Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Human beings like to think simplistically. We like to neatly categorize concepts and see things in black-and-white. We like to ignore nuance for the sake 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 you need to consider. And if you focus on link building too much, it could end up costing you your chance at reaching rank one.
SEO and link building
First, we need to acknowledge that link building is highly important for SEO. Mostly, that’s because links have a tightly interconnected relationship with your domain authority. Your domain authority is an invisible score that represents your site’s trustworthiness in the eyes of Google and other search engines. The higher that authority is, the more trustworthy your site is seen to be, and the higher you’re going to rank in relevant searches.
While the back-end system for evaluating link quality is sophisticated, it’s mostly true to say 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 a high authority will pass some of that authority to you, accelerating your domain authority increase.
However, if you focus exclusively on link building, you’re going to sabotage your campaign. While it’s very hard to increase your domain authority without active link building, if you focus on link building exclusively or too much, it’s only going to work against you.
Non-link building SEO essentials
If you focus on link building too heavily, you’re going to neglect other important elements of search engine optimization, including:
- Keyword research: First, there’s the importance of keyword research and keyword targeting. As mentioned, higher domain authority will make it more likely for your business to rank highly in relevant searches. But what are those relevant searches, exactly? Which keywords are you targeting, and which phrases are your customers using to find you? If you don’t know, or if you’re not targeting any particular keywords, your strategy is going to be aimless, and your domain authority isn’t going to do you much good in attracting new organic traffic.
- Technical on-site SEO: Google tends to reward websites that are technically and functionally optimized. In other words, the better your site works and the more user-friendly it is, the higher it is going to rank. All the links in the world aren’t going to make up for the fact that your site doesn’t work on mobile devices or that it’s incredibly slow to load. You need to make technical on-site SEO an integral part of your broader strategy.
- On-site content: Of course, you also need to focus on your on-site content. It is a vehicle for your keywords, providing a perfect opportunity to optimize your site for specific phrases. It’s also an opportunity to build your domain authority naturally. Without this strong on-site content to serve as a focal point for your link-building strategy, you’ll also have a hard time building high-quality links.
- Off-site content: Modern link building revolves around creating masterful offsite content, which can be used to deliver 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 may also cause reputational damage to your brand.
The irony of excessive focus on link building
There’s a bit of irony in excessively focusing on link building because if you don’t focus on these other elements, link building becomes harder.
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. In part because Google will penalize your website if it looks like you’re participating in link schemes and in part because naturally attracted links tend to come from a diversity of different sources, ultimately building your authority further.
With no content (or bad content), you’re never going to attract those natural links. You’ll be completely reliant on manual link building – and even then, you won’t have powerful content to serve as the destination for your new links.
I’m not here to bash link building. On the contrary, I think it’s the most important element of SEO to master. But we need to honestly acknowledge that link building isn’t the only aspect of SEO you need to pursue – and if you focus too heavily on link building, it will work against you.
Business Strategies, Entrepreneurial Advice & Inspiring Stories are all in one place. Explore the new Entrepreneur Bookstore.