Busted: 8 Link Building Myths We All Need to Stop Believing
Gossip isn’t limited to the schoolgrounds.
As SEOs, we get caught up in gossip all the time.
Did Google change something? Was that just an algorithm update?
What’s everyone else doing to build backlinks and top the SERPs?
No one really knows every ranking factor in Google’s algorithm, or even exactly how the algorithm works.
Unsurprisingly, that leads to a ton of gossip.
The SEO community has gained a schoolground-style reputation, where we’re all guessing and experimenting our way to the top.
And the result of that?
Not everything you see in SEO and link building guides is totally accurate.
In fact, should you put some of their tips and advice into practice, you could seriously damage your backlink profile—or worse, land a nasty Google penalty that’s tough to shift without a ton of time, effort and cash.
Below, we’ve busted eight link building myths that are still widely touted today, but can actually land you and your website in very hot water (if you believe them).
Busted: 8 Link Building Myths We All Need to Stop Believing
Myth #1: A Great Backlink *Always* Has High Domain Authority
Hands up if you’ve ever heard that phrase 🙋♀️
…You’re not the only one.
We’ve even told you that high-quality backlinks have a Domain Authority of 30+, but it’s not quite as simple as plugging your target website into a DA checker before asking for a backlink.
There are many other SEO factors you’ll need to take into consideration when building links, including:
- Page Authority (PA): Is the linking page popular? Does it have strong ranking power?
- Spam Score: Is Google likely to view the website as spammy (and potentially pass that reputation to your site if you have a backlink from them)?
- Trust Flow and Citation Flow: How trustworthy and influential is the domain?
- Site relevancy: Is the entire domain relevant to your industry?
It’s worthwhile finding out whether the backlinks you’ve already built fit this all-round criteria, rather than just focusing on Domain Authority as a sole metric.
To do that, just head over to your Monitor Backlinks dashboard and click the Your Links tab for your complete and current backlink profile.
You might also notice that the additional SEO metrics we talked about above are conveniently shown here too:
Have you collected links with low PA, high Spam Score, and from irrelevant sites?
Focusing too much of your attention on one metric when you’re building like, like Domain Authority, can often mean low-quality links will slip through the cracks.
If that’s the case, stop what you’re doing with your link building strategy immediately. It could be doing more harm than good.
(If you don’t have a Monitor Backlinks account, you can grab a 30-day trial here to analyze your backlinks for free!)
But that’s still not all to consider when identifying great backlinks.
Along with DA, PA and the other metrics we discussed above, you’ll also want to look at factors like:
- Whether the link is contextual (rather than in the footer, sidebar or author bio box) and framed positively
- Whether the link anchor text is natural and contains the page’s keyword
- Whether the link is indexed and followed by Google
- Whether the link is pointing to the correct, working URL
…I told you there’s more to think of than Domain Authority!
Myth #2: Nofollow Links = Zero Link Juice
Links with the “rel=nofollow” attribute tell Google not to follow them.
Many leading websites like HuffPost and Inc.com automatically nofollow all of their external links, and the not-so-tiny attribute has gained a reputation for being worthless in the SEO world.
But, that doesn’t mean they’re totally useless when you’re trying to grow the number of entries in your backlink profile.
Believe it or not, nofollow links still have SEO value.
- They still drive traffic: Traffic is known to be a ranking factor, and links drive it—even if they’re nofollow.
- They diversify your backlink profile: Google is more likely to flag and manually check your website if your backlink profile looks suspicious, and overrun with follow links.
- They still build authority: Got a nofollow link from Entrepreneur? You’ve still been featured there!
- They still have some kind of “link juice” or equity: Google still knows they exist, even if they don’t follow them.
Here’s what Google’s very own Matt Cutts had to say about this type of backlink:
…And that, my friend, is why you shouldn’t fear the “rel=nofollow” attribute.
Interested to know how many links in your backlink profile are nofollow?
Check the “Status” column in Monitor Backlinks to see followed links in green and nofollowed links in orange:
Or, you can right-click on the actual backlink and press “Inspect” (this will work for any backlink on any website):
A “rel=nofollow” tag in this section means your link isn’t followed by Google.
