Sooner or later, every successful blogger must come to a thorough understanding of backlinking. If you feel that you are at this point in your development and want a better understanding of the key concepts, then consider this your crash course on backlinking! This piece was inspired by Pat Flynn’s epic 2010 post “THE Backlinking Strategy that Works” – first I provide an overview of backlinking then discuss some ways to bring Flynn’s strategy current.
Backlinking in a Nutshell
For starters, backlinks are links from other sites that point to your blog. The more backlinks you have, the more popular you are in the eyes of Google…and this popularity is how Google determines its relative ranking of sites. The more points are scored for backlinks from reputable sites – this is why the 20,000 backlinks you can buy on Fiverr are a total waste of, well, five dollars. These are low quality links that actually hurt your score.
Another consideration is the ‘anchor text’ that describes the link – these are the words that contain the hyper-link to your site. Conventional wisdom has been to build links that are deep in your ‘target’ keyword; however, Google periodically shuffles the deck by switching up their algorithms and rankings get scrambled.
Google understands the game – everybody is building ‘target’ keywords, and in their last Panda/Penguin releases penalize sites that were narrow and deep on ‘target’ keywords. At this point, Google is rewarding a more normal distribution of backlink keywords. After all, it looks odd for everybody in cyberspace to be using the same target keyword when linking to your site.
If you would like to check the quality of your current backlinks, Market Samurai has a “5 minute Backlink Healthcheck Tool” that provides insight on the quality and quantity of your network. If you have not tried Market Samurai in the past, they do offer a free 7 day trial period.
If you notice that your number of backlinks is smaller than anticipated, you could try using Google WebMaster Tools to combine your http://www domain with its non ‘www’ twin. To do this, go to Webmaster Tools -> Configuration ->Preferred Domain and select one of the options. I did this and doubled my backlinks because half pointed to the http://www. address and the rest pointed to the address without the w’s.
Other Backlinking Concepts
There are three mental images that I want you to hold in mind for the remainder of this post.
- The first is that of an old-school radio dial. Your ability to find a station on the radio depends on both the strength of the signal and tuning your receiver to the exact frequency. This is what having a good keyword can do for your website. Without paying attention to keyword optimization, your site will never stand a chance of being ranked by the search engines and you will find it hard to generate traffic. Without a keyword strategy, your site will be the online equivalent of the static between two larger radio stations.
- The second is that of a fire hose. If you want to put out a fire that is on the third floor, you want the full power of the hose’s flow to be available at the nozzle. This will not be the case if the hose has been split or has leaks. The parallel with link-building is simple – the fewer number of links on a page, the more concentrated their impact.
- The third is an NCAA March Madness tournament bracket, specifically, the 3 final rounds. For the purposes of this illustration the players on your team are your target keywords, the winner is your money site, and each bracket outward represents backlinks. The links that point directly at your site are a small number of extremely high quality links, then the next layer out represents lower quality links that feed traffic to the high quality links. If you hold this image in your mind’s eye, I promise to make it clear in a minute.
So with the basic concepts out of the way, let’s look at how they all work together.
Pat Flynn’s Backlinking Strategy that Works
Pat Flynn is a giant in our industry. His transparency and integrity give hope to new bloggers who feel that they want to make the world a better place (and make some money in the process). He gives inspiration to countless newcomers through his site, his blog and his many public appearances. In the fall of 2010, he accepted a friendly challenge to create a niche site from scratch. The catch was that he had to disclose the steps being taken to make his site a success. The highlight of this “Niche Site Duel” was “THE Backlinking Strategy that Works“.
At the time that I am writing this post, a full two and a half years have passed. They say that 1 year to a dog is the equivalent of 7 human years. If I apply the same logic to the internet, we probably see at least a decades’ worth of ‘real world’ progress for ever 1 ‘internet year’. This strategy may have worked well in 2010; however, there are aspects that need to be refreshed to provide relevance in 2013. In fact, Flynn recently tweeted:
@mikenyc24 I’ve updated it as time passed. It still works – however when following the strategy to a T it works sometimes and others not.
— Pat Flynn (@PatFlynn) February 18, 2013
What is THE Strategy?
