You’re Being Lied to About Link Building

Link Building Lies

You're Being Lied to About Link Building

Link building is the foundation of the internet. Links are how the web is connected, and easily in the higher echelon (if not at the very top) of Google's ranking algorithm.

That's why so people people want to publish posts about "why link building is important in 2017" or "the top 10 ways to get links," etc. Clearly it's important, which makes it popular, and that makes it fodder for gimmicky content marketers.

I read a post this evening that actually ticked me off. It's a post from Neil Patel on his Quicksprout site stating "you're probably doing link-building wrong."

Neil is typically a pretty knowledgeable guy, but he does tend toward the used car salesman approach. His content is increasingly trending toward saying a whole lot about nothing, and the article I'm referencing is no exception. Neil, and many others, are making grossly inaccurate statements about links building.

To point out these inaccuracies, I'll address them by subject.

Anchor Text

Anchor text is the word or set of words you turn into a hyperlink. There are a few established practices for how anchor text links are done:

  1. Exact match - Using the exact keyword you want to rank for as your anchor text.
  2. Partial match - Contains part of the word/phrase but not exact
  3. Branded - Linking the name of the person rather than the subject matter
  4. Naked URLS - Just pasting in the link
  5. Generic - This would be like saying, "check out this great article here" where the word "here" is the link
  6. Latent semantic keywords - Variations, synonyms on your keyword you want to rank

​Here's where things get ridiculous.

The Lie

"You need to spread the love around the types of links you use. Exact match matter the most and should be used 2 percent and phrase match used 30 percent."

Google debunked that already by implementing algorithm changes that seek to penalize people who try and game or identify a min/max approach to linking tactics. 


Google wants your linking to be natural, honest, and helpful.

If you're worrying more about HOW you link than WHY, you're providing an inferior user experience.

Google cares most about continuing the user's journey toward finding what they seek. However you link, whether it's by linking the word "here" or the keyword itself isn't going to hinder Google.

The algorithm, particularly now that we have the Rank Brain artificial intelligence algorithm, is smart enough to what what you're writing about, and what the page you're sending people to is all about.

"Social Signals"

That's the name given to the imaginary essence that comes from social media and allegedly helps your "SEO".


"Social signals are a substantial ranking factor. The more tweets, retweets, likes, shares, pins, +'s, etc., you have the better it is for what you're trying to rank because Google uses these to help you rank. You should do everything in your power to maximize your social signals."

Absolute rubbish.

So much so that Neil can't really keep his position straight on them in the afforementioned article:

"I’m in the camp that believes they’re a substantial ranking factor. At least nowadays. While I’m not saying they’re super high on the totem pole, you definitely don’t want to overlook social signals in your link-building.​" - Neil Patel

So which is it then? "Substantial ranking factor" or "not super high on the totem pole?" That's called hedging, or fluffing your article word count. I'm not a fan of either.

​First, let's look at Google's response.

Let's break it down logically.

Why would Google put stock in systems beyond their control? The +'s, likes, shares, etc., carry with them no legitimate means by which they can be weighted​ and not manipulated.

As Matt points out, seeing a page with a lot of social likes that ranks well is correlation, not causation.

​Awesome content gets shared. Why? People think it will help someone. That leads to people linking to you from websites, which can lead to ranking benefits.

Social signals are a fantastic way to measure whether or not the content you're creating is "great content". They are not an ingredient in the algorithm.

Conclusion (How You Actually Get Links)

To bring things full circle, you're probably not doing "link building" wrong. It's more likely that you're not creating awesome content worth sharing with anyone. If you were, links would be a natural byproduct. 

You get links from being helpful -- answering people's questions, sending them where they need to go, giving them true value in response in to their queries. You get links by making the web a better place.

Don't focus on building links. Earn them. Make the web a better place, and you'll be rewarded for it.

Click to Tweet

Sounds a lot tougher than "use exact match anchor text 2% of the time" doesn't it?

​That's how Google intends it to be. It's not gimmicky or forced. It's not fake or manipulative. It's natural. It's organic. It's REAL SEO.

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