Google started releasing the link spam update on July 26 2021 and it’s still rolling out. The update aims to detect and penalize websites that use inappropriate means to gain backlinks and manipulate search engine results.
Even though the updates aim at fighting against fraudulent link building practices, there are many claims online that link building is dead and doesn’t matter anymore.
Well, that definitely isn’t the case and is a complete myth!
In this article, we will be talking about such common link building myths that are spread out there and the reality about them.
In this article, we will be talking about the most common link building myths out there.
Tons of online content explains why link building is necessary for your website’s SEO and the techniques you need to follow.
However, there is very little information on what needs to be avoided while building links!
And that’s exactly what we’re gonna discuss here.
Why is Link Building Important?
Link building is considered to be one of the most important pillars of Search Engine Optimization. This is because backlinks help Google in indexing new websites and web pages. Moreover, it also helps Google to analyze and decide how trustworthy/important the website and its pages actually are.
Many so-called SEO gurus claim that link building isn’t relevant to SEO anymore.
However, the benefits of having a proper link building strategy are still considered essential for a website’s growth.
A study by Backlinko, where 11.8 million web pages were analyzed, shows that pages with a higher number of backlinks ranked better over the pages with a lesser number of backlinks.
In fact, the study also claims that the web page in the No. 1 position of Google’s SERP has about 3.8 times more backlinks on average than the web page in positions No. 2 till No. 10.
Demystifying Link Building Myths & Mis-Conceptions
Below are 15 myths about link building that are completely FALSE and must never influence your link building strategy.
1. Building backlinks is bad for websites
The adverse effect of building backlinks in modern SEO is a long-debated question.
It all started several years back when the “backlink” factor seemed to make less impact for search appearances of websites.
Matt Cutts, who headed Google’s Web Spam team back then, said in a Google Search Central YouTube video that backlinks will become less relevant for the overall SEO ranking of websites in the long run.
So, have backlinks really become useless for website rankings?
Well, about a decade earlier, the Google PageRank metric was something that every webmaster worked hard for. A higher PageRank score meant that the website was better optimized for Google’s likes.
Many people aren’t still aware that the “PageRank” term, named after Google’s co-founder Larry Page, refers to the actual patented algorithm that Google uses to rank websites since 1998.
The public access to Google PageRank metric was shut down back in 2016.
However, Google still uses the same PageRank algorithm internally to rank websites, as confirmed on Twitter by John Mueller, the Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google.
And if you still have doubts, then yes, backlinks are one prime ranking factor of the PageRank algorithm.
In the same tweet, Mueller says that they also use “many, many other signals’. This reduces the dependency on backlinks, but they are still relevant!
So, why do some feel that backlinks may affect their sites negatively?
Google frequently releases updates to its search engine to make sure that there is no foul play in the search rankings because of backlinks.
As a result, websites with an improper/foul backlinking strategy get penalized by Google.
2. If the DR/DA of the website is high, it’s a good link
Domain Rating (DR)is a metric developed by Ahrefs that determines the “strength” of a website by assessing its backlink profile.
On the other hand, Domain Authority (DA) is a metric developed by Moz that predicts how well the domain will rank in Google’s SERP (Search Engine Results Page). Several factors are included in the calculation of DA including backlink profile, existing SERP status, etc.
Both these metrics aren’t officially from Google.
Yet, they are considered to be the modern PageRank by many!
There is a common misconception that if you receive a backlink from a domain with a high DR/DA value, that link will be highly valuable.
However, this is not entirely true.
For example, there are many directory submission websites out there with high DA/DR ratings, and you can easily get a backlink from them by submitting your website URL.
Google’s search algorithm is smart enough to give the least priority to such websites that give away huge amounts of links to external sites, regardless of their DA/DR rating.
Also, if the domain itself is not relevant to your niche, then it further decreases the actual link juice you receive through the backlink.
Thus, the point here is that if a website has a high DA/DR rating, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re going to receive all the benefits of it via a backlink.
3. Link exchange between two websites can lead to Google penalty
Link exchange refers to an agreement between two websites to link to each other.
During a Google SEO Office Hours session in July 2021, John Mueller says that link exchange between two websites is against the Google Webmasters Guidelines.
However, a study conducted by Ahrefs found out that about half of the websites assessed had some reciprocal links.
Therefore, reciprocal links do work in the modern SEO scene, but it has to be done with caution.
The thing is to not overdo link exchange to avoid getting suspicious in Google bot’s eyes.
Another important point to remember is to make maximum benefit out of the few reciprocal links you build.
For instance, it is ideal for a business to exchange links with relevant websites/blogs ranking in the top SERP, rather than exchanging links in bulk with lower ranking sites, which also would raise suspicion.
4. Links should be built on keyword-rich anchors to rank
Most people try to over-optimize the backlinks by adding keyword-rich anchor texts, expecting better SEO results.
