There are a lot of link building myths and misconceptions floating around and today we want to clear up some common confusion!
When you understand these common myths, you’ll have a ton more success in any link building you do.
Just imagine: With the right link building strategy, your website will climb up the results to page 1.
Let’s get into it!
Myth #1: “I’ll build a few links and see how it goes.”
Going too slow with link building is a common problem.
The real issue isn’t necessarily the slow nature of building links, but with the misalignment of how many links it’s actually going to take to rank on page one.
You need to figure out the realistic number of backlinks by analyzing how many links your competitors have that are ranking on page 1.
We use ahrefs for competitor research on this.
Let’s take a look at an example:
Say you want to rank for “ketogenic coffee” – a keyword that gets about 500 searches a month with a CPC of ~$0.80.
Looking at ahrefs, the top ranking results for this keyword have between 76 – 182 backlinks.
Since Google is ranking content with this range of links, you’ll most likely need to fall somewhere around this range as well when trying to rank for this keyword.
Here’s some scary math: If the average number of backlinks was 100, and you did 1 link/month, you would need 100 months, or over 8 years to rank your content for that keyword.
Even if it was a lower number of links, like 12, that means it would take a full year for you to reach that number at 1 link per month.
You can get a better picture of how many backlinks on average you’d need to rank by looking at how many links the results on page 1 of Google have.
This allows you to set some real goals to follow through on.
If you want to rank in 3 months: divide the average number of links for results on page 1 by 3 to get a more realistic view of how many links it would take and how much it might cost.
When it comes to getting the “right” number of links to your site, looking at your competition’s stats is one of the best ways to get a ballpark figure to shoot for!
Side note – as you get up to the top, your position depends on more factors than links alone. If your rankings aren’t improving try these things.
Myth #2 “If I build links too fast I’ll get penalized”
The prospect of building links too fast and getting penalized by Google is another common concern.
However getting a large quantity of links is something that happens regularly online, and it’s not necessarily bad:
Content that goes viral naturally attracts links quickly.
For example, authoritative content that answers a question such as “What is the Met Gala?” naturally attracts a lot of links very quickly because it’s so useful, and in this case timely.
This particular article got almost 200 referring domains in just 7 days.
As a result of its great performance in such a short period, it ranks #1 for organic search for the phrase “What is the Met Gala”:
This article has also amassed more than an estimated 6.3k in organic traffic:
This is a common scenario for news content, authority pieces, or viral articles – They attract lots of links very quickly, and not only do they NOT get penalized, they actually rank really well.
Other content such as research pieces also generate lots of links because they serve as references for other content to link back to.
This research article got nearly 150 referring domains and 700 backlinks in the first week.
As a result, it’s ranking on page 1 of the SERPs for multiple terms:
Having fast link velocity isn’t necessarily bad, and in these cases, attracting lots of quality links quickly resulted in some great rankings.
Myth #3 “If a link comes from a site that’s not exactly my niche I’ll get penalized.”
There are a lot of misconceptions out there regarding link relevancy.
The biggest misconception here is that any link that points to you MUST be from a domain that matches your industry or niche market.
For example, if you are a “swimming pool store,” you should only get links from “swimming pool stores” or very closely related websites.
Now, it’s not that you shouldn’t get relevant links, but good link building is more about context.
Let’s look at an example:
The Ketogenic Diet is all the rage these days – The term “ketogenic diet” get 293K searches per month with a ~$1.00 CPC. This is a very popular and competitive term.
Now looking at the results this website (ruled.me) is ranking #1.
Looking at this site’s backlink profile, you’d think that all of the referring links should also be related to the keto diet, right?
A closer look at some the sites referring to this one reveals some unexpected, non-keto niches linking to it:
As you can see, the top backlinks for this #1 ranking result are pretty diversified.
It’s very common to have a diverse set of websites linking to you, but the most important thing to look for is the context of the link.
Myth #4 “I need exact match anchors in every link.”
Anchor text makes up a clickable hyperlink [e.g. The HOTH].
Just as you need a diversity of backlink topics, you also want to shoot for a diverse set of anchor text on those sites.
In fact, Google attempted to curb the practice of too many exact match anchors with the Penguin update, but we still see this as a common issue with anchor text over-optimization.
The approach to take for establishing anchor text is to look at the % of each type of anchor text in the top ranking content you are trying to rank for.
You can assume that Google will respond well to those proportions for your backlinks if the topic is similar.
To simplify the concept, you can think about anchor text as 3 major categories:
- Exact match anchors – This is a link that has one of your key phrases in it (e.g. “gluten-free flour”).
- Keyphrases mixed into anchors – These are anchors with your key phrase + words that are not part of the key phrase (e.g. “gluten-free flour from Bob’s Red Mill”)
- Brand, natural and URL anchors – These have no reference to your key phrase unless the key phrase is part of your brand (e.g. “Bob’s Red Mill”)
The % of each category shifts according to Google’s algorithm, but you can find some good general guidelines for how to vary your anchor text in this article.
Looking back at our ketogenic diet example, we see that there is actually a lot of variation in the anchor text:
About 50% of the anchors are closely related to the website or the topic. Going down the list though, there are a lot more non-matching anchors pointing to this page:
Mimicking the backlink profile of your competition is what we call the “sniper approach” to anchor text.
Instead of guessing, take a look at the backlinks for the websites Google is ranking on page 1 for your keyword, and look at the proportion of different anchor text categories pointing to them.
You can line up your backlink profile with other top-ranked backlink profiles. If you do, you’ll be able to build links rapidly and it will still look natural.
Ready to Rank Fast?
I hope that now you have a much more realistic view of building links.
By taking a more objective and realistic approach to link building, you’ll be able to make an action plan that WILL meet your ranking goals.
Remember: You can find out exactly what you need to do in order to rank by taking the approach in this article.
We’ve cleared up the confusion surrounding these link building myths, but there are a lot more myths out there!
Feel free to leave a comment below with any other link building myths you might have heard so that we can keep reality in check.
Clayton Johnson is the CMO of The HOTH SEO company. He has over 8+ years experience in the SEO industry and has spoken at events like SEJ Summit. The HOTH has been featured in Inc 5000, Forbes, SMX, Pubcon, Content Marketing World, Affiliate Summit, Brighton and more.