3 Times That Link Isn’t Worth It

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3 Times That Link Isn’t Worth It

If you’ve been building links for any amount of time you’ve probably realized that link building is a time-consuming, tedious, and often frustrating. Finding high-quality, relevant links is getting harder. Not only has Google tightened the rules on link building, websites are increasingly aware of who they are linking out to. Oftentimes, when a site owner finds a linking opportunity they are so excited they jump at the chance to take it. But sometimes that link isn’t really worth it, even if it’s the only linking opportunity you’ve found in a while.

Here are three times that link isn’t worth it:

1. When the link is never going to be found by an actual human being.

In my experience, when you look at links solely as entry points into your website (and not as a way to get your website to the top of  the SERPs) you actually end up building/earning better links. Why? Because you are looking for sites that actually get the kind of traffic you would want coming to your own website! While having a nice long list of new links each month might look good to a manager or client, if only a handful of those links are from sites that actually ever see the light of day and have a steady stream of visitors, most of those links are pretty useless. The Internet has billions upon billions of pages, and more are being built every day. Most of them are buried so deep no human visitor will ever actually find them. What good is a link from that page other than to try to boost your SEO? And that is exactly the kind of link that Google is fighting against.

2. When the link is coming from a spam site or blog network.

I can’t believe that these sites still exist and that people still want links from them, but plenty of website owners were smacked hard by Penguin for having too many links that come from spam sites or blog networks. Just the other day I was reading a post by Eric Ward on Search Engine Land where he talked about a site that hired a local SEO firm to do their link building, and then the SEO firm (secretly) outsourced the link building work to a third-party company. That third-party company built all the wrong links and the client website was the one stuck with the penalty. I implore site owners: avoid blog networks and spam websites at all costs! I don’t care if they are willing to give you 1000 links for free, it’s not worth it! Most spam sites and blog networks are fairly identifiable because there is no central focus–they talk about, write about, and link to anything and everything.

And if you call yourself an SEO professional and build links that ultimately penalize your clients’ sites, it’s time you found a new profession. As SEO providers, we have a responsibility to our clients to do everything we can to help them succeed and nothing to hurt them. The rules of the game have changed, whether you think for better or not, and it’s part of your job to stay informed so your clients’ websites don’t suffer.

3 Times That Link Isn't Worth It

3. When the link is from a site that has nothing to do with your website/industry.

Let’s say you sell medical transcription software–chances are you are trying to connect with the IT department in a hospital, medical administrators, larger private practices, and so forth. If that is the audience you are trying to reach what good is a link from a site about puppy training? It might be a popular and trusted website but it’s not exactly hitting the heart of your target audience. Instead, you should be focused on finding sites that deal with medical technology, hospital administration, managing doctor-patient relationships, and so forth because that’s where your potential customers are. Yes, they might also be on that puppy training website but chances are they aren’t thinking about how much they need your software if they are trying to teach their dog how to roll over.

The best links not only send traffic to your website, but they send the right kind traffic to your website. While a link from an unrelated website might not be the worst kind of link you can build (provided it’s a high-quality website), it’s still not the kind of link you should be focused on earning.

A few weeks ago Matt Cutts came out and said that the SERPs would NOT be a better place without backlinks:

“It turns out backlinks, even though there’s some noise and certainly a lot of spam, for the most part are still a really, really big win in terms of quality for search results.”

Obviously the Penguin updates and changes to the Webmaster Guidelines are how Google is attempting to cut back the effect that the noise and spam and junk has on the SERPs. But can you imagine what the Internet would look like if all links were discounted? For the time being links are still very much a part of SEO, but it’s so important that site owners make sure they are only building (or having an SEO firm build) the right kind of links that are worth more than just another line in your link profile.


Image Credits

Featured Image: Thinglass via Shutterstock
Image #1: OtnaYdur via Shutterstock

Nick Stamoulis
Nick Stamoulis is the President of Brick Marketing, a full service Boston SEO firm. With nearly 13 years of experience in the Internet Marketing industry,... Read Full Bio
Nick Stamoulis
Nick Stamoulis
Nick Stamoulis

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  • 4. When that link is on a site that you wouldn’t link to yourself

    I know you said to avoid spam sites in ‘2’ but I don’t think that actually goes far enough, because I think a lot of people still try to get links from sites which look reasonable and are in-fact relevant to their niche, but when you really look at the site it is at least questionable. (most often these are blogs / guest post opportunities)

    Personally, at Think Traffic we have pretty much stopped doing ‘link building’ per se, but if you do continue to do it, I would suggest thoroughly exploring a site before you endeavor to gain a link from it.

