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Traffic Technique 6: Backlinks

Backlinks have become a topic of much discussion since Google’s Penguin update set back the ranks of websites whose backlink profiles seemed “unnatural.”

Links in a chain

Image courtesy stock.xchng user jingvillar

But before we get into that, let’s stop and take a step back to look at the backlink “bigger picture.”

Links are the glue that holds the web together. Without links between sites, the web would be a lot less of a “web”—it would probably be a strange collection of isolated pages. That wouldn’t be much help, because we’d have no way of moving between those pages—either on our sites, or between sites.

So links are an integral part of the web. They’re a bit like the roadways that web traffic drives on. Search engines link to the sites they list, advertising links to sales pages, and other tools that aren’t part of the web, but are still online—like RSS and email—help us generate traffic through links.

Links and search

The search engines have always given attention to links between sites, as those links are seen as an indication of the authority or value of the linked sites. Originally they gave value to links, the link text, and the metadata associated with links, such as link titles and follow attributes.

But things have changed. The idea that links between sites were bad news originated with the idea that PageRank could be reduced if you “shared” it among too many external links form a page. And now the Penguin update has people scrambling to remove their backlinks from sites that link to them. What a turnaround!

Organic search is, for most of us, a major traffic generator. But by trying to shape their backlinks—and their “backlink profiles,” the aggregate of all the backlinks to their sites—many bloggers worked to construct links that best suited the search algorithms.

As we’ve seen, that’s a risky thing to do, because as soon as the algorithm changes (as with Penguin), your site loses rank.

The far better option is to construct all links—the ones you include on your site, the ones you publish in off-site content and promotions, and so on—for users, the same as you do (I hope!) your content.

Links for readers

It makes perfect sense that the links that generate the greatest traffic will be those that make the most sense to users, and are the most attractive to them.

What that means is that link context, and link text, are really important. They’re important in attracting readers’ attention and encouraging them to click. But context and text are also critical in qualifying the readers who do click.

To put that another way, there’s no point misleading readers with the text of your link, and the place where you include it, because they’ll only be disappointed when they get to the linked page. Oh, and the search engines will penalise those sites, too.

Of course that reality can also work for us: we can use honest, reader-focused linking to ensure that the people we want to reach the content we’ve prepared specifically for them, do! Not only will the readers love us, but the search engines like it, too.

A good link

So, what makes a good link?

The text that’s used in links to your site should describe the content that’s being linked to.

That means that the links to your blog won’t all read the same way, they won’t all talk about the same product or promotion you’re running, and they won’t all be crammed with keywords.

They won’t all link to the homepage, either—over time it’s only to be expected that different people will link to different pages on your blog, in discussions about those different topics and posts.

This is natural linking at its best—and it’s how users make sense of the information that’s available on the web.

Don’t forget, either, the menu, sitemap, and footer links on your blog. Does it really help users on your fishing blog to include the keyword “fishing” into each main menu item, page title, or footer link? Hopefully they’ll be able to tell from the context provided by your blog’s design and content that the various sections are about fishing.

Ultimately, I feel that good links are like good SEO—if you do it as a matter of course, and a matter of providing great content to your readers, the backlink issues will all take care of themselves. What do you think?

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Samuel says:

    I think the update from Google is great, and is giving honest workers a chance to get better ranked.

    Of course, some honest individuals have been hurt by the Penguin update themselves, which can never be good.

    Link building strategies need to be in favor of Google and we all need to evaluate our strategies to be in favor of the some old way of building links that have stood the test of time,

    and new ways that Google adores.

    It can be based on certain ways which I highlight in this article:

    http://internetdreams.com/seo/15-ways-to-build-links-for-seo-the-easy-way

    Thanks for the excellent article Darren.

    • And here we have another example of a backlink. As long as the link is related to the post then by all means link to it, right?

      And at some point I would like to agree that now honest workers have a better chance at ranking by using natural backlinks.

  2. Jay Vance says:

    Where is the traffic technique? The entire article can be summed up in once sentence, “Build natural links from quality content.” Which has been shouted from rooftops since the Penguin update. I typically love most of your articles Darren but this just seems like filler. I’m just trying to be constructive here and don’t want to see content that hurts your site.

    • Ocha Nix says:

      I agree Jay. And one other thing I noticed, no links here to point us to some of Darren’s really great posts. There could have been a link to an article with several good examples. Regardless, I will keep reading ProBlogger.

  3. At this rate, I feel like everything is going social. Since social media sites are clearly viewed as very important, links that get shared most will have the greatest impact in search. Of course, links from authority sites on the same topic will hold value (I would think) and boost results.

