Backlinks play a critical role in how your blog will rank at search engines. Search engines view your backlinks as “votes” showing your website’s credibility. Think of it this way. You have a room full of children and they are instructed to say a name and point to a child. The child that is pointed to the most, with the most used name is the child that probably has that name. For example, you’re in a room with 10 children and out of 10, 6 children point at you and call you “Dave.” Chances are high that your name is actually Dave.
The Problem of Backlink Manipulation
As simple as that may sound, that’s how search engines roughly work. They analyze how websites link to each other and make certain assumptions. One of these assumptions is that the keyword used as an anchor for that link has something to do with the content or category of the blog or website being linked to. Why do search engine do this? Prior to the rise of social network and social media sites, there is really no way for search engines to automatically size up the trust factor of the particular site. They have to look at external or “natural” linking patterns to guess what content or content category a particular blog or website is in. Immediately, most people can see that this system is flawed.
Just like in a school setting where a scheme can be hatched to make kids say the wrong name while pointing to a kid, many search engine optimizations specialist (SEOs) can tweak search results using a variety of tricks that game the system. One common way to trick the system is to buy backlinks. For example, you have a low ranking website that you just launched. Many SEOs would just go to a specialized link selling platform or specialized forums and offer to buy one-way backlinks from websites that are in their target niche. Another way to game the system is to create tons of blogs at free blogging platforms like blogger.com and wordpress.com, fill it with low quality content and then link them to intermediate target sites. The intermediate sites are cleverly arranged so that they amplify the linking power of the satellite sites and they direct it through a variety of means to the actual target websites. The end result is that these target websites have their search rankings boosted. There are many other unscrupulous ways to game the system. This ereviewguide.com series steps you through a completely “white hat” methods of getting backlinks to your blog. Backlinks, as mentioned above, are essential. However, for you to increase your chances of success, we recommend to use only ethical and “white hat” methods for gaining backlinks.
What is the ethical way to get backlinks?
The most ethical way is to not use any backlink building method at all. You just let your content speak for itself. If your blog’s audience feels moved, they will voluntarily create backlinks for you. This can be done by posting links in forums, tweeting about your posts, sharing your post in their Facebook wall and an endless variety of other ways.
The drawbacks of natural “word of mouth”
While digital “word of mouth” is the best way, the main drawback to this method is that it is uncontrollable. You really can’t control the timing or manner of when or how people link to you. Most importantly, the keywords that they use to link to you may not be the keyword that you are targeting. Another disadvantage is that this would take a huge amount of organic back linking for you to benefit from it. Since most people link in a very hazardous, unorganized and sporadic manner, it would take a huge amount of them linking to you for the search engines to detect a specific pattern that matches to the actual keyword targets that you aim for. Due to these main drawbacks, you have to be more proactive in creating your own ethical backlinks. Backlinks could come from a wide variety of sources. For this guide, we will focus on three important sources for backlinks to your blog – forums, blog comments and three-way link exchanges.
Key Tips Before you Begin a Backlink building Campaign
Not all links carry the same power. Actually, some links don’t have power at all. Be sure that you are aware of these facts while planning out your backlink building campaign. They help to boost your chances of success.
1. Avoid building backlinks from websites with zero page rank
There’s a lot of drama going on in the internet among SEO professionals regarding the exact value of page rank. Regardless, there is a rough pattern that emerges when comparing search results. Sites that have higher page rank tend to rank better. Though this does not apply in all cases, there is still an enough pattern, looking at it in a bigger picture, for this to be a factor. Focus in getting back links from websites that have page rank. Many websites have page rank zero or N\A. Avoid wasting time on these sites. Focus on sites with page rank 1 or higher. To get an accurate reading of the page rank of a website or blog, download Google’s toolbar and you will see the page rank listing there. Alternatively, you can look for page rank checkers on the internet. Regardless how you want to proceed, make sure that you focus only on websites with page ranks.
2. Use only websites with “do follow” links
Technically speaking, there is no such thing such as a “do follow” link. However, there is a “no follow” tag. In reality, websites that don’t apply the “no follow” tag create “do follow” links. Use only these sites when you are doing you backlink building. Simply put, “no follow” tags kill the link value of the link that you are creating at a site. The site that you are building your link on may have a good page rank and may be thematically related to your blog, but if the links that you are linking to your website are all “no follow” then it doesn’t give any impact on the search engine value. You may still be getting some value if you are lucky. Direct traffic from that site’s reader might click on the link and visit your website. Another benefit is having the readers of that website find your site valuable and build their links to you and other sites that are “do follow”. There are many other benefits, however, don’t count too much on them because these benefits suffer from the limitations that word of mouth link building suffers from, namely control and volume.
