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Link Building Mistakes of the Pros and Newbs

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8:35 pm on Sep 21, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Some of these are literally debatable. Some are indisputable. Please share your thoughts. :)

Repetitive emailing
The reason some agencies do this is because it brings results, as there is a small but measurable conversion rate. In my opinion I think this is a way to burn bridges, create bad will and set it up to have that kind of outreach increasingly ignored. Well, it already is ignored, which is why these kinds of campaigns are scaled up, like those of all email spammers. The actual conversion rate of knocking down the door type outreach is low.

Publishing your actual outreach template in an SEO article
Being transparent makes some people feel good about what they do because they can confidently say they have nothing to hide. However, publishing search strategy specifics in public has been known to cause a response from Google.

Outsourcing the entire strategy in the dark
One thing many publishers who have come to me for help is that they had outsourced their entire link strategy to a company that did not reveal exactly how they would obtain links. The best way to outsource is to do it as a partnership.

Forum & Comment Spamming
This is one of those kitchen table strategies small business newbs tend to get. To them it's "spreading the word" but to publishers it's spam.
5:05 am on Sept 22, 2016 (gmt 0)

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On thing I did many years ago was to foot footer links in free Wordpress templates. People used them and I did get links that helped at the time.

It worked for a while because I did it before it became common - so it may even have paid off in terms of getting that site going, but later on it probably looked spammy.
5:23 am on Sept 22, 2016 (gmt 0)

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RE: including links in forum sigs or Wordpress footers for publicity.

Yes I did that back then as well and many years later it has come back to bite me. These sites are now some of the "spammy" incoming links I've needed to disallow.
2:25 pm on Sept 22, 2016 (gmt 0)

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A common denominator of many of these strategies is that they seemed like a good idea at the time.
3:15 pm on Sept 22, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Chasing PageRank. Thankfully, that is now obfuscated. People still do it as there are "lists" online, and that'll take a long while to go away.
When will people finally "get it!"
4:24 pm on Sept 22, 2016 (gmt 0)

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engine, that's a good one! Nowadays I know there are many who are chasing DA, even though Rand Fishkin discourages the practice of using Domain Authority [moz.com] for judging a site's worth, describing it as the number one link building myth in a White Board Friday dated 09/09/2016:

Weird, Crazy Myths About Link Building in SEO You Should Probably Ignore
1. Never get links from sites with a lower domain authority than your own
So when you're doing link building, I think DA can be a decent sorting function, just like Spam Score can. But those two metrics don't mean that something is necessarily a terrible place or a great place to get a link from.


Rand makes it clear that it's better to use your own judgment as to the quality of the site, a point I agree with because it is exactly the same approach I use and have been encouraging others to use for over a decade.

...new websites that have just popped up or sites that have very few links or local links, that is just fine. If they are high-quality sites that give out links editorially and they link to other good places, you shouldn't fret or worry that just because their DA is low, they're going to provide no value or low value or hurt you. None of those things are the case.
10:20 pm on Sept 22, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Def agree on not chasing DA... Additional issues with that is the moz index isn't "complete" so often times DA isn't even an accurate reflection of a site's authority, and often times there are big DA fluctuations when Moz updates their index. Similarly applies to TrustFlow/CitationFlow, aHrefs Rank/Domain Rating etc... They are good to use as general litmus tests to estimate potential authority, but should be paired with a common sense review of the site, potential audience, determination of existing legit traffic, relevance, etc., etc.

I would add a common mistake is getting multiple links from a single source.. e.g. someone tells you they have 5, 10, 50 websites to place your link, and you take it. Those types of sites are generally built for the purpose of selling links OR the webmaster likely makes that offer often enough that you are setting yourself up to be part of an obvious pattern.
10:47 pm on Sept 22, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Hey Jake, great observations and very true! :)

...someone tells you they have 5, 10, 50 websites to place your link, and you take it. Those types of sites are generally built for the purpose of selling links OR the webmaster likely makes that offer often enough that you are setting yourself up to be part of an obvious pattern.
8:18 pm on Sept 23, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Got a minus 30 penalty once (6-8 years ago) for using the same link text over an over a little too much. Got the dreaded manual penalty notice and it was humbling. Seems I placed 100+ links with only 3-4 variations of link text.

