Link building is the subject of much debate, tons of myths and misconceptions, and an impressive host of marketers (like me) who think that link building is one of the best strategies out there.
Link building has gone through a number of changes over the years, to be sure. It’s almost unrecognizable from the days where spamming links to your domain on any forum you came across could boost your rankings measurably (spoiler: this no longer works).
Modern link building is much different, but I find that marketers and entrepreneurs still only scratch the surface of the strategy—or ignore it altogether. That’s why I’ve come up with this list of link building secrets you probably didn’t know:
- Penalties aren’t that big of a deal. Most people scared or intimidated by link building are so because of the hype and popularity of the now-mythic “Penguin penalty.” These are ranking penalties doled out by Google to webmasters who attempt to manipulate their rankings directly with links, or otherwise build links improperly. Note that these are real, and if you build a bad link, you will see a significant plummet in your rankings. However, these aren’t as big of a deal as they’re made out to be, and for three reasons. First, penalties are usually reserved for truly egregious link offenses. Second, you won’t be totally blacklisted—you’ll just dip a page or two in rankings (which is significant, but not devastating). Third, you can make up for the deficit by removing bad links and building more good links.
- Manual link building still works. There’s a misconception that the only way to build links in the modern era is to attract them naturally. While natural link attraction does work, manual link building is just as significant and rewarding. The difference is that the new world of manual link building relies heavily on offsite content and relationship building, rather than indiscriminately posting links wherever you get the opportunity. It’s more complicated, but also more rewarding. So as long as you follow best practices and avoid any questionable sources, manual link building is perfectly fine.
- Repetition won’t get you very far. Unfortunately, most marketers live according to comfort and familiarity. When they find a source that will accept their links or their guest content (or both), they’ll stick with it indefinitely, spending all their time repeating what they know has worked in the past rather than striving for something bigger or more challenging. This approach will eventually stall out your campaign, stagnating your growth and possibly even compromising your domain authority in the process. If you want to keep growing, you need to invest in new publishers, new strategies, and new tactics.
- Quality matters exponentially more than quantity. You probably already knew that quality is more important than quantity for link building, as it is with most SEO strategies. But you probably didn’t know how much so. The reality is, even a hundred links on decent sources won’t be cumulatively worth what one link on a very high quality source can give you. Domain authority doesn’t scale in importance linearly, nor do links always pass authority linearly proportional to the authority of their sources. Instead, the highest-authority sources on the web pass far more authority than their lower-level counterparts.
- Viral content is a bit of a crapshoot. Yes, producing good content consistently is important for a number of reasons, and generating potentially “viral” content is a good way to try and earn links. But this is far from reliable; even the best piece of content, in theory, can fail to catch on if it isn’t able to generate any initial momentum. No matter what marketers may tell you about their process of content creation, there’s a degree of luck involved with achieving content virality. It’s that simple.
- Link building isn’t just about SEO. Link building is a practically necessary component of SEO, but increasing your search rankings shouldn’t be your only focus with link building. Don’t forget that people will be clicking these links, giving you referral traffic, and the amazing benefits your offsite content will have on your brand’s visibility and reputation. Tangible and intangible, these benefits are real and they shouldn’t be neglected.
- The easiest path to success is relationship building. Real success in link building ultimately comes down to the quality and quantity of relationships you’re able to build. Why? Because relationships are long-term, and they can help you in more than one area. Let me demonstrate.
After working with a potential publisher for a while, you can earn a guest spot, which might earn you a link or two. But the real value is getting to contribute content regularly, with or without links. This will earn you more brand exposure on this particular outlet, but almost more importantly, will boost your reputation, allowing you to work with even more prominent publishers at a later date.
Link building is relatively simple in theory, but the execution is what scares people off. They’re afraid of getting penalized, they have the wrong idea in their head, and they use flawed approaches that suppress their potential results.
It’s a bit of a mess, frankly, but fortunately, there’s always time to relearn what you thought you knew and adjust your strategy to maximize your impact. Use these secrets well in your own link building efforts.