    Things to avoid:

    The site’s link policy doesn’t allow links within the post
    The site publishes more guest posts than regular ones*
    Sites that allow links to non-relevant sites in guest posts
    Sites that you don’t think have potential to send you traffic
    Sites that won’t send you relevant traffic

    *there are sites which do this in a good way (moz.com/ugc) but more often this is a red flag

    I would also suggest that any blog you want a link from, you start by commenting on them, this is a good way to get to know the blogger and whether they have a genuine interest in their audience and whether the blog actually has any traffic.

    Check your analytics to see which sites are already sending you traffic – these are the sites which are worth having a link from.

    Anyway, sorry to butt in on your post, I just wanted to add this because I think it is relevant right now.

    • Melissa Averie

      Your comment is more than helpful Mark. I’m new to SEO and as an intern my day practically revolves around backlinking. Would you consider directories to be spam sites or irrelevant?

      • Yes, directories are a waste of time. Unless they have very low amount of submissions, are very targeted and have a high trust score. Even then I wouldn’t be super excited about it. =P

  • Thanks Nick. A nice reminder that sometimes the most natural, and obvious approach is the right one if you want to grow your online business. It’s possible to spend three times longer searching for backlink opportunities than searching out our next prospect or client. How crazy is that?

  • Sanjay Singh

    Got a question for your 3rd point. You say don’t build link with unrelated sites. I have seen here and other popular sites that people do blog commenting for link building. But only a few of them are related. So is it right or wrong? I am leaving the “website: space blank to as my website has nothing to do with SEO.

    • Melissa Averie

      I’m happy someone touched on this point! A few weeks back I commented on another article on this site but didn’t know if I should leave my website for the link. I left it. Silly me, although I am an intern at a marketing firm my blog (still under construction has nothing to do with SEO).

  • Great tips. Good link building is a skill that not many possess. There are a ton of “link builders” out there, but that doesn’t mean that they are all good at what they do.

  • This is really amazing to know about the link building and this is contradicting to the earlier articles that there is no point of making backlinks from the sites where there is no reach of the audience….

    I would like to to know that sir if a site has PR of over 3 and there is not much traffic. Is there any point of getting back link from that site????

  • What do you say to Rand’s recent Whiteboard Friday where he states that their data doesn’t support links from relevant sites counting more than those from irrelevant sites?

    • Hi Fran. My POV is this:

      The fact that there is little correlation is surprising. That said, I wonder whether that’s because a natural link profile is more likely to have a selection of irrelevant links – perhaps too much relevancy could (in general) be a trait of unnatural link profiles.

      For instance:
      You can guarantee SEJ has plenty of links from websites non-related to search engines.

      That said, my honest thought is that it doesn’t matter. I still want relevant links because those ones also drive relevant traffic, which is good – and as a bonus that is more likely to lead to even more links too.

      That’s just speculation of course, but for me the main reason to get links is to drive traffic – so any SEO benefits are just a bonus. If the odd non-relevant link also appears, and benefits my rankings then bonus!

  • Well written article. Those were some points that we should all ponder about. Link building has always been a crucial part for most webmasters. But sometimes, the links are not worth our efforts. Those situations have been well described in the post.

    Point #1 makes sense if one is trying to leave a link with the sole motive being traffic and engagement. In such circumstances, it makes no sense to leave links at a place, where no one will see it! 🙂

    And links from spammy sites, even if they are free, shouldn’t be entertained. Sooner or later, it’ll bring penalization!

    Backlinks from sites that are not relevant will also invite trouble. Each folk, trying to build backlinks, should read this article.

    I found the link to this article on Kingged.


  • What is the consensus on directories? Not all directories are necessarily spammy, and I’ve seen some that deliver significant traffic. Is location a good enough relevance factor (eg. regional directories)? People using those websites are far more likely to be ‘in the market’, actively looking for something, than people cruising blogs and coming across a link in someone’s post. Thoughts? What are the alternatives?