11 Link Building Mistakes & How To Avoid Them

11 Link Building Mistakes & How To Avoid Them

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This article has been contributed by Tom Welbourne.

Link building is one of the three pillars of SEO, alongside solving technical issues to improve the health of your site and publishing high-quality content.

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Therefore, it’s crucial that you build high quality links and ensure that your link building methods actually work as part of your digital PR strategy.

But if you’ve already tried getting links to your site, you know that’s a lot easier said than done. Sometimes it’s hard to get any inbound links at all. Other times, you can get a stack of links but they’re all low quality.

So, why isn’t your link building strategy working and how should you be doing it?

Fortunately for you, we’ve put together this guide of everything you need to know to implement a successful link building strategy to help you master SEO, including the top link building mistakes we see.

When you’re trying to get links to your site published on other sites, you should be looking for link permanence. In other words, you want your links to stay live indefinitely and not be taken down after a year, for instance.

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One of the biggest benefits of link building is the capacity for accumulation. If all of your links remain in place indefinitely then they’ll continue to pay dividends of traffic, in addition to building authority in order to improve your campaign further over time.

However, if your links are getting removed, then your link building strategy cannot work.

Whilst running your link building campaign, you will be faced with different opportunities from a range of different websites.

Take the time to assess each opportunity – the website’s domain authority, relevance to your niche, follow vs nofollow link, etc.

At first, you’ll probably only get interest from lower quality sites, which is fine. Aim to work your way up to bigger and higher authority publishers gradually, as opposed to rushing it.

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In order to achieve upward momentum, you will need to work on building your reputation. This can seem daunting, but plugging away at generating quality content will be well worthwhile. It’s the only really effective way to establish your credibility and get new links published.

Target a Range of Websites

If you find that you are trapped with the same publishers you started with, make sure you branch out.

Getting more and more links from the same website is not going to benefit you as much as one link each from a range of sites, especially if they’re mid-to-high quality sites.

Don’t Forget Referral Traffic

Your link building strategy should work to increase your referral traffic. Therefore, every new link that you build should serve as another portal to your website.

So, if that portal is relevant to your audience, then at least a portion of your users/readers should be inclined to click through.

The more links you build on higher-authority sources and as you continue to reap value from your old links, then your total referral traffic should continue to increase.

Digital marketing agency, the Good Marketer, has increased their referral traffic by over 300% YoY by pitching and publishing thought leadership pieces on industry websites (including this one).

As you build in your links, you should be seeing an increase in:

  1. Organic traffic
  2. Domain authority (DA)

As increase in DA is a sure sign that you are in fact building positive momentum with the diversity and number of links you are building to your site.

However, if you notice that your DA is declining (more than 10% of your total score), then you need to act fast to save your campaign.

As your DA rises, your traffic should also increase because your overall rankings for the site should also improve.

Positive link factors for link building

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Now you know how to identify if your link building strategy is working – which means you’ll also know when your strategy isn’t working.

If you’re not seeing an increase in traffic or DA, you could be making common link building mistakes.

1. Your Content is Just OK

Content quality can have a significant impact on your campaign in a number of different ways. The quality of your content affects:

  • the strength of the link toy your site
  • which publishers accept your content
  • whether the link remains permanent or is removed.

Content quality is a critical aspect of SEO, from how well your on-page content is optimised to the content associated with your link building strategy.

Producing low quality content will guarantee failure of your link building campaign. There have been many cases where content has been rushed or poorly written, which can actually lead to sites being penalised.

Remember, the target audience and their needs must always be the key focus when writing a piece of content.

2.    You’re Scaling Too Fast or Too Slow

You also need to consider the pacing and scale of your link building strategy. This refers to the frequency of building links and how many high-tier publishers you utilize.

By scaling too slowly, you face reaching a plateau, where you will be stuck until you make the investment to grow more quickly.

On the other hand, there is a risk of growing too quickly too; you can face rejection from high-tier publishers that you have reached out to too soon.

Web links to your site from a range of sites

Diversity in your link building campaign is also important if you want it to succeed. Securing links from a range of different sites will make your links appear more natural and also expose your site to a wider audience.

In turn, this will help you to see better returns for both your referral traffic and DA.

4.    You’re Not Paying Attention to Your Competitors

Even if your link building campaign is flawless, you may not see returns on your investment if you have competition that interferes with your work.

If one of your competitors is building the same type of links as you are, the you won’t actually gain an advantage over them.

Identify your key competitors by seeing what other sites rank for your target keywords. Then use a tool like Moz’s Open Site Explorer to investigate how they are building their links for their campaign.

This allows you to determine whether it’s your competitors that are interfering with the results from your link building strategy, or if you have a different problem.

If they are, then fortunately there are a number of solutions. One of the easiest ways is to stay clear of the most brutal competition by targeting other keywords that your competitors aren’t focusing on.

Alternatively, you could invest more time and money into your bigger keywords to try and beat your competition. However, the chances of this solution being a success is lower and the costs are higher.

This is also problematic and can become very dangerous if you are operating in a sensitive industry. For example, the payday loans industry must handle SEO and link building extremely carefully since a Google update almost specifically focuses on this niche.

