Link building: what not to do?

A lot of link building strategies can backfire, causing more damage than doing good. If you want to improve your ranking in the long term, using what we call a holistic SEO strategy, you should definitely avoid certain link building tactics. In this post, I’ll describe link building DON’TS: tactics you should most definitely NOT use. 

Risky link building tactics

In the old days, link building meant putting links on as much external pages as possible, often by buying or trading links. Since Google Penguin these tactics have become a risky SEO strategy. If your link building tactics include spamming, your site risks a Google Penalty and could be banned from Google’s results completely. Placing a lot of links will probably help the ranking of your site for a short while, but probably not in the long run. I suspect most of you will know quite some of the link building tactics you must definitely not apply. I’ll sum up the most obvious link building DON’TS and will then discuss some less well known – but equally important – DON’TS.

Obvious link building DON’TS

You should not buy large amounts of links. You should not exchange links. You should not use any automated programs to get links. You should not do guest blogging with very thin and off-topic content. You should not comment on blogs or forums if your only purpose is to leave a link in the comment. You should not over optimize your anchor text. You should not have links that are unrelated to the topic of your website. You should not have links from sites that have no real content. You should not have links from spammy sites whose only purpose is to advertise for gambling, viagra, and porn (unless your website is about gambling, viagra and porn).

Not all linking to the homepage

You should make sure to get links to different pages on your website and not solely to your homepage. If you only – or mainly – receive links to your homepage, your link building will look spammy. Of course, if someone is writing about your brand, a link to your homepage is appropriate. But if a website writes about products or about news of your company, they usually link to your product, news or blog pages. That is just the natural way people link to other pages. You should make sure your link building strategy resembles the natural way people link to websites. Extra benefit: linking to a more specific page will probably lead to a better conversion on your website! So you should work on getting links for important product pages, or for your cornerstone content pages. Get links to those pages where the deal is closed! It will get your website a trustworthy link profile and will increase the conversion at the same time!

Pay for specific links? We say: don’t!

Another link building DON’T is buying links. You probably all know that buying links in large bulks from companies claiming to get you ranked fast is not something we would promote at Yoast. But what about a link from an individual company? From a high quality website right in your niche? Is it wrong to buy one link from such a company? How will Google ever find out about that?

Google won’t know about one link you buy from one company. Still, we would recommend not to do so. If this company has sold one link to you,  they could sell more links to more people. And although one link will not alarm Google, as the amount of questionable links on a website rises, the risk of getting hit by Penguin or a manual penalty rises as well.

Don’t recycle your content on different sites

A way to get links is to write articles about your company or about your products and try to get these articles published on other sites. Beware to not publish the same content on different sites though! An article in which sentences and paragraphs are switched and a few words are altered still remains duplicate content to the original article. Especially if you repeat this trick several times. Spinning content is not creating new content. It is a link building trick and it could backfire. Write the articles for the audience of the website you’re sending your piece to. Yes, that is a lot of work. No one said link building is easy…

Don’t forget social media

If you’re building links, do not leave out social media! Social media should definitely be included in your link building strategy, although it is not totally clear to what extent links from social media actually help in your ranking. If you’re receiving links from other websites all of a sudden, it would be extremely weird if you would not receive some from social media sites as well. That will not add up and could make you look spammy in Google’s eyes. So alongside your attempts to receive links from appropriate websites, invest in getting shares, tweets and likes on social media platforms as well.

Don’t fake!

Your link building strategy shouldn’t look natural, it should be natural! Make sure your link building isn’t fake. Links should be placed because the link could be beneficial to the user of a website. Links should fit the content of the page they’re placed on. Your link building strategy should be part of a marketing strategy aimed at telling people about your company, your website or your products. It should never be aimed at getting as much quality links as possible.

Conclusion: links should always be useful

From a holistic SEO perspective, links should be useful for the user of a website. A link should be there because it means something, because the text in which the link is embedded refers to that specific page. If a link is merely there for Google and won’t receive any clicking, the link probably shouldn’t be there.
Links are meant to be clicked on. Link building should therefore be about creating links that are useful for and clicked on by the audience of a website! In my next post, I’ll give you some tips on doing link building the Yoast way.

Read more: 6 steps to a successful link building strategy »

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18 Responses to Link building: what not to do?

  1. April
    April  • 3 years ago

    Thanks! Some basic information but still very interesting. Well-fitting picture!

  2. John
    John  • 3 years ago

    Most of the points are good(especially 3rd and 7th). The only problem is Google continues to reward people doing artificial links. No,I am not talking about a week or month but years. Looks like Google does not let newer sites rank but old spammy sites which passed filters are not touched.

