Back Linking Is Not a Crime

Guest post originally published back in 2013 – and just as relevant today as ever! You can still visit Chris over at iworkofftheclock.com and I highly recommend you do so!

This is a really great post and I’m really excited to be sharing this with you guys. Chris was a follower of the the original Master Dayton blogspot blog and was really an awesome encouragement as I started to get things up and running again.  I’ve had the pleasure of talking to Chris online and keeping in touch.  Chris is a smart guy, enthusiastic to help whenever he gets the chance, and someone who has the character and drive to succeed.  Not to mention all around nice and good guy.

Chris has an amazing story focused around dealing with life with anxiety issues, which is something close to my heart.  Despite being pretty social and outgoing, I’m definitely an introvert by nature and have suffered social anxiety even to the point of panic attacks before.  I’ve been meaning to do a report on backlinking and promoting your sites Post-Penguin and Post-Panda, but Chris nails it here.  Please check out his blog as well as this post, and let him know what you think.  Without any further ado, I’m giving the proverbial microphone over to Chris.  Take it away brother!

Backlinking Is Not A Crime

Old Tyme Orlando Prison LaundryI first got into Internet marketing in March of 2012, right on the heels of Google’s initial Panda and Penguin updates, which targeted all kinds of websites with poor content or artificially inflated rankings.  Those algorithm updates penalized a lot of websites and caused tons of bloggers and marketers to lose their livelihood overnight.

One of the popular strategies that Google penalized hard was backlinking – the practice of going to other people’s websites and placing links on them that point to your own site.  Since sites that had lots of people linking to them were previously assumed to provide high quality content (which was not always the case with many of the targeted sites), the artificial creation of these links was being done on a massive scale, and Google had to take efforts to put a stop to it.

So when I first got into this, everybody was all sick about it, and the Internet community was pretty sharply divided.  Half of them insisted that backlinks were still effective and even necessary, but others were saying that the game had changed and that building backlinks – even doing it yourself with good content – was now outdated and would eventually cause Google to obliterate your website in the search rankings (SERPs).

So I was literally scared to get caught creating backlinks – like it was illegal or something – and decided to play it safe and not do them.  I even went back to a few that I had created previously and deleted them.

One Year Later

So now I’m looking back at my first year online, and I’m looking at how far playing it safe got me.

Not far.

I mean, I wrote about 400 articles in my first year.  A hundred were freelance articles for Textbroker and similar sites.  For those I got paid up front, and now they belong to somebody else.  Another hundred went to HubPages, Squidoo, and Yahoo Contributor Network.  And the last 150-200 went to my half a dozen blogs.

If you take away the money I made with freelancing, I made a whopping total of $44.09.

Looking Forward To Year Two

So now I’m heading into my second year.  You wanna guess what I plan on doing differently?  That’s right; it’s time to start going after those links again!  But how are you supposed to do it without getting pounded by algo updates?

As it turns out, there are lots of folks who’ve kept right on building links through all of this without suffering any devastating setbacks.  What killed so many sites in the past wasn’t just that they were building links themselves.  What killed them was that they were doing it in the most obvious ways.

They would post links on irrelevant sites – they’d literally put links on any site they could find, regardless of whether the subject matter was even remotely related to their own sites.  They’d also use the exact same keyword over and over again for their anchored text.  And then of course, they’d use crappy content too – both in the posts they were linking from and the posts they were linking to.  Last of all, they would create most of these links at unnatural speeds (usually by paying services to generate the links for them at warp speed).

So any link building strategies for 2013 and beyond will have to take into account these factors and compensate for them in such a way that the links appear to the search engines to be natural, organic links created by readers.

One last concern I have is social media.  I haven’t really heard anyone else backing me up on this yet, but it seems to me that it would be wise to balance out backlinks with social media too.  I mean, if I was Google and I saw a website with hundreds of links – or even thousands of links – pointing at it from blogs and web 2.0 sites but hardly even a peep from social media…that would look pretty unnatural to me.

If your website is so incredibly awesome that bloggers are linking to it left and right from their blogs, then wouldn’t we also expect to see people sharing it all over Facebook, Twitter, and Google+?  Why would there be a mountain of blog posts talking about your site but barely a molehill of a social presence?

That looks unnatural  to me.

How To Build Backlinks Post-Penguin

Are there still ways to create a backlinking profile that look natural and can keep you below Google’s radar?  Sure.

For backlinks to keep working effectively for us, we’re going to need to give attention to these five factors.

1.  Link Relevance

Relevance is king!  Penguin has been beating the crap out of sites with backlinks from irrelevant sources pointed at them (and the sites that allowed those links to be published there in the first place can even be penalized).

There are a few things to look at here concerning relevance:

  • The host site’s relevance to your site or post.
  • The guest post’s relevance to the host site.
  • The guest post’s relevance to your site/post.
  • The anchored text’s relevance to your site/post.

Obviously, the ideal backlink would have all of these factors in alignment, but that is not going to be necessary for every link you create.  The greater the relevance, though, the more link juice it passes on to your website.

But the bottom line is that your links need to be relevant for the reader (we’re talking real, live human beings here).  If it’s not providing real value to the reader, then it’s irrelevant.  Read my post HERE for more about relevant links.

2.  Content And Site Quality

You can’t spend all day hiding from Penguin and then leave yourself open to a Panda attack.

  • Don’t use spun or poorly written articles for your guest posts/backlinks.
  • Don’t use spun or poorly written articles on your own site either.
  • Do pursue backlinks from both low and high ranking websites.

3.  Anchor Text Variety

Using the same keyword for all your backlinks’ anchor text was once an easy way to make fast money.  Today it is a death sentence for your blog.  Variety is the key to using anchored links effectively.  Remember, if it looks unnatural, you’re dead meat.

  • Vary your anchor text keywords
  • Use longtail and head keywords
  • Use more branded links
  • Use more naked URL links
  • Use more generic terms like, “Here” and “This blog”

4.  Link Speed

The rate at which you acquire links is important too.  As before, consider what looks natural and unnatural.  If you’re gaining exactly 100 links every month, that looks spammy.  If you’re gaining 100 links one month…zero the next two months…100 the fourth month, etc…that looks spammy.  That just looks like you’re buying 100 links at a time.

  • Don’t just blast them out there 100 at a time
  • Start out slowly and build gradually
  • Mix up slow and fast periods of link building

5.  Comment Links On Blogs, Forums, And Social Media

Comment links are going to be no-follow, so they aren’t necessarily going to count for us in the same way that do-follow links would.  But we still want to have these out there.  Why? Because it looks natural.  Plus, you’re going to get some traffic from those links.

Oh, and there’s one more reason:  making friends is fun!

Effective backlinks are all about balance, but not perfect, rigid, symmetrical, patterned balance.  Just natural, organic-looking balance.  Ideally, we’re actually out there building real relationships and creating a real following.  But that takes forever, so in the meantime go ahead and use backlinks to gain some traction.

You won’t go to jail for it.

UPDATE (3/2/2016):

A lot has changed even in the last few years, and I still want to thank Chris for this great guest post. Things have changed over at his website – and it’s worth checking out. However, this post is still fantastic when it comes to looking at how link building works in SEO. Despite many articles arguing to the contrary, the truth remains that truly good contextual backlinks actually can make all the difference when it comes to ranking in the search engines, especially for competitive keywords.

Focus on creating amazing original content first and setting up a great website, but if you have the opportunity to get some exceptional backlinks from authority websites in your niche to your main website, go for it. You won’t only get extra traffic and some positive points as an authority, but you will also see a major boost in your keyword rankings.

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