How to Undermine Your Link Building

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The road to hell isn’t the only one paved with good intentions. Most of us set out with the best motives, but somewhere along the way things go wrong. Sometimes our mistakes are a result of inexperience, other times it’s just carelessness or short sightedness.

We screw up because we don’t think things through, because we don’t see what’s right in front of us or the damage we are actually doing. In link building we make these mistakes when we’re in a hurry. When we’re more concerned with getting any links than going after the links we should be, and at the right time. It leads us to make errors that seem like a good idea in the moment. There are a lot of ways for a link building campaign to go awry, but here are some of the most common.

Mass Emails and other Jerk Behaviors

In an effort to contact as many people as possible, we often resort to automation and mass emailing. I’ve covered some classic attempts at this approach in the past. The kinds of emails that get made fun of are the ones that lack any finesse in their approach.

When you send mass emails about reciprocal links, or asking for links to pages which aren’t compelling, it it’s more than just a wasted effort. The reality is it just doesn’t paint your site in a positive light.  People have become acclimated to resent any contact which isn’t personalized and custom. We get slapped with so much spam and nonsense very day that these attempts simply get lumped into the category of “a waste of my time” and it discredits your marketing endeavors as a whole.

By approaching people in a generic way, you alienate them. But when you go about building relationships the right way, based on introductions, interaction and offers of real value, even when you don’t get the link immediately, you are an effective ambassador for your site. If we truly respect our sites, we should consider every email a direct reflection on our people and our business. If we conduct ourselves in that way, even though we may not always find instant gratification, we can build strong networks that can pay off in the future.

Target the Wrong Sites

Link builders are trained to appreciate every link, even the ones that are like ugly Christmas gifts from well-meaning relatives.  If someone wants to throw us a link, hey, we’re happy to have it. Even from that guy that scrapes our content and re-publishes it. Yeah it’s kinda sketchy, but if there were internal links built in, now we have some extra back links. And we just have to hope that measures intended to discount “thin content” are actually working. Fingers crossed! But we’d never go out of way to get a link from this guy… or would we?

Unfortunately, we do sometimes make the mistake of doing deals with people we shouldn’t waste our time on. Sometimes money changes hands, sometimes it’s content or other favors. But even if it’s just a well thought out case for a good piece of content, if the message is falling on unworthy ears it’s still a waste of resources. There are plenty of factors that can give even a weak site redeeming value. Perhaps it doesn’t have a lot of back links but it’s in the perfect neighborhood.

Sometimes it’s a really powerful site that’s just slightly outside our usual sphere of relevance. An argument can be made for these kinds of sites. But there’s no defending wasted efforts on sites that don’t really have any merit. Simple number of back links can be misleading. Content may appear plentiful until you start to read it and find out it’s garbage. Of course if you don’t read, if you don’t use some sort of selectivity in who you approach, then you’d never really know what you’re walking into. Expending effort getting links from sites that have no link juice to give is like trying to get blood from a stone. Rather than winding up with a bunch of useless links, it’s much smarter to re-prioritize and get a handful of really decent ones.

Build Links to a Bad site

One of the biggest mistakes any of us can make is premature link promotion. But we do it all the time. Sometimes it’s because we’re too impatient to wait for all of our ducks to get their slow tail-feathers in line. Other times, it’s a result of meeting the demands of clients who, in spite of our sincerest warnings, refuse to do the on-site work to justify the link building. The fact of the matter is that getting rankings for sites that don’t meet quality standards is one of the major reasons many people condemn the entire SEO process altogether.

When you get a site ranked before it’s ready, no matter how good the link builders are or how skilled the SEO team is, the ROI will probably not be there for anyone. If a site fails to meet user intent, or fails to project an image of credibility and competence, then users will not be impressed even if it’s the #1 ranked site. If a site drops the ball on usability, conversion, information, accessibility or professionalism then users are more likely to go backward than plow through a difficult site. And what good is a lot of traffic if the site is simply a thoroughfare?

Preparing a site to receive traffic and engage them properly is a crucial pre-link building step. If we go out of order, we will inevitably find ourselves back tracking later trying to fix what should have been done in the beginning. It saves everyone a lot of time, trouble and wasted opportunities to get it right from the start.

Patience can sometimes be one of the hardest parts of link building. Sometimes our efforts are painstaking and it feels like progress is so marginal that we think “there HAS to be an easier way”. But when we opt for ineffective short cuts, it’s possible that we are actually doing ourselves more harm than good. By not representing a site in the best possible way, wasting time on the wrong kinds of links and getting links to an undeserving site we only end up shooting ourselves in the foot.

