A Backlink Strategy for Bloggers
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Google ranks sites based on their useful content. Google measures that usefulness from outside signals which include:
- Number of page visits
- Length of time a reader is on the page
- The number of times that people link to the page
Goggle correctly assumes there is a connection between all these factors, that people are getting useful information, and thus they will bump the post in search results rankings. That’s why a backlink strategy for boggers is so important.
The first two items above are self-explanatory. But the third one needs a little more development, primarily because there is a deadly error associated with it. Deadly as far as Google is concerned anyway.
Imagine you wrote a great post and a large number of people visited that page. It was at least 1,500 words, so the reader stayed on the page for a while. That’s outstanding.
But what if no one thought it was good enough to share with others? Would that worry you? It should. Because sharing a link is how people boost their own influence on their own sites and social media. They write posts and comments and link to the excellent article where they got the information.
If they are not doing those things, that’s a problem for you.
These links (called backlinks) build your site traffic and your Google search page ranking. They are valuable to you. You want backlinks, and the more for each of your posts, the better.
Some might say I’m guilty of the oversimplification of this topic. That’s probably true. My purpose is to give you a general working overview while not becoming too nerdy. The reality is, your blog needs the social proof that your blog is good, and having a backlink strategy is important. You cannot ignore getting backlinks.
When new bloggers learn about the value of backlinks, they often start thinking of some scheme to get them quickly. Most dash to Fiverr* since that’s like the world’s Black Market where people buy questionable products and services. You can tell from that statement that I’m not a fan of Fiverr and this is why.
And Fiverr does not disappoint. On the day I visited the site, I got 7,275 for the search term “backlinks.”
What does Google say about buying backlinks like this? They call them “link schemes” and will crush you like a bug in the rankings if you try to use such schemes. There is no question about how they define them or what they do to sites that engage in this dishonest activity. Never include buying backlinks in your backlink strategy.
Here’s a brief summary:
- Any links intended to manipulate PageRank or a site’s ranking in Google search results may be considered part of a link scheme and a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. This includes any behavior that manipulates links to your site or outgoing links from your site.
- Buying or selling links that pass PageRank. This includes exchanging money for links, or posts that contain links; exchanging goods or services for links, or sending someone a “free” product in exchange for them writing about it and including a link.
- Excessive link exchanges (“Link to me and I’ll link to you”) or partner pages exclusively for the sake of cross-linking.
This is a sample. There are more examples at the Webmaster Guidelines above link.
Why is Google so adamant about people not using manipulated backlinks? Because it disrupts their main signals about the quality of your post. They fool people into thinking your site content has more value (commonly called “link juice”) than it really does.
The people on Fiverr know the Google policy, yet they will take your money anyway. Google has ways of discovering fake backlinks, and they’ll penalize your site for purchasing them. Your blog may not get a decent page rank for years if Google puts your site in their “sin bin.”
One of the things that I find amusing at Fiverr is that some vendors there know how risky purchased backlinks can be, so they sell services to help get rid of bad backlinks by disavowing them. But you can disavow bad links yourself without paying anyone. It’s time-consuming, so the best policy is simply not to get in any backlink schemes of any kind. It is simply not worth it.
You want backlinks. You want to get them from as many sites as possible, especially popular websites in your same niche. However, you want to get them “organically.” That means that other sites linked to because they visited your blog, liked a blog post, and decided to share it with others.
Most bloggers include a quote from your post in their post, and they link to your post as a form of attribution. That’s great.
To get other bloggers to do that, you don’t want to start a systematic campaign to get backlinks. But it’s okay if you visit a blog and see articles on the same topic as yours. Send an email with the link to a similar article. If they like it, they’ll link to it without you asking.
Yes, it is a bit of a “wink and nod” sort of thing, but linking to people in your niche grows out of relationship-building, not link exchange schemes. Google frowns on those too. However, it makes sense to build a list of blogs in your niche and interact with those bloggers on an ongoing basis. For the most part, they are your colleagues, not your competitors.
Quantity and Quality Both Count
You want to get as many backlinks to each of your posts as possible. That signals Google that you are offering valuable content.
But there is another aspect to this. Google ranks the quality of individual sites by Domain Authority (DA). When you get a backlink from a blog on Wix, for example, the DA may be rated a 1 or 2. A gift, but a small one. However, if you get a backlink from NYTimes.com, HuffingtonPost.com, or any other such mega-site, they have a DA of 80 or more, and that will rocket your own ranking.
You may have heard this story before, but I love it so. Excuse me for retelling it here. Back in the 1890s, there was a fabulously wealthy and flamboyant stock market investor named James Brady. He liked his bling and was known to everyone as Diamond Jim Brady.
A young entrepreneur wanted Diamond Jim to invest in his new company. The young entrepreneur approached Brady in the NY Stock Exchange building and told him his plan and asked Diamond Jim to invest.
Diamond Jim told the young man he liked his pluck, and he loved his plan, but he did not want to invest. But Diamond Jim said, “I’ll tell you what I’ll do for you. I’ll walk across the floor of the Stock Exchange with my arm around your shoulder.”
Brady knew others would be eager to invest money in the young man’s company when they saw Brady thought kindly of him.
And that’s why getting a backlink or two from sites that have a DA in the 60-80 range. It’s success by association.
