Stop Bothering with Backlinks; You're Wasting Your Time and Money

2022.08.29 04:35 AM By Joshua Taddeo, Principal Consultant
Understanding SEO

In SEO, we're told that backlinks are the name of the game. Every SEO tips blog post will tell you backlinks are important and that you need them to rank. However, backlinks take hours to build a single backlink manually. And many backlinks, especially low-quality ones, don't make a difference. Instead, using that same time to rank for low-competition keywords is more beneficial to your business than putting your energy into a link-building strategyIn this article, we'll cover why people obtain backlinks and why they're a waste of time, especially if you run a new website. 

What are Backlinks?

A backlink is when one site links to another, and the purpose is for visitors to explore related content. They act as a vote in the search engine in favor of the website that was being linked. However, many SEO companies and websites tried to “game” the system using manipulative link-building techniques. Nowadays, Google’s AI system can easily detect unethical backlink tactics. With the Google Penguin Algorithm update, they’ll downgrade your search rankings or completely ignore the links. 

While backlinks are often suggested as a “magic pill” for SEO, it’s far from it. From our personal experience when working with clients, we’ve found that whether the site or specific page had backlinks or not, the page was still able to rank when the content is quality and google can crawl (find) the page. We’ve built our website with a content-focused approach without any backlinking strategies and still were able to rank on the first page for many competitive keywords. 

Google cares more about your content's relevancy than backlinks. The search engine aims to display the best and most up-to-date content that matches the search intent. 

Reasons Why Link Building is a Waste of Time and Money 

The traditional emphasis on link building as a cornerstone for improving search engine rankings is becoming increasingly scrutinized. The strategy of accumulating backlinks as a means to elevate a website's visibility and authority is not only becoming less effective but also poses significant risks and resource drains for businesses. The reasons for this shift are multifaceted and highlight why creating outstanding content and focusing on its promotion offers a far superior return on investment.

Firstly, the practice of paying for links contravenes the guidelines set forth by major search engines like Google. These guidelines are designed to ensure that the content which ranks highly in search results does so because of its relevance and value to users, not because of the volume of links directed towards it. Engaging in the purchase of backlinks not only risks penalization by search engines, leading to a decrease in search rankings and visibility, but also undermines the integrity of a website's SEO strategy. This approach is increasingly seen as a waste of time and money, as the penalties can have long-lasting negative impacts on a site's performance.

Secondly, search engine algorithms have become significantly more sophisticated in their ability to discern the quality of content and its relevance to user queries. This advancement means that the presence of backlinks is just one of many factors considered, and its importance is diminishing in favor of content quality. Websites with exceptional, well-researched, and engaging content are now more likely to achieve high rankings based on the merit of their content alone. This shift underscores the importance of investing in content creation and promotion rather than in opaque and potentially harmful link-building schemes.

Moreover, focusing on creating amazing content naturally attracts backlinks as a byproduct of the value it provides. High-quality content is more likely to be shared, referenced, and cited by other websites and users, leading to organic link growth that is both sustainable and compliant with search engine guidelines. This approach not only ensures a website's long-term visibility and authority but also enhances its reputation among users and within its industry. Investing in the creation of high-quality content and its strategic promotion is not only a more ethical and search engine-friendly approach but also aligns with the ultimate goal of providing value to users. This user-centric focus is what truly drives visibility, engagement, and authority in the digital age, making the investment in content far superior to outdated link-building tactics.

Quality is Much Better Than Quantity

According to Google's John Mueller, the total number of backlinks pointing to a site is irrelevant. Instead, the quality of a link matters much more. In theory, a website can build millions of links across many domains. 

Mueller says a single link from one relevant source sends a stronger signal to Google about how they should treat that page than lots of low-quality links. In essence, Google is saying that they don't want people to gamify the system by having people purchase backlinks or link to their friend's websites.

Think about how people are generally linking their content. The average person starting a blog isn't linking to content naturally. Instead, they haphazardly link to something they find on the first page of Google. The top ten results will typically have the most backlinks since people give them backlinks. 

That's why backlink "correlation studies" don't make sense. Correlation doesn't equate to causation. 

buying backlinks

Opportunity Cost 

As a business owner, you must ask yourself, "is the link juice worth the squeeze?" Running a successful business requires you to understand the opportunity cost. Would you rather spend hundreds of hours creating more quality content or having more backlinks? 