3. Build from websites that are thematically related to your blog
As much as possible, build backlinks only from websites that are thematically or categorically related to your blog. These are given greater weight by search engines when ranking your site. This is not an iron rule. You can compensate for off category or off niche links by just creating more links on unrelated sites. However, for a cleaner backlink fingerprint and architecture, the more niche targeted the sites you are building backlinks on, the better. Unfortunately, many bloggers don’t have this luxury. They just have to content themselves in creating backlinks in whatever sites they can build them on. If you do find yourself in this particularly rare situation where you get a large variety of websites which are specifically related to your content and they allow you to build backlinks, by all means do.
4. Building Links on Forums
Now that we have gotten the basic backlink rules out of the way, our attention can now focus on forum backlinks. There are many forums on the internet. Forums are basically message boards where people create a topic discussion and other people respond. This is a highly interactive communication platform that is quite common in the internet. However, not all forums are the same. Some forums are threaded – meaning discussion is posted and responses are formatted nicely within that same discussion. Others present discussions differently. Regardless of how the forum is formatted, there are quite a number of forums that have are not “no follow” by default. Increasingly, many forums are becoming aware of link spamming and are applying the “no follow” tab to outbound links as a default.
5. The problem of Forum Link Spam
Link spamming happens when blog and website owners pay no regard to the actual discussion the forum and just create a massive amount of backlinks to their target sites. This can run the gamut from posting a discreet sentence with one of the words backlinked to a huge block of text entirely hyperlinked to target sites. Regardless of the type of forum, link spamming of forum is just unethical and bad practice. You would not want to be engaged in a conversation with your friends and somebody blurt in and start advertising Viagra, penis enlargement pill or a whole bunch of inappropriate products. Similarly, you would not want to be interrupted by commercial messages at all. The same dynamic plays out when it comes to forum backlink building. This spam messages don’t really add any value and just show disrespect to the forum participants.
6. Ethical Forum Backlink Building Practices
To ethically build backlinks in forum, you must first look at forums not just as simple sources of traffic. You must not think like a parasite. Traffic parasite just looks at traffic sources and just figure out a way to leech as much traffic as possible without giving out anything in return. That is parasite behavior. It is unethical and most of the time, many forum owners banned such behavior, rightfully so. This is how you should ethically build backlinks. Focus on being a content contributor instead. Participate in the forum and spend time asking and answering questions and otherwise contribute content.
7. Avoid linking immediately
Don’t put a link at every post you make. That is the mistake many beginning forum link builders make. They want to benefit immediately. Wrong approach. For the first, 20, 50 or even 100 posts, don’t leave a link and just focus on establishing credibility as a forum member. Do not post nonsense, and give attention in contributing knowledge to other forum participants. Once you’ve established your credibility, you benefit in two ways. One, the links that you will put up will have a greater chance in being clicked, creating direct traffic. The same way, you will not get banned because people already see you as a beneficial part of the community. Second, when you do drop backlinks, which uses keywords, people would give you the benefit of the doubt and they won’t see you as a spammer.
8. Focus on credibility and responsible community membership
Consider the first hundred (unlinked) posts you make as “paying your dues” by establishing credibility and trying to become an outstanding member of the community. Don’t be disrespectful and behave accordingly. Treat every forum as you would want your own website to be treated. Another key advantage of ethical forum link building is that you can go back anytime and keep building backlinks to your many different blogs without people flagging you as a spammer. However, avoid overdoing it. Make you sure that the links you drop and the content you post are from established and respected sources. Post news excerpts and discuss blog contents from reliable blogs within your niche. The key here is to establish credibility by avoiding drive-by link building.
Drive-by linking does not and will not work to your favor. Your links will be removed, you will be tagged as a spammer and be banned and all your post will eventually be deleted. It will be a waste of your time and effort, leading to no useful results at all. To unleash the full potential of forum backlink building, follow the tips above and become a responsible forum member. The key here is not volume, but instead, it is quality. So, avoid the temptation to build a huge volume of backlinks in just a small time. Instead, go in a slow and steady pace.
Responsible Blog Commenting
Building backlinks from blog comments is a dying method. The main reason is that WordPress is applying a “no follow” tag to blog comments by default. This has really reduced the amount of blogs that you can comment on for backlink purposes. This does not mean that there are completely no blogs that you can’t comment on for backlinks. There are still quite a few available, however, their numbers are quickly decreasing by each passing month. Why? Tons of bloggers use them to spam. They would post comments that are completely inappropriate just to get backlinks. In fact, there are software programs available online that can be fed with a huge list of blogs and it could run 24/7 just parading all sorts of junk blog comments. Naturally, most of these comments end up in spam filters and are deleted by blog owners.