  3. Matthew
    Matthew  • 3 years ago

    This sentence in the article seems to have a typo:

    Is het wrong to buy one link from such a company?

  4. Dan
    Dan  • 3 years ago

    The problem with not recycling content that we spend hours writing, is that OTHER people dishonestly appropriate and recycle it anyway – surely that has a similar detrimental effect, but one which we simply cannot prevent?

  5. Jacco
    Jacco  • 3 years ago

    Too bad it’s still not clear how social links are counted. It would be great if a popular (= lots of likes) verified (= no spam profile) person or company would count just like a high authority site, especially on the same subject. How more proof could you get right?

  6. Michael Tyler
    Michael Tyler  • 3 years ago

    Very interesting.

    Unfortunately, owners of small sites need to be pro-active in the early days in order to give their site a ‘footprint’.

    The SEO tactics of genuine site owners and producers of original content shouldn’t be penalised, for whatever reason.
    If they syndicate content and it’s reproduced across the net, that’s good.
    If you do that manually or in-organically, that’s bad.

  7. Michael Romano
    Michael Romano  • 3 years ago

    “Placing a lot of links will probably help the ranking of your site for a short while, but probably not in the long run.” So-called SEO “experts” claim this quite frequently, but using backlink search tools to research my competitors, I’ve found it to be inaccurate. All of the high-ranking SERPs that I’ve seen make use of bulk backlinks– mostly from highly-questionable sources.

  8. The Property Insurer
    The Property Insurer  • 3 years ago

    I’m trying to build up links for The Property Insurer and I am reading the Yoast suggestions. They make a lot of sense and in the home insurance area, there are now companies ranking in the top 10 with very few links and a lot more content on page. That’s something we are trying now – fingers crossed and keep up the good advice!

  9. Nathan
    Nathan  • 3 years ago

    Great article Marieke, Indeed when it comes to link building – Automation or link blast is not the answer. Especially for new sites or sites with thin content. It can be easily identified if link is relevant or not by comparing backlinks from few more sources and obviously, Google may identify that very well. As it said, It shouldn’t look natural, but it should be.

    Thanks for helping us know especially about homepage backlink since most of the time, I use my homepage for comments and from now on I will be extra careful.

  10. Priya
    Priya  • 3 years ago

    Great Post! Thanks for Posting such a Informative Content which is needy for Every SEO professional. Please write more about this Link Building Process which can keep our website nearer to search result.

  11. setupmedia
    setupmedia  • 3 years ago

    great article , the link building is always difficult and arduous, but as necessary as good content

  12. Mark
    Mark  • 3 years ago

    This is such a nice article! Knowing what you can do is easy, knowing what not to do is most often forgotten. It seems so logical, but in the end a lot of people ignore these rules in their SEO strategy, and get penalized at the end. I will definitely share this article with my colleagues and friends!

    Thanks and greetings from Hong Kong!

  13. Briantony
    Briantony  • 3 years ago

    This article I have longed for, especially the part where am not supposed to reuse my content in other platforms. It is one thing I have been doing wrong for so long. Thanks for the enlightenment

  14. ankur pratap
    ankur pratap  • 3 years ago

    If i am interlinking content on my internal pages in the form of anchor tag. for example:- for a specific product like acer Tablet, but the specific word in anchor text cant be changed to non-other than acer slates.
    Should i stop Repeating interlinking to my internal pages or google will penalize my website before any warning in Webmaster tool

    • Andrew Bullis
      Andrew Bullis  • 3 years ago

      Ankur, if I have this right, you are wondering how to link to a product page without the anchor text always being the name of the product (Acer tablets in this case)? If that’s the case, you could solve this problem by changing up the wording around it and including some of that in the anchor text.

      So for instance, instead of “check out our selection of (link)Acer tablets(/link)” use “check out (link)our selection of Acer tablets(/link).”

      As your links should be on pages that are relevant to your website anyway, you could go the very safe route and omit the words “Acer tablets” from the anchor text altogether. Example: “We sell many Acer tablets, which you can find (link)at our store(/link).”

      Hopefully those quick ideas help.

      • Jonathan Ridehalgh
        Jonathan Ridehalgh  • 3 years ago

        or you could just link those the pages using the most relevant anchor text that is appropriate to the page, honestly it amazes me that people are now second guessing googles ideology of “natural links” on the internal link structure of a website.

        By going through the thought process of effectively “spinning” these links to make them appear more natural.

  15. SRCC
    SRCC  • 3 years ago

    Thanks Marieke for such a nice post. My friend has a company and they rank their event based blogs the same way but most of them get penalized very soon. :) Than you for sharing what NOT to do.

  16. Design7
    Design7  • 3 years ago

    I found the points about not linking to the home page especially useful. That graphic is funny! Nice Post!

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