It's better not to obsess over ranking for a single keyword. Instead, if you focus on ranking for a ton of long-tail phrases, you'll quickly rank on smaller queries. Eventually, bigger websites will link to your site naturally. Even if you do move up a spot or two on the search results, the time spent isn't justified since you couldn't be ranked for a few other low-competition keywords in the same time you've spent with link-building strategies. 

When building a website, your primary focus should be to generate traffic and sales. Focus on delivering more value to your audience by offering a great user experience and solving your customer's problems. Being the go-to resource on a given topic will drive more traffic and keep visitors on your site. 

Ranking high on Google is primarily determined by highly relevant content that matches the user’s search intent. Your goal should be to create useful content that is better than the other pages on the search results. This drives quality backlinks over time as more people find and link to your content. Acquiring as many backlinks as possible will only divert your attention from creating quality content. The key is to be prolific about the frequency and quality of what you post, allowing you to rank for more content faster. 

Toxic Backlinks Don't Add Value to Your Visitors. 

When a page acquires backlinks from a spammy or low-quality website, it's a toxic backlink. Getting quality links from authoritative sites takes time and can't be gamified through link-building schemes. Low-quality backlinks don't offer any value to your visitors or customers and don't add any authority to your website. Therefore, it wastes money, time, energy, and other resources. 

These toxic backlinks may trigger regular audits from search engines, which can penalize you. They perform routine analyses of backlinks and aim to crack down on manipulative link building and black hat SEO tactics. Blackhat backlinks may temporarily drive up your domain authority, but like keyword stuffing, Google can easily ignore or penalize you for it. 

browsing content on the website

The Penguin penalty, an automated penalty from Google, causes a significant drop in the ranking of a website. It can remove them from the top of the search results, making them less visible and harder to find. Sometimes manual penalties (penalties from Google's webspam team) can issue a manual action against a website. This can result in your domain being completely removed, making your site invisible. 

Paid Advertising Delivers Better ROI 

Ultimately, we spend our dollars on marketing because we believe they’ll generate more money than we’ve spent. If you're looking for quick results, paid advertising is much more effective in generating short-term results though often at a lower overall return on investment. It’s the age old question of scale vs profits. Sometimes to grow rapidly, you focus on lower return on investment overall and reap the rewards at scale.

Other times, it may be appropriate to focus on a more profitable channel mix model, if you have the stability to wait for those returns. Performing PPC or social media marketing ads allows you to target buyers to generate leads or sales directly rather than waiting for the snowball of traffic from SEO to build. 

Paid Ads Generate Leads

Instead, it’d be better to advertise your content on social media and target the audience who would be a great fit for your content. This drives more traffic to your site, generating more leads and sales. You can use your best content as a list-growing tactic. Sharing your best content to the right audience allows you to attract higher-quality leads. That’s because you’re gaining their trust quickly with your blog content before they even need to submit their email address or pay for anything. 

You could even re-engage people on your list who haven’t opened your emails or bought from you. Re-targeting these people can aim to re-build the trust and move people through your sales funnel. 

Share your blog content on social media and via email with your existing customers and audience. It increases your engagement metrics such as time spent on your site, which help to determine whether your site is targeting the right audience. Search engines want to present, not just the right content, but the right information to the right audience. Engagement metrics can be an indicator that you’re reaching your ideal customers which will also be reflected in your SEO results if you align your keyword targeting with consumer needs. 

In addition, share your blog content with your existing customers and audience through social media and email. This increases the engagement metrics, such as time spent on your site; a metric you can use to understand if you’re targeting the right audience. With high value pages that show these metrics, you’ll often a correlation to higher rankings because search engines want to present, not just the right content but, the right information to the right audience. 

Paid Ads Generate Backlinks

Through paid advertising, you receive the benefits of generating leads and increasing your brand mentions online, which can have a similar impact to backlinks to your site. 

Rather than spending money on other people to drive backlinks, you can generate them indirectly through paid ads especially when you also target job roles at companies who might provide a natural backlink to great content. Not to mention, you’re getting the main benefit of attracting potential buyers to your business. 

managing business costs

Also, you can drive backlinks by targeting writers, influencers, or business owners in your niche. If your content is insanely valuable, there’s a good chance other experts in your field will share or link back to your blog post. For example, many industry leaders and high-level executives share content with their audience. If you’re in the B2B niche, it’s worth targeting your content to other professionals. 

