SEO 101: Link Building: What Not to Do

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Marieke van de Rakt
Marieke van de Rakt
SEO 101: Link Building: What Not to Do

A lot of link building strategies can backfire, causing more damage than doing good. If you want to improve your ranking in the long term, using what we call a holistic SEO strategy, you should definitely avoid certain link building tactics. In this post, I’ll describe link building DON’TS: tactics you most definitely should NOT use.

Risky Link Building Tactics

In the old days, link building meant putting links on as many external pages as possible, often by buying or trading links. Since Google Penguin these tactics have become a risky SEO strategy. If your link building tactics include spamming, your site risks a Google Penalty and could be banned from Google’s results completely. Placing a lot of links may help the ranking of your site for a short while, but probably won’t in the long run. I’ll sum up the most obvious link building DON’TS and will then discuss some less well known (but equally important) things you should not do.

Obvious Link Building DON’TS

  • Buying large amounts of links
  • Exchanging links
  • Using automated programs to get links
  • Guest blogging with very thin and off-topic content
  • Commenting on blogs or forums when your only purpose is to leave a link in the comment
  • Over-optimizing anchor text
  • Including links that are unrelated to the topic of the website
  • Having links from sites that have no real content or are spammy

Don’t Link Just to the Homepage

You should make sure to get links to different pages on your website and not solely to your homepage. If you only – or mainly – receive links to your homepage, your link building will look spammy. Of course, if someone is writing about your brand, a link to your homepage is appropriate. But if a website writes about products or about news of your company, they usually link to your product, news, or blog pages. Make sure your link building strategy resembles the natural way people link to websites. Extra benefit: linking to a more specific page will probably lead to a better conversion on your website! Work on getting links for important product pages and for your cornerstone content pages. Get links to the pages where the deal is closed. It will get your website a trustworthy link profile and will increase the conversion at the same time.

Pay for Specific Links? We Say, Don’t!

Another link building DON’T is buying links. You probably all know that buying links in large bulks from companies claiming to get you ranked fast is not something we would promote at Yoast. But what about a link from an individual company? From a high quality website right in your niche? Is it wrong to buy one link from such a company? How will Google ever find out about that?

Google won’t know about one link you buy from one company. Still, we would recommend against it. If this company has sold one link to you,  they could be selling more links to other people. And although one link will not alarm Google, as the amount of questionable links on a website rises, the risk of getting hit by Penguin or a manual penalty rises as well.

Don’t Recycle Your Content on Different Sites

One way to get links is to write articles about your company or about your products and try to get these articles published on other sites. Beware to not publish the same content on different sites though! An article in which sentences and paragraphs are switched and only a few words are altered is still considered duplicate content to the original article. Especially if you repeat this trick several times. Spinning content is not creating new content. It is a link building trick and it could backfire. Write the articles for the audience of the website you’re sending your piece to. Yes, it is a lot of work. No one said link building is easy.

Don’t Forget Social Media

If you’re building links, do not leave out social media! Social media should definitely be included in your link building strategy, although it is not totally clear to what extent links from social media actually help in your ranking. If you’re receiving links from websites, it would be extremely weird if you weren’t receiving some from social media sites as well—and could make you look spammy in Google’s eyes. So alongside your attempts to receive links from appropriate websites, invest in getting shares, tweets, and likes on social media platforms as well.

Don’t Fake!

Your link building strategy shouldn’t look natural, it should be natural! Make sure your link building isn’t fake. Links should be placed because the link could be beneficial to the user of a website. Links should fit the content of the page they’re placed on. Your link building strategy should be part of a marketing strategy aimed at telling people about your company, your website, or your products. It should never be aimed at just getting as many links as possible.

Conclusion: Links Should Always be Useful

From a holistic SEO perspective, links should be useful for the user of a website. A link should be there because it means something, because the text in which the link is embedded refers to that specific page. If a link is merely there for Google and won’t receive any clicking, the link probably shouldn’t be there.

Links are meant to be clicked. Link building should, therefore, be about creating links that are useful for, and clicked on by, the audience of a website! In my next post, I’ll give you some tips on doing link building the Yoast way.

Editor’s Note: To learn more about link building and the future of SEO, listen to this Marketing Nerds podcast with Eric Enge.


This post originally appeared on Yoast, and is re-published with permission.

Image Credits

Featured Image: Image by the Yoast team

Marieke van de Rakt

Marieke van de Rakt

Marieke van de Rakt is both researcher and project manager at Yoast. She has a PhD in Social Sciences, her ... [Read full bio]