Unfortunately, there are some shady SEO agencies out there. Black hat SEO techniques like keyword stuffing, cloaking, and buying links from private blog networks (PBNs) and link farms en masse are all too common.
Eventually Google catches on, and their clients’ sites get penalized, sometimes to the point of no return. If you’re working with an ethical link building agency (like us!), they’ll never resort to these kinds of techniques.
In this article, we’re setting the record straight on 8 of the absolute worst backlink myths that even some well-meaning SEOs believe.
8 Link Building Myths Exposed & Debunked
Here are the worst 8 link building myths debunked:
- Disavowing Links Is Worth Doing
- You Don’t Need Backlinks
- Guest Posting Is Dead
- Non-Niche Relevant Links Are Low-Quality
- Link Exchanges Will Get You Penalized
- Building A Mass Amount Of Links To A Single Piece Of Content Is Spammy
- Links Should Only Be Built to Your Commercial Pages
- It Doesn’t Matter How Many Backlinks You Have
1. Disavowing Links Is Worth Doing
Myth 1 has been a hotly discussed topic, and there is a lot of misinformation surrounding it.
According to Google, you should only disavow links if you have a lot of spammy or predatory links to your site and if you’ve tried unsuccessfully to get the linking sites to take down the links themselves.
Similarly, an excessive amount of links to toxic sites (e.g., pornographic, violent, or illegal sites) can also warrant a disavowal.
In general, though, unless you have an unnatural link profile with hundreds (or thousands) of links from low-quality sites, it’s not worth your time to disavow links.
Google’s John Mueller confirmed this in a 2018 tweet, where he states that even random backlinks from spammy sites around the world wouldn’t even warrant a disavowal.
2. You Don’t Need Backlinks
We’re gonna cut to the chase on this one—if you want to boost your rankings organically, you probably need backlinks.
While it’s true that hundreds of other ranking factors like click-through rate, a highly original and valuable webpage, and social media engagement are important, links are still a major part of the algorithm.
If your site or business operates in a niche with little to no competition, you might be able to get away without actively building links. But for most people reading this article, that’s not the case.
Backlinks act as a “vote of confidence” from one site to another. When a high-quality, authoritative site links to your content, it tells Google that your content is worth linking to and is contextually relevant, which in turn helps improve your search engine ranking.
Low quality links can either be ignored by search engines or hurt your rankings. It’s possible that these types of links may work in the short-term but usually don’t last.
3. Guest Posting Is Dead
In the early days of SEO, guest posting was often abused to manipulate Google’s ranking algorithms. People would write low-quality articles stuffed with keywords and links and submit them to blogs and forums in their industry, regardless of whether the article was a good fit or not.
Because of this, Google began cracking down on guest posting. In 2014, Matt Cutts (then head of Google’s webspam team) even went so far as to say on his personal blog that guest posting for links was “dead”.
However, Cutts clarified his statement. The “guest posting” he referred to wasn’t necessarily referring to authoritative posts from relevant publications, but rather the low-quality, keyword-stuffed articles written solely for link building purposes.
Guest posting still works. If it didn’t, we wouldn’t have amazing case studies that showcase our client results.
4. Non-Niche Relevant Links Are Low-Quality
In the past, some SEO experts believed that only links from sites in your direct industry or niche were valuable.
For example, if you owned a pet food company, they would only want links from other pet-related sites like dog parks, veterinarians, etc.
While New York Times or Huffington Post aren’t exclusively about pets, wouldn’t you still want a link from them?
John Mueller said it best: “Just because there are sites focused on a topic doesn’t mean that they’re better at it than other sites.”
In a tweet response to someone asking about Forbes ranking number two for “best truck tires,” even though they are self-described as a business site, Mueller stated that non-niche relevant links can be just as valuable—if not more so—than niche relevant links.
Forbes isn’t a car or truck site, but that doesn’t mean it can’t produce well-researched and targeted content on the topic.
At the moment, SEO’s place too much emphasis on topical relevance. While being an expert on one topic can help with rankings, it’s clear that Google still favors websites with authoritative backlink profiles.
5. Link Exchanges Will Get You Penalized
Link schemes (e.g., link farms, link wheels, content networks, etc.) are fairly obvious to Google.
But when done tactfully, reciprocal links and three-way link exchanges can actually be beneficial to your SEO.
This is because link exchanges are a natural occurrence of the web. If two websites have helpful content in similar niches, is it crazy to think they won’t link to each other?
In 2020, Ahrefs conducted a study on reciprocal links, which cleared up some gray areas around reciprocal links:
- 1-1 link exchanges can be beneficial, but you must have a solid understanding of what they entail and how to go about them.
