If you’re serious about building a successful blog, landing page, or eCommerce site, you have to take SEO seriously. And though it might not be as sexy as social media or PPC advertising, link building is the secret ingredient to SEO success. The problem is that most marketers make costly mistakes and unintentionally hamstring their efforts from the start. But you don’t have to make these same mistakes.

The Biggest Link Building Mistakes You’ll Want to Avoid

The “Why” of Link Building

When it comes to SEO, you have dozens of different levers you can pull. There’s content, search intent, keywords, tags and titles, page speed, HTTPS, mobile-friendliness, user experience, and a long list of other factors. But do you know what matters more than almost any other factor? Backlinks.

Backlinks make up the foundation of Google Pagerank (and have for more than a decade). Google hasn’t been shy about this secret, and there’s plenty of third-party data to support it.

For example, Ahrefs recently studied more than one billion web pages and reported, “The correlation is clear: The more backlinks a page has, the more organic traffic it gets from Google.” And pages without backlinks? They get almost no organic traffic.

The short story is that backlinks matter because Google says they do. (Google could decide websites with pink text rank higher than those with black text and we’d all have to follow suit.)

The long of it is that backlinks move the needle by passing along authority. When a smaller website has links pointing back from highly relevant and authoritative websites, it sends a signal to Google that the smaller website is to be trusted and respected by association. And the more of these links you have, the better.

Top Link Building Mistakes to Avoid

Link building is part art, part science. As you invest in a link building strategy, you’ll want to avoid making the following costly mistakes:

1. A Focus on Backlinks at the Exclusion of All Else

Backlinks are clearly important. But if you’re putting 100 percent of your focus on backlinks, you’re doing yourself a disservice. (And you might even be hurting your results.)

“A focus on backlinks without the other critical on and off-site elements can cripple even the best link-building campaign. If your site is failing to rank, there are likely multiple factors – not just your backlinks – weighing you down,” Link. Build explains. In addition, an overly-heavy focus on link building – to the exclusion of all else – can foster a culture of corner-cutting when it comes to quality.”

Corner-cutting looks like publishing generic content, ignoring Google’s guidelines regarding link schemes, and emphasizing quantity over quality. Yes, links are important. But make sure you’re taking a balanced approach.

2. Good Links, Thin Content

It’s easy to get so caught up with the allure of backlinks and higher search rankings that you forget about the big picture. You aren’t acquiring links or improving SEO traffic just for the sake of getting people on your website. What you’re really after are conversions. And in order to convert people, you have to do more than bring them into your brand’s digital ecosystem. You actually have to convince them to make a purchase.

Good links only matter if you have quality content on your website that engages people and convinces them to make a purchase decision. As you build out your content strategy, make sure you’re prioritizing good content that’s created with your target audience in mind.

3. Using PBNs

Private Blog Networks (PBNs) have been a controversial part of the internet marketing/SEO world for years. And while you can find plenty of arguments for PBNs, the risk far outweighs any possible gains.

If you’re using PBNs to acquire backlinks, you need to stop cold turkey. They can and will get you penalized sooner or later. Instead, focus on acquiring links from real websites using organic methods. If you don’t have the network or capacity to do so on your own, hire a link-building expert to do it for you.

Adding it All Up

Link building takes time. It’s a long-term strategy that promises to produce long-term results…if you stick with it. By avoiding the aforementioned mistakes and instead focusing on sound SEO and copy principles, you’ll generate superior results that push you ahead of the competition and give you access to valuable Google real estate. Good luck!