A long since dead forum SEO option I once used was one that had a link directory that could be set to publicly viewable. I made lots of new forums that have since been un-linked. Oddly the affiliate ads I used on their welcome pages still trickles in $50 to $75 USD quarterly! LOL
8:38 pm on Sept 23, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Back in the days when search engines were in their infancy (10 plus years ago) directories helped in ranking. Back then and still now they didn't send ANY visitors! I went free directory hunting for a time and placed MANY links. Tens of hours of time I'll NEVER get back. In 2016 how many of those directories come up in searches? VERY few unless it's a VERY specific topic (AKA Long Tail Search). Many were abandoned and domains not renewed. Free directories (with paid premium listings) were not viable economically.

I personally made a ONE page directory in 2011 that was for a very specific search. It was a 'favor' to a niche I participate in outside of webmastery/webfiddling. NONE of those sites listed get over 50 visits a month in their off sales season. Their 'In season' visits are 500-4000 in ONE month and then back to 11 months of off season. As far as SEO all listed sites were horribly created and needed the help. Would I do it again for any other set of conditions? NEVER.

Ditto with links in Press Releases placed on PR sites...they (and their link's worth/influence) disappeared from the search results 5+ years ago when the man behind the curtain turned up the dial (and tanked almost all low cost PR sites).
3:02 pm on Sept 24, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Directory links used to be an important way of obtaining links early on. However like many SEO activities it soon grew out of control.

The best way to utilize directory links was as a minor complement to other link building activities. Yet for many they almost seemed like the foundation of their link strategy- and this soon became a problem.

I never participated in directory link schemes (DMOZ, Yahoo, BOTW and Zeal were the only directories I consistently used). Nearly all other directories had sketchy backlinks and in my opinion were at some point, at best, were going away and at worst the directories were going to become toxic.

When I became a moderator of this link building forum I had to deal with many spammers who were promoting their myriad directories or lists of directories. It was a circus.

By the time BlueFind came along the directory craze was peaking, jumping the shark dressed as Elvis with ET white-knuckling for dear life on the handlebars. BlueFind had a PageRank of seven or eight as I recall.

I remember being disappointed with a fellow WebmasterWorld member who told me he couldn't help buying a link from BlueFind, disappointed with him because I (thought) it was well understood that BlueFind was not going to be around long- which is exactly what happened. One didn't have to be a genius to see that coming.

Maybe some might find this discussion from 2004 of interest, it's titled, BlueFind Verdict [webmasterworld.com]. It's discussing BlueFind specifically but indirectly and between the lines what's really being discussed is the strategy of link building with directories. Profiteers saw directories as a business model for buying links (and PageRank) then re-selling that PageRank to SEOs. SEOs saw an opportunity for buying links. What could possibly go wrong? :)
6:04 pm on Sept 26, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Obvious con jobs.

"Are you still updating this page? [URL deleted] I came across a few resources that you might like to include on your list. They were useful for me and my daughter so thought they might be useful for your visitors as well."

(Sorry, pal, but you've tried that ploy twice already.)
6:39 pm on Sept 26, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Obvious con jobs.

To add to that at least in the realm of what I don't like to see...
I get link requests like 20 times a day now. I don't act on many of them. But, I can absolutely tell you what just annoys me in them.

First, when someone tries to make it look like they are buying ad space. I have ad space available so it is just really annoying to then find out that what they really want is to buy links. Links are not ads.

Second, using the wrong contact form or contact email address. We don't hide our business contact form. A link to it is right there in the footer, like every other legitimate site on the planet. and I still get idiots who post link requests to our public forum. Do your homework and send the request to the right place.

