5 Link building mistakes to avoid

9 minute read

5 Link building mistakes to avoid

Your website won’t rank unless other blogs and websites are linking to it. Google uses the amount and quality of backlinks to determine the authenticity and trust factors of your site. If Google trusts your site, it may rank it well. 

But one of the most common mistakes people make when building links is slapping their link on any old website. If you have too many bad links on your website’s link profile, Google will penalize you. Google takes this very seriously, as roughly 95 percent of penalties from Google are due to the website’s backlink profile.

Natural backlinks are the best method for building up trust and authority within the search engines. This has been true for many years.

Most SEO strategists today will advise you to blog, guest post, get press mentions and do other things that will get other websites to link back to your content. The more trusted sites link to your content, the better you will rank in search engine results

For the purpose of this blog, we are going to give you a quick rundown of the 5 most common mistakes when link building. Although they may sound tempting, avoid them to steer clear of Google penalties. 

Here are our 5 most common link building mistakes that can result in Google penalties 

Excessive use of exact match anchor text

The anchor text is the clickable text in a hyperlink. It’s considered an "exact match" if it includes a keyword that mirrors the page that is being linked to. For example, a page that discusses vitamin C benefits may use an exact match anchor of “benefits of vitamin C.”

Anchor texts offer relevant information to both the search engines that rank your content and the humans that ultimately consume it. It’s important that the anchor text provides a clear idea of the content in the link so that when a person clicks on it, they are directed to a page that is exactly what they were expecting for additional information. 

Anchor text variations

Until 2012, SEO experts played a lot of tricks with exact match anchor texts. Now, Google penalizes sites that misuse it. 

In order to avoid these penalties, consider using other types of anchor texts along with exact match. Here are a few options:

  • Partial-match: This anchor contains just a part of your key phrase. Instead of using the whole brand name, you are using only a part of it.
  • Branded: This is an exact match anchor for one of your key phrases.
  • Naked link: This anchor is the full URL of the page being linked to as the anchor. For example, a sentence may say: Go to the URL <insert URL> to learn more.
  • Natural anchor: This anchor has no reference to any keywords or brand. It's as non-branded and non-specific as you can get. Example: "this technology firm.”

The overall combined percentage of the types mentioned above should be between 20 to 40 percent. It’s best to ensure the exact match remains between 5 to 10 percent of links. 

Buying or selling links

The link buying and selling industry has been around since the mid-90s. It has changed several shapes and forms since then. At its peak, you could buy a link anywhere and improve your ranking. Paid and free directory submissions, link farms, and even popular websites and blogs sold spots for links. 

Until 2012, Google considered backlinks crucial for rankings. The search giant changed the rules of the game when it started penalizing websites for selling links. Now, the industry operates in the form of disguised PBNs, paid guest posts, and links sold by bloggers. 

Even today, the market for buying and selling links is enormous, even though Google penalizes websites that get caught doing so. Google doesn’t support buying links for rankings. It urges site administrators to use the “rel=nofollow” tag with incoming paid links. Put simply, such links do not help in improving rankings. 

A viable alternative to paid links is to get a backlink posted in a quality guest post on a successful website or blog. But publishing posts on blogs or sites merely loaded with links can negatively impact the site. Google’s guidelines suggest it does not appreciate excessive link exchanges and buying or selling links to manipulate rankings. 

Avoid link spamming

We’ve all seen link spam. Maybe you’ve come across short, pointless comments on blogs and websites that include a link. That’s link spamming and Google penalizes websites whose links are shared as a part of forum profiles, as well as spam comments on websites and blogs.  

Spam links shared manually or with automated software do not help your ranking because Google quickly picks up footprints left by such duplicate content all over the internet. Link penalties can prove to be overly negative for website rankings. Google may even remove your website from its indexing altogether, resulting in a significant drop in organic traffic.  

Link monitoring tools can help identify potentially harmful links that are dropping your rankings. Focus on the ones that come from auto-approved blog comments. Once identified, you can remove them or disavow them to handle algorithmic and manual penalties. 

If you must comment, you should focus on commenting selectively on top forums and blogs in your niche instead of spamming. 

Link exchanges

Often referred to as exchanged or traded links during the early 2000s, this technique has lost its popularity during the last few years. There’s a thin line between link sharing and exchanging. As a website owner, you will obviously end up sharing links. But that’s different than intentionally building reciprocal links as a part of an agreement with other sites. 

