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Top 12 Link Building Mistakes In-House SEOs Make & How to Avoid Them

Learn how to avoid these 12 common link building mistakes that SEO practitioners make and start earning the links you deserve!


Even the most seasoned SEO professionals get things wrong. When it comes to building links, such blunders can lead to lost opportunities.

This is why both new and experienced SEO pros should be familiar with common link building mistakes in order to avoid them.

On October 3, I moderated a sponsored SEJ ThinkTank webinar presented by North Star Inbound’s Owner Nicole DeLeon. She discussed what’s broken in most practitioners’ link building approach and how to fix it.

Here’s a recap of the webinar.

12 Link Building Mistakes

These are the common errors some in-house practitioners make when building links and what you can do to avoid them.

1. Thinking That More Is Always Better

Writing quality content to fuel your link building success is a must. But you should always consider that quality matters.

With long-form content, the focus should be on quality over quantity. You need to be authoritative but useful. Don’t just add info to add length.

When creating a study, or visualizing data, you need to pick the most interesting data. Don’t just show all of it or reporters may miss the point.

What to Do Instead

Start auditing the content you have for your campaign and remove anything that’s less relevant, useful, or interesting.

Go through each section or item and ask yourself: “What are we losing by removing this?”

If by removing that content, you lose relevance or usefulness then you want to keep it.

If you’re not really losing very much, then you’re simply staring at a piece of filler so go ahead and remove that.

2. Forgetting to Break Things Up

Large blocks of content can easily overwhelm readers. They might get lost, bored, and eventually leave your site.

A long form guide that’s a solid block of text won’t persuade anyone to link. Similarly, a huge infographic that goes on forever may quickly lose the reader.

What to Do Instead

Aim to make your long-form, text-based content easy to digest. Consider:

  • Investing in some design elements to the page.
  • Building in some custom navigation.
  • Adding a video or and a few short graphics.

For infographics, try:

  • Breaking it up into a few smaller designed assets and weaving the graphics into a story. Not only is this easier on the eyes, but it’s also potentially an outreach strategy.
  • Creating a section for a slightly different niche audience.

3. Obsessing over Domain Authority or Any Other Third-Party Metric

Third-party link metrics, while helpful, should be taken with a grain of salt.

Obsessing over them when doing a link building campaign may lead to:

  • Constrained opportunities.
  • Lack of subjective evaluation.
  • Failure to plant seeds for the future.
  • Creation of a lopsided link profile.

What to Do Instead

You should never pass up a good link building opportunity.

Some SEO practitioners have complex matrices for how they evaluated link prospects. By the time they are through with link evaluation, they’ll only have a handful of link prospects to reach out to.

Always remember: you won’t convert your prospects at 100 percent.

There is so much pressure on agencies to build only high-DA links. In a way, this makes sense because clients are paying for a service and it’s a cheap and dirty way to measure link quality. And we all know that we need to build quality links.

But keep in mind that these metrics change over time. A higher DA today can go down tomorrow. DA can be gamed.

A good link is still a good link. We all know it when we see it. Don’t ignore it.

Your link profile is organic. Plant lots of seeds.

Think of all the links you build as having a life. Some links will last a long time. Other links will last only a short time. Some links will grow in authority and other will shrink.

The low DA links you build today are link seeds. Some will grow into huge sites and it’s much harder to get links on huge sites once they are already huge and have four layers of bureaucracy.

If all you build are high DA links, that just looks weird and not organic.

4. Failing to Create Content That’s on Trend or Surprising

This may seem obvious but there’s a lot of content out there that falls into the cool and interesting category, but that fails to earn links.

No matter what type of content you are creating, you have to have something that’s different and surprising.

What to Do Instead

Even when creating long-form, how-to guides, strive to find areas that are important but haven’t been covered.

If you are creating visual content, the surprise factor is everything. The infographics that were popular a number of years ago are neat. But they don’t cut through as much as something that is new and surprising.

5. Ignoring Seasonality or Timing

Not listening to your gut on seasonality is a mistake.

You only get one shot at promotion, don’t waste it.

What to Do Instead

If you have a great idea for content, but you have a feeling it would do better in the fall, save it.

Site owners and reporters are thinking exactly the same thing and they won’t cover or link to your content until then anyway.

But by then, you’ll be done promoting and will have moved on to another project, never finding out how successful it could have been.

Try to take advantage of seasonality as much as possible.

  • Sports seasons.
  • Weather seasons.
  • Holiday seasons.
  • Election seasons.
  • Industry-specific seasons.

A seasonal hook can push mediocre content to a successful run and successful content to be a runaway hit.

