5 link building DON’Ts you didn’t know about

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, use a holistic SEO strategy, and avoid certain link building tactics. In this post, I’ll discuss some link building DON’Ts: tactics you should most definitely NOT use. Some of these, you probably already know about; I’ll cover those first. Then, let’s move to 5 less well known – but equally important – DON’Ts.

Before we dive in, if you want to learn more about link building strategies and other essential SEO skills, you should check out our All-around SEO training! It doesn’t just tell you about SEO: it makes sure you know how to put these skills into actual practice!!

Risky link building tactics

In the old days, link building meant putting links on as many 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 may help the ranking of your site for a short while, but probably not in the long run.

Obvious link building DON’Ts

I suspect most of you will already know quite a few of these obvious link building tactics one must definitely not apply:

  • You shouldn’t buy links.
  • Don’t exchange links.
  • Avoid automated programs to get links.
  • Don’t do guest blogging with very thin and off-topic content.
  • Don’t comment on blogs or forums if your only purpose is to leave a link in the comment.
  • Over-optimizing your anchor text isn’t a good idea.
  • You shouldn’t have links that are unrelated to the topic of your website.
  • Avoid having links from sites that have no real content.
  • You shouldn’t have links from spammy sites whose only purpose is to advertise for gambling, viagra, or porn (unless your website is about gambling, viagra or porn).

So, now that we’ve covered these, let’s move on to some lesser known link building DON’Ts.

1. Linking only to the homepage? Don’t!

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 from 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!

2. Pay for specific links? 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 Yoast would recommend. But what about a single 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 number of questionable links on a website increases, the risk of getting hit by Penguin or a manual penalty rises as well.

3. Recycling your content on different sites? Don’t!

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 some 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.

In short: recycling 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…

4. Forgetting about social media? Don’t!

If you’re building links, do not leave out social media! Social media should definitely be included in your link building strategy, even if it’s not totally clear to what extent links from social media actually help in your ranking. If you receive many links from other websites all of a sudden, it would be extremely weird if you didn’t get any links from social media sites as well. That doesn’t 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.

5. Faking it? Don’t!

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 benefit the user of a website. They should fit the content of the page they’re added to. Ideally, your link building strategy is part of a marketing strategy aimed at telling people about your company, your website or your products. It should never aim only at getting as many 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 clicks, 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 the audience of a website, so they will click! Keep that in mind, with these DON’Ts, and your link building strategy should be well under way.

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

Coming up next!

42 Responses to 5 link building DON’Ts you didn’t know about

  1. Muskan Khan
    Muskan Khan  • 5 years ago

    I appreciate your writing skill, you described everything in an easy way. Thanks for sharing!

  2. website design and development packages
    website design and development packages  • 5 years ago

    Awesome post Marieke, thanks for sharing it with us.

    Hello Marieke, is this Neil Patel in your above image? :D :D

  3. Arash Ghaemi
    Arash Ghaemi  • 5 years ago

    Great Post!

    I definitely like to default linking to just my homepage. I guess I’ll start mixing it up a bit more.

  4. Bollywood Masala
    Bollywood Masala  • 5 years ago

    I am a content writer, I write on Bollywood related content, I just wanna say thank you very much. This content helped me a lot, I got the mistakes I have done and now gonna rectify them ASAP. These are the SEO tips I was looking for. Some of them are truly helpful like don’t fake it.

    • Iris Guelen
      Iris Guelen  • 5 years ago

      You’re very welcome! Makes us happy to hear and we’re glad we could be of help!

  5. Richard Ogbechie
    Richard Ogbechie  • 5 years ago

    Wow thank you for the great article, I’ve been guilty of linking only to my blog page and over optimizing on my anchor words…I’ll try out these new techniques listed and give you an update on my progress

    • Iris Guelen
      Iris Guelen  • 5 years ago

      You’re welcome, Richard! Excited to see your progress, do let us know!

  6. Mohit Sharma
    Mohit Sharma  • 5 years ago

    Hey, Thanks for the useful Article. I am just focused on white hat link building tactics and before that making the best content for the user is a vital task which should be high priorities.

    • Iris Guelen
      Iris Guelen  • 5 years ago

      Yes! You’ve got it right, Mohit! Good luck to you :)

  7. Ochoche David
    Ochoche David  • 5 years ago

    Thanks for sharing this great content, it’s really help me. I would stick to this advice. Thanks once again.

  8. Philip L Franckel, Esq.
    Philip L Franckel, Esq.  • 5 years ago

    I have been writing the monthly legal column for a motorcycle magazine in print. The article is usually a shorter version of the article I post on my website. The magazine has been posting my articles on their website and since January is exclusively online. Now, I provide a link in their online article to the article on my website so readers can see the entire version.

