While there has been much debate in recent weeks pertaining to SEO and recent de-indexing of many private blog networks by Google, I felt it was time to bring the topic of link building up for discussion and demonstrate (with evidence) why links continue to be the fastest and most effective way to rank websites regardless of their content and quality.
This is mainly because links are still fundamental to how search engines currently work and rank webpages and will continue to do so in the foreseeable future. Yes, there has been a paradigm shift in how these links are valued, with focus now purely and squarely on relevance and quality (or so they say!), there is no doubt that link building still is and will continue to be the holy grail of success for anyone looking to make money with niche marketing, AdSense or affiliate marketing.
All of this obviously doesn’t apply to you if you possess the magical ability to write truly exceptional content which will make your website an overnight viral success like what happened to Peep Laja from conversionXL receiving thousands of visitors to his blog mainly through Twitter and social media.
Although still speculative to some extent, we can present a fairly accurate assessment of how Google (which still boasts the most sophisticated and advanced search algorithm), values or devalues links.
It can be narrowed down to the following factors:
1. Link Diversity
2. Link Relevance
3. Link Trust
Or does it?
To prove the above assumption wrong I will take an example of a brand new niche site I launched around mid-January this year targeting a relatively competitive keyword in the automobile niche with a search volume of approximately 5600 exact match global searches/month.
Since this was a relatively new site, we can easily discount domain trust and authority as being the influencing factors in how this site got to #5 in Google SERPS in just over two months! and now makes a significant number of affiliate sales for me on Amazon given the nature of this niche.
Without revealing the exact domain (in case Matt Cutts happens to visit my blog;)) I have used a series of authentic screenshots from the ranktracker software below as evidence of the progress of this site since the private blog slaying Panda 3.3 update from Google which was rolled out in late February.
As you can see that this site was ranked at #36 on March 6 and started to make its way up in SERPS around March 9th, finally settling at #5 earlier this month.
Let’s now analyze and dispel some of the link building myths that have propped up recently.
So, what did I change in my link building strategy for this site to achieve a successful result despite all the changes rolled out by Google to crush manipulative link building?
The answer is nothing, zero, nada! I used mass article directory submission as my primary and only source for building links to this website. No “white hat” links, no forum profiles, no blog comments, no edu or gov links and definitely no social bookmarks.
So is link diversity important? Definitely yes. But, judging this example, it is not an universal law that applies to every successful link building campaign.
Here is the most controversial part of my link building campaign for this site. As you are probably aware that in order to build article links you need to create unique content which you can then submit to various blog network sites and article directories with embedded links to your money site using anchor text (most commonly your keyword).
In most cases you will take your original content, spin it with 50-70% uniqueness and use that as your link building content. The SPUN content helps you avoid the duplicate content penalty from search engines.
However, in this case I used a random, completely unrelated pre-spun article from a service called Simply PLR to submit my articles for backlinks. Simply PLR subscription costs around $50/month and gives you access to 100’s of articles every month in a variety of niches and are ideal for SEO and link building.
There has been much debate around how Google now has the ability to scan content surrounding the anchor text to analyze how relevant source links are to the beneficiary site.
But is it really important? Once again, judging by the example of my own site, I am not 100% convinced that backlinks from unrelated sources have been completely devalued by Google.
This is the last and final factor in our assessment of backlinks I used to rank my website. Obviously the key question here is, how much emphasis does Google has on the authority of sites linking to your money site, when valuing link juice?
Once again in the case of my own site, the incoming links almost have no significant authority, as most of them come from numerous blogs within the article directory networks and probably does not fit the real definition of authority as described in my authority blog post here.
So, is authority the key driving factor in how Google values links? The answer would be a yes and no, links from authority sites would absolutely have more value attached to them but I am still not able to see real evidence to suggest that all non authority links cannot help you achieve top search engine rankings.
Finally, here are some tips to help you continue to achieve results with your link building campaigns regardless of which method you choose to use:
1. Vary your anchor text
I have talked about the importance of using varied anchor text on Nichesense on many occasions before but it is absolutely critical now since the Panda 3.3 and Panda 3.4 (over optimization penalty) updates. Use a good mix of exact (laptop computers), phrase (best notebook computers) and junk anchor texts (click here, buy now).
If you need any further evidence of why this is important, here is a great blog post on why J.C. Penney was manually de-ranked by Google for using manipulative link building tactics and anchor text.
2. Build your links slowly
If you choose your keywords carefully, then you will most likely never need to build more than 50-100 links for top rankings. For brand new sites, make sure to keep this process as natural as possible.
Ideally, you would want to start building links around second week from your site launch and spread the process over 3-4 weeks (or more if needed).
3. Make sure your backlinks are indexed
A frightening number of backlinks are never indexed by Google as they are simply never crawled! Make sure you keep track of all your backlinks as much as possible and (very) slowly drip feed them to the search engines using a service like linklicious.
Ideally, this should be done at least 5-6 weeks following your site launch.
Last not but least, create great content and make sure you enable social sharing on all your sites. This can be done through a variety of free wordpress plugins like sharebar or sharethis. Premium AdSense themes like Heatmap Pro offer in-built functionality for enabling social buttons on all your posts.
What about you? Do you think link building still works? Please leave your comments below!