Links are an extremely important part of an SEO strategy, so ensuring that you are building the right links in the right places is crucial.” – Robb Fahrion, Partner and Co-Founder at Flying V Group
And link building is an ongoing effort, too, as any part of your SEO success will be.
“Unfortunately, quality link building is not an activity you can set and forget. Set time aside each month for finding organic link-building opportunities. Then set aside another block of time to reach out to those opportunities. And be disciplined about following up.” – Brandon N. Towl, CEO and Head Writer at Words Have Impact
Consulting with professionals and companies who handle link building is not completely out of the question, especially for businesses with limited time, resources, and staff. But you want to be cautious and do your homework before you sign on.
“If you’re enlisting a company or professional for your link building, ask them about their process. Find out how they establish relationships with the websites that they get links from. You can ask to see a sampling of link insertions and results for past clients. Run the backlink URLs through a tool like MOZ Link Explorer, SEMrush, or Ahrefs to get a sense of the quality of backlinks they can deliver.” – Colton De Vos, Marketing Specialist at Resolute Technology Solutions
Whichever method you choose, make sure that you keep a list handy of these mistakes and others that you want to avoid.
“The most common link-building mistakes include but are not limited to: ignoring user intent, disregarding on-page SEO, overusing exact anchor text, creating low-quality content, prioritizing quantity over quality, and purchasing links from low-quality sites. These mistakes cost businesses valuable resources and do not efficiently target clients.” – Christopher York, President of C. York, CPA
Stay Connected to UpCity
Subscribe to our blog for monthly updates on best-practices, guides, and more for B2B service providers.
Great Examples of Quality Content and Link Building
Beyond the common mistakes that our partners wanted to help you avoid, they also had a great deal of guidance about your overall approach to link building and content development. As with all of your other marketing efforts, it turns out that in link building, content is king.
“The biggest link-building mistake any small business can make is to disregard quality – both the quality of the content on your website (to generate links) and the quality of the websites you link to (external links). If you want effective link building, it’s crucial to only link to high-quality websites with high domain authority. And if you want other websites to link to your content, it needs to be well-written and informative.” – Asad Kausar, CEO at Dabaran Inc.
The advice about content ranged from making sure your content was valuable, all the way down to making sure you pay attention to the importance of where your links live within that content.
“Always provide high-quality content and link to highly qualified sites in order to help improve your rankings and accreditation. When you are creating link opportunities for your site and another, you always want to make sure that you are linking to a page that will help provide more insight and will also help keep the visitor on your site. And it’s vital to choose the right anchor text to also encourage the visitor to click and visit the link.” – Mark, SEO Manager at Big Leap
Informative, valuable, and targeted content does just as much for your link-building strategy as it does for your overall marketing performance. There’s nothing better overall for your business than knowing your audience, speaking directly to them, and giving them useful information.
“Make sure your website is high-quality and informative. This will give people a reason to link to your site. Then, share your content and interact with others in your industry. This will help you get more exposure and build links organically.” – Juan Pineda, Managing Partner at Agile Digital Agency
“My best advice is to avoid focusing on building links, and instead focus more on creating high-quality content that authoritative sites will want to share with the world. You may have to put in more work upfront, but the results are worth the effort.” – Robert Rand, Director of Partnerships and Alliances at JetRails
The relevance of your content to your audience is an important part that can’t be overemphasized. It’s true not only for bringing in organic traffic and interested clients, but also true for search engine rankings and other site performance metrics.
“Even if you think your website is fantastic, if your viewer doesn’t care or doesn’t need your service, all the links to your website on the web won’t help. After all, hit counts do not always equal revenue or sales.” – Robert Williams, Owner of Williams Web Solutions
“The more relevant your page is to their audience, the more likely they are to connect to it. SEO experts create link-worthy content by answering questions and offering solutions to problems. Linkable content examples include everything from guides and industry-relevant research to learning-related articles, entertainment, content inspiration, and more. Your content must answer queries and solve issues in a unique manner to acquire backlinks.” – Joshua Allen, Founder of Smartlinks SEO Company
All of this advice is rooted in the same important factor–quality. You can create a mountain of content, but if it’s not interesting, relevant, and well-made, it is not going to get people to view it or link to it. And the concern for quality also matters in terms of what sites are linking back to yours.
“Many companies are focused on quantity while ignoring the heavy importance that should be placed on the authority and power of the domain of the backlink. A high-domain-authority website pointing back to your site is worth its weight in gold.” – Blake Nolan, Founder and Chief Operating Officer at Storm Brain
“Choose your sites for backlinks carefully and strategically. Make sure your prospects are spending a significant amount of time on these sites, and track the performance of your links to make sure they are producing results.” – Mike Lieberman, CEO and Chief Revenue Scientist at Square 2
Domain authority is an important factor to have in mind as you evaluate possible partner sites and backlinks. After all, if your site is getting a lot of traffic coming from less-than-reputable sources, your ranking is going to suffer.
“Avoid getting links from websites with low domain authority. Also, make sure you’re not getting backlinks from a website that is not relevant to your brand and what your company offers. Having links from pages that have low domain authority and are not relevant will lower your ranking on the search engines. This leaves you behind in the search results you want to be visible for.” – Jeffrey Miles, Owner of Jeff Social Marketing
Another piece of advice–leave no stone unturned. There are some terrific and valuable opportunities out there when it comes to credible link building, including local news sites.
“For local businesses or even national businesses with a local presence, don’t forget the power of local news! Local news outlets often have DA scores that are on par with the big news outlets. That means getting featured in your local paper’s news website can seriously boost your business.” – Jade Pruett, SEO Specialist/Owner at HelloSEO
And keep in mind that the whole point of your marketing efforts is to get people to your site. So be careful when you are linking out and sending potential clients and customers away from your site. After all, you’re hoping that they’ll choose to do business with you, and you want to make that as easy and direct as possible.
“When thinking about sending people off your site with links to other high-quality content websites, it is a good idea to limit how often you do that. It is much better to build amazing content on your website where you can link back and forth on various pages. The idea is to keep people on your website; the longer they stay and the more they engage, the better you rank.” – Aunia Kahn, Founder of Rise Visible
Your Link to Search Engine Success
The advice above is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to putting together a powerful and successful link-building strategy for your business. There’s much more information to share, plenty of additional tips to learn, and decades worth of advice available from these and many more UpCity SEO partners. Contact any one of them to help you make your link-building projects a winning success.
About the author
Rebecca helps keep all things content running at UpCity. Prior to joining, she was a magazine editor at an agency for several award-winning publications based in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, and a content specialist for several brands within the SMB/B2B landscape. She also has significant experience in digital content creation, most notably targeting hunters and anglers (despite being a vegetarian) during her time at Gander Outdoors. Rebecca has also worked in PR, covering a diverse terrain of products and events, including the promotion of local musicians and music festivals and the latest craft beer offerings from local breweries.