Five Myths About Link Building

Five Myths About Link Building

August 17, 2010
Larry Kim



There's a reason that link building is often touted as being one of the top strategies for gaining exposure online: it works. Unlike many other online marketing strategies, link building is a consistently reliable way to draw targeted traffic to a website. Like anything else, though, plenty of myths about link building are swirling around out there. In order to make the most out of your Internet marketing experience, you should educate yourself about the most common link building myths. By doing so, you can use link building to enjoy a more fruitful online marketing experience.

Dispelling the Top Five Link Building Myths

The Internet is awash in conflicting information about link building. Below, we highlight five of the most pervasive link building strategy myths, then cut them down to size. When you're through reading this article, you'll have a much firmer grasp on why link building continues to be one of the most effective online marketing techniques around.

Link Building Myth #1: You'll Always Get Dinged for Reciprocal Linking

Many online marketers are so wary of being penalized by Google that they miss out on incredible link building opportunities. It's natural to be a little gun-shy about ticking off the major search engines; after all, they have the power to make or break your site. Reciprocal linking can land you in hot water -- but not always. The difference between positive reciprocal linking and negative reciprocal linking is subtle, but real. In a nutshell, soliciting random blogs and other websites for reciprocal links tends to be frowned upon and could get you in trouble. "Spontaneous" reciprocal linking, though, isn't necessarily a bad thing.

Let's say that you discover another blog that links to yours. After paying it a visit, you realize that it's a very worthwhile site that has a great deal to offer the people who visit your own site. If you'd happily provide a link to the site under normal circumstances, it's perfectly okay to do so now. Just because the site already links to your own doesn't mean that it's off-limits. In this case, the two sites are sure to relate to one another in some way. Therefore, a major search engine isn't likely to view reciprocal linking with a raised eyebrow. In fact, the relevance of your two sites should enhance the link building in this instance.

Link Building Myth #2: Outbound Links Will Hurt Your Rankings

This second myth relates a little to the first one. Some blog owners are convinced that adding too many outbound links to their sites lowers their rankings with search engines. In addition to being wary of reciprocal linking, then, many online marketers steadfastly refuse to include many outbound links on their sites. To be sure, if the search engine algorithms detect that your site is awash in outbound links to irrelevant sites, you're going to be penalized. What about outbound links that are actually useful, though?

The number one goal of most major search engines is to return relevant, useful results to their users. Therefore, they tend to give priority to websites and blogs that users consider to be useful. If the outbound links on your site tend to be beneficial to the people who visit it, they are actually going to help improve your rankings. Furthermore, relevant outbound links can enhance your link building campaign. This is one of those link building myths that stymies online markers' progress, rather than enhancing it.

Link Building Myth #3: Links on High PR Sites Are the Only Ones That Matter

If you've zeroed in on high PR websites that you'd like to use to enhance your link building campaign, proceed with caution. All too often, people are so overzealous about building links on high PR websites that they fail to pay attention to the rankings of the actual pages where their links are published. Having links on high PR sites is less worthwhile if they are added to dark, dusty, forgotten pages. Targeting high PR sites is always smart, but be sure to dig a little deeper before moving forward. Also, remember that a natural link profile will include links from low and medium PR sites as well.

Link Building Myth #4: Try Emailing People and Asking for Links

I have not had much success with link begging. Unless you happen to already know the person who you're asking for a link, this is a waste of resources. It's just too unscalable and unproductive an activity to be spending time on. If you have someone who spends any time doing link building, consider focusing them on executing link baiting strategies or writing guest posts on authoritative blogs in your industry.

Link Building Myth #5: Links Are There to Stay

If someone promises you that the links that they're adding are "permanent," be suspicious. Resting on your laurels during a link building campaign is a surefire way to make it flounder. Link building is something that should never end. Links can become broken, site owners can remove them at will and entire websites can cease to exist. By continually working to build new links, you can spare to lose the ones that will inevitably go away. Out of all of the inane link building myths that are out there, this one is the easiest to dispel.

Putting too much stock in any of these prevalent link building myths can bring a link building campaign to a screeching halt. Sorting the truth from the lies can be confusing. At the end of the day, however, there are many ways to make a link building campaign work. Above all, remember to stick with link building strategies that are legit and above-the-belt. In the end, all of your hard work will pay off in spades.

Photo credit:

Hit me up on Twitter


Jonathan Bentz
Aug 17, 2010

Great post. Another one I would add to this list is that link building strategies work universally. As I've been developing and managing campaigns in a variety of industries, I continually find it impressive how top ranking sites go about getting their rankings via link building - in almost every vertical, it is done differently.

So, the myth would be "links that work in one industry will definitely work in another." And the strategy tip would be to customize your link building tactics to what is working for other top ranking sites in the keyword niche.

Tom Demers
Aug 17, 2010

Hey Jonathan,
Great point - in some niches just getting some low quality deep links can have you ranking for your targeted keywords, but in others you'll need more authority links or a mix. What I really like to do here is to analyze your niche and then:
1) Copy your competition's link profile (steal the low hanging link fruit)
2) "Transport" a link strategy from another verticle - A lot of times if you can replicate a lot of your competitors' link profiles, then grab some links that no one else in the SERPs are willing or able to replicate you can outrank them where sticking with just one strategy or the other would have failed to rank.
Thanks Jonathan!

