Why mistakes make you a better link builder

Whenever I’ve trained link builders, I’ve been consistent about one major process over the last decade: throw them in and let them learn by doing it, screwing up and finding their own way. I always tell them to expect to make mistakes, and they always do — some worse than others. But making mistakes is, in my opinion, the best learning experience. I still make stupid mistakes myself, and I expect I’ll make many more.

In this article, I’m going to cover the most egregious mistakes that I can remember any of us making. Enjoy the opportunity to learn from our missteps!

Mistake #1: Contacting someone who specifically says they don’t do whatever it is you want

Whether you’re trying to get a guest post up or just get a link, look and see if that’s even a possibility. Many sites specifically say they do not want to be contacted for guest posts, they do not offer text links, they do not use outside authors and so on. You can find this information in various places, but if you don’t see it in an obvious place (like the About Us page, for example), then do a quick site: search and slap in whatever it is you want, just to see if you’re wasting their time and yours.

Mistake #2: Getting a link on a hacked site

Oh, this one makes me furious! I’m happy to say I’ve never done it (yet), but some of my link builders have.

Hacking isn’t always immediately obvious. You’ll run across some sites that look fine but have hacked pages, so you don’t notice them unless you’re doing a site: search. That’s why I always do that search.

By the way, it’s a nice thing to contact the webmaster and tell them about the hack…

Mistake #3: Getting a link on a site that isn’t indexed in Google

If you use Google for your discovery, then this likely won’t be an issue for you (though you still want to ensure that the page you’re getting a link on is indeed in their index). However, we’ve had link builders that use other methods for discover, and they’ve secured links on sites that are deindexed.

It might seem like it would be glaringly obvious if a site was poor enough to be deindexed, but I’ve seen a few that look pretty good at first glance, with decent metrics. Google isn’t the only search engine, of course, but it’s not a good sign when they deindex a site.

Mistake #4: Contacting a site for a local client… using the city in the wrong country

Yep, this one was me. I rank it as the most ridiculous mistake I have made in quite some time. The best thing about this was that I didn’t notice, the person writing the content didn’t notice, and the link builder working with me on outreach didn’t notice! We were all perplexed when the webmaster asked why in the world we would think she would publish our content there. It was totally relevant to the industry, after all! But yeah, wrong country.

Mistake #5: Letting someone jerk you around for ages

This one is tricky, as it can be hard to tell when someone is just having fun with you. We have always had issues with people toying with us, and I’m sure many link builders can relate.

Recently, we had a webmaster go back and forth with us for two solid weeks — asking lots of questions, agreeing that our link would be a good fit for him and so on. After not hearing from him for a couple of days, he emailed to say he’d never be stupid enough to link to us. No reason, really — just him being a jerk.

Mistake #6: Asking for links in the comments section

I’m happy to say that none of my team have done this in years, but they used to! I still see people doing this, and it’s just lazy and stupid. If you find someone asking for links like that, you can usually find their footprint in dozens of other comments sections, too. Nice footprint, right?

Mistake #7: Contacting the client’s related sites

We record every site we contact so I can easily see what my team are working on. There have been instances where I’ve looked at the list of sites, thinking we were doing well — and lo and behold, there are contacts for several of the client’s sister sites. Embarrassing!

I’ve started to record all sister sites for a client in our Do Not Contact database to prevent this issue from happening again. And that brings me to the next one…

Mistake #8: Contacting the actual client

Yep, it’s happened. It’s happened more than once. I truly don’t even know what to say here, as it’s unforgivably stupid, but please make sure you aren’t emailing the client when you’re looking for good linking partners. I think one link builder’s excuse was that she got confused and meant to send the outreach to the webmaster of the site she’d found and not the client’s email address but still, pretty unforgivable.

Mistake #9: Getting a link on a page where the client already has a link

I can definitely see why you’d want to link more than once to the same site in one article. But if a client is paying you for your time, I doubt they want you to spend it getting a link where they’re already present.

Again, I find this to be lazy, but it happens to this day with my team. I think/hope they’re just getting caught up in making sure everything else is OK, and maybe they just miss it, but I’ll bet you anything the client won’t just miss it.

Mistake #10: Getting a link in someone else’s quote, guest post, sponsored post or interview

This is probably the problem that I face the most with my team. I’d be incredibly upset if someone inserted a link into a quote I’d given to a site. If I wanted the quote to contain a link, I’d insert it myself. I do feel like the webmaster has the right to insert a link if they want to provide a reference, even if it’s to their own site. But after the fact — say, four months down the road? Absolutely not OK.

If someone has paid for a post or contributed it as a guest post, the same thing applies. It’s not your content to mess with, so leave it alone, even if the webmaster would agree to do what you want. It’s tacky.

This brings me to the worst one I’ve seen by someone on my team (long ago, I promise!)…

Mistake #11: Getting a sponsored link REMOVED and our client’s link put up in its place

I was unlucky enough to find out about this one after the fact — and the reason I did was not because the link builder told me, but because our link closing process means that each link builder has to record the email thread for the link. So, I happened to see the conversation. I doubt you will be surprised to learn that I was floored. We’re not talking broken link building here. Maybe that was the idea, but this was ugly stuff.

I’ve recently been contacted by someone asking if I’d remove a link in an old article on this very site and add their newer, better one. Clever idea in some ways, but really quite a poor one overall.

Learn from our mistakes — and your own!

Hopefully, you are learning from your mistakes. Hopefully, they’re minor and not at anyone’s great expense. If not, make sure you talk about these mistakes to others on your team. The mistakes above have been made multiple times by multiple people, so it’s definitely worth taking the time to talk about them and make sure no one else screws up.


About The Author

Julie Joyce
Julie Joyce owns the link development firm Link Fish Media and is one of the founding members of the SEO Chicks blog. Julie began working in search marketing in 2002 and soon became head of search for a small IT firm. Eventually, she started Link Fish Media, where she now serves as Director Of Operations, focusing on working with clients in ultra-competitive niches all over the world.