Google is way smarter than it was a decade ago. It tracks excessive reciprocal linking and penalizes websites that are caught doing it. 

Experts advise webmasters to share links that are relevant to stats or facts mentioned in content. It should be done without expecting anything, including a backlink, in return from the linked website. Such links also play a crucial role in improving the content reader’s overall experience. Websites that share original, high-value content should not find it difficult to establish themselves as trusted sources for information and earn natural backlinks. 

Private Blog Networks

Private Blog Networks (PBNs) consist of websites and blogs owned and managed by a single publisher. The content on such sites is not meant for the public but just for SEO ranking purposes. Publishers behind such networks buy expired domain names that have great domain authority. They post original but elementary quality content on these sites with a backlink to a primary website. And obviously, backlinks from websites with high domain authority help the primary website get superb rankings and domain authority.

All major search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo have banned the use of PBNs for SEO ranking purposes. They do this because using PBNs increases the likelihood of penalties, spam-related search engine issues and spammy user experience. However, many people still use them to rank better in search engines because they provide a quick fix for SEO with legitimate benefits. 

They are not considered black hat SEO and can improve rankings quickly. So, you might ask, where’s the risk factor? The general consensus among SEO strategists is that PBNs are not a part of white hat SEO strategies, and Google penalizes websites that use Private Blog Networks. 

In September 2014, Google surprised everyone by taking action against sites that were using PBNs. Several notices were issued to these portals via Google Webmaster Tools. The search giant changed the rules of the game yet again. Basically, using Private Blog Networks can prove beneficial until you are caught. If tracked, your website will yet again face the struggle for gaining significant ground.

How to build links the right way 

If you are looking to grow your traffic, it's time to build backlinks. Backlinks are a key factor in the overall ranking of a website, but they must be done the right way to achieve results. Remember, genuine SEO strategies take time. We all want our website to rank well, and there are plenty of shortcuts out there that can quickly improve your rankings. However, these shortcuts almost always lead to disaster eventually. Rather than quantity, measure the value of the links

Here are a few safe options that can help you improve your search engine rankings with backlinks:

  • Guest blog: Guest blogging is a great way to connect with other members of your industry, share your knowledge, and have their readers come through to your website. When you write a guest post on another site, it gives you an opportunity to introduce yourself and showcase your knowledge on a platform that has established traffic. The key here is to find relevant sites that match your niche. This will increase the likelihood of accepting or publishing your guest post. For example, if you own an online clothing shop, fashion blogs would be a great fit. Googling "fashion blogs" will give you a good idea on which ones are more likely to accept your pitch. 
  • Write testimonials: Writing testimonials on other websites related to your niche can help build your backlink profile. First, make a list of products and services that you use regularly that are related to your industry. When writing your testimonial, be sure to include your business name and website. This will provide the opportunity for a backlink to your site. Not all companies will link back to you, but a simple mention of your business name can help your SEO, even if it is unlinked. 
  • Leverage social media channels: Social media shares increase your exposure, which will naturally lead to more backlinks. Start by sharing your content on your own social media channels. This means links to your content should be in your profile and on your posts. Post on the major social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Intagram, but also consider niche sites such as Reddit. One more tip: make your content easy to share by including fixed share icons on your posts themselves. 

social share icons

  • Create high-quality, share-worthy content: If your blog is full of amazing content, people will naturally want to share it. Create content that they'll want to share. Focus on providing quality information and helpful tips that will satisfy readers and drive engagement with your company's brand. You can also try pitching bloggers with large followings and networks of other bloggers who may benefit from sharing your posts.

No matter what method you choose to promote your business online, you’ll need a solid marketing strategy in place. This involves creating and promoting content that resonates with your target audience.

Link building FAQs

How do I develop an effective link building strategy?

The primary goal of your link building efforts should be to gain organic links back to your content. A winning link building strategy includes guest posting, testimonials, and social media engagement. 

What are the different types of anchor texts?

In addition to exact match anchor texts, you should use other varieties of your anchor text to avoid Google penalties. This includes partial-match anchors, branded anchors, naked links, natural anchors, and more. 

What link building tactics can result in Google penalties? 

The following link building tactics can result in Google penalties: excessive use of exact match anchor text, buying or selling links, link spamming, link exchanges, and Private Blog Networks.