13 Link Building Myths that Hinder Your Rankings

13 Link Building Myths that Hinder Your rankings

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The SEO industry is filled with differing opinions and conflicting ideas. For every SEO that thinks you need a hefty backlink profile to rank, there’s another highlighting content that ranks with few links. These competing ideas lead to many misconceptions and myths of link building.  

Another reason these myths perpetuate is the quickly evolving nature of the SEO industry. As algorithms learn, strategies change. It’s hard to keep up with. Ideas that were best practices five years ago have now become obsolete, but oftentimes the resources aren’t updated.

Not to mention the secrecy of algorithms. No one really knows how Google values links or ranks sites. This unknown leads to misinformation spreading like wildfire. Misinformation breeds confusion and frustration, which doesn’t benefit anyone. That’s why we’re here to clear up the link myths. 

A well-strategized link building campaign can truly make the difference. But you need to know what strategies are actually beneficial and which are complete BS…

All Links are Equal

All links are not equal. First and foremost, every page has an authority assigned to it with different third-party metrics. While these metrics are NOT used by search engines, they do provide a good idea into a site’s quality and trust. 

In addition to a link’s authority, quality and relevance must be considered. Some sites publish high-quality long form content that’s extremely valuable to searchers. Others are half low content pages and barely publish new content. Which do you think search engines would favor? Links from an authoritative, high quality site have higher trust factors with Google, therefore impacting your rankings more. 

Link values also vary greatly depending on the site relates to yours – this is where relevance comes in. A plastic surgeon may not see ranking increases from a mortgage link, but a financial planning site could benefit greatly. It all depends on the niche, area, brand positioning, and current link profile. 

High Authority Links are the Best Links

This is one of the biggest link building myths. Yes, authority plays a part in how valuable a link is, but a high authority link isn’t always the best link. They aren’t guaranteed to boost rankings like many believe. That’s because search engines use complex algorithms that now understand much more than authority. 

Google’s algorithm can identify irrelevant, high authority backlinks being built to strengthen your backlink profile for rankings sake. And their understanding is only getting better. 

Relevant links can be more powerful than those scoring high authority, so don’t write off lower authority links that are relevant to your brand, industry, or area. This is especially true if the site provides helpful, quality content. Plus, lower authority links are often easier to win as they aren’t as competitive.

Links Must Be Relevant to Matter

On the opposite end of the spectrum, others hold the misconception that links must be directly related to your industry. For example, HVAC websites should only get links from other sites in the HVAC industry. However, this would be quite hard to do considering many are your competitors. 

Just as authority isn’t everything, neither is relevance. Backlinks from quality sites are still valuable and play a part in a healthy, natural link profile. 

Relevance can also extend beyond your immediate niche. Consider the HVAC example, there are quality link opportunities not in the HVAC niche, including realtors, insurance companies, hardware stores, and city/county websites. These all have audiences that could benefit from HVAC information and resources. 

3rd Party Metrics like Spam Score, Domain Authority, & Page Authority Determine Link Quality

It’s true that authority metrics can correlate to higher quality sites. However, that’s not always the case. Low quality domains with high authority metrics exist. You can’t rely on these metrics to give you an accurate assessment. 

Search engines don’t share how they calculate authority or quality, so third party domain metrics are more of a guesstimation than hard numbers. Each SEO tool uses its own proprietary algorithm to determine authority metrics, but none are even close to Google’s complexity. Without understanding exactly how Google determines quality, their ratings won’t be accurate.

Avoid solely relying on authority metrics to guide your linking strategy. Authority metrics don’t equal quality. While they can give some insight, they aren’t used in determining rankings, so take it with a grain of salt. 

Paying for Backlinks is Bad SEO

Many believe that paying for backlinks is unnatural and therefore bad for SEO. It is true that paying for backlinks can be bad for SEO, but it all depends on what links you’re purchasing. The problems come when you buy low quality links.

Oftentimes the links for sale are link farms that sell links to hundreds of domains or other low quality sites. These can be harmful to SEO. However, there are diamonds in the rough. You just need a trustworthy link partner that’s reviewing for quality.

We recommend finding a trusted source to purchase niche relevant or locally relevant links as these will be more closely related to your brand. One example is Web 2.0 Ranker’s link building packages. They offer white label links with DA over 50 and consistently monitor link partners for low quality content and spammy practices. 

The Best Anchors are Exact Match to Keywords

Quite the opposite. If your anchor text profile has too many exact match anchors, this signals unnatural link building. When Google released the Penguin update, many sites overusing exact match anchors got hit. To this day, it’s something Google is working to identify and penalize accordingly. 

Anchor text is the clickable copy used to link. For example, Local Client Takeover would be the anchor text. There are a variety of anchor text types, including branded, naked, exact match, partial match, generic, and images. Your anchor text ratio consists of these different types of anchor text. 

You need a diverse set of anchor text in order for your link building to be considered “natural” in Google’s eyes. But diversity is subjective and varies drastically between industries and areas. Evaluate the anchor text ratios of the top-ranking sites in your niche. Then, mirror their ratios. 

In general, your most-used anchors should be branded anchors & naked URL anchors. Think about it, if external sites are linking to your content, chances are they don’t use your exact target keywords as anchors. They will generally use your brand name, some variation, or just the URL when referencing another brand or topic. We also recommend using generic anchors, but the optimal anchors will depend on what your current anchor text profile is. 

Aim for competitor parity – if they’re ranking at the top of the SERPs, Google likes what they’re doing. Staying in-step with top-rankers allows you to build backlinks more quickly without risking unnatural linking. 

