The Dos and Don’ts of Starting a Link Building Campaign

by Indiana Lee

In the world of SEO, we rarely have the answers, but we do know that search engines are out to challenge what we think we know.

One thing that remains the same, however, is the integral role link building plays in SEO.

Links are in the top three most important ranking factors (along with RankBrain and content). That’s why 42% of SEOs build their internal and external links equally.

Link building is a practice that grows the number of links back to your site from other sites with authority. It says, “Hey, other well-ranked sites like my stuff,” which in turn gives your site more authority.

However, link building can go horribly wrong and if you don’t play by the rules, it can even damage your authority and your rankings.

What are the dos and don’ts of link building? And are those black hat tricks worth the risk?

Let’s dive in.

Before We Start: Why Link Building Strategies Fail

Link building is a critical part of SEO, and it has been for a decade, despite those who say it’s dead.

Having a strong strategy is paramount because it makes you more discoverable online through both keyword rankings and domain authority.

However, many SEOs’ link building tactics suffer from a real issue: they believe in the old principle of ‘ask and ye shall receive.’

You need to approach link building like 10-year-olds tackle Halloween. Just like you can’t expect full-size Snickers bars from every house, you can’t expect links from everyone you ask.

Your links (like your candy) need to be earned, and you earn them with your content (or your superior costume) and your strategy (your hand-drawn map of the best houses in the ‘hood).

So before you cut eyes out of your mom’s good sheets, pull it over your head, and start asking for candy, you need to start with the essential building blocks: unique content geared to a real targeted audience.

If you can do that, then you’re ready to use these dos and don’ts when building your strategy.

Don’t: Link Anywhere and Everywhere

To get more links out there, you need to do a big push. You’re going to send a lot of emails and offer a lot of links. However, you need to do this strategically.

email newsletter subject lines

When you offer a link, you should be offering a link that is both a high-value link for you and innately relevant to wherever it’s going.

Tentatively placed links no longer work because:

  1. They don’t improve the authority of the host page
  2. Google’s algorithm updates are looking for hyper-specific content and links that reflect the way the human brain might think about the link.

At the same time, you don’t need to be so strict that you miss out on good opportunities.

For example, placing your link on a site with high domain authority is the dream. However, neglecting up-and-coming sites in favour of the big guys means you could miss out on an opportunity for a really relevant link.

Relevancy outweighs domain authority (as long as the site itself isn’t worthless).

What’s more, having a bunch of links on high scoring websites could actually draw Google’s attention for the wrong reasons.

A mix of links on quality sites with varying domain authority values is the best way forward.

Do: Go Guest Blogging (and Find Partners)

Guest blogging is one of the best ways to not only build authoritative links but also drive real traffic to your site, particularly when it’s done well.

It’s a form of natural link building that can be a win-win-win for you, the site owner, and Google’s algorithm (because you’re making it easy to rank sites).

Before we dive into the principles of guest blogging, let’s talk about where guest blogging very often goes wrong:

1. A guest blog isn’t meant to be a promotional tool for your business. Yes, you should drop relevant links, but your blog shouldn’t read like a sales pitch.

2. The best guest blogging strategy in the world will do nothing for you if you don’t already have quality content on your site to link to.

3. A guest blog isn’t a bunch of text you slapped together: it needs to be a valuable post that contributes to the site and the reader.

These problems are worth bringing up because they’ve plagued guest blogging to the point where some have declared it effectively dead.

Guest blogs with the above characteristics tend to be spammy, but that doesn’t mean guest blogging doesn’t work.

Just because some people are flouting the system doesn’t mean you can’t reap the benefits by doing it right.

Plus, Google doesn’t distinguish between guest blogs and other types of content. That means you can enjoy the rewards — as long as you do it well.

b2b blogging frequency

So what does it mean to get guest blogging right?

It starts with the topic, and it needs to be relevant, relevant, relevant.

In other words, if your blog post concept isn’t a natural extension of the site itself, then you’re barking up the wrong tree.

The same is true for content: any guest post needs to be as detailed and unique as the content you’d put on your own site. If you wouldn’t flog it on your LinkedIn page, then it’s not worthy of a guest post.

When it comes to links, make them good ones. Don’t stuff the post. Instead, link naturally to a piece of content.

Write and link as if every reader will click on those links.Click To Tweet

If they’ll be confused by the link when they open it or it doesn’t expand on the existing information, then it doesn’t fit there.

Do: Publish Quality Content

No one will give you links if your content is top-notch. And you won’t get any organic traffic if your content isn’t comprehensive and authoritative.

Just like with all the dos in this list, you must have a plan before you get started. Have that neighbourhood trick-or-treat map ready before you show off that costume.

You don’t have to reinvent the wheel of content strategy. There are plenty of guides out there.Click To Tweet

You can always put your own spin on a content strategy.

For example, are holidays important to your business model?

Use a holiday planning calendar to create your content strategy, and write posts around Peanut Butter & Jelly Day. Take it up a level and write a post about the best sandwiches your staff ever had.

It doesn’t necessarily matter if your business model is predicated on food. Perhaps this is a story of company culture rather than company revenue.

google search console update

Consider your own online reading habits. What are you more like to read: a dry, technical post on a product or a compelling narrative on its historical origins? Most likely the latter.

Statistics tell us that storytelling in marketing has the power to boost conversion by 30%.

Marketing stories can be both informative and enticing, and when you hit that balance, you will win over more readers — and links.

Finally, don’t forget those headlines. If you wouldn’t click on it, it’s safe to say no one else will, so be sure to take time crafting your headlines.


There you have it: some of my best dos and don’ts for your next link building campaign.

Remember that in a world where few of us know anything for certain, it’s best to build a strategy that’s unique to your site.

Create quality, and the rewards will come.

Want more marketing guides, advice or strategies? Check out one of our most popular ever guides:

Indiana Lee is a writer and journalist from the Pacific Northwest with a passion for covering workplace issues, social justice, sustainability, and more. In her off time you can find her deep in the mountains with her two dogs. You can follow her work on Contently, or reach her at [email protected] or on twitter @indianalee3

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