    I’m not sure if this is a problem but unfortunately, I really don’t want to change the practice of writing the content for my website and allowing the magazine to publish it.

    It was nice when Google allowed authorship markup.

  9. Joyce Grace
    Joyce Grace  • 5 years ago

    Willemien is right, there are ways around this as far as duplicate content is concerned (and the ‘recycling’ content mentioned in this article). I also wrote an article addressing this more specifically, and with ‘real’ examples. I’m not sure this will help as a link building effort though, but maybe the Yoast team can answer that more directly. Nonetheless it seems like Google will still recognize the original source of content.

    This sort of thing also happens with content scrapers, who ‘illegally’ republish good articles on sites that are designed not half-bad and almost look legitimate at the outset. But these things don’t necessarily mean that your original content is going to get diluted in ranking. They are obviously over-doing it, and I imagine that is getting noticed.

    So for your sponsored content, I would think the main issue is for the publishers who are publishing your content, and others content, which is all duplicate, and all using canonical URLs. That can’t be amazing for their own SEO.

  10. Jillian Bell
    Jillian Bell  • 5 years ago

    This is very helpful. My doubt is, there are few websites with thin content in a foreign language who link to our website. What about those links? We are not in control of those links.

    • Oliver Barajas
      Oliver Barajas  • 5 years ago

      You could disavow those links in google search console to avoid any harm.

  11. Imran
    Imran  • 5 years ago

    Nice post and helpful article!

    I a blogger, and i continue posting 4/5 post everyday. All posts contain fresh and new content.
    Question is: We need to do link building for new post to increase ranking on google.

    Please let me know.

  12. Paul Veenvliet
    Paul Veenvliet  • 5 years ago

    I disagree with point 1, because the homepage address is constant but I update the other pages at least once a year and their web-addresses change. Linking to specific pages on my site makes sense in some contexts, but has a high risk of creating dead links in the future.

    • Willemien Hallebeek
      Willemien Hallebeek  • 5 years ago

      Hi Paul, Thanks for your comment! Just wondering why you would change a URL if you update a page? If you change the URL, you’ll lose the ranking you’ve built up for that particular page, right? And, if for some reason, it makes sense to change the URL, we’d always advise creating a redirect from the old page to the new one to prevent dead links.

  13. Sara Vancikova
    Sara Vancikova  • 5 years ago

    Let’s analyze a possible scenario. You built a website. It has no backlinks so it ranks poorly. It ranks poorly so there are no visitors. There are no visitors so the website won’t get natural backlinks. Vicious Circle.

    • Willemien Hallebeek
      Willemien Hallebeek  • 5 years ago

      Hi Sara, The beginning is always the hardest. In this case, I’d recommend focussing first on creating high-quality content that stands out from existing content on the same topic. Then, start sharing it in your own network and try to expand it from there.

  14. Jamie
    Jamie  • 5 years ago

    How does cross-posted content work? E.g. when one publisher runs a story ‘first published on X website’ — it’s called what it is, but it’s still the same content run by two publishers.

    In our case, we often run articles as paid sponsored content that a publisher will hold on their own site and we also run on our own blog. Is that going to harm us and be seen as duplicate content?

  15. G PILLAI
    G PILLAI  • 5 years ago

    Hello Marieke, what are your thoughts on digital press releases? These typically do get recycled across platforms, and writing original content for each platform, each time a digital press release is required would not be practical, since these short write ups would be all about the exact and specifc same thing.

    • Willemien Hallebeek
      Willemien Hallebeek  • 5 years ago

      Hi! If the press release gets recycled on a lot of external platforms, we do recommend writing a distinguished news item for your own site, even if it’s about the exact same thing. That way, your site won’t suffer from duplicate content issues, because your content is different. If you mean you recycle it on your own platforms, we do advise to write original content for all platforms or to create canonical links to the URL you’d like to rank most: https://yoast.com/what-is-a-canonical-url/

  16. Zeeshan Aktar
    Zeeshan Aktar  • 5 years ago

    I read through the whole article and was impressed at how easy and simple it is to digest and understand.

    I’m a designer at heart and looking at your blog post that is so simple and minimally designed has changed my perspective. Thank you.

    P.S. Do you have any posts covering how to write a social media post? Like for Instagram? I think SEO on social media is definitely growing bigger.

  17. Josh Harwood
    Josh Harwood  • 5 years ago

    Sweet article Marieke.

    Yea, I’m definitely keen to “play it safe” and just stick with leg (Proper) white hate link building tactics.

