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10 Backlink Building Myths Debunked

SEO is one of the most controversial topics that has ever graced the world wide web.  There are more myths and theories about what works and doesn’t work than just about any other industry known to man.

One thing we at SERPShip know is SEO.  We spend countless hours pouring over data, testing theories, debunking myths, and figuring out what is really working to rank pages on the top of Google’s search results every day.

If there’s one thing that you can learn from us, it’s to test.  Test everything that you hear and verify the results for yourself.  That’s what we’ve done, and how we’ve been able to debunk 10 of the biggest myths that we hear still making their way around the SEO industry today.

Myth #1: Building Backlinks Violates Google’s Terms Of Service

Let’s kick this one off with a myth that isn’t really a myth.  Yes, building backlinks yourself does violate Google’s terms of service, and if you’re caught, you could potentially be penalized.  That’s if you actually get caught.

Google tends to push a lot of propaganda out to keep people from doing things that they know influence search rankings.  If you were to take Google’s Terms Of Service as seriously as they want you to, even optimizing your pages to rank for keywords is a violation of their ToS.

So by simply including keywords into your content, you’re running the risk of being penalized.  That’s why, if you intend to pull search traffic into your site, you need to decide your level of risk.  Then you also need to think about the type of websites that get penalized.

The people who receive penalties are blatant spammers.  Google doesn’t have enough time (or manpower) to go after everyone, which means that if you take a “natural” approach to your SEO, you really have nothing to worry about.

Myth #2: Link Building Is Dead

This is another myth that Google loves to portray.  Content marketers have also jumped on board, stating that link building is a thing of the past, and that the “build it and they will come” works better than ever.  That’s not just a myth, it’s a lie.  Just building it (content) does not guarantee “they” will come.

Links are still the top ranking factors used by Google’s algorithms to determine the worthiness of your pages.  Without links, you’re going to have a really hard time ranking anywhere on the first page, let alone the top.

For the foreseeable future, Google has no choice but to rely on links as their main ranking factor.  Until they’re able to rewrite the HTTP protocol and change how web traffic moves from page to page, they have to rely on links.

They do work to use other ranking signals to determine how worthy a site is, but the other signals only help to validate the links that are pointing at the site’s pages.  With so many metrics being easy to manipulate, Google has to take a big picture look at your site’s presence online, and make a determination based on it.

Myth #3: Directory Links Are Spammy

10 years ago, directory links were all the rage.  Then they sort of died off in favor of other methods.  Since they were so popular, people started spamming directories with links to their site, and when they got penalized they blamed the strategy itself, instead of how they were building links.

Directory links are not dead.  They’re not as strong as they once were, but when you get your website included in a set of trusted directories, especially those that are related to your topic, you’re gaining niche relevance.  That does help you rank higher.

Don’t go wild getting directory links.  Focus on the big ones, and then find any that are related to your industry.

Myth #4: Building Links Too Fast Will Get You Penalized

Slow and steady wins the race.  Or, that’s what the gurus say.  This is another myth that gets perpetuated over and over, but is actually fairly easy to debunk when you think about how the internet actually operates.

Stop for a second and think about what happens when a piece of content goes viral.  Even if it’s on a new website.  The site is going to receive a massive influx of links from sites all over the internet.  After a few months, when Google has analyzed all of the links, the site’s rankings are going to improve.

When you think about that, does it really make sense that building links too quickly will get you penalized?  It won’t.  It may put your site under higher scrutiny by the algorithms, but having a wide variety of links from all types of sites is going to do nothing but help your site — as long as the sites you’re getting links from are trusted by Google, too.

Myth #5: Keyword Variations Need To Maintain Precise Percentages

How many times have you heard something along these lines?

  • 20% of your links need to be “branded”.
  • 20% of your links need to be “naked URLs”
  • 20% of your links need to be a variation of your main keyword.
  • 20% of your links need to include your main keyword.
  • 20% of your links need to be random words.

If you’ve spent any length of time in the SEO industry, chances are that you’ve heard them spouted out and repeated time, and time again.  This is a huge myth, though, and by following it you can actually end up getting your site penalized.

You have to go back to thinking about what is “natural” in the eyes of Google’s algorithm.  Do you think that every website online follows these ratios?  They don’t.  They have something entirely random, and the randomness varies from industry to industry.

There’s one ratio that you do want to follow, though.  In general, you want to keep your keyword and related term usage to less than 20% of your overall link profile.  That will keep you in Google’s good graces, and help you avoid over-optimization penalties.

Myth #6: Non-Relevant Links Won’t Help You Rank Better

True, or false?

You need to gain links from websites that are closely related to your topic.  Links from websites that aren’t related to your niche or your topic will not help you rank better.

