Backlinks are necessary to improve your domain authority and rank in search engines. This is indisputable. Because Google uses links as an external verification of a site’s authority, it’s important that the integrity of these links be preserved; if Google believes you are deliberately and wantonly posting links around the web for the sole purpose of increasing your domain authority, it will penalize you.
However, this doesn’t mean that “link building” is a bad thing in general. All it means is that you have to build links naturally by providing relevant content to external publishers, citing worthy material on your own site, and generally adding value to your target communities. Unfortunately, this raises more problems than it solves, especially for newcomers. If you’re just getting started with link building (or SEO in general), the whole system can seem confusing, unnecessarily complicated, and intimidating. Pro tip: it both is and isn’t.
In some ways, navigating the pitfalls of link building is challenging and ambiguous (as there aren’t many formal guides for the process). In others, trusting your instincts and creating good material is the best of all strategies. For the former, I’ve taken the time to list the five most common obstacles that stop newcomers in their tracks, and hopefully, the productive ways to address them:
1. Trusting the Process.
It may sound strange, but the biggest obstacle most link builders face is getting started. Trusting the link building process manifests itself in three ways: first, you have to trust that link building is a benefit for your site, not a risk. Unless you’re buying links directly or participating in an elaborate scheme, your links will only increase the authority of your site. Second, you have to trust yourself to be doing things right. It’s likely you’ll make some mistakes along the way, but if you’re too intimidated to attempt linking out, you’ll never get anywhere. Finally, you have to trust that link building has you on the right path. It’s a long-term strategy, like all SEO tactics, so you aren’t going to see significant results the same week, or even the same month that you get started. Give it time, and trust that there’s a reason this strategy is still around.
2. Finding Good Sources.
The next obstacle is more of a logistical problem: finding good sources on which to build links. Finding all the right qualities in a source is hard, even for experienced link builders, and it only gets harder as you start tapping the most easily available and appropriate sources. First, you have to find a source that’s relevant to your industry (or at least tangentially related to it). Then, you have to make sure their domain authority is in check—how long has it been around? How high is it ranking? How noteworthy is it in your industry? What kind of content does it host? Finally, you have to ensure that it accepts open publications—and if it does, that opens a whole other door of potential complications.
3. Getting a Link Accepted.
Identifying a good source is no guarantee you’ll be able to make use of it. You have to produce content that’s valuable to the publisher in question, sometimes adhering to their rules on post formatting, subject matter, and other miscellaneous requirements. Different publishers will have different standards—some will mandate that you’ve had publishing experience with other noteworthy sources, creating a “where to get started” paradox, and some won’t accept submissions from any new writers at all. To top it off, even if you get the attention and acceptance of a publisher and submit a piece of truly great content, there’s a chance that your link will be removed by the editor or webmaster, negating much of the value you intended to build. Unfortunately, this is an obstacle that can only be overcome through experience—learning which strategies work and which ones don’t, while accepting that you won’t win every battle.
4. Learning the Balance.
There’s a careful balance you have to strike in many areas of link building. You have to maintain your relationship with publishers by posting new content, but not an overabundance of it. You have to seek new sources often, but you can’t build links too quickly. You have to balance standard links and nofollow links, home page and internal page links, and many different types of content all under the umbrella of the same strategy. The best advice I have for this obstacle is to start small and make gradual changes—otherwise, it’s too easy to get overwhelmed.
5. Growing a Strategy.
Diversity and intensity are the two keys to growing a link building strategy—diversity in the types of links you build and sources you choose to host them, and intensity in terms of the number of links you post and the quality of the sources you use. It’s easy to get comfortable in a strategy and never work on scaling it upward, but you have to push yourself forward if you want to keep seeing results. Maintain an ever-growing list of publishers, including ones you feel are out of your league or ones who have rejected you in the past. Follow up with them as the months roll on, and strive to post better and better content. Your goal should be to do a little better each month.
If you can overcome these obstacles, you’ll put yourself far ahead of the majority of link building newcomers. Once you establish a groove and become familiar with the principles and fundamentals of the strategy, you’ll wonder why you were ever intimidated in the first place. It takes time to develop a solid strategy, like any SEO tactic, but eventually you’ll find a rhythm.
In his 9+ years as a digital marketer, Sam has worked with countless small businesses and enterprise Fortune 500 companies and organizations including NASDAQ OMX, eBay, Duncan Hines, Drew Barrymore, Washington, DC based law firm Price Benowitz LLP and human rights organization Amnesty International.
He is a recurring speaker at the Search Marketing Expo conference series and a TEDx Talker. Today he works directly with high-end clients across all verticals to maximize on and off-site SEO ROI through content marketing and link building.
In his 9+ years as a digital marketer, Sam has worked with countless small businesses and enterprise Fortune 500 companies and organizations including NASDAQ OMX, eBay, Duncan Hines, Drew Barrymore, Washington, DC based law firm Price Benowitz LLP and human rights organization Amnesty International. He is a recurring speaker at the Search Marketing Expo conference series and a TEDx Talker. Today he works directly with high-end clients across all verticals to maximize on and off-site SEO ROI through content marketing and link building.