In Search Podcast: 3 Link-Building Mistakes to Avoid

Are you avoiding these three key link-building mistakes? That’s what we’re discussing today with a lady who specializes in content and link building and spoke at Mozcon in 2022. She has over eight years of experience in digital marketing. Debbie is currently an SEO manager at Dialpad. A warm welcome to the In Search SEO podcast, Debbie Chew.

In this episode, Debbie shares three link-building mistakes to avoid, including:

  • Not thinking like the recipient of your outreach
  • Over-relying on a single link-building tactic
  • Linking to the wrong pages on your site


Link Building Mistakes to Avoid

Debbie: Thank you, David. Happy to be here.

DB: So today you’re sharing three link-building mistakes to avoid in 2023. Starting off with your number one point, which is you’re not thinking like the recipient of your outreach email.

1. Think like the recipient of your outreach email

DC: Yes. There are a lot of mistakes that people might make when it comes to link building, but I wanted to group them into these three main ones. The first one is about the outreach that you do. What I see is that a lot of people aren’t thinking about the recipient on the other side of their email. When it comes to backlinks and getting links, you do a lot of outreach, so it’s really important that your outreach is good, because that impacts whether or not you get a link. And it’s the impression that you give to other people that you’re reaching out to. So as you’re drafting your emails, you need to put yourself into the shoes of the recipient. Thinking about what value you can provide them.

As someone who also gets a lot of emails from other outreach people, there are going to be times where I won’t have time to get through to everyone. There might be some that are very spammy and I don’t want to waste my time with that. You need to keep in mind what value your email can provide. For example, if you guest post on their website, maybe you can share it with your social media audience, and that gives the recipient a bit more incentive to try to work with you. You need to think about what’s in it for the person on the other side. If there’s no value, then that person might not care. You need to make sure you craft your emails that way.

Another thing related to this is that when we get outreach emails, I see a lot of irrelevant guest post pitches. For example, with Dialpad, we are an AI, customer-intelligence platform. So if you’re pitching something like why you should invest in crypto, or some random topic that’s totally irrelevant to my audience, there’s no way that I’m going to invite you to guest post on Dialpad. It just doesn’t make sense to me. Why would I spend time to look over your guest posts, edit it, and then publish it on my site if it brings no value?

But on the other side of that, sometimes people pitch topics that are just too bottom of the funnel. If you pitch something like how to build a contact center, that’s very relevant to Dialpad. And that should be something that our team writes, we wouldn’t accept a guest post about that. It’s something that doesn’t make sense for someone else to help us to write, it should be something that we write. This all goes back to needing to think about who is the recipient of your email and put yourself in their shoes.

DB: Obviously, you have to personalize what you’re saying, but can you still rely to a certain degree on a template for an outreach email or should every email be written completely bespoke and according to who the person is and and what you think is most appropriate for them?

DC: Good question. It depends. One way I would like at it is if I’m trying to do outreach to blogs that are very authoritative, I know that there are a bunch of other people who are trying to email them as well, I would rely more on the bespoke strategy as opposed to a templated outreach. Whereas maybe for a blog that is lesser well known there’s less noise in their inbox. And in that case, I might decide to do a templated outreach, but of course, that template will still have personalized aspects in it. Ideally, it shouldn’t sound like a template it whatever approach you choose.

DB: And the second of your link-building mistakes to avoid is over-relying on a single link-building tactic.

2. Over-relying on a single link-building tactic

DC: Yes, I see that the main tactic a lot of businesses tend to use is guest posting. Authority Hackers did a study of over 700 link builders, and they found that 65% of them do guest posting, which I think isn’t much of a surprise as I expected even higher. The thing with guest posting is it can be very effective but it’s also in that gray area. Google wants you to organically earn your links. But when it comes to guest posting, you’re pitching topics to a blog and you’re writing that content yourself, so it’s probably going to be a bit promotional. In the end, Google might feel that those types of links are manipulative. The problem is, maybe in the future, Google will decide that they don’t like guest posting as it’s too manipulative. They’re going to figure out how to algorithmically penalize them or ignore them in the future. If that happens, then a bunch of websites are going to be affected from something like this.

So instead of only focusing on guest posting, or whatever link-building tactic that has been working for you, I would recommend that you diversify the different types of tactics that you try. There are other ways to get links such as creating linkable assets, a compilation of different stats, glossary pages, or resource reports is one that I like to do. That also falls under digital PR. Also, working on your network, having more people in your space. Not competitors, but potential partners you can work with I think will help increase your visibility online as well as increase the number of links without fearing what Google will do next.

DB: And when you’re talking about creating linkable assets, or are you actually also talking about potentially creating an asset for someone else, some other authority within your niche to publish on their site, and then link back to you as a reference as the originator of the content? Or are you primarily talking about a great piece of content on your site, and then doing the outreach to get people to link to that?