That’s another theory that’s been blown to bits time and time again.  It’s false, in case you were still wondering.  Links are links.  Niche relevant links are definitely better for your site and help you rank for more keywords related to your niche, but they aren’t the end-all be-all for link building.

In fact, you do need links from sites that aren’t related to yours, but inside of content that is related to the pages on your site that the content is linking to.  This will help keep the relevance up, but still allow you to get links from sites that aren’t necessarily related to yours.

You have to go back to thinking about how the rest of the web, especially websites that are not optimizing for higher search engine rankings look in the eyes of Google’s algorithm.  Do you think they care about what sites their links come from?

Myth #7: High Authority Sites Are The Only Links That Matter

This is a myth that has continued over from the days when PageRank was all the rage.  A lot of the advice given to SEOs is that you need to seek out high authority links, and that you can’t rank without them.  Again, I’m here to tell you that this is simply false.

While high authority links are definitely better for you, you don’t need nearly as many of them as most people think.  And you can make up for a lack of hundreds of high authority links by having niche relevant links that are on lower authority (non-spammy) websites.

Instead of focusing on the domain and page authority of the sites you’re trying to get links from, spend more time on making sure that the pages you’re getting links from are actually related to the pages that you’re sending links to.  This will help you rank higher, regardless of the authority each site can send you.

Myth #8: Nofollow Links Are Worthless

Nofollow links don’t pass juice and will not help you rank better.  Heard that one lately?  This is one that is half-truth, half-myth.  We’re still going to debunk it, though, for the greater good of the SEO community.

People that spread this myth are actually right in the fact that nofollow links do not pass PageRank or authority to the pages that they’re linking to, but they’re wrong in the fact that they say nofollow links are worthless.  They’re far from worthless.

In fact, you need to have some of them in your link profile if you want to rank for any length of time.

This is another one that goes back to how the non-SEO community of webmasters actually promote their websites.  They do not care about dofollow or nofollow.  It just doesn’t concern them.

That means they end up with a link profile that is full of both types, and Google’s algorithm sees what a natural link profile should look like.

The end-game for ranking high in the search results, especially for months and years at a time, comes down to making your website look as natural as possible to the algorithms.  If you’re able to do that, you’re able to rank without fear of getting hit with a penalty.  And nofollow links are a part of looking natural.

Besides, they can still send you valuable traffic.  That helps you diversify away from relying solely on the search engines to keep your business afloat.

Myth #9: Buying Backlinks Will Get You Deindexed

If there’s one trend you should notice from this article, it’s that your link profile should look as natural as possible.  So when you hear a guru claim that if you buy backlinks, you will get penalized by Google, you can finally laugh at them — if you are keeping your link profile natural.

When you’re buying backlinks, you want to make sure that you’re not surrounding them with links that other people have bought.  You don’t want them on websites that are known for openly selling links, and you don’t want it advertised that you’ve bought a link — i.e. in a “sponsored” post.

When you do it right, nobody can tell the difference between a link that you’ve paid for and one that you earned naturally.  There’s no internet police running around trying to spot people buying links.

If you stay smart about how you’re buying links and make them look like a part of your natural link profile, you don’t have anything to worry about.  In fact, big league SEOs rarely build links.  They buy them because they understand the return on their investment.

Myth #10: PBN Backlinks Will Get You Penalized

Private Blog Networks, or PBNs, have been all the rage for the last 10 years.  They still work today because Google has such a hard time actually telling them apart from real websites.

If you aren’t lazy with how you build your PBN sites, keeping the same default WordPress theme, using spun or gibberish content, linking out to sites that are clearly unrelated, and sell dozens of links from every PBN site you own, you’re a small fish in a big pond.

There are so many people that are lazy about how they build their PBNs that, as long as you take your time building them and are careful about how you link out, you’ll never land on Google’s radar.  They’re after the blatant spammers and, thankfully, there’s enough of those to keep Google’s web spam team busy — keeping their eyes off of you.

Building a PBN is a fairly involved (and expensive) process, though.  Unless you’re earning huge money from your websites, it may not necessarily be in your best interest to start building a network.  That’s when you can find a reliable PBN link provider to take advantage of.

At SERPShip, we’ve specialized in building a network that flies under Google’s radar and are very selective about who we work with.  We don’t just link out to anyone with a website, and all of the links that flow through our network are 100% natural.

When you’ve been in the game for so long and have watched other networks get deindexed while yours gets stronger, you tend to have confidence and learn a few things about how to build a proper network.

It’s no secret that ranking at the top of Google requires strong, niche relevant backlinks.  If you’re not interested in building your own network, or constantly emailing people and begging for links, buying them from a reputable provider is your only other option.

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