5 Link Building Mistakes That Almost Every Business is Making in 2024

How to Avoid Shooting Yourself in the Foot
Published on 
January 21, 2024
Updated on 
January 21, 2024
Posted in 

You need to build backlinks in order to rank well and enjoy good organic traffic, but it’s becoming increasingly easy to make potentially fatal link building mistakes. 

Google has indicated that backlinks might eventually become less important as a ranking factor moving forward–as the algorithm, in the words of Google’s John Mueller, is “better [at figuring] out…how the content fits in within the context of the whole web.”

But backlinks are only so good at telling you anything useful about content, and relying on them only as an indicator of content quality or subject matter ignores all of the other useful information links provide. 

A backlink profile, more than anything, speaks to a website’s or a page’s authority and trust. Theoretically, a link, when given freely and organically, is a trust and authority signal–one website has deemed another’s content worthy of including in their own and directing their users to. 

What Google most relies on when judging and ranking content is E-E-A-T (Experience, Expertise, Authority and Trust)

In a nutshell: backlinks are important because, when they come from relevant, high-authority websites, they are the best indicators of trust (and one of the most powerful indicators of authority) out there. 

Link building, however, has become much more difficult than it used to be–both because of the oversaturation of the market with link builders running popular link building tactics into the ground and because of Google’s and other search engines ever-changing algorithm. 

In the below article, we’re going to delve into some of the most common link building mistakes that people make (both new and intermediate link builders) and how to avoid them. 

Mistake 1: Building links without page-level relevance in mind

 A lot of new SEOs, site owners, online business owners, as well as plenty of unscrupulous link builders, make the mistake (in the case of the very last example, are fully aware) of assuming that Domain Authority (DA) or Domain Rating (DR) is the be-all, end-all. 

As long as you’ve written a guest post or created a niche edit or replaced a broken link on a website that one of the analytics tools has given a high DA or DR score, that’s really all that matters. Google will see the link from the awesome site and reward it with ranking and organic traffic as a matter of course. 

Building links without user intent and relevance in mind, however, can actually end up hurting your SEO, instead of passing on that amazing link juice you hoped it would. 

Imagine this. You’re an HR SaaS company. You’ve done your research into link building for SaaS companies, you’ve put together a prospect list of viable link building targets, you’ve reached out to those prospects and you’ve secured yourself a niche edit opportunity. 

The only problem is, the referring page is a blog article about how to improve communication between sales and marketing teams. Your target page on your website is an article called “X Ways to Improve Hiring With AI.” 

What’s likely going to happen is that Google is not only going to spot this lack of relevance and evaluate the link accordingly, but anyone reading the article that then clicks through to your website is going to find themselves on a page about something completely unrelated. 

They’re going to take a couple of seconds to realize this and, most likely, immediately close the tab. Your bounce rate (i.e., how often and how quickly people leave your site or a particular page after arriving) is going to skyrocket, Google will interpret that as a red flag that something is off about your content, and you could find yourself moving down instead of up the search engine results.

That is why it’s so important to look not only for relevant websites when executing your link building strategy, but relevant pages as well. 

A link from a good website with much higher page-level relevance can be better for your search engine rankings than one from an amazing website with very little page-level relevance. 

Mistake 2: bad anchor text policy and diversification

One very important but very overlooked component of a link building strategy is overuse of the same anchor text, combined with too much exact match anchor text. 

One very important thing to keep in mind with all link building strategies is that “link building” is, to varying degrees depending on the context, a dirty word to Google. 

Have a look at Google’s Link Spam guidelines

screenshot from Google's link spam guidelines

Even good link builders are going to struggle to avoid running afoul of Google’s link building guidelines, especially because link building is such big business for a lot of websites and pay-to-play is just a fact of life at this point. 

What you need to know how to do, essentially, is carry out your link building in a way that Google isn’t going to dislike. 

At dofollow, our approach is to build user-centric links–links designed to improve user experience on both ends of the equation (referring and target page/domain) and everything that goes along with that, including sound anchor text policy. 

