I received an email today that asked about backlinking strategies, so I thought I would write up an article about my personal backlinking strategies as my strategies have been working extremely well for many years now. I haven’t written much on this subject, so alas I will now break my silence about backlinks.
My successful backlinking strategies are not “secret systems” and I don’t use any black hat methods or traditional backlinking strategies like guest blogging, posting comments (read: spamming other websites), hiring SEO companies, or anything like that.
I also don’t have anything to sell you, because quite frankly, I can’t sell any service that can replicate my backlinking strategies unless I charged you thousands of dollars.
As a matter of fact, the backlinking strategies I’m about to share with you might even be disappointing to you. I am NOT about to give you the answers you want to hear. If you want to hear that backlinking is fast and easy with zero risk, you might as well leave now.
Are Backlinks Still Important For SEO?
It is a well accepted fact in the SEO community that backlinks are still tremendously important. It aggravates me a bit when I hear people say that links don’t matter anymore and you shouldn’t worry about backlinks at all. Links are still very much an important aspect of SEO. But don’t take my word for it, take it from the former head of Google search spam, Matt Cutts:
The main thing you should take away from the above video, which was created in May of 2014, is that links do still matter and will continue to matter for years. How many years? Nobody can really say for sure. However, here is what would happen if Google removed backlinks as a ranking factor entirely:
So clearly, backlinks will be around for a while.
How Backlinks Have Changed Over The Years
At one time, it wasn’t the quality of backlinks that mattered, it was the quantity. People would use SEO backlinking services to build thousands upon thousands of links to their site. And guess what – it WORKED! The more links a site had, the better it would rank in Google for various search terms.
As mentioned before, the Panda and Penguin algorithm updates at Google (mostly Penguin as far as links are concerned) changed that game very dramatically and very quickly. It is not longer the quantity of links that count, but the quality of them.
In addition, it is against Google search policies to have “unnatural backlinks”. But as we dive deeper, Google is a little vague about what “unnatural links” really are. So, what is an “unnatural link”, exactly?
This is an extremely good question to ask, because these days if you are caught using backlinking strategies with “unnatural links”, your site can actually get penalized! Check this out:
So now that you have a good understanding of the history of backlinks, and how that has changed over time, let me get into my own personal strategy. Be warned, you’re not going to like this.
My Backlinking Strategy: Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, And Don’t Buy
Ever since 2011, my own personal backlink strategy is to never ask for a link, never tell anyone to post a link, and I never buy a link. To take things a step further, I also never link to my own site in comment areas or on social media unless it is actually relevant – and even then, I don’t go searching for places to post my links. Sometimes I just happen to come across things where my links would actually be helpful to others.
While I tried to give a good explanation of what unnatural backlinks are above, there is still a lot of debate about that. My personal opinion, and the way I think Google sees it, is that a natural backlink will just happen by itself. Someone you’ve never spoken to comes to your site, loves the information provided, and shares it on their Facebook account, in a blog, etc. Even if you ask for someone to link to you, that is an unnatural backlink and can get you into trouble. Will one, or even 10 unnatural backlinks hurt you? Probably not. But if you start getting dozens or hundreds of unnatural backlinks, a Google penalty may be on the way.
What’s First? The Chicken Or The Egg?
So, if you’re not allowed to go out and post links to your site, how do you get any traffic to begin with? It may seem as if you need to post links so that you can start ranking in search engines and in turn get some traffic so that OTHER people can post links, right? Well, not really.
As I state earlier, I haven’t posted any backlinks to any of my sites since 2011, and yet, I have strong backlink profiles on my sites and receive good rankings in search engines.
But, how could this be?!
Let me explain it to you by using an analogy. Let’s say you work at a customer service kiosk at the biggest mall in the Universe. It has BILLIONS of stores in it with millions more being added daily. If someone came up to you asking for the best electronics store in the mall, who would you recommend? I know that I would personally recommend the stores who have proven themselves. Stores like Best Buy, Walmart, Radio Shack, and stores run by cell phone carriers like Verizon and AT&T. I sure as heck wouldn’t recommend Mike’s Cell Phone Store that just opened today. Would you? Probably not. You’d want to wait around a while and see how that store performs, get some feedback from customers, etc.