Third, using crappy and/or spun and/or off-topic articles when you do get the opportunity to guest post (if you are using that as your link building strategy). I do accept guest content on my site but we have pretty high standards. And we make those standards really clear when we give you the opportunity to guest post. And still, we get morons who try to send us garbage. Just because you paid to post on my site does not mean I will take whatever trash you send. I will give your money back if you send me garbage and you just lost the opportunity to get a nice link. You know, shell out another few bucks for good, original, on-topic content. It will make your link stronger in the long run anyway.

Fourth, when you treat me like an idiot. Nothing makes me want to reach for a delete button more than when someone starts out the email with a basic lesson on SEO. Do you really think I got my site to that size without at least a basic knowledge of what happens on a search engine? No, because you don't even realize that I am a larger site. You just searched for a term, and hit every site that came up for that term. Which leads me to...

Fifth, false praise and ass kissing. Yeah, yeah, yeah... You loved my article/site/opinion. I am leader in my field. I am just them most damn awesome thing you have ever seen. Puh-leeaze. See above for how you found my site. It is even worse when they then screw up some detail about my site. It is a business transaction people. You don't go kissing the ass of the person you are buying a banner ad space from, do you? So just stop doing it when you are trying to get or buy links.

System

6:46 pm on Sept 26, 2016 (gmt 0)

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The following message was cut out to new thread by martinibuster. New thread at: link_development/4819855.htm [webmasterworld.com]
2:01 pm on Sep 26, 2016 (utc -5)
3:45 am on Sept 27, 2016 (gmt 0)

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It's been implied in several prior comments but the most common mistake I see is the suggestion that 'they' are doing me a favour. Yet 'they' are the ones soliciting me! Yah, no.

Probably the greatest mistake I see is that of automagical-broadcast solicitation where it is obvious that they haven't (as mentioned by hannamyluv) a clue about my site(s) other than one or another ranking keyword(s). This is usually compounded (as mentioned by martinibuster) by repetitive requests. To add insult to injury additional compounding by parallel requests referencing some other keyword(s). Spam unto the n-th degree. I guess it must work for some definition of work but I find it quite alien in concept.

The most fundamental mistake I see is the misapprehension of what a link request is: it is marketing, marketing your site as being worth my linking. What all the 'mistakes' have in common is that instead of promoting 'why' they demonstrate clearly 'why not'.

Further, links have value, from horrendously negative to astoundingly good. If, and by the very act of solicitation they imply positive value, my links are worth acquisition the question becomes simply a matter of price. Now, that can simply be met by the link destination adding sufficient value for my visitors; however, from those who make the type of mistakes we are describing this is extremely improbable. It can also be met by monetary recompense (regardless of SE ToS); however, those who behave as described probably have little to none to offer.

The very best ways of asking for links involve not; a communication method so far beyond the comprehension of the majority of link builders...

The problem with solicitation scripts is that anyone can use them. And does.
10:16 am on Sept 27, 2016 (gmt 0)

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How can an e-mail create a link? (I can think of few obscure ways but..)

Outside of that, I really hate the common mistake, done both by newbs and veterans alike. They often correlate ranking results with the most recent set of links they have acquired. This is the bane of many small websites, as it often skews the SEO strategy in to "this golden thing that made the site rank", ultimately producing mediocre long term results if any.
2:30 pm on Sept 27, 2016 (gmt 0)

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The only link building I do overtly now is media inquiries. I have a 'media' tab on my website that I beleive is used by the media to find me. They call for quotes, I give them nice quotes.

But, I also tell them they make money from writing articles, I make money from Google, so can I please have a do-follow link in the article. So that's changed, I explicitly ask for the link.

I'm not yet demanding the link, only asking. But when they don't give me a link, they're blacklisted by me. There'll be no more quotes for people that quote me in articles and don't give me a valid editorial link.

I've had an industry mag and two national consumer mags call me in the past month or so. The industry mag didn't give me a link. The consumer mags new what they were doing, so I'm expecting a link from them.
2:32 pm on Sept 27, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Curiosly, I'm also finding that some of these magazines are running articles that are in fact sponsored content. The big brands are paying the established media to write an article on a subject of their choosing. The traditional media makes money I guess, and the brand gets exposure (and hopefully, I get links).
7:29 pm on Sept 27, 2016 (gmt 0)

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One thing that I see time and again is an obsession with Google ranking rather than with income.
10:54 pm on Sept 27, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Good point.
Obsessing over rankings is an interesting mistake. There's so much more value to a link.