It allows us to build high quality links on sites like the following: 

examples of websites that team built links on

When it comes to anchor text, what you want is diversified anchor text (the kind you would find yourself with while acquiring backlinks organically). This means some exact match (i.e., that use the target keyword of the page you are linking to), some contextual, some naked URL (usually your homepage) and some branded (i.e., the name of your business). 

If Google spots a preponderance of one kind of anchor text, it might conclude that some kind of link manipulation is going on, and that could hurt your search engine ranking. 

Mistake 3: linking to low quality content 

The quality of your content is incredibly important for your link building strategy for three major reasons: 

  • It is how you end up with a natural backlink profile.
  • It is how to ensure people remain on your site/page. 
  • It is how you land link building opportunities on high quality websites. 

Content and a natural backlink profile

This relates to what we mentioned in the previous section when we touched on Google’s desire to see a natural backlink profile (i.e., one acquired organically over time). 

If you don’t build links, the only other way to develop a backlink profile is to acquire links organically over time. 

The idea is you create useful content, it rises up the search engine rankings (ideally you would also promote it using content marketing methods), other websites discover it and link to it in their own content. 

This kind of link is known as an “editorial link” and it is the most valuable kind of backlink you can get. Google’s algorithm is quite good at separating the editorial links from the built links. 

Content and time on page

Again, circling back to the previous mistake, another reason good content is an important part of building links is that it ensures any traffic that comes to your site by way of a backlink on another website ends up staying on the page. 

High quality content, therefore, is an investment in dwell time, which sends powerful quality and UX signals to Google, which ensures you maximize the SEO value of a link and increase the odds that it helps you rise up the search engine rankings. 

Content and high quality backlinks 

And finally, failing to spend time creating high quality content is ultimately one of the most potentially damaging link building mistakes to avoid because other sites are less likely to want to work with you if the target pages you’re using are bad quality. 

Good websites with solid domain metrics, a brand that they’ve spent potentially years cultivating and protecting, and customers/readers that they take seriously, are not going to want to send traffic to sloppy, low quality content. 

You are much more likely to build backlinks on relevant, high quality websites when you can offer then high quality target pages. 

Mistake 4: not pursuing nofollow link opportunities 

A lot of link builders mistakenly believe that only dofollow links are worth their while. That is not the case.

Yes, dofollow links are the ones that are going to pass on the link juice, but it can very oten make a lot of sense to pursue nofollow link building opportunities. 

As a link building service, we only place dofollow links for our clients. But we have landed some fantastic nofollow backlinks for our own website over the years. 

There are a few reasons that you shouldn’t turn your nose up at nofollow backlinks: 

  • Referral traffic
  • Naturalness

Referral traffic

You very often end up with nofollow backlinks while doing digital PR (e.g., HARO link building). Large websites, and especially news sites, typically have SEO editorial policies that require nofollow links. 

They do this for a variety of reasons that we won’t get into here, but even a nofollow link from a place like Forbes, or USA Today, or any other big online newspaper, magazine or industry blog can send a lot of referral traffic your way. 

These are visitors to your website that you might otherwise not receive, who might end up making a purchase or converting in some other way you would like them to, and whose dwell time on your site (provided you have good content and a solid website that people want to read and use) will send powerful quality signals to Google. 


Nofollow backlinks are also important because they are a hallmark of a natural backlink profile. 

We’ve previously touched on why Google doesn't really like the idea of link building and how search engines would much prefer a natural backlink profile (i.e., one acquired organically over time). 

Well, a natural backlink profile is going to include some nofollow links. If you have the opportunity to secure a nofollow backlink from a high authority, highly relevant site, and it’s not going to cost you a lot of time and money, it is very often a good idea to do so. 

Mistake 5: Not doing due diligence on link building agencies and freelancers

If you’re not doing your own link building, you are hiring someone else to do it for you, whether it’s a freelancer or a link building agency. 

One of the biggest link building mistakes you can make is to not carefully vet your third-party link builders. 

Because websites need backlinks, there are a lot of link builders out there who are more than happy to sell low-quality links. They don’t care how search engines might interpret these links or what effect they might have on their clients’ search engine rankings and organic traffic.