    It’s been difficult for me to get ranked so far since my site isn’t even 2 months old, but I am noticing a gradual increase in search traffic which is a good sign. The posts gaining most traction are my most shared posts, even with no links from other sites aside from that.

    Thanks a bunch,
    -Gabe

    • SEOboom says:

      I have experienced the same with a couple of blogs I manage, the more social shares the more organic traffic it gets… I feel the same, search is going social

  4. Saad says:

    I use commenting on other blogs to generate backlinks and it works great for me just recently i dropped 33k in alexa rankings :)

  5. Outside of commenting on other blogs, I’m interested in learning more about how to build backlinks. Do I link to my homepage? A specific post on my site? I’m still kind of new at this.

    Thanks.

  6. Commenting on niche blogs not only gives you better Alexa but also makes your blog strong in bringing quality backlinks. Every comment in problogger’s post brings me traffic towards my blog it is like getting free traffic without being associated with the blog in Guest Blogging.

    You’ve mentioned about Good Links this is what I have been telling each and every newbie who contacts me on FB that a good well describing keywords help your links gets good SEO in terms of better backlinks. I’m happy to read the same here!

  7. Ehsan Ullah says:

    Thanks for making it clear for us here Darren. There are a lot of backlink method which I’m doing and I get good backlinks, especially the guest blogging method worked for me.

  8. Wade says:

    Commenting is a great way to get a good backlink. With the Penguin raging, you have to have links relevant to your niche in order to make them count.

  9. Guest posting and blog commenting is also great way to drive targeted traffic and increase subscribers.

    Thanks for the great post Darren!

  10. Kent says:

    Relationship is very important in link building. Linkedin can hep a lot! :)

  11. Hitarth says:

    Thanks, Backlinks are the most important for SEO.

  12. hello darren,
    nice post about backlinks but i am confused about some points. some bloggers say that include your keyword in anchor text. what is the anchor text in a comment. is it my name ”prabhat@nexus7tablet” or anything else. and if i am correct, will it boost SEO.??

  13. Sergio says:

    I perfectly agree with you Darren. Good content creates good links (and most important organic links). However, people that have just started blogging are usually eager to see some improvements in light of an increase in traffic and what they usually do (it was I did as well) is trying to get as many backlinks with some keywords as anchor text in order to rank faster and better on search engines.

    If you write a blog like yours, trying to teach people something it is indeed possible. However, I started a blog about reviews of physical products, and with these stuff it is very hard to get “returning customers”, as once they have decided what to buy…it’s almost over: the only add-on I see in these types of blogs is good content concerning “how to guides” concerning the product, reviews of some accessories and similar stuff.

    Any opinion?

  14. Vivek says:

    I think in current SEO era, every one have to diversify their links. Ranging all pagerank from 0 to 8..
    We also need to bring diversity to our anchor text

    Thanks Darren for such a great article.

  15. dialsandhya says:

    Good Information thanks…

  16. Mike Howg says:

    As a relatively new blogger I’m still learning some of the tricks. Some people say you should focus a lot of your efforts into building backlinks by commenting on blogs. Others say that you need to focus more on creating quality content for your blog and the backlinks will naturally increase.

    It can be frustrating for a new blogger to hear the differing viewpoints but it seems like doing both of those is the way to go. Work on quality content for your own blog as well as quality comments on other blogs. Don’t just spam a garbage comment wherever you can to get a backlink.

  17. GjiVan says:

    I don’t much focus on back linking. Actually if you provide quality and unique articles useful for readers, they will share it with others and linking back to the content will be viral and automatic process. And as google is also giving much preference to social sharing, the page will increase its position in SERP!!

  18. I’m not sure that “take care of the content and the links will take care of themselves” really works, Darren. Especially in a competitive niche, it’s difficult to gain links. I find you have to get out there and chase link opportunities and market your content to gain quality links back.

  19. Well, sure it might seem like filler to people working with SEO on a somewhat regular basis… but a reminder to the experienced and an eyeopener to the beginner (I guess some pf them reads Problogger ;) ) is always welcome imo :)

  20. Jeff Carson says:

    I’ve just recently brought a niche site back from being hit by Penguin by…

    -Removing internal links with anchor text
    -Removing anchor text back links (converting to straight url’s)
    -Creating “exact match keyword” social profiles

    I detail it pretty well with videos on my blog, but I struggled with the site for quite some time, did those 3 things, and then it came back very strong and has been there ever since.

    • Wade says:

      It’s good that you can recover from something like this. I have a friend who basically just gave his domain up and is starting over.