When it comes to search engine optimisation for small businesses, link building is the way to go. The more quality domains you have linking back to your website, the more “juice” and authority will be passed, and the easier it will be to rank for competitive keywords.

While this sounds like a straight forward concept, it can be tough to build high-quality links from relevant, authoritative sources. That’s because the way we build links has changed in recent years.

Ever since Matt Cutts claimed that guest blogging is dead, webmasters have been reluctant to accept guest blogging opportunities or give links to websites willy-nilly.

And that’s okay. Finding and building links shouldn’t be an easy, straightforward concept, otherwise, everyone would be doing it and the barrier to entry and success would be higher.

However, with so much conflicting information as to how to build links, it can be easy to get confused on your SEO journey.

Below, we’ve cleared up five common misconceptions to link building to ensure your search engine optimisation strategy is as effective as possible.

MYTH: You should only build links from sites with higher domain authority than yours

As part of Google’s search engine metrics and algorithms, every website is ranked against a set of criteria to determine its relevance and authority.

Google doesn’t reveal the ins and outs of this criteria to avoid spam and manipulation, but various guises have been created by SEOs and companies looking to rank and signal the authority of other websites.

The most popular of these search engine ranking scores is Moz Domain Authority, a 100-point scale based on the popularity of a website.

The closer your website ranks to 100, the more authoritative and trustworthy your website will appear to search engines like Google.

If you’re trying to climb the ranks and get your website at the top of Google, then you need to build your website’s domain authority through building high-quality links. Many SEOs recommend only finding and building links from websites that have a higher domain authority than you, so to pass on more “link juice”, but this isn’t necessarily true.

When it comes to finding high-quality links for your website, relevance is more important than authority in ranking terms.

You want all of your links to appear natural and relevant to your business and niche – so, you wouldn’t want to get a link from a health and beauty website to your building company, as it wouldn’t be relevant to either audience and would, therefore, look suspicious to Google and other search engines. Keep your links relevant, and don’t be afraid of reaching out for links from sites that have a lower authority than yours.

MYTH: Don’t get a link from a website outside of your niche

Before we delve into this misconception, it’s important to make one thing clear. You should definitely shy away from getting links from dodgy websites with low domain authority or a high spam score, as you’ll most likely be penalised by search engines like Google for doing so.

Black hat strategies are used by some SEO firms and incorporate buying links, using low-quality link directories, and trading links between websites. And, a lot of the time, the sites where these SEOs get links from are random and not related to your niche.

These types of links should certainly be avoided – but that doesn’t mean that all of your links have to come from websites in your niche. Sure, Google likes to see that there’s some relevance between Site A and Site B, but you can still get “link juice” from a website in a different niche, provided there’s a natural way to do so.

So, if you’re a dog groomer and a local councillor wants to add a link to your website from their “donators” page, then don’t shy away from it. It’s still a link to be earned, and it can be helpful in passing link juice, building your domain authority and getting ahead of your competitors.

Just remember that every link should be natural and earned – plonking a link to your website on your friend’s for the sake of it won’t work unless there’s some context, like a blog, a “recommended businesses” section, or another relevant, natural connection.

MISCONCEPTION: You can build links too fast

Building too many links in a short period of time can send red flags to Google and cause your website to be penalised – especially if these links are not of high-quality.

However, provided that you have high-quality, contextual keywords that link back to your website naturally, you should overcome this penalty quickly and enjoy an SEO boost in the process.

Realistically, unless you’re buying cheap SEO from black hat companies offering to “boost your website to rank one overnight” or you’re buying gigs from Fiverr offering hundreds of backlinks for a couple of pounds, you’ll struggle to build links quickly enough for Google to show cause for concern.

This advice only really affects start-ups and businesses that enjoy significant press exposure – something you won’t be able to achieve without a lot of money.

Instead of worrying about how quickly you’re building links, jump straight into it and focus your time and energy on building high-quality links through guest blogging, outreach and producing great content that people naturally want to link back to.

MISCONCEPTION: You should only get one link per domain name

It’s true that diversity is important in your link building strategy, and that the more unique domain names that link back to your website, the higher you’ll be able to rank.

However, there’s nothing to stop you from getting more than one link per domain name – and you shouldn’t say no to another link from a website just because you’ve had one before.

Links from large, authoritative domains will offer a wide range of benefits outside of SEO, including more traffic and increased brand awareness.

If there’s an opportunity to build a link, take it.

Back to SEO, though, and a domain name can offer “link juice” through multiple links – so ongoing guest blogging, whether it’s an ongoing column or contribution, can still be beneficial.

Just remember to include a diverse range of links and contextualise your keywords for the biggest SEO benefits.

MISCONCEPTION: You should never buy links

When you’re just starting out on your SEO journey, it can be easy to fall into the trap of black hat techniques that offer overnight success.

You may find a cheap deal on a website like Fiverr, that offers hundreds of backlinks for a couple of pounds, or you may choose to “cheat the system” and employ other SEO shortcuts that are frowned upon by Google.

Link schemes and buying links goes against Google Webmaster guidelines, and doing so can mean risking your business and rankings.

Stick to white hat techniques when building links and you won’t have to worry about being penalised and damaging your reputation.

However, that’s not to say that all paid-for links should be avoided – and, in some cases, a paid-for link can offer a significant SEO boost.

Sponsored posts, for example, allow you to pay an influential blogger or news outlet for a slot on their website, where you’ll be able to promote your business with a blog post or video.

The Guardian website offers sponsored posts

Sponsored posts usually involve payment exchange, and should be labelled as sponsored under all circumstances, but they can still be used to spread the word about your business and get a link back in return.

Make sure that you understand the agreement with the blogger or website before paying upfront – will you get a dofollow link back to your website and, if you don’t, does the traffic and exposure make the sponsored post worthwhile anyway?

Wrapping up

When it comes to link building, it’s important that you stay on the right side of Google. Failing to do so could lead to a website penalty, which means throwing thousands of pounds in SEO and content marketing down the drain.

Only adopt white hat link building techniques like blog commenting, press releases, guest blogging and outreach, and never accept a link from a website that could damage your site’s reputation or domain authority spam score. Best of luck.