In 2019, a payday lender called Uncle Buck began to pay for backlinks, focusing on their most competitive keywords. The volume and lack of diversity in their anchor text resulted in a manual action penalty from Google.

The brand’s organic positions plummeted from top-3 to page 3. Unable to recover and drive through more footfall, Uncle Buck have now closed as a company.

Link building strategy

One of the biggest mistakes that is made when it comes to link building strategies is not paying enough attention to your costs and benefits.

If you don’t know if your strategies are being effective, then you can’t set yourself up for long-term success.

You need to track your link building efforts and know which stats are important to measure. Consider different variables when you calculate the ROI of your campaign, including conversion rates, profit margins, the total costs and total traffic figures.

Consistent reporting and a good understanding of your essential metrics can help you to forecast your results, interpret what is and isn’t effective and use this information to make improvements to your link building campaign.

7. You’re Choosing Bad Sources

One of the biggest ground-level issues is choosing bad sources. It’s important at the beginning of your campaign that you avoid any ‘bad’ links to your site. This is because it can make it harder for you to build a baseline authority.

In the later stages of your campaign, however, a ‘bad’ link can attract a penalty or halt your momentum, which can set you back a number of steps.

You need to look at authority, relevance and the history of a website when looking to determine whether it’s a good or a bad source.

There have been many sites from different industries that have been penalised and impacted hugely. In fact, not only did it stop their momentum, but they took steps backwards in their campaign and saw results plummet as a result.

8. You’re Using Spammy Tactics

It’s imperative that you don’t utilse spammy tactics, as Google won’t tolerate any tactics it believes to be spam.

Google also doesn’t tolerate deliberate intentions to manipulate rankings that don’t benefit the general audience of users. The search engine genuinely judges its links based on their usefulness to readers.

Therefore, if a link is found to be unnecessary or irrelevant, then it could be considered a ‘bad link’.

If this is the case, then the publisher will have the right to remove the link. If they don’t, then you could face a Google penalty. Some of the most spam-like tactics some marketers use are links without content, forum comments, paid links and a range of other schemes that Google has a list of.

LingsCars.com, pictured below, appears spammy and you can assume there are tons of ingoing and outgoing links from this site – from the sheer number of advertisements alone.

Spammy link website example

However, it’s important to remember that the aesthetics of a website isn’t what makes it a poor choice – although it’s a good indicator.

9. You’re Being Inefficient

You also need to be efficient with your link building strategy. You must look at how much you spend, who you are spending money with and how your efforts are actually paying off.

Are there some techniques or tactics that are working better than others? Are you wasting money on tactics that are underperforming?

This could lead to a poor-performing campaign, so you need to take these points into consideration.

10. You’re Having Publisher Issues

Sometimes you can end up with publishers that can be difficult to please, which can interfere with the success of your campaign.

You can work with a variety of different publishers, however, be aware that there is always that chance that you may face unconventional or poor-performing publishers that can impact your link building practices.

There are many publishers that have a habit of removing your links either before or after your content has been published.

However, this factor can easily be observed and checked for. You can do this by conducting a manual review of any content that you have submitted to any external publishers. Check to see whether the links you originally included in your content are still there or not.

There are a number of reasons why a publisher may remove your link from the content you submit to them. They may not believe it is within context and fits naturally with the rest of the text, or they may not believe the quality of the content is up to their site’s standards.

If this is the case, you need to go back to our Number 1 link building mistake.

11. You Have Brand Issues

Another issue is that you may find that you are building good links, writing good quality content on good publication sites, but not seeing much referral traffic. This may be a result of standing brand issues.

If your brand has poor customer service or a bad reputation for a different reason, then it can be difficult to make up for that, especially with offsite content alone.

You may also face SEO issues. It’s always important to remember that link building is one of the three main components of an effective SEO campaign.

Your site may have other SEO issues, such as thin on-site content, which even a good link building strategy may not be able to compensate for. Therefore, conduct a thorough SEO audit before you put it down to the link building strategy for poor traffic to the site.

Back to the main question, why is your link building strategy not working. To summarise, this can be down to a number of different reasons.

  • Firstly, investing too little. You need to put enough time, money and effort, otherwise you won’t get the results you are looking for and it can’t just happen on its own.
  • Secondly, quality is more important than quantity, so work hard to make sure that your link placement, publisher relationships and content remain as strong as possible.
  • Thirdly, remember to not jump in too quickly. Don’t start link building until you understand exactly how it works. Also, if you try to scale up too quickly, then you can end up making fatal mistakes or even overextending your resources.

Therefore, make sure to take your time and learn as much as you can. Try to be patient as you grow your campaign.

Lastly, and this is crucial, you need to make sure that you can measure your results so you can understand how your individual efforts add up. This will allow you to work out what you need to do to see improvements.

Hopefully, this has given you some food for thought when it comes to your link building strategy and why it may not be performing well. To find out more, speak to a marketing agency, who will be able to conduct a link building strategy for you or give you some beneficial advice.


About the author: Tom Welbourne is the Founder & Director of The Good Marketer, a marketing agency in London which drives traffic, generates conversions and increases sales for small to medium sized businesses.

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