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The Myth Of Link Building

Posted by on May 10, 2010

Almost every SEO article you read talks about the importance of link building. They say that you have to create organic ways of getting people to link to you to build your prominence.

Chain Link

They say if you can get one way links that you’ll be in a much better position than trading links. Even Google said that they base their rankings, invalid as they are, on the number of people who link to you without your linking back to them.

What’s happened because of all this talk? I keep getting people writing me and wanting to link to many of my websites, including my business websites. They look at the PR (page rank) on those sites, which is pretty good, and think that by offering me the “opportunity” to trade links with them that it will work out great for me. They may even look at the Alexa rank, which is almost always better than theirs, even if they have high PR (that’s one reason why I question PR) and think they can snow me.

There are many myths that are related to link building. Many of the ideas people come up with don’t work. Some things people believe about link building aren’t true either. Let’s look at some of these things.

1. Link building will automatically boost your site’s prominence. That’s not quite true, although it is partially true. There’s this thing called relationship link building. That means if you link to a page on pink elephants and your blog or website is about quantum physics, you’re not going to get much bounce from that. Whereas if you link to a page that’s related to yours, you’ll get some benefit out of it.

Actually, sometimes linking to a site that doesn’t have much to do with your topic, but helps highlight something you want to be known for, is beneficial to you. For instance, on my business site, I tell people what I do, which works pretty well. However, I also wanted people to know I was based in Syracuse. So I linked to Syracuse and highlighted it, and if one looks me up and adds Syracuse I come up pretty high on the list as well.

2. All related links to your page are going to boost your site’s prominence. You’d think this would be true, but in actuality it’s not always true. I don’t know if you’ve ever gotten one of these requests from someone. Every once in awhile the subject on another site or blog seems like it might be a good fit. That is, until you take a good look at that site. Try to see if you can find the page they’re telling you they’re going to put you on from the main page. Most of the time you can’t because what they’ve done is thrown in a page that doesn’t link to any of their other pages, but is on their site. You don’t get any benefit from that at all; that’s one of those one-way link tricks that benefits them, and it’s sneaky.

3. If I don’t get enough external links, I’m not going to have any good rankings at all. That’s not true, and I’ll give you the perfect example. I’ve mentioned it before, but who’s checked out W3C? That stands for the World Wide Web Consortium, and they’re the folks who pretty much create and monitor the standards for how the web is supposed to work, including coding. They have almost no external links at all; pretty much everything they do is internal.

They’re the masters at internal linking, and the best example for the rest of us. When it comes to page rank, their main page is 10/10. Their Alexa rank, as of when I wrote this, is 479. It’s in looking at that page that I knew that internal linking was the way to go, which is why I often link to my own content on this blog. A few people use a WordPress plugin to do it, but I’d rather do it myself. This way I can bring up some very old posts or newer posts, and hopefully it’ll be more relevant if I do it myself than if software does it. Maybe not, though; sometimes you just have to get a little silly.

Link building is a big deal, but not in the way you might think it is. I’d start off working through your internal linking first, because it’s the main thing you can control. If you still feel the need to do backlink building, at least do it intelligently and ethically.

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Tom @ Web Design surrey:

Interesting view on link building. Some people may disagree with some of what you think. But it’s always good to hear everyone’s point of view.

May 10th, 2010 | 10:31 AM

Thanks Tom. I’m sure some folks will disagree, but if I only wrote agreeable stuff all the time, life would be boring. But I think I’m right; at least I believe my examples prove so.

May 10th, 2010 | 10:51 AM

A different insight and a valid opinion which I myself concur in many ways. Internal linking is a good thing provided of course that there are enough articles to go deep:) Beginners should know that regardless, both external and internal are extremely important and must be done, as you said, intelligently and ethically.
.-= DiTesco´s last blog ..Google Affiliate Network – Building Specific Links =-.

May 10th, 2010 | 2:12 PM

Thanks DiTesco. I figured there are so many bad principles and practices going on that it was time to address the other side of this issue.

May 10th, 2010 | 2:28 PM

Then again I wouldn’t turn down a link from W3C if they were so inclined. 😉

May 10th, 2010 | 5:08 PM

Same here, BB; I’d be honored.

May 10th, 2010 | 8:20 PM

In my opinion, too much linking turns people away.

I have seen blogs and websites where every other word was a link, or had a pop-up when you did a mouse over. I click off and move on…

Too distracting, especially when the link leads to irrevelent content.
.-= Carolee´s last blog ..Great book on making $$$ on the Internet =-.

May 10th, 2010 | 9:36 PM

Carolee, those are different types of links you’re talking about if you ask me. Sure, I throw in a product ad or two every once in awhile as a link, but in general I link to my own past articles, which helps SEO and, hopefully, gives people something else to read on a similar topic that I’ve written. I actually don’t mind a lot of links on a post as long as they’re taking me somewhere. But I had Kontera links on this site for maybe a month before I decided I didn’t want them on my blog.

But most people are missing how internal linking can help them, which is why I’ve written about it often enough.

May 10th, 2010 | 10:28 PM

Exactly, I don’t like links to go to a page that IS NOT revelent to the subject of the post.

