Link building

SEO is not just about link building. Don’t overlook these expert strategies.

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Human beings like to think simplistically. We like to categorize concepts and see things in black and white. We like to skip nuance in favor of a one-sentence summary. And when it comes to complex marketing strategies like search engine optimization (SEO), we like to boil down hypothetical approaches into a handful of actionable tactics.

Perhaps that’s why so many modern SEO experts have attempted to make SEO synonymous with link building. But here’s the thing, while link building is important for SEO, it’s not the only factor to consider. And if you focus too much on link building, it could end up costing you your chance at the top rank.

Related: How to Shake Up an Outdated Link Building Strategy

SEO and link building

First, we need to recognize that link building is very important for SEO. This is mainly because links have a closely interconnected relationship with your domain authority. Your domain authority is an invisible score that represents how trustworthy your site is to Google and other search engines. The higher this authority, the more trustworthy your site is considered and the higher your ranking in relevant searches will be.

Although the main link quality rating system is sophisticated, it’s generally true that the more links you have and the more authoritative those links are, the higher your domain authority will be. Building links on websites that already have high authority will pass some of that authority on to you, accelerating your domain authority increase.

Related: Why Is Link Building So Controversial?

However, if you focus exclusively on link building, you will sabotage your campaign. While it is very difficult to increase your domain authority without active link building, if you focus exclusively or too much on link building, it will only work against you.

SEO Essentials Without Link Building

If you focus too much on link building, you’ll neglect other important elements of search engine optimization, including:

  • Keyword research: First, there is the importance of keyword research and keyword targeting. As mentioned, a higher domain authority will increase the likelihood that your business will rank well in relevant searches. But what are these relevant searches, exactly? What keywords are you targeting and what phrases are your customers using to find you? If you don’t know or aren’t targeting any particular keywords, your strategy will be pointless and your domain authority won’t do much to attract new organic traffic.
  • On-site technical referencing: Google tends to reward websites that are technically and functionally optimized. In other words, the better your site performs and the more user-friendly it is, the higher it will rank. Not all the links in the world will make up for your site not working on mobile devices or being incredibly slow to load. You need to make on-site technical SEO an integral part of your larger strategy.
  • Content on site: Of course, you also need to focus on your on-site content. It’s a vehicle for your keywords, providing the perfect opportunity to optimize your site for specific phrases. This is also an opportunity to naturally build your domain authority. Without this solid on-site content to serve as the focal point of your link building strategy, you’ll also struggle to build high-quality links.
  • Offsite content: Modern link building revolves around creating masterful off-site content, which can be used to provide a link to a discerning publisher. If you focus too much on the link or the publisher, you’ll neglect that content. As a result, not only will your link be weaker, but you also risk damaging your brand reputation.

The irony of an over-focus on link building

There’s a bit of irony in focusing too much on link building because if you don’t focus on those other things, link building becomes more difficult.

While it’s possible to intentionally and manually build high-quality, natural-looking links to your website, it’s also important to naturally attract links whenever possible. Partly because Google will penalize your website for appearing to participate in link schemes and partly because naturally attracted links tend to come from a variety of different sources, which builds your authority.

Related: 7 reasons why SEO is important for every startup

Without content (or bad content), you’re never going to attract those natural links. You’ll be entirely dependent on manual link building – and even then, you won’t have powerful content to serve as a destination for your new links.

I’m not here to make bash links. On the contrary, I think it is the most important element of SEO to master. But we have to honestly acknowledge that link building isn’t the only aspect of SEO you need to pursue – and if you focus too much on link building, it will work against you.

Related: How to Shake Up an Outdated Link Building Strategy

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