Take another look at the above NCAA tournament bracket picture. As mentioned, the tournament winner is your money site. People find out about your site because the Google your chosen keywords and you rank highly for those particular words (i.e. you are as specific in picking your keywords as you would be in tuning a radio). You are able to rank highly in these keywords because there are a small number of high quality sites backlinking based on your keywords. This ‘direct layer’ of sites includes social media sites, blogs, high quality article directory sites and Web 2.0 sites (the difference between article directories and Web 2.0 is that 2.0 allows your articles to be interactive with the reader with advertising, polls, comments, etc).
The wrinkle in the strategy is what happens next. Articles that you have written are spun and syndicated countless times (using a product like Unique Article Wizard) with backlinks (which are not your ‘target’ anchor text) pointing back to your direct-layer. This indirect linking works for 2 reasons – adding hundreds of links to your direct-layer will not rouse suspicion due to the immense popularity of the specific sites (that is, facebook and twitter get thousands of backlinks each day – your extra 50 won’t seem odd to anybody) and providing this quantity of backlinks to your direct-layer will boost the Google-juice that flows directly to your site. If done correctly, this can be a very effective way to enhance your site’s search engine ranking.
What Works in 2013?
The blueprint remains solid, although several of the sites recommended by Flynn are no longer accepting new members. I recently followed the modified strategy to build backlinks for a new niche site and have seen good results based on the following tweaks.
This whole premise is build on the assumption of having specific, targeted keywords. These are the players on your team and you should know them by heart.
If you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it every time. – Zig Ziglar
To help give focus, I find 4 to 6 keywords and record their stats in a table. If you are unsure on how to do keyword research, check out my demo video.
|Keyword||Volume||Competition (#)||Competition (Quality)|
The Inner Layer – find 17 High Quality Sites that Link Directly to Your Money Site
As alluded to in the NCAA image section, your site is sitting in the tournament winners box. The analogy breaks down a little because you actually want 15 or so sites surrounding your Money Site and pumping Google-juice in your direction. The breakdown of these 15 sites is 4 different Article Hosting Sites, 4 Social Media sites, 4 Blogs, 3 Web 2.0 sites and 2 RSS feeds. For each site that you put into your Inner-Layer, make note of the keyword used in the ‘author biography’ when you set up your various profiles. You should try to spread your keywords evenly between each of the 15 profiles that you set up.
Article Hosting Sites (pick 4 sites to point directly at your Money Site)
Select 4 from the following list and establish profiles for your niche site, making sure that your bio links back to your money site using your targeted anchor keywords. For the pros and cons of the different sites noted below, please check out this post from a few weeks ago. If you honestly don’t have a preference for any of the sites shown below, it is easiest to pick the pages with the highest PageRank. As well, some sites (such as EzineArticles) have high standards and will not tolerate self promoting links (ie links with your keywords stuck randomly in the article) or content that has been published elsewhere on the ‘net. Try to post 3-6 articles on four of the following Article Hosting Sites.
Social Media (pick 3 sites to point directly at your Money Site)
Social Media is not so much about generating content but rather expanding your network. Make sure you are using 3 of the following platforms with each of your profiles backlinking to your Money Site.
Blogs (pick 4 sites to point directly at your Money Site)
It may seem strange that you would need a blog in addition to your Money Site. The concept is more about getting high quality backlinks, therefore you will only need to post 3 to 6 articles at each of 4 blogs to get benefit. I will touch on a tactic a little further down for generating unique articles that can be posted to each blog. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, put 1 link with your target keyword into each article that you publish.
Web 2.0 (pick 4 sites to point directly at your Money Site)
Think of Web 2.0 as a way to post content that is interactive. Sites like YouTube, Squidoo, HubPages and InfoBarrel allow authors to post videos or articles and earn advertising revenue in return. The lines between Social Media and Web 2.0 are often blurred with sites such as Pinterest and YouTube showing characteristics of both categories. In addition, Web 2.0 sites often attempt to engage the reader with polls, surveys, comments, etc.
