At the beginning of a new year, SEO marketers may find themselves looking back at how the discipline of SEO has changed over the years. 

Certainly, in 2021 SEO evolved. And as in previous years, it evolved largely to reflect the changes and updates made to the Google ranking algorithms.

In recent years, many Google updates can be seen as the company’s response to what we’ll call the SE-Only approach. This approach leads to content designed only to boost Search Engine Results Page (SERP) rankings. In other words, it leads to content that is heavy on keywords but light on actual information.

Besides content, there are also important things you should consider when it comes to keeping your link-building strategy up to date. Read on to discover what the most common link-building mistakes are and how to avoid them.

1. Broken Internal Links

Ensuring you have a well-organized internal site structure that is optimized for crawlers is possibly the single most important thing you can do to ensure your content is found by the right people.

As such, when it comes to your linking strategy, prioritize your tasks so that dealing with broken internal links is the first thing you do. That’s because when a crawler encounters a broken link, it has to terminate there and will be unable to continue to pages that may be linked to from the affected page. 

Broken links are frustrating to visitors and signal to search engines that a website is of low quality, yet a recent study by Semrush found that 42.5% of websites were affected by the issue.

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If you encounter broken internal links on your website, the first thing you should do is check whether the link’s URL is correct and change if necessary. If a webpage returns an error, remove the link leading to the error page or, preferably, replace it with a live link. If, for some reason, you can’t do this, create a redirect from the broken page.

2. Not Enough or Badly Structured Internal Links

If a page features content that you want to be findable by search engines, you need search bots known as crawlers to be able to index that page. For them to be able to do this, it needs to be linked to.

You don’t need to link every page to every other page, but having a clear interlinking structure and strategy will help crawlers to index your pages and therefore improve their search engine visibility.

XML sitemaps are an essential tool to help crawlers navigate and find new pages on your site. Sitemaps are a way to show search engines the different pages that exist on your site.

If you’re a web developer implementing CI (continuous integration), remember that you’ll need to list every new page in your website directory and adjust your sitemap accordingly.

3. Confusing Website Navigation

If your internal link structure doesn’t follow a clear and intuitive logic, people won’t be able to find the content they’re looking for. The art of creating a clear and effective sitemap is one of the biggest challenges of web design that can help people get from A to B within your site.

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As well as making sure that you’re making the most of expandable menu options so that visitors can navigate your site with ease, for navigation best practices, you should also install a search bar in a visible place on every page.

Search bars can be especially useful for navigating blogs, where there may be hundreds of posts in a given timeframe. For example, a blog that focuses on business technology may feature posts on topics ranging from WFM tools to marketing automation trends to CRM comparisons. 

As different people would organize such a wide-ranging group of topics according to their own system, it can be difficult to design intuitive menus. A search bar solves this problem by creating a fast and efficient way for people to find posts on a given topic, in turn decreasing bounce rate.

4. Having the Wrong Linking Strategy for your Content-Type

Many people think that link building is link building, no matter what the specific content you’re trying to promote is, or who makes up your target audience. But this simply isn’t true.

For example, consider a recent post from Google engineers on the Google Search Central blog. The post concerns a 2021 update to the way reviews appear in search results. In it, the engineers offer two pieces of advice for product reviewers looking to rank highly on Google SERPs:

  • Provide evidence of your experience with the product to reinforce the authenticity of your review.
  • Include links to multiple sellers to give the reader the option to purchase from their merchant of choice.

As we can see, according to Google’s own advice, product reviewers should be applying a linking strategy built around consumer choice if they want to boost their SERP rankings.

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In other contexts, linking to multiple sellers could end up negatively influencing your SEO. For example, if you were to write an article claiming to be about free video chat but then only linked to paid video chat solutions, it may decrease your page authority.

5. Redirect Loops and Chains

Redirects, which automatically direct traffic from one page to another, can be useful if you have a discontinued page that still receives regular visitors. However, poorly organized redirects can seriously damage your SERP rankings and create friction in the user experience of your site.

A redirect chain is when one page redirects to another, which in turn redirects to yet another, and so on. 

Not only do redirect chains make it more difficult for search bots to crawl and index your website, but they can also inhibit the ability of browsers to navigate effectively. Slow page load times or even failure to load can create significant frustration for visitors.

A redirect loop is when a redirect chain loops back around on itself, creating an unbreakable cycle. Search engines hate redirect loops, yet they are a surprisingly common link-building mistake.

Problems with redirects most often occur when external web pages are involved. When it comes to internal pages, chains and loops are usually the consequence of a website’s previous migrations.

For external links, make sure any links that make up part of your inbound or outbound lead generation strategies are properly coordinated with your backlink partners. Avoid internal redirect chains and loops by reviewing all your redirects and ensuring they link straight to the correct destination page.

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6. Breaking the Three-Click Rule

The three-click rule is a frequently applied principle of web design that states that a visitor to a website should be able to find any information with no more than three mouse clicks. 

The three-click rule is based on the idea that users will become frustrated and leave a site if they can’t easily find what they’re looking for. 

You go through all that effort creating quality content optimized for search results and building backlinks in order to increase referral traffic. But all that work is wasted if poor website navigation design means visitors leave without finding what they’re after.

While some web designers insist that the three-click rule should apply to paths between any two pages, others state that it only applies to how many clicks it takes to reach content from the homepage. However, you choose to count, keep in mind that the three-click rule is more of a guide than a strict rule and that usability can’t be boiled down to a specific number of clicks.

To check whether your website adheres to the three-click rule, write a list of the content visitors are most likely to be looking for and try to navigate there from your homepage. 

If you find that pages are frequently breaking the three-click rule, it’s time to re-evaluate your site navigation. Ask yourself whether you’re efficiently organizing your menus with categories and subcategories or if you’re making use of non-click navigation options like expandable menus.

7. Accumulating Toxic Backlinks

With the increasing digitalization of business communications, it can be hard to keep track of which websites are backlinking to yours. To make matters worse, advances in automation technology and the easy programmability of contemporary bots means your site may unwittingly become the object of a spam campaign.

We call these unwanted backlinks toxic because:

  1. Links from low authority or known spam websites can be bad for your SEO
  2. Few things will put people off your brand more than if they arrive at your website via a spam link.

The best way to remove toxic backlinks you will need to use one of the SEO software tools available designed specifically for the job.

Backlink analysis tools allow you to see and analyze all of the backlinks leading to your site. Having identified toxic backlinks, all that’s left to do is to disavow those links on Google. Disavowing a link comprises of creating a disavow file that tells Google which links you consider illegitimate and don’t want to be associated with your site.

As SEO evolves to reflect changes to search algorithms and the way people search, the art of link building inevitably changes too.

Keep up to date with SEO best practices and avoid these common link-building mistakes if you want your content to succeed in 2022 and beyond.

Author Bio

Jessica Day is the Senior Director for Marketing Strategy at Dialpad, a modern business communications platform and leading Bitrix24 alternative that takes every kind of conversation to the next level—turning conversations into opportunities. Jessica is an expert in collaborating with multifunctional teams to execute and optimize marketing efforts for both company and client campaigns. Here is her LinkedIn.