Now, what would happen if after a few weeks in business, you started to get hundreds and thousands of people telling you that Mike’s Cell Phone store is the best place in the entire mall. You would probably be impress and start sending more business that way. But now imagine you found out all those recommendations were just paid by the owner of Mike’s Cell Phone store. You’d probably be pretty pissed off about being deceived, right?
Google works in a similar way. Think of them as the customer service agent of the internet and you’re the new store owner. Just because you put up a website today doesn’t mean you’re going to get piles of traffic from Google tomorrow. Google just doesn’t trust you yet. However, over time, Google will send you just a little bit of traffic to see how users behave. If they spend a lot of time on your site, visit several pages, and show other signs they are satisfied with their search, Google will take that as a positive sign and start sending you even more traffic over time.
Eventually, you’ll get enough visitors on the site where people will actually start to link to you from their blogs, on social media, and even in online magazine or news sites. Every high quality link you get is like a “vote” saying that you’re site is higher quality. The more of these votes you get, the better, and the more Google will trust you.
So, does the chicken or the egg come first? In the case of backlinking, the traffic comes first and the links come after that. Here is a good video explaining how a new and small website could possibly compete with established and larger websites:
The Google Sandbox & The Testing Of Patience
Have you ever heard of the Google Sandbox? If not, you should read up on it here before continuing on.
When you combine the Google Sandbox with how natural backlinks occur without any manipulation, there is no way around the time barrier. Having a website that does well in the search engines simply takes some time. How much time? Well, that depends on many factors, but I typically tell people as a general rule, you will need a minimum of 100 quality content pages and at least 6 to 12 months before you will start seeing any real significant traffic numbers.
The good news is, once you start getting some traffic, the “snowball effect” begins. You get more and more traffic over time, which leads to more and more backlinks, more and more followers, and in turn, more and more profits! Things start off very slow and accelerates over time (assuming you’ve built a quality site that people love, as I hope you are finding to be true about this site!).
That, my friends, is the biggest barrier to entry for online businesses. The vast majority of affiliate marketers and other online business owners do not have the patience it takes to work hard with no results for 6 to 12 months. Most small businesses take a significant amount of start-up capital and 3 to 5 YEARS before they see profit, but for some reason with an online business, people think they can have no start-up capital and still succeed in a month or two. It’s just unrealistic. In order to gain natural backlinks that Google loves, you have to create something of value first, and then allow those links to be built for you by others.
Here’s a pretty good video on what the Google Sandbox is and how it impacts new websites:
Think Long Term, Not Short Term
When it comes to an online business and specifically backlinking strategies, you should stay very far away from the secret “systems” and trends going on in the SEO community. Sure, some backlink strategy or “secret system” might work great now, but what about next year?
That’s why I have focused on long-term strategies and Google has rewarded me for that. I never build links and only focus on creating awesome websites that people will actually want to share themselves. My new sites, like this one (about 12 months old as of this writing) do not get many links and it doesn’t bother me. I just keep doing my thing. My older sites, like SharkSider.com, receive insanely high quality links from sites like People.com last week and other news sites on a regular basis. It’s all about waiting for that snowball effect. Better yet? I sleep great at night knowing Google isn’t going to find out about my link manipulation and penalize me. Instead, traffic on all my sites goes up and up over time along with all the natural backlinks and social media shares I get from other people unknowingly helping to promote my sites.
The One Thing You Should Take Away From This Article
While I hope this article has helped you get a better understanding of backlinks, in all honesty, this has just be one huge way of telling you to not worry about backlinks at all. The only strategy here is to build a website or blog that serves a great purpose for others. This is something that simply takes time and effort to unfold, but it’s the best long-term backlinking strategy if you truly want to have a sustainable online business and quit your full-time job.
No spam, no tricks, and no strategies. Just focus on great content for your site. Period.