1. The problem of blog comment spamming: The Filtering Process
Unfortunately, there are enough blogs set to auto approve or some owners just don’t pay attention and some of these spam comments manage to sneak through. Among those who were able to sneak through, only a tiny fraction make onto blogs that are actually “to follow”. And of that tiny fraction, only some blogs have page ranks. As you can, this is a decreasing tighter funnel involved in filtering that could allow a few backlinks which are actually useful. Blog comment spammers get around this problems by just feeding their software millions of blog urls in the hopes that this process will yield a few and good backlinks. They don’t cost anything because they just leave their computer on and the software does everything for them. The cost is actually paid by the unfortunate blog owners at the other side of the equation who will have to waste time to filter these comments and also run the risk of having their blogs associated with unsavory items like illegal pharmaceuticals, counterfeit products, sexual enhancement products and all other dubious products or services. Unfortunately, this is the name of the game for a lot of the “link builders” out there, automated blog commenting. It is disrespectful, wastes a lot of resources and builds little to no value.
2. Ethical Bog Commenting
Just like in ethical forum backlink building, ethical blog commenting revolves around the twin values of quality and respect. There is no two ways about it. For you to be a scrupulous and ethical blog commenter, you have to respect the rights of the blog owner by leaving quality comments. In essence, you must contribute quality content. Follow these steps to establish yourself as a trusted blog commenter that not only escapes banning and spam flagging but actually be invited back on the blog you comment on.
3. Don’t always leave a link
When you comment, you should always think on how you should participate on the blog post you are commenting on. You should focus on how you can add quality to the blog post and think of ways you can promote critical thinking to other commenters. The key here is to be partners with the blog owner. Being a blogger yourself, you would know how important it is to produce quality content and engage your readers. Put yourself in the shoes of the writer of the post you are commenting on. Think of what they want to see happen. Often than not, they would like to see a genuine conversation, take useful links that are connected to what they wrote and receive feedbacks. Going from this analysis, give them what they want. Foster conversation. Research about what they talk about and you views about it. If you have no time to research, post questions that the blog article raises. The bottom line is that you must be a partner in the content creation and discussion. Don’t be a parasite and just leave a single sentence with a generic thought that is not even related to the post with a link on it. One common but ethical way of leaving a comment is sharing your own experience that relates to the blog post. By not leaving a link every time you comment, this establishes you in the eye of the blog owner that you are genuinely interested in the content of the blog you are commenting on. This takes you out of the spammers list and puts you to the trusted contributor category.
4. Link only relevant posts from your blog
Now that you have established yourself as a legitimate and credible blog commenter, your backlink building must also help you build credibility. You don’t build credibility if you just place a link in the top page of your blog and the keyword that you select is not even related to discussion at hand. The more credible way to backlink is to find a blog post that you have a keyword that is directly related to the blog post that you are commenting on. This establishes a connection between the blog post that you are commenting on and your own blog post. In essence becomes content and you post becomes a reference page for the content that you are commenting on. This reference’s relationship allows you to use you existing blog post as a support or if your position is the opposite, it allows you to post contrasting example. Regardless of how you position your link, it must always add to the content of the blog post that you are commenting on. You can improve the chances of your link actually being approved if you have knowledge about the content of the blog you are commenting on. For you to that, you should find some time to research about it. By commenting relevant thoughts, your link has the higher chances of being published and you won’t be tagged as a spammer. In certain occasions, your link can actually be excerpted by the blog owner and discuss it on his own blog.
5. Comment with guest posting in mind
As you are going to find out, maintaining a blog is hard work. It takes endurance to keep a blog going. You see many blogs start up really quickly where the owner has a lot of energy and the owner posts updates almost every hour but as weeks or months pass, you can notice that the number of updates decrease. What used to be hourly updates become weekly updates and as time passes by, it would be lucky if updates will be posted once a month. Eventually, the blogs grind to a halt because busy life schedule catches up with the blogger, whether it’s time commitment with family, day job, medical emergency or a bunch of other much important factors. Many blog owners get around this problem by inviting guests’ posts. Guests’ posts are free blog posts written by other bloggers and given to your blog as payment for them to avail backlinks in that guest post. Everybody wins in a guest post situation. The blog owner gets content given that they don’t have time to create their own and the guest post writer gets a back link. Everyone benefits from the arrangement. Interestingly enough, being an ethical commenter paves the way for you to successfully solicit guest post in the future. If your blog comments display high level of intelligence and respect for both the blog owner and the community built around the blog, chances are high that if you decide later on to send an email to the blog owner regarding your guest post opportunity, you have an advantage and your offer will most likely be accepted. That is one of the key benefits of ethical blogging. It gets through the front door because you have established yourself as an authority in the blog that you are commenting on. Given the time constraints in maintaining a blog, credible and intelligent guest post writer are very welcome indeed.