    Thanks for being awesome.


  18. Egbuachor Kelechukwu Anthony
    Egbuachor Kelechukwu Anthony  • 5 years ago

    For some months, ‘semalt’ has been disturbing me with phone calls, promising to help me rank my website and give me a lot of backlinks. They have a package they call ‘auto seo’ which I don’t really believe in!

    Is it a good idea to buy their service?

    • Willemien Hallebeek
      Willemien Hallebeek  • 5 years ago

      Hi Anthony, As this sounds very shady, I wouldn’t recommend doing so!

  19. Kirk
    Kirk  • 5 years ago

    What are your thoughts on sponsoring local non-profits? I’ve done so as part of normal business without thinking about the SEO ramifications. There are a few of these kinds of links to my site as a result of donations made.

    • Willemien Hallebeek
      Willemien Hallebeek  • 5 years ago

      Hi Kirk, Those links shouldn’t harm your site if you’ve done so as part of your normal business. Local non-profit sites probably aren’t shady in any way and because they’re local it could very well make sense they link to your (local) business.

  20. container surabaya
    container surabaya  • 5 years ago

    I started to build a lot of back links to websites with high pagerank, but the text that represented the link was the same word in all the links that I planted on other websites, was that liked by Google?

  21. Moses Asuquo
    Moses Asuquo  • 5 years ago

    Wow! Thank you for this… However I’m still struggling to get some backlink

  22. V.J. Miller,Sr
    V.J. Miller,Sr  • 5 years ago

    What can be done about spam bots that try to post to your site? I have Askimet and it keeps any spam bot from getting through. Lately I have been inundated with spam comments that have latched onto one or two of my posts as a backdoor. It’s become a pain to have to empty the trash so often.

    • Willemien Hallebeek
      Willemien Hallebeek  • 5 years ago

      Hi! If these two posts are old posts, I’d advise to just close the comments on these posts. Perhaps comment moderation can help already https://wordpress.org/support/article/comment-moderation/ Also, security plugins can block spam agent patterns, so check if you have one. Good luck!

  23. Dwivid
    Dwivid  • 5 years ago

    Hi there,

    I am quite confused about a couple of link building tactics such as directory submission, social bookmarking and guest posting. Would you please share your opinion that is it safe to get backlinks from those websites?

  24. Tony Payne
    Tony Payne  • 5 years ago

    I know link exchanges are a bad idea, as you said, but if the exchange is between two sites that cover a similar topic, for example humour/jokes, isn’t this still a good thing, as long as the linking isn’t done in a spammy way?

    • Willemien Hallebeek
      Willemien Hallebeek  • 5 years ago

      Hi Tony, if your site is topically related it probably makes sense for the users too. And if it isn’t done in a spammy way, I don’t see the harm in doing that.

  25. Ken Parth
    Ken Parth  • 5 years ago

    Great post on what not to do while link building. But I heard that Google, in as much as they discourage folks from sharing duplicate contents on multiple web platforms, will not penalize one for doing that. It is just that the duplicate contents will not rank on google relative to the website where the original content was first published.

    It makes you wonder why some SEO professionals share the same content on many platforms including social media sites. This is just to help them generate traffic and not to rank on Google.

    Please, I would like to know your thoughts are on this. Best

  26. Mike Wilson
    Mike Wilson  • 5 years ago

    I really enjoyed reading this post and I especially liked point number 5: “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 benefit the user of a website. They should fit the content of the page they’re added to.”

    This biggest problem I have with my link building SEO strategy is finding high quality off-page sites related to my niche to get back links from. I’d really love to see some content written about how and where to acquire high quality back links without being penalized by Google. Thanks!

  27. Jason Eland
    Jason Eland  • 5 years ago

    I disagree with the semi-over-broad nature of point number one. Having a high volume of links to the homepage is not unnatural for SEO.

    Natural linking would have a high volume of links coming in Branded and Homepage specific because linking parties (Humans) are naturally lazy. It is easier to link to a home page rather than example.com/something/insertwhatever Because example.com is quicker to find and type.

    Unless you are an eCommerce site or industry authority, it would be more unnatural for a service, clinic, or B2B businesses to have more internal pages over homepage links. Instead of links to something like a service offerings page.

    Where Business owners can gain backlinks, is to high value content that would be logical to link to. Like whitepapers, Blog posts, tools, etc. Or the contact page for local services

    If it was me, I would say build a link profile that is complementary to your industry niche but don’t fret too much if your link building or press releases gain more home page links over inner pages. Gain link to pages that make sense with outreach campaigns as your link profile grows (and hopefully your quality content).