For the unaware, an anchor text refers to the text/words to which a link/URL is linked, on a web page.
To the ordinary viewer, the anchor text gives them an idea about what to expect on the other web page once they click on the text.
In SEO terms, anchor text also gives Google an idea about what the linked web page is about. Thus, it helps Google to rank the linked page for the right set of keywords.
Until about a decade earlier, anchor text played a very important role in ranking links for specific keywords. And with bulk backlinks, you could rank a web page for keywords that had nothing to do with the site’s content.
However, the first Google Penguin update back in 2012 particularly targeted websites with over-optimized anchor texts.
The first Penguin update downgraded about 3.1 percent of websites listed on Google for malicious anchor text practices.
Nowadays, Penguin is a part of Google’s core algorithm. Thus, it is quite safe to assume over-optimized anchor texts will affect your website’s SEO in the long run.
So, what needs to be done?
You must try out different varieties of anchor texts for your backlink strategy.
Apart from always using keyword-rich anchor texts, try to also include other varieties such as branded anchor texts, partial match texts, related texts, long-tail texts, etc.
Also, as Google is more focused nowadays on providing results based on NLP (Natural Language Processing), try to include generic keywords as how someone would search for it via typing/voice.
5. If you write good content it will automatically attract backlinks
Content is always king!
Well-researched and good quality content gives reason for other websites to link back to your site and for the visitors to come back for more. Ultimately, you also get to reap the SEO benefits as search engines also rank your site better.
However, for others to discover your content, your site needs to be discovered. And for your site to be discovered, backlinks are important.
Do you see an endless loop here?
The short story is that just content quality isn’t going to attract backlinks, at least during the initial phase of your website.
You do need to have a proper outreach strategy to make sure that your website’s content is discovered by the other website editors who and some of them will link to your content.
When a well-defined outreach strategy for link building is combined with great content, your website will do wonders.
6. Just focusing on backlinks & not focusing on other 200+ ranking factors
You know what, SEO isn’t just about backlinks.
As listed by Backlinko, there are over 200 ranking factors that Google uses to rank websites.
In the modern-day, everything from your website’s loading time to its compatibility with mobile devices affects your site’s overall SEO.
Keywords, domain-level and page-level optimizations, content length, User Interface design, image optimization, etc. also play an important role in your website’s SEO growth.
Therefore, a sustainable SEO approach will be to focus on as many ranking factors as possible to ensure that Google finds your site as something preparing for the long run and thus improves your ranking.
7. You should build links only on niche relevant websites
A tech website must only build backlinks from other tech websites, right
Websites must only build links from other niche relevant sites is a common belief in the SEO world.
However, getting backlinks from only niche relevant websites does become a hassle after a while.
As Neil Patel puts it in his article, the number of backlinks also matters for a website’s growth, at least initially.
Moreover, if you just build niche relevant backlinks, then it gives Google another reason to consider that the backlinks you received are part of a calculated link building process.
In an ideal world, your content will receive links from both niche-relevant and non-niche-relevant websites that ultimately refer to your content.
Thus, by building both niche and non-niche-relevant backlinks, you can stay safe from being reviewed by Google for ingenuine link building, yet get to experience the boost that even non-niche-relevant websites bring.
8. Nofollow links are not helping in SEO
In SEO terms, every backlink is categorized as either Dofollow or Nofollow.
A DoFollow backlink basically tells search engines that the linking site passes on its “authority” to the link that is present. Thus, Google considers as if the linking site vouches for the linked site to be valuable.
On the other hand, a NoFollow backlink still displays the link, makes it accessible to search engine bots, and navigates to that specific page upon clicking. However, with a NoFollow link, the linking website does not vouch for the linked website.
Now, in common logic, NoFollow backlinks are basically not even worth a dime.
However, that’s not entirely true.
Yes, NoFollow backlinks indeed provide little to no ranking benefits directly.
But, as pointed out in this article by Search Engine Watch, Google might have started considering Nofollow links for indexing and crawling purposes.
Although there exists no official confirmation by Google on this, it can be considered a win for new websites to get noticed and listed.
Apart from ranking benefits, Nofollow links improve brand awareness, increase traffic, etc., all of which also help in SEO.
Also, a healthy backlink profile is always a combination of both Dofollow and Nofollow links, as only having Dofollow links can raise Google’s suspicion as it won’t ideally be the case for normal websites.
Moreover, all the links generated from social media platforms, Wikipedia, etc. are Nofollow, but they do come with their own SEO benefits.
9. Guest posting means spamming the web
Is guest posting considered spam?
This is a question that most people ask, especially after Matt Cutts wrote in his blog back in 2014 about how guest posting is dead.
The original idea behind guest posting was for budding creators and new businesses to provide free content for, preferably, well-established websites and popular blogs, to gain some attention.