You Need a Specific Number of Links to Get on Page 1

There isn’t a magic number of links that automatically gets you to the top of the SERPS. 

Like many other SEO questions, the answer is, “it depends.”  What will rank you at the top depends on industry, area, search query, and what’s ranking in your SERPs.

Let’s say you want to rank for “plastic surgeon Los Angeles”. When we evaluate the SERPs for this keyword, the top ranking page has over 4,000 backlinks. That’s not surprising considering the competitiveness of the keyword and population of LA. 

Now, what if you wanted to rank for “plastic surgeon Tampa”. None of the top 10 sites are even close to the number of backlinks. The number of backlinks varies greatly depending on the population and how saturated the industry is, among other things. 

As you can see, there is no specific number as it varies so widely. The same is true based on industry. A plastic surgeon and a plumber won’t need the same number of backlinks to rank as the customer value and competitiveness are vastly different.

Our best advice is to evaluate the SERPs for your target term and see what’s currently ranking. How many backlinks do the top 10 pages have? Use these numbers to create a range, then start building backlinks until you’ve hit that range. 

You Can’t Build Too Many Links

There is such a thing as too much of a good thing – including backlinks. If you have significantly more links than any other site in your niche, this can be seen as spammy link building by search engines. If you’re building many links in a short amount of time, this can also signal you’re manually building links to rank higher, something Google doesn’t necessarily like. 

We recommend finding an industry average. Of course there will always be outliers and those who have more, but get a general idea as to the backlink profiles in your industry. If there’s an average of 2,000 backlinks, don’t build 15,000. But if you have 3,000, that’s not something to worry about. 

You can use Ahrefs dashboard to see your link graph for both referring domains and backlinks. This tool is a great way to visualize your link velocity and compare against your competitors.

You Need a Lot of Backlinks to Rank High

If you’ve heard you need a lot of backlinks to rank high, you’re not the only one, but that statement is only partially true. Yes, having more QUALITY backlinks will give you a ranking advantage, but building a bunch of links that are low-quality can do more harm than good. 

Focus on building relevant, quality backlinks instead of acquiring a lot. Quality backlinks carry much more weight and benefit you longer. There are many sites that rank without thousands of links. You can too, depending on your industry.

If you need link ideas, research your competitors. Find common links your competitors have that your site is missing. Then, go out and get those links. Competitor parity affects rankings more than the actual number of links you have.

Guest Posts Aren’t a Valuable Linking Strategy

Many SEOs will tell you guest posting is a thing of the past. Chances are these people are simply reading headlines and advice from others instead of actually testing the efficiency of these links. It’s a total myth that guest post links no longer work – you just have to understand how to use them effectively. 

Look for guest posts on locally relevant or industry relevant sites. These are a natural fit so they’ll have the biggest potential impact. If there aren’t options for your niche or area, focus on finding high quality sites for guest posting. Also ensure you’re using safe anchors, like brand name, so you’re not over optimizing content. 

You must also use a healthy mix of link types. You cannot only build links through guest posts and expect to climb the rankings. In the early days of SEO, you could build pretty much any link and you would see a positive impact. This is often what people are referring to when they say, “guest posting is dead.” Just look for highly relevant and/or quality opportunities – not just any site selling guest posts. 

Guest posts are especially beneficial for local SEO, so if you’re working with a local business, be sure to add this as part of your strategy!

Building Links too Fast is Bad

This is one of those “it depends” situations. Building links quickly in and of itself isn’t necessarily a negative thing. There are many instances where earning a high number of links in a short amount of time is normal… 

Consider if your brand got a lot of publicity or a piece of your content went viral. Chances are this would attract significantly more links in a short timeframe. Other instances of sped up link earning include news sites, research, and polling data.

Keep in mind though, if your industry doesn’t build many links and you’re aggressively building, this can be a sign to search engines of manipulation. That’s why we always recommend doing competitor research before any SEO campaign. 

Evaluate what the top ranking competitors are doing. See how quickly they’re building links and how many they have. While you don’t need to match their numbers specifically, you don’t want to be too far off from the range of your competitors.

The Only Value from a Link is Ranking Power

Building links is not just about acquiring a link for authority. There are many other benefits. You can build your brand, increase awareness, broaden your audience, and create trust with searchers and search engines. So don’t only think about links only in terms of SEO. There is enormous value to getting your site in front of new people. Not to mention building relationships with other sites in your industry. 

I Don’t Need a Backlink Strategy

This misconception may be the most important as it combines all the ideas we’ve talked about above. Without a backlink strategy, you’re building blind. You could be using the wrong anchor text type that leads to lower rankings. Or building too much of one type of backlink, diminishing the value. Or building links too quickly so your link velocity is thrown off. You could also be misaligned with competitors – either too many or not enough links. 

A plan must be in place to ensure you’re maximizing each and every move you make. Otherwise, you could be wasting your budget without even knowing. Or worse, tanking your rankings.

Just remember, proper planning prevents poor performance. Always research competitors and think through your backlink strategy before building. If you do these things, you insulate yourself from easily avoidable issues like over optimization.

Considering how time consuming link building can be, it’s important you understand  the most common link building myths, so you have a practical plan of attack. But there’s a lot of conflicting SEO advice that can muddy the waters…

Don’t base your link building off what you heard or over-generalized strategies. The truth is, the best link strategy depends on a variety of factors. There is no hard rule or standard guidance, so do your competitive research, evaluate what top-ranking sites are doing, and compare against your strategy.

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