As long as search engines shroud their algorithms in secrecy, the industry will continue to be plagued by spam and myths.
I would say it encourages companies to pursue bad strategies rather than strategies that work.
This is why some people have lost faith in the value of SEO. This limits opportunities more than it creates new ones.
As you read this chapter, you will notice a number of popular myths that cast a negative light on link building and leave people afraid to pursue manual link building practices.
It’s understandable where the industry is coming from.
You’ve probably heard or read expert link building advice like “it’s not 2006 anymore!” and “link building should be completely natural”.
But I would say that leaves us blind to good link building opportunities.
Do search engines justify links by their ends (value) or by their means (practical)? I would say the latter.
But this is not about discussing ethics. It is to highlight.
Here, I’d like to dispel seven popular link building myths and misconceptions that do more harm than good.
Once we break these myths, we can deliver more value to our customers by better understanding the basics of link building.
Myth 1: Backlinks are a “Top” Google Ranking Factor
This myth dates back to a Google Q&A session, when Andrey Lipattsev, senior Google Search Quality strategist, said that links, content, and RankBrain were Google’s top three ranking factors.
But if that were true, it would ignore a vast majority of signals, such as user experience, query intent, and hundreds of other ranking factors to prioritize pages based on the amount of backlinks they have. .
John Mueller even clarified that.
Google’s ranking factors are dynamic, using different algorithms to determine the results of different queries for different user intent.
But countless correlation studies have shown that pages in the top three results tend to have a large number of backlinks.
The question is:
Are these pages ranking well because of their backlink profile – or do they have so many backlinks because they rank well?
All is relative.
Would a Position 4 result with more than twice the clicks end up overthrowing Position 2 content with twice the backlinks? How do Google and Bing compare these different considerations?
We do not know. So we shouldn’t limit our strategy.
Does that mean backlinks aren’t an important ranking signal?
Of course not.
The influence of links can be greater in first-page search results when most other factors remain equal.
Myth 2: The Penguin Penalty
Penguin is an algorithm, not a penalty imposed by Google.
The distinction is important for two reasons.
- Google will not notify you when your site is devalued due to its backlink profile.
- Recovery from an algorithmic devaluation offers simpler solutions.
Despite Google’s promises that Penguin 4.0 does not trigger site-wide negative ranking actions, countless case studies have proven otherwise.
Recovering from negative SEO caused by spammy link building only requires disavowing links that qualify as obvious spam.
Generally, you shouldn’t care about Penguin if you pursue good linking strategies and avoid link farms and networks.
Even if Penguin catches malicious links, which every site has, I still wouldn’t panic because chances are Penguin won’t even log those individual links.
Myth 3: Link quality can be defined by DA or PA
How do search engines define link quality?
We are not sure.
So how do you define link quality?
This could be considered more of a misconception than a myth.
Third-party metrics, such as Domain Authority (DA) and Trust Flow, are just barometers or guesses of how a site compares to others.
DA is neither a ranking signal nor a comprehensive overview of a website’s quality for link building.
I have come across so many high DA sites that were either abandoned or just obvious link farms.
It’s not to specifically throw DA. The problem is relying on a single proprietary metric to justify spam campaigns and charge customers.
So let’s try to determine what a good link is:
- The linking domain offers relevant content for your business.
- The binding domain has a high traffic value.
- Anchor text is contextual.
- The linked page provides value to users.
- The website has an editorial process in place for content.
It really is that simple.
What’s dangerous about this line of thinking is that chasing after DA leaves you blind to the opportunities right in front of you.
This includes ignoring relevance, new websites, and even low-hanging fruits in DA’s fruitless quest.
Myth 4: Asking someone for a link is spam
As we’ve all heard, asking someone for a link or exchanging a link between sites is spam.
There are countless examples of “expert advice” stating that you could be risking a manual action if the site you are linking from does this often.
But retrieving citations or manually finding a link from a relevant directory or publication should not be lumped into the same category as link exchanges.
If so, that would mean that broken link building and resource link building should be avoided.
Myth 5: High link speed contributes to manual penalties
Many people worry that building tons of links to a single piece of content could negatively impact their keyword rankings.
As impressive as search engines are, their ability to index the entire web and identify trends like this would be next to impossible.
Also, it makes sense that a very original and valuable webpage will generate backlinks exponentially on its own.
Every time someone links to your content, it increases their visibility and gives them the opportunity to acquire additional links.
If it boosts keyword rankings enough, this effect worsens significantly.
This is the whole idea of organic link building.
That said, if you acquire a ton of low-quality links from spammy content networks and directories, you could be hit with a manual penalty or a major link profile devaluation.
Myth 6: Guest posting contributes negatively to link building
We heard about how guest posting is dead for years.
These statements, like many from Google, were later reversed or clarified.
Why would search engines punish you for posting in a highly relevant and trafficked publication to market your business and thought leadership?
Obviously, contextual links have a higher value than homepage links in your signature, but spamming your contextual links with keyword-rich anchor text could be counterproductive.
Guest posting just to build links misses the point of link building.
Guest posting, and even acquiring unfollow links, could have indirect benefits on your digital marketing, from increasing your brand visibility across the web to your traffic flow from these sources.
Myth 7: Link building is all about links
This brings me to my last point, which is that link building is more than just increasing the volume of links to your site.
Link building can:
- Increase your brand’s visibility on the web.
- Increase traffic to your domain.
- Show the authority and value of your brand.
Primarily, manual link building should be more about building relationships with other websites for marketing opportunities than just acquiring a link.
I compare it to brand building in many ways.
That said, link building has an obvious direct result in your rankings, but it also offers many positive indirect results that happen behind the scenes.
The moral of the story?
Avoid spam, but don’t avoid handy fruits and good opportunities in pursuit of DA or appeasement of a penguin god.
As with anything online, digital marketing is just as full of facts as it is mistakes.
Know how to spot the truth and follow link building best practices to get the best results for your marketing campaign.
Featured Image Credit: Paulo Bobita