Fundraising Ideas
Aug 17, 2010

Great ideas ... especially guest posting on other blogs, etc.

Larry Kim
Aug 17, 2010

thanks for the comment and hope you submit something for inclusion to the WordStream internet marketing blog.

SEO Lebanon
Aug 17, 2010

one myth is that nofollow links does not help in ranking.

Tom Demers
Aug 17, 2010

Thanks for the comment - I definitely think Google may be lying to us about nofollow. Thanks! Tom

David Leonhardt SEO consultant
Aug 17, 2010

I agree with 4-and-a-half of these five myth-busters. Where I disagree is that emailing for a link is a waste of time. While it doesn't get a very high response rate, it is worth emailing or even telephoning a particularly relevant website if you have reason to believe they post links.

I do agree that it is worth first to build up a relationship, perhaps through Twitter or a forum, for a much, much, much better chance of getting a link.

But if I email 20 highly targeted websites out of the blue that I would just love to have a link on, it is worth it to get 3 of them.

Ken Lyons
Aug 17, 2010

Hey, David.
Thanks for the comment (and the sphinn too).
I agree with you that targeted outreach (aka "link begging") can be very effective. I've had a lot of success reaching out to site owners/bloggers and asking them to "share" my valuable content with their audience (which is the key IMO: offering something of value that's worth linking to).
But seems like Larry has a different take, which I can respect.
Hey...agree to disagree ;)

Dan Patterson
Aug 17, 2010

I have to agree with David on this one. Yeah, it takes a lot of work to get links from emailing sites but can be well worth the effort if you get a few. Link begging isn't the way to go about doing it. You have to be able to offer something to make it worth the site owners time, and I'm not talking about $$$. The key is to get creative and seek out the right sites.

I'm not suggesting this is the only thing you should do, but you shouldn't write it off as a complete waste of time.

I'm really glad you pointed out #5! This is a trap that a lot of SEO clients can fall into - thinking that their SEO project is 'done'.

Tom Demers
Aug 17, 2010

Hey Dan,
Great point re: link begging, I think the key there is to have a strong piece of content to promote. I'd agree with Larry that if you're just cold Emailing someone out of the blue to promote your paid product, you're not likely to have a lot of success, but I think if you're really targeted (as you and David mentioned) and particularly if you're promoting a free utility or a useful/interesting piece of content you can still have a lot of success there. Just like "writing great content" doesn't get you links, "sending lots of Emails" typically won't either.
Thanks for commenting guys!

Backlink Building Practices to Avoid.
Aug 18, 2010

[...] Check #1 5 Persistent Myths About Link Building Debunked | WordStream Organic SEO Kung Fu :: check the new mobile polling system here - YouMobToo Reply With [...]

Aug 18, 2010

Like some others here I disagree about #4 but I suppose it's a matter of your approach. We frequently contact Web sites and blogs whose readers we think might enjoy our site -- and it's been effective. We don't mass email or use boilerplate templates. We treat every potential site uniquely and do a little research on them first to see if we'd be a truly good fit. What kinds of content do they write? What do their readers have to say? Which of their articles are "Most Popular." Then we write to them as human beings rather than robots. We certainly strike out more than we succeed, but between the inbound traffic and improved PR, it's been well worth it.

Career Outlook
Aug 18, 2010

I was also confused about reciprocal link exchange and I have never exchanged any links due to threat of penalty. Thanks for providing the correct information about reciprocal links.

Dr Amy Bandy
Aug 18, 2010

In my experience you have to give something to get something. So most often that comes in the form of a recip. link. But I often offer to write and article or give some wallpapers or something for a link.

Aug 19, 2010

Thanks for this post! I hope these tips will work for me :)

Weekly Search & Social News: 08/24/2010 | SEO Buzz
Aug 24, 2010

[...] Five Myths About Link Building – the WordStream gang put out a good (little) post on some common mis-perceptions in the SEO space when it comes to links. The interesting one is the ‘link begging one’. What I think they might have missed is that outreach is about forming relationships, to spamming out of the blue to ask for a link… ya know? [...]

Weekly Search & Social News: 08/24/2010 | SEO Facts
Aug 24, 2010

[...] Five Myths About Link Building – the WordStream gang put out a good (little) post on some common mis-perceptions in the SEO space when it comes to links. The interesting one is the ‘link begging one’. What I think they might have missed is that outreach is about forming relationships, to spamming out of the blue to ask for a link… ya know? [...]

SEO Hampshire
Aug 31, 2010

Thanks for providing the tips for link building. Also this is very useful for me. I am glad to be a part of you. Please keep it on

Nov 03, 2010

Myth #x Don't worry about building artificial links. If you write good content you will get ahead of spammers with thousand of links... eventually... someday

Jan 20, 2011

Perhaps offering a donation for a charity in return for a link would be a good idea. What do you think?

Jul 13, 2011

Great stuff! Thanks for sharing.

Asher Elran
Oct 13, 2013

#2 I do not agree 100%with. I am concerened not only with relevancy but I also check, domain authority, page rank and volume of trafic on site before linking to it. I am not so much concerned about inner pages, but for the home page I would do a lot of research before linking to a site.

Leave a comment