- Reaching out to site owners and asking for a reciprocal link is annoying and disrespectful.
- Building positive relationships with others in your industry and popping up on their radars as a valuable resource is the best way to get a link.
- You can’t expect a reciprocal link right away. It’s best to put yourself out there and have your strategy pay off long-term.
The TL;DR: Link exchanges work when done with tact and not in excess. To improve rankings with link exchanges, make them look natural.
6. Building A Mass Amount Of Links To A Single Piece Of Content Is Spammy
In a competitive niche, you actually need a lot of links to rank. Just take a look at how tough it is to rank for the keyword “link building agency.”
To rank in the top spot, we would need ≈ 77 external links pointing to our site!
And relatively speaking, that isn’t even much. If you created a CRM tool, raking for the term would require ≈ 524 links.
That said, ranking for long-tail keywords with low search volumes and those that are more targeted to your business will likely take fewer links.
The takeaway here is that you shouldn’t be afraid of building tons of links to your most important pieces of content, especially when your competition is doing it.
7. Links Should Only Be Built To Your Commercial Pages
While commercial pages should be high priority, you shouldn’t point 100% of your links to them. A natural link profile has a mix of links pointing to an assortment of pages.
The key to compounding growth and higher rankings is through acquiring links to these types of pages:
- Commercial pages
- Linkable Assets
Commercial pages drive the highest ROI but they don’t make for great linkable assets.
Linkable assets won’t get you many customers but they position you in front of journalists and freelance writers who will naturally link to you. You can also use internal links from the asset and point them to your commercial page for a boost in rankings.
For example, I’m a journalist writing an article for the New York Times about bone broth and I want to mention the benefits of bone broth. I’ll search for bone broth benefits on Google, click the first result, use that information and then cite that result in the form of a link.
The combination of building links and earning them naturally can give you a huge advantage over the competition.
8. It Doesn’t Matter How Many Backlinks You Have
As we touched on earlier, the number of links you have has a direct impact on whether or not you’ll rank in the top three results for competitive keywords.
However, quality wins over quantity.
In Mueller’s tweet, he jokes about how spammy links are bad but still implies that you need quality backlinks to compete.
While it’s possible to rank sites with little to no links, it only works for non-competitive keywords. Even then, it won’t last very long. Eventually, you’ll end up on a competitor’s radar, they’ll target the same keyword and outrank you.
What Kinds Of Low-Quality Spammy Backlinks Harm Rankings?
Like we touched on earlier, Google is always getting better at detecting content as being authoritative or not.
Most sites never disavow, even if a link is spammy.
The main types of links that can harm your site’s rankings include:
- Link Farms: While paying for links can work, you have to vet the websites and ensure they meet quality standards. You want to avoid link farms at all costs.
- Links From Spammy Directories: Submitting your site to a slew of directories is a tactic from the past. If you have a link from a relevant directory, you might move up in search results. But if that isn’t the case, it can result in link profile devaluation.
- Low-Quality Blog Comments: Commenting on blogs with just a link back to your site is a big no-no. Not only are these links unnatural, but they also don’t provide any real value to the reader, or the blog post itself.
- Low-Quality Links From Content Networks: If you’re getting links from sites with low domain authority (DA) and trust flow, those links won’t impact your rankings much.
The bottom line is that you need to be careful when it comes to creating backlinks—especially when it comes to identifying low-quality links. Links should be built with Google’s webmaster guidelines in mind, and make sure that any link you’re getting comes from a reputable source.
Does Anchor Text Matter In SEO?
But it’s essential to remember that you should use anchor text in moderation. It’s best to have mostly branded and partially keyword-optimized anchor text.
Too much of the same type of anchor text signals to Google that you are trying to manipulate your rankings and could indicate that you aren’t practicing organic link building strategies.
Do Social Media Links Help Rankings?
Social media doesn’t directly help search engine rankings, but it does influence certain factors that do benefit your Google ranking.
But an engaging social media presence can help you to gain visibility and earn backlinks from other websites, which does add SEO value to your site. Plus, social activity can be a signal to search engines that your content is popular and should be ranked accordingly.
How Difficult Is Guest Posting?
In theory, guest posting is a low-difficulty activity. Some entrepreneurs and business owners handle it themselves. But guest posting is more complicated than it looks on the surface, which is why so many people outsource link building services. You need to vet the blog you’re posting on, have strong writing skills, and understand SEO so you can optimize your posts.
And chances are you won’t get very far unless you have a solid network of website owners who are willing to take your post. For this reason, the practice of link building is best left to a professional marketer or agency that can find a relevant directory or publication for each of your links.
You also need to take the time to write the blog yourself. For reference, this post took a little over four hours to write.
Ain’t nobody got time for that!
Well, we do.