DC: I would say both. Primarily, mostly talking about the latter, where you create a good piece of content. Using the research reports, as an example, we’re going to be publishing a Dialpad research report where we surveyed a bunch of hybrid workers to get their thoughts on the digital and physical workspace. That’s where we and the brand Dialpad really mesh together. And through that report, the goal is to find a bunch of interesting things about hybrid work that we haven’t discovered before, and then present that to different journalists or different blogs. And the ultimate goal is to get them to feel like this report is really interesting and link back to the report. That’s the type of linkable asset that I really enjoy doing.

What I really enjoy about that is that you’re not only uncovering new data, you’re also doing something that is hard for your competitors to replace. I think that’s also something to keep in mind, because for guest posting, I can guest post on these blogs, and then my competitors might check my backlink profile and they’ll be able to guest post on the same blogs and it just becomes a numbers game. But when you create linkable assets, I think it’s something much more impactful.

DB: And if you’re creating this wonderful linkable asset to publish in your own site, at what point do you conduct the outreach? For instance, do you outreach when you haven’t even started creating the content? Do you, to a certain degree, even involve them in the creation of the content? Or do you perhaps ask for a quote which makes them more likely to link back to it? Or is it only necessary to outreach at the end and just ask for a link at that stage?

DC: For the most part we prepare the outreach towards the end where we actually have the findings. But I think you could potentially reach out to journalists that cover topics that are similar or related to what you’re planning to work on and see what they think. Are there any stats that might be helpful for them that they might eventually want to quote? I think that’s definitely an approach to consider.

DB: And the third mistake is linking to the wrong pages on your site.

3. Linking to the wrong pages on your site

DC: When starting out with link building, one potential mistake is that you might want to focus all your links to your homepage, for example. But your homepage typically ranks for branded keywords. So for Dialpad, their homepage ranks for Dialpad. And if you keep pushing links to the homepage, it might not benefit your website as a whole. So instead, look at what pages aren’t ranking for that target keyword, and then compare your content with what is already ranking. And if you can objectively say my content is better than what is currently ranking, then it’s potentially time for you to build links to that page. That shows Google that this is a not only a very informative page, but other people feel like it’s informative and that’s why they’re linking to it. That’s one thing to look at.

And another thing, after you do that for a while, you might end up seeing that your content has a lot of links, even better links than what’s already ranking. Then it’s time to cut back, focus on something else. Don’t dig into that rabbit hole for too long. You want to step back and reevaluate whether or not that page still needs links.

DB: When you shared these bullet points with me beforehand, and you’re talking about linking to the wrong pages in your site, I was thinking that you’re referring to the fact that different pages can rank for the same terms on your site. Maybe you’ve got a blog post that has been published a couple of years ago and you haven’t researched the fact that that page ranks for that terms. Then you’ve published a new page, and you’re trying to rank the new page for that same topic. Is that a common issue as well?

DC: I think for some sites that might be especially if you’ve been producing a lot of content over a long span of time. In that case, definitely go back and check. For example, you could do a site search for that keyword, and then see what pages show up. If there are quite a few pages that are targeting that similar keyword, then you might consider potentially aggregating that page into one page. That way, you can also redirect your pages and then the authority from those links go to this one page, as opposed to being spread out across different pages.

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The Pareto Pickle – Focus On One Goal at a Time

DB: Great advice. Let’s finish off with the Pareto Pickle. Pareto says that you can get 80% of your results from 20% of your efforts. What’s one SEO activity that you’d recommend that provides incredible results for modest levels of effort?

DC: I think figuring out what your primary or secondary goal of every piece that you create is going to help you spend time on the right things. Let’s say, for one piece of content, you might want to drive a lot of top-of-funnel traffic, or you want to drive links, or it’s supposed to be commercial and you want it to convert. These are all different goals. And if you spend a bunch of time trying to hit all these different goals, you might not hit any of them. So instead, for this one piece of content, let’s try to figure out that one main goal. Achieve that first, and then look at the next steps. Now that it’s ranking should we try to optimize it for conversions? Don’t spread yourself too thin by focusing on a bunch of different goals. Choose one, master that one, and then move on to the next one.

DB: Okay, great. A couple of follow-up questions in relation to that. Is it common and reasonable to have a primary goal to obtain as many quality links as possible to the piece? Also, is it reasonable to have a secondary goal to work in conjunction with another marketing department such as social to perhaps have as many social shares as possible to that piece?

DC: I think it goes back to your business goals. If you’re trying to create content that drives links, then yes, the primary goal should be to make this piece of content link-worthy. But not every single piece content that you publish is going to be for links. There are other business goals, and you have to create content for those other goals.

You make a good point that the social team might have ideas on what works on social. Going back to the research reports, when we find something interesting from the research report, we can build some cool GIF and have the social team share that to drive even more traffic and engagement from social back to our site. It’s about making sure that you understand the goals of other teams, and if possible, finding some common things that we can try to do together. That just helps the business as a whole.

DB: I’ve been your host, David Bain. You can find Debbie over at Debbie, thanks so much for being on the In Search SEO podcast.

DC: Thank you for having me.

DB. And thank you for listening. Check out all the previous episodes and sign up for a free trial of the Rank Ranger platform over at

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