Building links is not the best marketing strategy for every business, but when done properly, it can help almost any business grow.
Unfortunately, just building good links is not a guarantee for success. They only play a supporting role and mean nothing if they are not part of the bigger picture. Building quality links without a strategy is like having great actors without a script — you are going to spend a lot of time and money with very little to show for it.
If this is a scenario that sounds all too familiar to you, let’s see how you can get things back on track. We will discuss five reasons why your link building is not showing any real results, which will for the purpose of this article include improved search rankings and organic traffic.
1. There is No Strategy in Sight
As foreshadowed in the intro, real results only come if your link building is part of a grander marketing strategy.
Many clients that come to us only want to talk about link building at first. As they are often in the process of testing different agencies, we don’t really push “strategy talk” right away. However, if they show interest in a long-term partnership, seeing how link building fits into their plan is a crucial step forward.
The reason is simple. Even if we build links on top sites in their industry, if those backlinks are on random anchor text and go to random blog pages that haven’t been optimized, they simply won’t see any real increase in traffic. Even if they do, imagine how much stronger of a ranking increase they would see with a more focused approach.
Simplified, the steps you need to take before you start building links are:
- Target audience analysis
- Keyword research
- Content strategy
- Creating linkable assets based on the previous steps
- Publishing SEO-optimized content
And then you build links.
At the end of the day, bringing more traffic in is not your end goal — converting that traffic to leads and buyers is. It is a reason why 81% of marketers say that having a documented strategy helps their team focus on a common goal and makes it easier to determine which type of content to develop.
2. You Are Targeting The Wrong Websites
What constitutes a quality backlink? We would argue it is all about …
- Metrics (authority, traffic)
- Backlink profile
… in that order.
While things are never black and white, most marketers value relevancy over authority. What this means in practice is that they would rather have a link from a medium-authority site in their industry than a link from a high-authority site that has nothing to do with their core business.
But it is not all about relevancy. If you want your rankings to grow, your link building campaigns should be focused on sites that are stronger than yours in terms of traffic and authority. Link building is a long-term strategy, but focusing on “stronger” sites will bring faster results.
Lastly, to ensure you are building a backlink from a reliable site, you should check their backlink profile. You don’t want to spend your time on a website whose rankings could crumble with the next Google algorithm change. Here is what a good backlink profile should look like:
If the site has many low-quality links from forums, private blog networks (PBNs), directories, and so on, it is not in your best interest to get a link there.
If you do not watch these three criteria in particular, it could be a reason why your rankings are growing much slower than you would like.
3. The Content You Link To Isn’t Giving Enough Value
One problem we are often faced when taking on small businesses and start-ups is the lack of linkable assets.
In simple terms, linkable assets refer to any type of content that is worth linking to. It can be an ultimate guide, resource list, controversial post, in-depth tool review, etc. The type of content itself doesn’t matter, what matters is how good it is.
Do you think you can reach the top of the first page for a competitive keyword with a mediocre 1000-word post? That is highly unlikely. Even if you managed to get into the top 3 search results by building a gazillion links, you would not stay there for long.
That is because links are not the only thing Google cares about anymore. What is the bounce rate on your post? How much time do visitors spend reading your resource? Do most of the people who click on your resource also click on another search result?
Google’s business model relies on presenting people with the best possible content for their query. If your content doesn’t seem to answer the user’s question, Google will drop your rankings and move up content that gets better engagement.
So do yourself a favor and make sure you have enough linkable assets.
4. Your On-Page SEO Could Use Some Work
As I’ve already mentioned, links are only a part of the equation; they are 1 out of 200 different ranking signals.
On-page SEO is important because it can directly and indirectly affect your rankings.
1) It tells Google what your website/pages are all about
If you look at any credible on-page optimization guide, they all still discuss how important it is to optimize your title, meta description, subheadings, and pictures. That is because all of these things help their search algorithm determine what your pages are designed to cover.
2) It ensures you are eliminating technical difficulties
What happens if your page takes too long to load or you have a redirect to a wrong page? People are closing the tab and look for the information elsewhere. If enough of them do that, Google will presume your content isn’t offering the right value — and this certainly won’t have a positive impact on your rankings.
3) It indirectly boosts your rankings
Title and meta descriptions can help you get a high click-through rate (CTR), and properly optimized quality content ensures people find what they have been looking for. When you get both of these things right, it sends a strong signal that you have very good content that deserves to be seen by as many people as possible.
This is why, alongside keyword optimization, you should also try to make your rich snippets look as engaging as possible.
5. You’ve Missed the Search Intent
If you are seemingly doing everything right—proper SEO optimization, quality content, links from relevant high-authority sites—but you still can’t reach top 5 search results or you are even stuck on the second page, the problem might be in the search intent.
This is very similar to my previous point. Your rankings drop or simply get stuck because most people do not seem to be satisfied with what they find on your site.
Here is an example:
We have a client in the maintenance niche (provider of CMMS, sort of like a project management tool for the industrial sector). Equipment and machines in this industry are often referred to as “assets,” so when I was doing the initial keyword research it seemed that building a post around the keyword “asset management” was an option worth considering.
However, after deeper research, it turned out that asset management is a phrase that is very popular in the financial and IT sectors that look at business assets much more broadly and much less literally than maintenance professionals do. What this ultimately means is that many people looking for content on asset management would not be satisfied with an article that focuses only on the maintenance industry.
So before you create content, make sure you understand what information people are actually searching for when they are typing certain phrases in their web browsers.
Here is an excellent resource on search intent from Ahrefs that dives much deeper into the whole thematic.
While I didn’t cover all, I would say that these are 80% of the reasons why your link building campaigns aren’t bringing you any visible results in terms of organic traffic.
The only other reason I can think of is you may be focusing on a highly competitive keyword, one that is possibly out of your league. For some very competitive keywords, even if you got everything else right, you might need 80+ solid links to get to the first page. In such situations, this might be why you have built 50 links and are still stuck on the second page.