As a reward for providing free content, the website accepting guest posts would link back to the author’s site, which most would have been a Dofollow link.
Yes, this seems like a super-easy way to build juicy Dofollow backlinks.
But, as Mr. Mueller (yeah! He knows everything!) says, in the modern SEO perspective, backlinks from guest posts must be labeled Nofollow.
And if you’re generating too many Dofollow links via guest posting, then Google’s algorithm is smart enough to ignore them.
Forget the backlink part, is guest posting itself considered “spamming the web”?
Even Google publishes guest posts from webmasters and other professionals within their blogs.
10. The more backlinks you build better it is
During the beginning of the search engine era in the early 2000s, the number of backlinks is only what mattered to rank on the top SERP.
However, as people started misusing the “quantity” factor of backlinks in various ways, search engines like Google have also improved their algorithms to give backlink quality a higher priority.
Nowadays, backlink quality outweighs quantity by a huge margin.
Thus, just the quantity must not be a priority while building backlinks for your website.
Instead, there needs to be a balance between the quality and quantity of backlinks to let Google know that your links are legitimate.
11. Adding outbound links will dilute the link equity
Outbound links are the links that you add from your website pointing to an external source.
If linking to external sources also passes the authority, then it dilutes your link equity, right?
Linking to trustworthy external sites will help both in SEO and also in building trust among the visitors to your site, as you’re providing more valuable information written elsewhere.
Even though outbound links don’t affect your site’s SEO as much as inbound links do, they do create a sense of trustworthiness in the eyes of search engines.
By linking to external sites, you are basically telling search engines about the references that helped in creating your own content.
Moreover, if your reference gets noticed by the other website owner, then you might also receive a link back in the future, which directly helps to boost your rankings.
12. High link velocity will lead to a penalty
Link velocity basically tells how fast you’re building backlinks to your website.
There is a common misconception that a high link velocity can get your site penalized as it seems unnatural.
In another Google Search Central video, Mr. Mueller explains in detail that link velocity is not something that Google is concerned about. But instead, the quality of links is what helps in determining whether the backlinks are legitimate or not.
If you publish topical content on your website, then it is expected to receive quite a lot of backlinks from other sites as they refer to your content for theirs.
In the above case, the links do seem natural in SEO terms, as the links are a result of your quality content.
However, if you suddenly boost your backlinks profile using spammy or untrustworthy links, then search engines will basically notice that there is something wrong with the links. Hence, you may be penalized.
13. All links in an article get equal value
There are different locations in an article from where you can get backlinks to your site.
One important point to note is that not all link locations give equal value.
There is a detailed article by Moz.com that explains how links from different locations in an article differ in value.
Simply put, links from unique domains (domains that weren’t previously linking to your site) provide more value.
Also, the links that are placed in the main content body, especially in the first half of the content, offer more value.
Links that are placed in the navigation bar, footer, etc. offer the least value. Modern algorithms implemented by Google even skip the links placed in the page navigation bar, footer, etc.
14. Google has become very smart & Backlinks don’t matter now
Any experienced SEO professional would know how easy SEO was, up until like a decade ago
Since then, Google has vastly developed its search engine algorithms and implemented new updates which have made the “rough wild west” SEO space organized.
Now that Google algorithms have become so clever, do backlinks still matter?
During a Q&A session back in 2016, Google’s Andrey Lipattsev revealed that links, content, and the RankBrain algorithm were the top 3 ranking factors considered by Google.
For the unaware, the “RankBrain” algorithm is a Machine Learning – Artificial Intelligence system that helps build the SERP.
Thus, it is very clear that backlinks are still the backbone of Search Engine Optimization. The only difference now is that Google algorithms are smart enough to understand the links that add value against the ones that don’t.
15. Links from other sites are more important than internal links
External links do pass authority from an outside source to your website, thus helping you to improve your website’s authority.
As internal links do not have the same effect, many people try to avoid internal linking between their website content.
However, internal links are also an integral part of ideal SEO practice.
Internal links help search engine bots discover and index pages on your website.
Moreover, search engines do count on the internal links while ranking your website and its pages.
Using internal links, you can set appropriate anchor texts for your posts while linking and thus rank for rich keywords.
Internal links also help search engines to understand your website hierarchy, as well as related content on your website to recommend in SERP.
Understanding Link Building Myths and Stay Clear Off Them
Anyone who reads through the above-listed link building myths will find something in common.
That is, every link building strategy works only if used in moderation.
There are no specific guidelines from Google on how much each link building strategy is effective in a website’s SEO.
However, Google experts do stress the fact that overdoing any strategy in terms of SEO or link building raises the wrong flags in Google’s algorithms.
Thus, proper research and expertise must be utilized to implement link-building techniques for your website.
If your linking building footprints ring the wrong bells, then your website will definitely be tracked down and penalized by search engines like Google.