They say anything worth having won’t come easily and there’s no where that’s truer than with link building and rankings. But if we are willing to fight for what we want then the hard work will pay off, in either success or the education that comes with fighting the good fight in the right way.

Jennifer Van Iderstyne

Jennifer Van Iderstyne

Jennifer Van Iderstyne is an SEO Specialist at Internet Marketing Ninjas, formerly WeBuildPages. Internet Marketing Ninjas is a full service internet marketing company based out of sunny Clifton Park, NY. You can follow her on Twitter but if you come to the office you won’t be able to find her, because Ninjas are invisible.
Jennifer Van Iderstyne

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  • Unfortunately this things do happen. I think it comes with the territory to sometimes waste energy on areas that just are not beneficial for a business or a website.

    • Jvaniderstyne

      Unfortunately, it does happen. But sometimes if we can try to foresee what could be a waste, we can avoid those pitfalls.

  • Kevinp

    Good post Jennifer. No one ever says wait to build links until your site is ready, but I have found this to be case from trial and error myself.

    As of late, getting a bad site to rank early can hurt the next few month’s of SEO. The bounce rate, time on site, pages/visit & external social cues are going to suck and your going to have to work twice as hard (or wait twice as long) to get these metrics to average out to a respectable level.

    • Jvaniderstyne

      Hi Kevin, you’re spot on. If you build links before the site is ready to receive traffic, it can actually make your work harder in the future.

  • Good points, Jennifer. The fact is that bad links hurt more than good links help. I get over 300 spam or link-baiting comments on my blog every day and I do spend the time to delete them, how many blog owners do this. There are a tremendous number of shady companies, most of whom seem to be in India, that sell link building services and simply spam the site URL’s out there with no rhyme or reason.

    • Jvaniderstyne

      Agreed. Poor link building tactics, not only don’t help a site’s rankings, they can actually hurt the brand name.

      • Perhaps that is why the best and juiciest links mostly come from content-driven methods, given that it has higher value proposition. Attracting links is much better than trying too hard to acquire them.

  • I thought that the point you made about preparing the site for the links you were bringing in was a good one. Usually I think about building links for a site that’s already in good shape, but it’s important for SEO professionals to approach projects with a mindset that encompasses sites that might need some rehabilitation to be worth the links that they are bringing in. Too often SEOs get cowed by their clients and don’t take a stand – if the client wants a good ROI on their SEO campaign, they need to actually listen to their SEOs.

    • Jvaniderstyne

      Great point. Listening is a crucial part of SEO on both sides of the fence. The more collaborative the effort, them ore successful it will be. Thanks for weighing in!

  • Mass emailing is highly impersonal and it’s a sure-fire way of getting prospective consumers dismiss your product as spam.

  • richa

    nice share…. mass mailing is actually impersonal way…

  • This is a great way to undermine our link building.. Thanks for this information sharing with us..

  • Can you SEO people call off site building something else please, I just want to search for off site building – as in building actual buildings off site then constructing them on site. 🙂

    • Jvaniderstyne

      LOL…interesting thought we should put it to a vote

  • I personally think that you have to have a well-optimized and user-friendly site before you begin any link building activities, so thanks for bringing that point up. The juiciest links aren’t going to mean anything if the site doesn’t measure up. Links help get visitors to the site, but the site itself has to give them a reason to stay.

    • Jvaniderstyne

      Nick, totally agreed. Traffic isn’t worth much if it doesn’t stick.

      • Dhiraj Cbm

        i jest read your colam and i am so happy because i help in that so thanks

    • I think Nick should have many more “likes” on this comment than he does. If people are not getting the results they want, they should pay much more attention to Google analytics and how much time people are spending on their site. I personally believe that “time spent on site” WILL become an increasingly more heavily weighted aspect of Google’s algorithm. What more tells them that a site is relavent and that people have found a place to get their answer or information? People need to be spending NUMEROUS minutes on your site, and that means you better have some interesting content, and different reasons for them to want to come back.

  • Sensible post, thanks for the share. I guess traffic itself is not the utlimate entity unless we get some quality visits which trigger conversion. Even I can’t agree on the strategy -mass emailing, sometimes backfire our whole efforts.

  • I agree with Nick, visitor need to stay on your site….that’s why well optimized site and user frendly design are critical.