But remember: That’s no reason to feel disheartened anymore!
Myth #3: You Need to Spread the Links You’re Building Over a Few Weeks/Months
If you’re doing all you can to avoid the wrath of a Google penalty, you might be cautious about spreading the links you’re building over a few weeks or months.
And after a quick search, you might’ve come across the common myth that links do need to be spread out.
Fear not, the mythbusters are here.
I’m here to tell you that Google’s Penguin algorithm checks sites with unnatural backlink profiles. If yours looks spammy, it’ll get flagged for a manual review—that bit is true.
But, that doesn’t mean your links need to fit a quota. There’s no need to stick to the “10 links per month” rule that many businesses set.
It’s possible for websites to naturally gain 100 backlinks overnight, particularly if a piece of content has gone viral and been picked up by several publications.
Here’s Matt Cutts (once again) explaining why there’s no set number of links you should be building per week/month:
The point I’m making here is this: Don’t worry about building “too many” links in a short space of time.
As long as:
- Your backlink profile looks natural
- You’re picking up links naturally
- You’re focusing on quality over quantity
…there’s no reason why you’ll land a Google penalty for the volume of links pointing to your website.
Myth #4: Links from .edu Sites and Wikipedia Have Abnormal Ranking Power
Wikipedia is seen as the holy grail for building links.
Rumor has it, if you manage to build one single link from any page on the Wikipedia domain, you’ll shoot straight to the top of Google’s search results for any term you can think of.
Sorry to shatter your dreams, but…
A Wikipedia link won’t solve your SEO problems, I’m afraid. The same goes for .edu sites.
Wikipedia backlinks and backlinks from university websites don’t have abnormal ranking power, and you’re not going to suddenly rank well after building one link.
Don’t believe me?
Gary Illyes, Google Webmaster Trends Analyst, set the record straight in this Twitter thread:
Wikipedia is ranked just like any other website.
— Gary "鯨理" Illyes (@methode) December 16, 2016
Granted, these authoritative websites do have strong ranking power. But they’re ranked just like any other website, and so shouldn’t be the foundation of your entire SEO strategy.
The takeaway from this link building myth:
Diversify the links you’re building. Use a combination of SEO metrics to identify other authoritative websites, and aim to collect links from a variety of different websites.
Wikipedia and .edu links can be on your wishlist, sure—but don’t neglect other types of backlinks on your single-minded quest to get them!
Myth #5: Always Avoid Directory, Blog Comment and Forum Links
Most link building guides will tell you to avoid these types of links like the plague.
Directory websites, blog comments and forums have gained a notorious reputation for being a black hat tactic for building backlinks.
But, they do still have SEO value—when done correctly.
- They drive more traffic: Remember how I mentioned more traffic is a known ranking factor for search engines?
- They get more eyeballs on your content: More people who see your content means a higher chance of someone linking to it from their website (AKA the chance to get links without any outreach—the stuff dreams are made of).
But, like everything else in the SEO world, it’s not quite that simple.
You can’t just run out to the first forum you see and drop a link that’ll benefit you in weeks to come.
You need to put some serious thought behind the links you’re building from directories, forums and blogs—especially when any of these could put your reputation on the line.
Here’s how you can benefit from these backlink types:
Pick a relevant website
Earlier, I mentioned how the relevancy of the website you’re building links from is just as important as its Domain Authority.
Why? Because Google sees backlinks as a connection between two websites.
They’re much more likely to trust (and therefore, rank) a website that has relevant backlinks—rather than a car blog that has links from beauty retailers, for example.
You’ll need to think about that when building forum, blog comment or directory links.
Let’s put that into practice.
If a washing machine company based in London wanted to build directory links, they’ve got two options:
- Appliance repair directories
- London-based directories
Both of these types of directories would be quite valuable because they’re relevant to the company’s topic or physical location.
But if that same washing machine repair company wanted to build links from another washing machine repair company in Israel? It probably wouldn’t be the smartest option.
(It really just comes down to common sense.)
Leave thoughtful comments
How frustrated do you feel when people comment on your blog post with “nice post!”