6. Failing to Personalize Your Outreach

The standard, one-liner personalization where you tell the site owner how great their last piece was and how much you enjoyed it doesn’t work anymore.

Using old, tired templates is expected and does not come across as genuine.

Everyone expects that and can spot a mass produced and lackadaisical attempt at personalization a mile away.

What to Do Instead

Either really try to make a personal connection with someone or make your outreach template personalized to the persona.

Get to know your typical outreach persona like you would if they were your customer.

  • What are their likes and dislikes?
  • What are they stressed about?
  • What do they find funny or annoying?

Weave that into your template. You are much more likely to hit a nerve and get a response.

7. Not Segmenting Your Outreach List

Failing to segment prevents you from using persona personalization technique.

If you don’t segment, you are less likely to think in terms of all the different categories of prospects you could reach out to.

What to Do Instead

Segment your lists as much as possible by:

  • Interests.
  • Industry.
  • Geography.
  • Etc.

8. Not Having an Elevator Pitch for Your Content

Failing to include an elevator pitch in your outreach generally results in a generic template that’s easy to ignore.

An elevator pitch is the shortest and simplest way to convey the unique value proposition of your content. You’ll need a good elevator pitch in your outreach in order to get the best results.

What to Do Instead

An elevator pitch usually has the top three selling point of your content: How does your piece help the people you are reaching out to or their audience?

Some questions you might try to answer in your pitch:

  • If you are selling informational content think about what problem does your piece solve, and for whom. How is it different from other pieces out there?
  • If you are selling data insights or visual content what are the top insights, who’s lives are implicated, and how. How are these insights different from others?

9. Failing to Consider Your Outreach Strategy During Ideation

Most SEO pros don’t even consider their outreach during ideation when that’s the best time to consider outreach and exclude bad ideas.

If you can’t tell a quick and compelling story about your content when you are creating your outreach templates, sometimes it’s because you didn’t think about your strategy from the get-go.

What to Do Instead

During ideation, make sure to start planning your outreach strategy. Thinking ahead of time will help you identify if your idea is too complex, not surprising enough, or just plain overdone.

10. Giving Up Too Early

Most campaigns go like this:

  • Idea.
  • Execution.
  • Failure or Success.
  • Repeat.

If you’ve had a campaign in the past that produced just a few links and you don’t know why it didn’t work, then you gave up too soon.

What to Do Instead

Your job is to figure out why your campaign failed. If you don’t figure out why, you’ve lost all chance of recovering and you have no chance to do better next time.

Form a hypothesis and make necessary adjustments.

  • Is nobody opening your emails? Try changing the subject line.
  • Are people opening but not clicking through or responding? Chances are you aren’t offering your prospects the right selling points.
  • Are people opening, and clicking through but not linking? Maybe the content isn’t as compelling as you might imagine.

Don’t stop until you have a working plan to adjust your campaign and then try again.

11. Chasing Your Competitor’s Link Profile

Having the same exact links as your competitor won’t necessarily help you outrank them.

Sure there are some industry leading obligatory links. But if 100 percent of your plan is to chase their profile, you’re likely to hit a dead end pretty quickly.

Their list of links is your list of prospects. You will not have a 100 percent conversion rate.

What to Do Instead

You can look to your competitors to see what seems to work in your niche.

That said, you need to figure out what resources and strengths you have to develop a content strategy that will work for you as you build your own link profile.

12. Not Diversifying Your Strategy

Link building is hard.

It’s hard enough to figure out how to build one type of link.

So if you are lucky enough to get really good at a certain strategy, it’s easy to go back to that well over and over and over again to get the same results.

But, the web is in constant motion. What works this year may not work next year.

You always have to be experimenting, making your strategies better, and trying to stay ahead of the next trend.

Also, if your link profile is made up of only one kind of link, you’re really losing out on a ton of opportunities.

What to Do Instead

Instead, stay ahead of the game by constantly re-evaluating your:

  • Outreach strategy.
  • The type of content you think will work.
  • How you package it.

Every part of the process needs constant tweaking and evaluation.

[Video Recap] Top Link Building Mistakes In-house SEOs Make That Kill ROI

Watch the video recap of the webinar presentation and Q&A session below.

Or check out the presentation deck.

Join Us For Our Next Webinar!

Link Building in 2024: What Works, What Doesn’t, and What’s Next?

Join us as we review what’s currently working in the world of link-building, and how you can develop a winning content and link building strategy in 2024.

SEJ STAFF Brent Csutoras Managing Partner / Owner at Search Engine Journal

Managing Partner / Owner at Search Engine Journal with over 18 years experience in Digital Marketing, specializing in Reddit, Search ...

Top 12 Link Building Mistakes In-House SEOs Make & How to Avoid Them

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