Backlinks have evolved significantly since they first started. Social proof, shares, and brand mentions can also support your site’s EAT (Expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness). Whether it’s from social media or other blogs, they all cast a “vote” for your site, page, or brand.

Why You’re Spending Time on Futile Activity 

In the world of SEO, competitors within the same niche are in an arms race to see who can rank the highest. Stealing your competitor's backlinks requires you to analyze their content and contact the sites linking to your competitor's webpage. Then explain to them why your content is worth their link instead. This is popular advice among the SEO community, and contrary to popular belief, we'll tell you why it's not worth spending time on, 

All the time spent trying to steal backlinks could be better spent writing more content. Instead of outreaching, you'd be able to answer all the relevant questions in your niche. This allows you to build an entire silo so visitors who land on your page can binge on your content. Over time, you'll build natural links and potentially earn tons of traffic to monetize. The sunk cost of sending email outreach is high and will deprive your site of what it needs the most: quality content. 

Your Competitors Have a Larger SEO Budget Than You 

Your competitors have a bigger budget, meaning they likely have a team of writers to produce content faster and promote them extensively. This allows them to grow content faster, increase authority, and rank for more keywords. 

Also, it's not very feasible to steal your competitor's backlinks. Because of their larger budget, they could also pay for guest posts and other outreach methods. Therefore, the backlink directed to their site is likely their property! Since they wrote the guest post for their backlink, the host website won't just replace your competitor's URL for yours because they wrote that piece. Furthermore, your competitor will know if they lost their backlink, and they'll put a claim on it. 

Your Competitors Own Better Content

There's a good reason why your competitor produces better content. They have been in the industry longer and have the budget to hire better writers. It's better to focus your efforts on low-competition keywords that don't require stealing backlinks to rank for. For example, some keywords may have Quora as their top search result. These queries are easy to rank for and shouldn't require backlinks. 

Your Competitors Purchase Tons of Expired Domains 

Many high-domain authorities sites get abandoned by their owners, meaning they are no longer hosted. SEO agencies can buy these domains and resurrect them for backlinking to your competitors from these domains. 

If the agency performs these tactics, your competitors may not even realize they're paying for vanity backlinks. In some cases, if the high domain authority site isn't frequently active, stealing backlinks won't work. You'd be approaching a zombie website to replace your competitor's backlink. 

implementing an effective content strategy

Why People Purchase Backlinks 

Backlinks are most often purchased because they save time. SEO is an effective long-term organic marketing strategy but takes time for results to show. Reaching the top of search engines requires producing an extensive backlog of high-quality content. Links from other websites will direct people to your content as a byproduct. 

Getting backlinks to your site is a long process and requires a lot of effort to build enough backlinks to make a significant difference. People purchase backlinks since it allows them to skip the arduous process of doing it themselves. 

creating a marketing strategy and plan

Why You Shouldn't Purchase Backlinks 

Purchasing backlinks for your website might sound beneficial. However, it's against Google's Webmaster Guidelines. Google has a set of guidelines to weed out sites artificially trying to inflate their SEO results. This helps them ensure that the most relevant and high-quality content reaches the top of search queries. 

Websites caught breaking these rules will be penalized. If you purchase backlinks and Google catches you, your SEO results will be negatively impacted, and your site may never fully recover from it. 

While it's tempting to cut corners to see results faster, you ultimately risk being penalized by Google. Not to mention, the upside isn't worth the risk anyways. Even if you're receiving backlinks, it doesn't necessarily mean your page ranks higher. 

Wrapping It Up

While many digital marketing agencies and internet gurus have told us that links are part of the algorithm, they aren't as valuable as they're made out to be. That's quite obvious when you begin to analyze the SERP and objectively understand the reasons we've pointed out. Why have we told ourselves that links are more important than quality content and great user experience? 

Because people want the shortcut for SEO, many agencies believe it's easy money. Many link-building tools or freelance marketplaces can easily perform the tasks. It's an easy service that makes marketing agencies more money but doesn't add value to your site. Before you spend inordinate amounts of money and time on link-building, consider the opportunity cost. You're far better off creating high-quality content and allowing backlinks to flow in.