Why Focusing on Link Building is the Wrong Strategy for SEO Pros
Everyone is always looking for proven formulas. Business owners, entrepreneurs, and digital marketers are in perpetual pursuit of frameworks, formulas, and methodologies they can implement in order to drive visibility, generate leads, and close sales. But it isn’t always as simple as plugging in a particular recipe and waiting for predictable results to ensue. If you get too caught up in this sort of thinking, you’ll fail to get the results you need to push your business ahead.
In particular, business owners and SEOs get so caught up in link building that they fail to establish a sturdy foundation for future success. While link building does matter, too much emphasis on it (at the expense of sound SEO) will lead to diminishing returns. In this article, we’ll explore the right way of approaching this sensitive matter.
Building the Right Foundation
Link building is a component of SEO -- a strategy, tactic, or supportive element -- it’s not the be-all and end-all of SEO. If your sole focus is on building hundreds or thousands of backlinks to your website, you’re doing it all wrong. There’s certainly a valuable place for link building -- and we’ll get to that in the following section -- but your entire digital marketing strategy will be flawed without an emphasis on getting the fundamentals right. Here’s where you should begin:
Start With On-Site SEO
According to SEO.co, one of the leading voices in the industry, it all starts with basic on-site SEO. Without on-site optimization, you’re building a house of cards that could tumble down at any moment.
On-site optimization includes technical aspects like indexation, proper robots.txt, URL structure, micro-formatting, page titles, meta descriptions, and the like. It also has to do with mobile optimization, site speed, and navigation.
On-site SEO is very technical and boring (at least to most people). However, it’s also fairly straightforward. There’s no excuse to mess it up. If you don’t feel comfortable enough doing it on your own, hire someone to handle it on your behalf.
Develop Quality On-Site Content
Too many businesses make the mistake of diving headfirst into link building without first developing an arsenal of on-site content to pull from. Don’t fall victim to this erroneous way of thinking.
Think of link building like fishing. Any old fisherman can cast a bunch of lines into the water and wait for something to bite, but it doesn’t necessarily mean anything will. A hook without anything on it isn’t very attractive or productive. You need tantalizing bait.
On-site content is like bait. It gives you something to actually attract bites and reel links in. So before reaching out to people and pushing for links, make sure you commit to generating rich, high-quality on-site content that lubricates your conversion funnel.
Don’t Over Optimize
There is such a thing as too much optimization. While you certainly need to get the basics down, be wary of putting too much focus on things like anchor text and keywords. Over saturating your blog posts and web pages with specific keywords will make your content feel robotic and impersonal. (You also run the risk of upsetting Google and attracting penalties).
In 2019 (and beyond), Google is much more interested in semantic content that’s topically relevant and answers very specific questions people have about concrete issues.
The Right Way to Do Link Building
There’s clearly a lot of value in link building. And as long as you view it as a supplementary element of SEO -- not your entire SEO strategy -- you have a chance to be successful. Assuming you’ve started by investing in the right on-site technical optimization, developing quality content, and not over-optimizing, you’re ready to attack this all-important aspect. Here are a few pertinent pointers on how to do link building the correct way:
Choose Relevant Websites
It’s better to get three links from websites that have a high domain rating/authority and are relevant to your niche than to generate dozens of links from spammy, irrelevant websites. This is certainly a quality over quantity endeavor.
You obviously don’t have total control over where backlinks come from -- any old blogger or webmaster can link back to one of your URLs – but you have more influence than you realize. It’s recommended that you keep an ongoing list of websites and blogs that are authoritative and/or relevant to your audience. You can then develop content that you believe these sites would like, or you can also inquire about guest blogging opportunities.
Quality vs. Spammy Links
Google depends on linking as a major trust signal in its ranking factors. Thus it takes link quality very serious. While there’s lots of low-hanging fruit available, resist the temptation to pursue spammy links. You’re far better off expending your energy chasing down quality links.
According to Google’s very own guidelines, spammy link are:
- Links that are bought, sold, or exchanged for goods.
- Large-scale article marketing or guest posting campaigns that don’t add value.
- Automated programs or services that generate links.
- Content with overly-optimized anchor text.
- Low-quality directory or bookmark site links
- Keyword-rich, hidden, or low-quality links embedded in widgets.
- Widely distributed links in footers.
- Forum comments that don’t add value.
High quality links, on the other hand, are natural, useful to the audience, and come from websites that have a solid reputation.
As Google explains, “The best way to get other sites to create high-quality, relevant links to yours is to create unique, relevant content that can naturally gain popularity in the Internet community. Creating good content pays off: Links are usually editorial votes given by choice, and the more useful content you have, the greater the chances someone else will find that content valuable to their readers and link to it.”
In it For the Long Haul
Sustainable link building is a long-term investment, not a get-rich-quick scheme. If you aren’t committed to link building over the long haul, you’re better off investing your creative energy and resources elsewhere.
Link building, done right, takes time. You might only generate one or two quality links a month over the first year. However, once you get going, the results snowball. Stick around and you’ll see what all the fuss is about.
Is it Time to Shift Your Approach?
If you’re currently light on SEO and heavy on cheap link building, it may be time to rethink what you’re doing. Shifting your approach to account for a strong SEO foundation and strategic link building initiative will transform your online visibility and conversions. Give it a try and see what you think.