Unleashing the Power of Three-way Link Exchanges
Link exchanges are quite simple arrangements. You and your friend each have a blog – let’s call them Blog A and Blog B, respectively. Link exchange happens when Blog A links to Blog B using the target keywords for Blog B. A mutual link exchange is when Blog A links to Blog B and vise versa. Unfortunately, Google and other search engines don’t place much value on reciprocal link exchanges as they do to one-way link exchanges, in this case, when Blog A links to Blog B and Blog B doesn’t link back. In the eyes of search exchange, it’s a more natural linking pattern. It doesn’t reek of gaming and manipulation as much as reciprocal link exchanges do.
To get around this problem, the three- way link exchange was born. A three-way link exchange works this way: you own Blog A and Blog C, your friend owns Blog B. To create a three-way link exchange, you would link from Blog A to Blog B and your friend would then link from Blog B to your other blog, Blog C. In the eyes of Google, these are all one-way link exchanges. However, we know the truth and this is just a way to get around the two-way link exchange unstated policy that is observed by many search engines.
1. Three way exchanges are harder than they look
As simple as three-way link exchange may appear, they are not very simple to get. Most blog owner are wary of spam, so if you email a blog and say “Hi, I like you blog content. I blog the same category as well. Would you like to engage in a three-way exchange with me.” That won’t really work. First of all, many blog owners have already received spam emails asking the same thing. These are usually outsource company from Indian and the Philippines that research tons of websites, get their email and they just blast them with the same generic solicitation email. Most such emails are rejected. Further, this spamming practice also poisons the minds of the recipients agains legitimate offers for three way exchanges. At the end, when you send you own legitimate offer, your email is flagged or treated as spam.
2. How do you get ethical three-way link exchanges?
The most common way to get link exchanges and bypass the spam desensitization of many blog owners is to join blog communities like blogcatalog.com, webmaster forums, yahoo groups or any other platforms online where blog owners congregate. Once you are a member of these platforms, don’t spam and immediately announce that you are looking for a three-way exchange. You must contribute content first, foster discussions, and become a respectable member of the community. In other words, do not be sleazy. Sleazy behavior obviously says that you are just in it for the backlinks.
3. Participate in the blogger community
Be interested in your fellow bloggers. Not only do you establish relationships, you also establish your credibility as an expert in a particular body of knowledge. By doing so, you also gain friends. When you focus on making friends, everything else follows. Establish your credibility by being an outstanding and helpful member of the community. Once you establish this, you need to employ the filtering steps below.
a. Make sure that you are trying to create link exchange with websites with “do follow” links. Some blogs are default to “no follow” but they do allow “do follow” in special situations. If you become friends with these blog owners, then your friendship and credibility will allow you to avail “do follow” links from them.
b. Make sure that you are trying to create link exchanges with sites that are within your target niche. It’s not very likely that the community that you belong in all have the same blogging category and niche as you. However, think in terms of demoz.org and think of larger categories. If you meet people in larger communities within your blogging category, then there should be enough link exchange partners for you. Use demoz.org’s category system to help you think of broader categories for your site. Do not page in your own specific niche or category for your chances of finding link exchange partners that are tightly focus are going to be quite low.
c. Sweeten you link exchange offer by offering content. Offer potential link exchange partners articles written specifically to their specification in exchange of linking back to you. This sweetens the deal and also helps you establish credibility.
The Bottom Line
There are many ways to link exchange, the most common is doing it in a quick and dirty way. However, doing it quick and dirty is not a long term solution. In fact, it can only lead to failure eventually. The truth of the matter is, in building credibility online is just like building credibility offline. It takes time, hard work, patience and perseverance. Slow and steady may not be popular and convenient words, however, when it comes to ethical backlink building, nothing beats slow and steady. Always think in terms of how you can contribute quality, influence and help other people and make the internet world a better place. If you only focus on what you can get at the expense of others and also how you can do it quickly, you can easily find the fruits of your hard work deleted online. That is not a long term strategy. Focus instead on quality, credibility and helping others reach their goals.