3 Lessons Learned from Failed Link Building Strategies
Henry Ford once said, "Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently."
The reality is that link building is still a tough field to get right. It runs off of a lot of trial and error because we don’t know how much Google will value any particular backlink. No one has the master, foolproof plan to link building in their hands. And yet, it can’t be ignored. The positive ROI of getting your site ranked on the first page of Google is undeniable.
We can learn inductively about link building strategies by looking at what hasn’t worked. It’s a little like negative space. By defining what doesn’t work, we can see what does work. Often a link building strategy failure isn’t due to something technical but from expectations about performance.
The following are three of the most common recipes for link building failure, accompanied by the lessons about success that come from them.
1. Link bait is strategically unstable; rely on your own team.
The Mistake: Putting out link bait in the hopes that others will nibble at it is actually not a reliable avenue for successful link building. You know the kind of article, the ones with the clickbait headlines and the strong asks for shares? In fact, posting content in the hopes that others will link to it is an unstable strategy. It’s also a passive one.
Additionally, trying too hard to create link bait can create awkward or boring content. Many link bait topics are either so broad that they’re useless or so focused that only a tiny niche will be interested in it.
The Lesson: Including link bait in your strategy is essentially leaving your link building entirely up to chance. Your SEO experts should be hunting for places that will generate good links and court them, not just post things up and hope for the best. Also, create compelling, useful, and focused content that adds to the greater conversation. If you have something interesting to say then people will be more interested in sharing your content.
2. Making progress is tough without expectations or timelines; make goals and schedule them.
The Mistake: Just like with anything else, link building needs to be done with a goal in mind. In fact, without a set of goals for your link building project, a solid sense of deadlines and urgency cannot be acquired by link-builders. Why invest time, effort, and money into link building if it’s just going to be cast out there in the hopes that it does something productive, even though no one is sure what that productivity would look like? How does anyone know if the strategy is working or not if no expectations were set? Are short-term goals really being met if they occur over a lengthy period of time? This is the type of inefficiency that wields low payoff.
The Lesson: Expectations and timelines are important! Spending time to set goals and schedule them may feel wasteful in the short-term, but the payoff will be apparent when you know if your link building efforts are working how you want them to. By determining goals and deadlines, you gain the ability to monitor progress, success, and failures – this information can consistently be used to improve link building strategy.
3. Know your resources and their capabilities; be realistic and don’t forget to use what you have.
The Mistake: Even though it would be convenient to have unlimited resources for your link-building project, reality dictates that it’s impossible. Therefore, imposing monumental, infinitely reaching tasks on your limited resources is a surefire recipe for link-building failure. It doesn’t make sense to assign unachievable, unrealistic tasks to people who are humanly incapable of achieving them. Plus, there’s a practical side to it. Hiring an entire team of link-builders would be expensive and would strip the company of financial resources that are needed for other functions. In short, stretching your resources too thin just to prioritize link building, which is a small part of a much bigger operation, is a terrible idea.
The Lesson: Hiring one person part-time or full-time with their sole purpose being to handle your company’s link building is something that could potentially fit in a smaller budget. Setting high but reasonable goals will keep them from becoming discouraged. Remember, it can take quite some time before Google notices a new backlink. Any SEO project is a slow process.
Furthermore, don’t forget about the other marketing functions and the people who manage them. These team members often have valuable data that can help your link builder employee do their job much more effectively. Imagine what a link-builder, public relations personality, content provider, system specialist, SEO expert, and sales analyst could do if they all worked closely together.
Always be aware of the past when it comes to link building, but take your time to develop your own set of best practices. Avoid spammy websites and do what works for you. Different techniques work differently in the various niches, and my niche may be much different than yours. Use some of your time to experiment, but stay mostly on the path and you will succeed.