Don’t let me mislead you, however. When you start your blog, your DA will be zero. So getting a backlink from any site above zero is a win for you. As you DA rises over time, you’ll want to get backlinks from sites that have a DA higher than your own at a particular stare in your rise to SEO prominence.
A DA between 10 and 40 is low, between 40 and 50 is considered average, and between 50 and 60 is considered good. Any DA over 60 is deemed to be excellent.
Where do you discover the DA of a site? As of this writing, you can use this free tool to get a DA for any website you input:.
By the way, they also show the Page Authority (PA) at that link. That is a method for predicting how a specific page will rank on Search Engine Result Pages (SERP). PA is both interesting and helpful, but a new blogger cannot expect to master it all right away. Focus on DA as you grow backlinks and traffic, and then consider PA factors later if you wish.
Did you know that you can get a link from a high DA site and get no link juice benefit? It’s sad but true. That’s because there are two types of links. One is called “DoFollow” and the other is called “NoFollow.”
DoFollow links are created anytime you or another person links to a page in your site. They are the kind of links you want, and they kind you’ll get, UNLESS a site owner/webmaster fiddles with the HTML code.
In HTML, the link looks like this:
“Rel” is short for “relationship.” These tags or attributes define the type of relationship the link has with the target site.
When other sites change the HTML, to create NoFollow links, they signal Google to not give the linked-to website any link juice. A NoFollow link will still send visitors to your site, which is a good thing, but the link will not help your SEO rankings.
The website owner who uses NoFollow links is saying, “I’ll send you traffic, but I’m not going to use my high DA to boost your ranking.” Kind of a bad deal, but that’s what goes on when you rumble in the jungle. Those who use NoFollow links are protecting their turf.
And here’s some terrible news. Most social media backlinks, like those on Facebook, are NoFollow. You’ll get traffic from the link, but no page ranking love. So why post of Facebook and other such sites? Because Google sees you are getting traffic, and traffic alone is good. Google also sees your social media pages and measures how active they are. That benefits you as well.
More Flies Are Buzzing
In 2020 Google is implementing two new link attributes like Follow/NoFollow. Fortunately, all these new attributes are optional. They are:
- rel=sponsored (a sponsored link)
- rel=ugc (user-generated content – like the link back to sites that people place guest posts, comments or forums)
Google is not happy just knowing that links are NoFollow for any number of reasons. They want to know specifically how to exclude a particular link from their search rankings. These new attributes give Google even more control over your content, your blog, your income, and your life.
Remember, these are backlinks from third-party sites that point back to your site. As always, the more DoFollow links you get, the higher your search rankings. DoFollow is the gold standard.
What about the outbound links you create to send your visitors to third-party sites? The best practice is to use the same “rel” link yourself when you create a link to another site:
- If you are sharing information, and the link target is to a high-authority site, then DoFollow is fine. No “rel” attribute tag is needed.
- If the content link is to a site that pays you in any way, like an affiliate, you want to use the “rel=sponsored” attribute.
- If it is user-generated content, then you want to that outbound link attribute to be “rel=ugc.”
What about NoFollow? That’s a good question. It appears to be in the process of being depreciated by Google. However, it’s still in use in billions of sites and is not likely to go away soon. Google probably has the power to click one button and eliminate 100% of all NoFollow links from search ranking criteria, so maybe it doesn’t matter one way or another at this point.
I’m putting internal links in the context of external backlinks because they serve a similar purpose. Different yet similar. Internal links connect to other posts within your own site, not links to external websites. They are all DoFollow.
Why would you want to link to your own content? There are several excellent reasons.
They Help Your Readership
If you write about a particular topic in a post, and you have written about something related in a previous post, then you do your reader a favor by linking to it. That allows them to get more information on an interrelated thought. These are contextual links.
They Improve SEO Rankings
When you link to related topics on your site, you enrich reader value, and you simultaneously give information to Google that will improve your page ranking. You are providing a path for spiders, helping increase user time on your site as they jump from page to page, and you are connecting a network of related information, and Google loves that.
Plan Ahead When You Make Internal Links
There is nothing wrong if you’re writing a blog post and suddenly remember that readers might benefit from something related that you wrote and make a link to it. That’s an organic thing to do and is generally desirable.
Yet, at the same time, you want to do strategic internal linking when you can. That means you want to exercise some forethought about your internal linking. One of the most important aspects of that is selecting one or more descriptive keywords as the basis of your link. Any internal link is useful, but you can increase the value of the link for readers and the Google search algorithm when you link conveys information. A strategic link is when I say, “Learn about the value of linking here.” In most cases, you would not want this as your anchor text: “Learn about the value of linking here.” The linked keywords are important.
There is a lot more to this. I understand I am oversimplifying. I’m just offering methods to get the right kind of backlinks to improve your ranking on Google. So here are the basic principles:
- NEVER buy backlinks
- Get backlinks naturally by offering valuable content
- When you place a link to your site on another site, make sure it is Dofollow to get maximum backlink benefit
- It’s okay to create Nofollow links (the standard on blog comment sections, for example) because people will click on them and you’ll still get the traffic but without the link juice
- Remember that your Facebook or other social media signal are linked to your site, but it is based on how active you are with your associated site.
How can you know if a particular site is Dofollow or Nofollow so you can make an informed decision about whether or not you want to invest your time? This free tool will help you.