If I’m reading about bikes and the word “tire” is a link, I don’t want to be led to a page “make money on the Internet” or even a site about tractor tires- I want a bike tire…

But linking to your own stuff – you bet!
.-= Carolee´s last blog ..Blogging- is it right for you? =-.

May 17th, 2010 | 7:16 AM

Great; just wanted to clarify that.

May 17th, 2010 | 3:30 PM
Dennis Edell | Direct Sales Marketing:

The mouse over popups created by companies like kontera and info-links do indeed create more problems then good; absolutely right.
.-= Dennis Edell | Direct Sales Marketing´s last blog ..A TRUE Make Money Online blog – Part 2 – Choose My Domain Name =-.

May 11th, 2010 | 10:32 AM
Michelle | photo on canvas printing:

Wow I didn’t know that any other site besides google or facebook with a rank that high. They actually give out 2 digit page rank now? So cool.

May 10th, 2010 | 11:13 PM

Yes Michelle, and it’s neat when you see it because they just link all over the place.

May 11th, 2010 | 11:25 AM
Mark Johnson:

Interesting points. It’s true, you see a lot of sites that rank really well with far less links than the sites below them. So it is clear that inbound links aren’t the be all and end all.

What I take away from this is that, at the end of the day, Google uses far more than just links to rank a page. Click through rate, bounce rate and all sorts of other things matter too. Writing quality content, that’s the only sure route to success… That and a lot of patience.

May 11th, 2010 | 4:53 AM

Thanks Mark. That’s most of the point. External linking is important, but seeing how everyone else writes about it being the most important thing in the world these days I wanted to take an alternate view because there are other ways to get your site recognized and ranking well.

May 11th, 2010 | 11:27 AM
Dennis Edell | Direct Sales Marketing:

While there may be “other” factors, links are the backbone of it all, please don’t think otherwise…incoming and outgoing, regardless of what 1 or 2 sites do. 🙂
.-= Dennis Edell | Direct Sales Marketing´s last blog ..A TRUE Make Money Online blog – Part 2 – Choose My Domain Name =-.

May 11th, 2010 | 10:33 AM

I just kind of disagree with that, Dennis. Content and SEO are the backbones of it all initially; you can get your site ranked well early on without any links at all. After that, it’s links, but not necessarily external links. There was a site I was looking at in 2008 that had only internal links because it was on a topic that almost no one would ever need. It had a Google rank of 6, though it had no Alexa rank. It can be done with good planning, it seems.

May 11th, 2010 | 11:29 AM

I occasionally do internal link building, when I remember, from within a post and I also occasionally use a plugin that allows me to choose related posts. I know I should do it more often but it’s too much of a hassle. Slack huh?
.-= Sire´s last blog ..Does Your Blog Provide Value To Your Readers? =-.

May 13th, 2010 | 10:24 PM

Yeah, but that’s you, Sire. Thing is, there are plugins that could get it done also, but truthfully, my hope is to keep people on the site longer by showing them some of the related material throughout the blog. After all, with over 700 posts, I figure I have a lot to share.

May 13th, 2010 | 10:44 PM

As do I Mitch, and I ain’t arguing with you, I know better than that 😉

I agree with what you’ve said in the post, and if I had more time I would do things differently, but I don’t and so I do things my way, making sure that I don’t lose that love for blogging which I reckon I would if I did all those boring, but necessary, SEO tasks.
.-= Sire´s last blog ..Being Real BloggerLuv And Huge Breasts =-.

May 13th, 2010 | 10:55 PM

Truthfully Sire, I’m never bored with my own content, so I love finding posts whenever I can that match up with the new stuff. I usually remember the topics, if not the titles, so it’s fairly easy for me to do.

May 13th, 2010 | 11:05 PM

Shit Mitch you’d really be in trouble if your own content bored you 😀

Still, I suppose if that ever happened at least you would always have my blog to keep you entertained 😉
.-= Sire´s last blog ..Stand By Me And We Will Become Better Bloggers =-.

May 13th, 2010 | 11:38 PM

Another good article Mitch! I find myself using a lot of internal linking within websites and blogs, but beyond related directories and such, I don’t find myself doing a whole lot of Link Building. It might sound cliche, but I feel if I have content people think is worth linking to, they will. Also, I know there is some importance behind PR and Alexa Rank, but I think they are both allowed to hold too much weight at times. It’s nice to see your Alexa rank drop and see your PR increase, but there is so much more to successful marketing and promotion. Even with that said, I’ll still be hoping my Alexa rank keeps dropping though, haha!
.-= Ryan Cowles´s last blog ..Hiking to Headstones – Granby and Simsbury, CT =-.

May 13th, 2010 | 10:36 PM

Thanks Ryan. I think the internal link building is important, mainly to get people looking at older content, especially since I have so much of it. And I like to link to my other blogs and websites as necessary as well. But like you, I’m not one of those people who actively looks to ask people to link with me; just not in my nature.

May 13th, 2010 | 10:46 PM

I have been posting blogs for a couple of months now and the idea of having internal links to related blogs never occurred to me. I will now go back and put some in.
Thanks for your posts.

April 27th, 2011 | 6:44 AM
Mitch Mitchell:

No problem Bill. It’s a good thing to do and could help your older posts get some love that was missed the first time around.

April 27th, 2011 | 9:12 PM