Link building, particularly when outsourced, tends to focus on the deliverable, which are the links. A better way is to focus is on building sales or cultivating traffic (for the purpose of sales). The link itself or even the rankings are never the goal. It's the sales or the clicks or whatever action it is you want visitors to take.

When you focus on domain authority and other metrics you lose out on opportunities and ironically you also lose on ranking opportunities.
12:42 am on Sept 28, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Obsessing over rankings is an interesting mistake. There's so much more value to a link.

Building on this...
I am surprised that even in this day and age, that there is so much focus on a link as a link. Like Google just tallies them up still like they did 20 years ago. G and B use, what 300+ factors to rank a page and people think that a link on its own just means something. Why is it so hard to realize that they probably use at least 100 different factors to judge a link as well?

The last time I consulted was 7 years ago and even then I saw that black hatters had started to understand that a link was only valuable for what linked to the page that your link came from. I would see massive networks of linking into page after page with laser focus on a keyword, which then linked into the page that the black hatters wanted to promote. Even that long ago black hatters were trying to manipulate link value through creating artificial link environments. And the average SEO today is still thinking in terms of "well a link is a link" with no regard for who is linking to the page they are trying to get a link from or those environments that page exists in.

The biggest mistake today is thinking that just getting the link is enough. What you want is a link that resides on a page that gets links/traffic from other places, and those other places also get links and traffic from other places. It is a living, breathing organism really.

Even when I consulted, I never minded getting links from small sites as long as the link was on a good page. A page that would persist, grow and get better on its own. And the link I built there would get stronger too.

But one of the major reasons I don't consult anymore is because there is such a drive for NOWNOWNOW. But good SEO is like fine wine or a good meal. It takes time to develop it properly.

When you focus on domain authority and other metrics you lose out on opportunities and ironically you also lose on ranking opportunities.

That is why I get so frustrated with link requests now. When we have someone approach us about a link, most of the time they want it cheap and fast. It is like walking into a Michael Symon restaurant and asking for a McDonald's hamburger. Create links that will have long term value. Short cuts just don't work (as well - sure you will survive on them but you won't excel on them). And just like making a home cooked meal versus buying a fast food one, the extra time and money put into it will make itself abundantly clear over time.

Added: And I know that what I am talking about sounds like PageRank, but it is not. It is understanding what a link's long term value is and that it changes, not what some stupid bar/site says the page's value looks like right now.
7:51 am on Sept 28, 2016 (gmt 0)

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I offered widgets on my site for a long time that many persons used on their sites. And got from that millions of back links, but did not noticed any ranking boost from that. I did noticed that it drown my server recourses and that is why I have removed them from my site. After I removed them I also did not noticed any ranking loss.

For the rest I have never been working on link building (exept some special directories I got traffic from), the most links came/come from webmasters who liked the tools I offer on my site!
11:44 am on Sept 28, 2016 (gmt 0)

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One thing that I see time and again is an obsession with Google ranking rather than with income.



This is so true and so sad. So many people spend their day analyzing their traffic and the serps that they don't have time or motivation left to generate traffic. I can't remember the last time i checked the serps, mostly because google knows my ip and router so the serps are skewed.

when link building i look for links that might send me a client. If a link might send me even one client it is worth my time to persue.
5:30 pm on Sept 28, 2016 (gmt 0)

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things to avoid. can be summed up succinctly by
a communication method so far beyond the comprehension of the majority of link builders
... iamlost

although pretty much already said by others already:
big mistakes are...
1. using any kind of readily available software to somehow automate this, either paid or free
2. paying anyone on the basis of x links for $y - by all means employ a pro but no two links are equal
3. never use a link building company that spam emailed you! (goes without saying, or does it?)
4. don't take any/much notice of any how to's that are published online

martinibuster is generally ahead of the curve - personally i haven't done any 'online' link building for years, i socialise and work with people in my industry, links tend to come from people i actually know ... as do twitter mentions and so on (personally i think these are the 'new' links - i don't care how they are counted by google ... (real not spam) links on social media bring traffic - but this is a whole other topic)
11:46 am on Sept 30, 2016 (gmt 0)

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...i socialise and work with people in my industry, links tend to come from people i actually know...