If you prefer analogies, then Article Hosting sites are like newspapers while Web 2.0 sites are like reality shows (e.g. America’s Got Talent) where audience participation determines the final outcome. Try to post 3 to 6 articles on 4 of the following platforms.
RSS Feeds (pick 2 sites to point directly at your Money Site)
RSS stands for ‘Really Simple Syndication’ and is a way for your readers to read your posts without actually visiting your site. The big advantage to this is that your readers see every one of your posts, thereby giving you a chance to establish rapport, trust and authority.
Populating the Inner Layer with Content
I may have forgotten to warn you that this process can be extremely tedious. Although setting up 15 profiles is a task unto itself, it is a worthwhile investment of time you to make your Money Site to become successful.
Eventually, you will need to populate each of these sites with unique content. The conventional approach has been to write 1 article, then use a ‘spinning’ software to substitute words within the article so that it gives the appearance of being unique. I have tried this approach and found it to be a complete WASTE of time. I am not opposed to the concept of spinning, but found a better way to generate unique high quality content through a product called Unique Article Wizard. This technique involves writing an article and then rewriting the entire article two more times. The paragraphs must each make the same points, but the words and the examples can be different between each version. I submit these 3 ‘originals’ to my Article Directories and Web 2.0 sites. I have found Squidoo, HubPages, InfoBarrel and eZineArticles to be the pickiest about requiring completely original versions of the articles they accept. It is important to remember to backlink one of your target keywords to your site in every article that you post to your Inner Layer. Furthermore, in drawing on the hose analogy, don’t overdo the backlinks. One link placed in the second or third paragraph carries more weight than several links pointing to the same host.
Next, Unique Article Wizard will generate fresh articles by pulling in different paragraphs from each of the 3 versions. For example, it may use the first paragraph from Article 2, then the second paragraph from Article 1, etc. On a 5 paragraph article, it can find over 64,000 unique paragraph combinations. I copy and paste these mixed up articles to each of my blog sites and to the less discriminating Article Directories.
I am using an Excel Spreadsheet to track all of this activity.
The Outer Layer
Your Outer Layer will consist of a large number of low quality sites that link to sites in your Inner Layer. The backlinks in this layer should NOT use your target keywords, but could be the keywords you found too competitive as this provides your Money Site with some ancillary recognition for your niche. The two best ways to generate these links are Unique Article Wizard and Content Syndication networks.
Unique Article Wizard
This was discussed above. It is a paid service ($67/mo at the time of this writing) that should provide a payback if you are targeting profitable keywords. UAW will submit each of your articles to a maximum of 25 article publishers each day. I have had articles rejected by UAW if they feel the articles are overly commercial in nature. If you stick with providing quality information and establish yourself as the authority in your industry, you will be fine. It is also crucial to bear in mind that these 3 articles could be combined thousands of times. Take the extra time to produce articles that reflect well on your brand – if writing is not your strong suit, have somebody else review your work or take a trial subscription at a proof reading/grammar service (like Grammarly). If the thought of rewriting an article is too much, you can outsource to somebody at iWriter. At the end of every day, UAW will send you a summary of your activity including how many sites have published your article, how many have rejected it, and how many are pending.
Content Syndication Networks
I wrote about Content Syndication Networks in my 5-part series on the Basics of SEO. These are smaller networks of low PageRank sites whom host spun content on their domain in exchange for your hosting their spun content on your domain. Because I have no control over the quality of this content from others in the Network and because it is not relevant to my readers, I set up a different domain outside of my blog as a content host. The network I belong to is called ezArticleLink and anybody can join for free.
Ultimately, we are trying to make this backlinking strategy appear completely natural. There should be a randomness in the number of weekly backlinks created inside your Inner Layer. If you are overly aggressive or robotic, the strategy will backfire. One way to achieve a weekly variance is to leave comments on the blogs of prominent bloggers (like ProBlogger, Pat Flynn Copy Blogger and HubSpot). With each subsequent comment, you get credit for another backlink.
There you go – that is the whole strategy. I am certain there will be questions, and I encourage you to use the comments box below. If you would like to download a copy of the Excel Spreadsheet that I am using to execute this strategy, please subscribe with your email to my RSS feed and the confirmation email will provide a link and password.
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