The issue with a lot of SEO services is there is a knowledge asymmetry between site owners and the service providers. The people selling you bogus SEO services know that the methods they employ are no longer viable under Google’s new guidelines and core updates, but you might be unaware. 

There are a few things to watch out for when shopping around for link builders: 

  • People guaranteeing you links
  • People promising your impossibly fast turnaround time
  • People offering too-good-to-be-true prices
  • People promising you fast results

Guaranteed links

Building links, especially high quality links, is never a sure shot. There is an art to good outreach and making a compelling case to someone who almost certainly views your unsolicited email with suspicion (perhaps even contempt). 

But it is also a numbers game. There will invariably be websites on your prospecting list that you would love to build links to but who will not be open to your offers (and very likely aren’t even going to give you the time of day). 

If someone is telling you that they can guarantee you links on X, Y, Z websites, view it as a red flag. They are very likely purchasing backlinks–many of them irrelevant links from irrelevant websites–and they could harm your SEO. 

This is the kind of email we get all the time: 

screenshot of example link building outreach email

The “below links” they are referring to was a link to a Google Doc that contained a long list of websites for which the implication was that the links would be a sure shot. 

Not only is there no such thing as a sure shot in link building, but any good link builder who has spent years cultivating relationships with quality websites that actually boost search engine results isn’t going to just give that list away. 

The websites that this person above was referring to were very likely the same well-known link farms that every other lazy, unscrupulous link seller buys and sells to their clients from. 

Unbelievably fast turnaround time

Link builders promising too many links too fast is another red flag to watch out for. Successful link building campaigns take time to strategize and execute. 

If you are doing organic link building–the kind of personalized, time-consuming link building that does–prospecting, outreach, content creation, and corresponding with site owners is labor intensive. 

There are time differences to account for, which cause communication lags and time delays, content creation and planning, target page selection, etc. Now do that for each backlink. 

Anyone telling you they can do that 10 or 20 times for you in the span of a week is, to put it mildly, full of it. 

Unbelievably low prices

Link building is both time and capital intensive. It requires labor, software and, if you’re acquiring a link from a reputable website, often a significant editorial or placement fee charged by the website owner. 

In short, good links on relevant sites are not cheap. You know what is cheap, though? Spammy links. 

If someone is offering rock-bottom prices, what they are probably offering you are very low quality backlinks. 

People telling you you will see results FAST

Link building not only takes time to carry out, but the results (the ranking and traffic) don’t happen overnight. 

It can take a while for links to be indexed and recognized by Google and even longer for search engines to reflect the effects of your link building in the SERP. 

We are upfront with our clients about this and stress that successful link building is based on consistency. 

Have a look at the below graph: 

fast growing website organic traffic graph from ahrefs

This is from a case study we did on one of our client success stories. We started working with this client in earnest in 2021, and we had a tremendous amount of success, taking them from 0 monthly traffic to over 50,000. 

The takeaway here: you don’t see that traffic start to skyrocket until several months into our link building campaign. 

Common link building mistakes can be avoided 

There are other link building mistakes to avoid, but the above 5 are the most common ones and, if you are armed with the knowledge, are easy to avoid. 

Of course, it’s one thing to know how to avoid making mistakes. It’s another thing to have the experience, contacts and processes in place to then go and build high quality, needle-moving links. 

Reach out to us today and schedule a free strategy call. Find out why our contract-free, user-centric, completely transparent, industry-leading link building can help turn your website into an SEO lead-generating machine for years to come. 

Why Trust Us On SEO

Eric Carrell & Sebastian Schaffer have been working in SEO for over a decade, building their own projects - understanding and testing SEO strategy, along with building hundreds of white hat links per month for our projects. They take their learnings and experience and apply them to the strategy that drives our link building strategy for our clients.

Eric & Seb have always believed in quality over quantity, doing things the right way so we future proof our client’s websites against future Google updates and the evolving industry of search.

While Seb handles the company strategy around culture, processes and structure, Eric is constantly working to improve our service offering, customer experience, and following the industry in parallel with Google’s Quality Guidelines so that we are always one step ahead of our competition and aligned with what Google wants to see for your site to rank higher.

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