Shhh! This is supposed to be about mistakes not about actionable strategies! :)

Not to diverge too much, but that strategy hews to the true definition of relationship building. And it highlights what's wrong with the "mistake" strategies in that there's something very impersonal about mistake link building. The best strategies build relationships along with the links. The worst strategies are indifferent to relationships.

Of course, it's not possible to build relationships with every person who links to us. But at least think of it as a relationship. Take a deeper look. There may be other opportunities to build a bridge. That's when spontaneous and unprompted links to your site (and gushing praise for it) begin to happen.

I'm being vague on purpose. It's unreasonable to expect me (or anyone else) to outline a strategy in full detail. But for those with the capacity to figure it out an outline is enough. ;)
11:57 am on Sept 30, 2016 (gmt 0)

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@sench
been there, did that and got lost in the keyword quagmire which was minimal back then. Now, with voice search, tracking keywords might feel good but the public doesn't talk in keywords and they don't search keywords.

Following some other threads on this forum i see a lot of members who track keywords and serps on a regular basis and then come back complaining how their keyword ranking and their serps rankings are doing great but yet their sites are suffering.
6:30 am on Oct 4, 2016 (gmt 0)

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footer links in free Wordpress templates

graeme_p, you were lucky you weren't penalized for those. They became a big issue. Matt Cutts warned against them, and at least one of our members was asked to remove them, which, as he complained, was an impossible task. See this discussion....

Google wants me to remove links from sponsored WordPress themes
April 2012
https://www.webmasterworld.com/google/4445558.htm [webmasterworld.com]

Members are now asking questions about using dofollow links on sponsored widgets, something I would also warn against... as I think they might have penalty potential if your widget is popular enough.
6:58 am on Oct 4, 2016 (gmt 0)

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martinibuster... thanks for the BlueFind discussion, a trip down memory lane. I hadn't thought about some of those names in a while. IMO, BlueFind's manipulated PR was one of the biggest single reasons that the Google Toolbar PageRank indicator became such a problem, though it also put the problem up there for everyone to see.

It was refreshing, btw, to see Rand's comments about DA as a metric. I would clarify one more point about his comment, and that's whether, whatever the metric, getting links from a site that's lower than you are in that metric should be a consideration. As you say, your own judgment is the most important factor. A promising new site is likely to have lower metrics in everything, but in the long run a link from it might become very valuable to have.
3:23 am on Oct 6, 2016 (gmt 0)

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I am not sure the site did not suffer - it is certainly not doing very well now. It worked for a while though, because I did it before sponsored templates became big - in fact, I put links in my own templates to my own sites, which seemed reasonably at the time.

I put some links in directories, but not many because they were mostly obviously rather useless link farms. My "best" experience (have I posted this before?) was with Joe Ant. I added a few links to their investment section (including my own). My sites were allowed, but one was turned down - Berkshire Hathaway's site (where Warren Buffet's investors newsletters are published). I got a message from an editor asking me not to submit such "low quality sites". So much for content being king!

I also got into an argument on the Joe Any forums with someone who was absolutely convinced the reason the www. prefix is widely used was because Microsoft used it when they invented the web!
2:27 am on Oct 7, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Fascinating read with many observations near and far ranging on the topic of linking.

I just keep it simple. Link to content that helps my users. And hope that others doe the same with my content for their users.

Meanwhile, I do the MLM IN PERSON with other webmasters when and where our niches meet and from that comes another bridge of linking.

At no time do I consider B, G, or Y (which is B these days) or that other Y or the funny duck name when link building. Links are for the users, not the search engines.

After all, G killed that fantasy a few years back and has played animal farm since to make sure we know it.
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