It’s obvious they haven’t actually read your content, and they’ve just posted the easiest (and quickest) thing possible to build a backlink to their website.
That’s why blog commenting has a bad reputation—but you’re able to flip that by leaving thoughtful comments.
Start by finding relevant blogs in your industry that allow readers to leave comments.
For example, if we wanted to use blog comment link building at Monitor Backlinks, we might pick targets like Search Engine Land or Yoast.
Then, find a few articles you genuinely want to read, and leave thoughtful comments based on something the author discussed.
Here’s an example of a great comment on an article I wrote recently:
You can tell Noah took the time to read my article, right?
That’s what it should feel like to the author of the article you’re commenting on.
Myth #6: Guest Posting Is a Job for SEO Spammers Only
How often have you heard something along the lines of “guest blogging is dead” or “if you’re using guest posting in your SEO strategy, you’re one of the dodgy ones?”
We need to set the record straight on this one, once and for all.
Guest blogging is actually a hugely valuable tactic that can build strong, powerful backlinks.
Just look at Tom Hunt from Virtual Vally, for example. His guest posting methods resulted in 12,324 social shares, which works out to be over 12,000 new eyeballs on his content (or 24,000 if you’re counting each eye)!
Who’s to say that the people sharing his stuff won’t visit his website, find more content, and link to it too?
But that’s not me telling you to write a ton of guest posts for any old website that pops up when you frantically Google “sites that accept guest posts.”
Not today, partner.
Your guest blogging strategy needs to fit this criteria:
1. The post must be placed on a relevant website
2. The website must have a strong, loyal and established audience
3. You must write long-form, meaningful content that shares real value (not 500 words of spun content)
4. You must not pay for the link
5. The website must not be part of a Private Blog Network (PBN)
If you don’t hit all five for each guest blog link you’re building, don’t expect it to bring incredible results.
But if you take your time and are selective about the websites you reach out to, you’ll hit the jackpot and see your search engine visibility skyrocket!
Myth #7: The More Backlinks, the Merrier
We’ve all heard the saying, right?
Any link is a good link.
But by now, you’ll probably understand that simply isn’t true (if I’ve done my job right, anyway.)
What the phrase really should be is:
Any high-quality link is a good link.
Why? Because if 95% of your backlinks are from websites with a Domain Authority of 15, yours will fall within a similar range and you’ll have a hard time ranking.
But what happens if you check your backlink profile and you’re greeted with a ton of low-quality entries?
Is it possible to remove them, or will you always be at risk of Google penalties?
The answer is yes, you can remove them by submitting a disavow—and you should.
Disavowing a backlink tells Google not to associate your website with the one linking to it.
So, regularly audit your backlink profile and highlight any low-quality links that could be hurting your attempts to rank.
To make the process easier, you can do it all right from your Monitor Backlinks account. Use the tool to find links you need to get rid of and create a disavow file that can be uploaded straight to Google.
Follow this guide on disavowing bad backlinks for all the details.
Myth #8: Backlinks Are the “Be All and End All” of SEO
I don’t blame you if you’re thinking of putting all your eggs in the link building basket.
Especially when studies have shown that it’s practically impossible for a website to rank without backlinks.
But let me stop you right there:
There are over 200 known ranking factors in a search engine’s algorithm, and backlinks only make up a fraction of them.
What will help, however, is a combination of these four activities:
- Content marketing: Creating on-site content, long-form blog posts targeting longtail keywords, etc.
- Technical SEO: Improving site speed, user experience, reducing crawl errors, etc.
- On-page SEO: Optimizing the quality of content, keyword targeting, image SEO, etc
- Off-page SEO: Building backlinks, securing brand mentions, etc.
If you’re neglecting even one of those four SEO activities, you’re going to have a tough mountain to climb to get to position #1.
Not everything you see (or read) is true—and that’s no different when it comes to SEO.
Keep these link building myths at the back of your mind when you’re planning your next steps, and don’t forget to use some of that good old-fashioned common sense.
For every backlink, ask yourself “would Google find this link natural and valuable?”
When your answer is a resounding “yes,” you’ll know it’s a great link to add to your arsenal.
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