I've written before about the way websites can rank, and rank well, with no backlinks at all in my post SEO: Building backlinks doesn't work (and that was going back nearly two years!).
I did make the point there that backlinks do have their place but this does now need some clarification.
Most people have accepted that it is not about quantity but quality. A few very good links far outweigh the 1,000 links for $30 programmes that wash around the net.
And they're a safer bet because you can actively be penalised if search engines like Google suddenly see large numbers of links spring into life on spammy sites, especially if they suspect you were personally involved.
So why are people still offering mass backlink building services?
Link building is big business and you can bet many who were involved in the bad old days want to milk the cow (you) for as long as possible so they subtly change their message.
Right now many still seem to offer cheap link building by offering to get you a link on sites with a high Page Rank (PR) at a low cost. The sites where they plan to create the links are often blogs or forums.
What they hope you will forget is that good PR is only a small factor and there are many reasons why such a link isn't actually worth anything. For example:
- If a page is full of links, as blog posts and forums are, any juice that these links might carry is watered down beyond recognition.
- Most blogs and forums mark their links “no follow” - in other words no link juice passes through and so in ranking terms the link is pointless.
- The PR they mention is true for the home page of the website but the page they plan to get you a link on has no PR.
- ... and so on ...
So a cowboy link builder might be able to get you a link on forums.seochat.com by adding a post “I agree with what has been said here, it is really good advice”. They might be able to get you a comment on a popular blog when they add “I think this is an excellent article on the subject and I'll be passing it on”. But they won't be worth a candle.
A backlink that makes a search engine sit up and take notice, one that gives your website those all important brownie points has certain characteristics:
- It's on a website that search engines respect (which means one that is obviously moderated and spammy commenting is removed).
- The page it is on has a limited amount of links compared to its text content.
- Users follow the link.
Did you notice the last one? The biggest signal search engines can have as to the quality of a link is if users click on it and then stay on your site.
So now time to back pedal a little. If you are blog commenting and write a full and thoughtful response to the post then real people will read it and follow any link. If you sensibly take part in forum discussions then you will build up respect and readers will want to know more about you ... and your site.
In other words blog commenting and forum work is still valid, but it has to be real to make it count and here is where the cost comes in.
What has changed
Before you might have hired someone in the far east to trawl blogs and forums to add comments such as “very useful information, thank you” which they hoped would not be deleted as spam – a process taking minutes or less. Some even employed computer power to do this but either way it meant you could purchase large numbers of links like this for a few dollars.
Today a blog comment needs to be on a blog people actually read and the comment needs to be engaging enough to make visitors want to know more about the person / website that posted the comment. Identifying a quality blog and creating a quality comment can take hours, not minutes.
But what you end up with is a link that real people follow (regardless of whether or not the link is marked “no follow”) and a link that will be there tomorrow and next year.
Proper engagement in blogs and forums is one thing and it is the first step.
The second step is to push your expertise further. Most people are aware that article submission (giving articles to sites such as ezine, buzzle, etc) is now no longer worth the effort. They are largely regarded by search engines as content farms.
But guest blogging is another story. So long as it is on a blog that the search engines respect and that people actually read. Again this requires time, effort and resource to create quality content that will be accepted.
On forums such threads (discussions) can often be labelled as a sticky.
Both become link bait in themselves and as both will have a link back to you they are long term quality backlinks.
Today it is all about quality content. It doesn't matter if you sell screws or bedlinen or if you write about living in some far flung country, people want to see that you know your stuff.
A careful balance of quality content on your own site and content in blog comments, guest blogging and forum posts are all factors in achieving this goal.
So say good bye to buying blog comments and forum posts on mass (and say good bye to the money you have already spent doing this if you did because these links have now been discounted by search engines) and say hello to spending hours or days on each backlink you create.