Readers have been asking me questions about linking strategy, and what prompted me to complete and publish this post today was reading Link Building: Who Is Your Website’s Biggest Competitor? What follows is information for bloggers to consider when developing a natural linking strategy.
Google is favoring blogs with natural linking patterns and penalizing over-optimized blogs
Google used to evaluate blogs by looking at areas that can be easily manipulated by webmasters, such as meta tags, alt tags, keyword density, page titles, etc. This has changed. Now Google is looking most favorably at and rewarding sites with evidence of a natural link building approach, and is penalizing over-optimized blogs.
The reason for this is clear. Google attempts to offer, the best service possible for those using their search engine by having the most relevant, and most useful search results. The most important factor contributing to your Google ranking, is reader-friendliness, and naturally acquired organic links are the best kind of links because they indicate that real people are showing an interest in your content.
Here’s the back story. In order to boost their site’s rankings with the sheer number of inbound links many webmasters had agreed to reciprocal link exchanges. However, because many of these links were not relevant, they were disregarded in the last few Google PageRank updates. That meant that although the irrelevant inbound link was ignored, the outbound link still got counted, and this diluted the relevancy score of many sites. The result was that many sites dropped off the Google map during the last few Google PageRank updates.
Search engine criteria for quality inbound links has become increasingly tougher due to unscrupulous webmasters trying to achieve incoming links by deceptive techniques, like hidden links, or automatically generated pages designed solely to provide incoming links to websites.
A link farm consists of sites that link to other sites for the sole purpose of increasing their link popularity rating and ranking. Unlike perfectly valid links to sites with related information, sites that participate in link farming contain links to totally unrelated sites. This practice is also referred to as link stuffing. These pages are called link farms. They are disregarded by search engines, and linking to a link farm can result in your blog being banned entirely.
Blogging for money
Also note that if you are blogging for money then PageRank can be a major issue. Once your blog has a higher PR (4 or 5) then higher paying writing opportunities do become available to you. However, if you write for services like ReviewMe, Text Link Ads, Smorty, and/or PayPerPost, etc. then it’s important to understand that Google doesn’t like paid links, so if you have them and if your site does not indicate them with “nofollow” or, if you’re active on the internet selling links, or selling links on your blog then your site’s PR will suffer.
If you don’t care about Google and PageRank then get involved with services like ReviewMe, Text Link Ads, Smorty, and/or PayPerPost, etc. and sell all the links you want. But if you don’t want to be harmed in Google PR updates then don’t sell links and don’t link to sites that do.
Reciprocal link exchanges
Acquiring lengthy Blogrolls by means of link exchanges simply does not work any more. Quality reciprocal link exchanges in and of themselves are not a bad thing, but most reciprocal link offers are of low quality. If too many of your links are of low quality it may make it harder for your blog to rank for relevant queries, and some search engines may look at inbound link and outbound link ratios as well as link quality when determining how natural a site’s link profile is.
If your pages and blog has a lot of reciprocal (two-way links), especially if they are not related, then know that:
- search engines do not give much importance to unrelated (two-way) or reciprocal links;
- search engines will assume that unrelated reciprocal links are solicited links,
- and in some cases, they may even penalize your site.
Consequently, I no longer enter link exchanges with sites that are not directly related to my own sites.
Non reciprocal links rock!
The best linking strategy is to acquire a lot of non-reciprocal links (or one-way links), which are also relevant links to your blog from high ranking and popular blogs. When your blog receives a lot of quality non-reciprocal links, the search engines consider your site and the web pages that receive these inbound quality links as containing highly valuable web content.
Link to authoritative sites and posts in your own posts
Understand that not every link has to be reciprocated and never hesitate to backup content in your posts with a link using appropriate anchor text to a directly related post on an authoritative blog, . This natural linking strategy provides your readers with additional valuable information and it’s useful in terms of search engines as well.
Link to authoritative sites in your Blogroll
It’s important part of link building strategy to create a target list of authoritative blogs from which you can hope to receive links. When you make link building decisions about which sites to link to in your Blogroll, be sure you include only outbound links that your your readers will find valuable.
How to find potential link partners (bloggers with related blogs)
If a blog links to your friend’s related blog the same blogger may also link to yours, and in order to find these potential natural link partners you can use search engines. Google’s back link data is a lot less useful than it was in the past. Currently, Google is displaying only a small percentage of the sites that are linking and combining it with internal link data. You may find that Yahoo is a better portal to check for backlinks, and how to obtain a list of linking web sites is go to http://www.yahoo.com and type the following into the Yahoo search bar. linkdomain:www.mycompetitorwebsite.com
Tools and Resources
(1) There’s a helpful tool you can use to insure you aren’t linking to a bad neighborhood blog. By using the tool you can avoid linking to link farms, gambling sites, drug peddling sites, flesh peddling sites as well as other undesirable sites. Also note that is a site is not listed in the first 100 results here http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=www.domain.com it has not been banned. Simply replace “domain” withe the relevant domain name in this string in the searchbox http://www.domain.com and click “Search”.
(2) In addition if you search the web you will find continuously updated lists of sites that have been banned and blacklisted by Google so you can avoid linking to them.
(3) This SEO Analysis Tool is to help you analyze and measure the ranking potential of your web pages. It doesn’t only analyze the Meta Tags of your pages, rather it tries to use the same spider technology as the search engines spiders them self. New for 2009: a Firefox SEO Analysis Tool extension which you can use to test pages with just a single click. The results from the SEO Workers Analysis Tool are structured into the following useful groups:
- General status;
- Meta tags listing;
- Meta tags analysis;
- The page displayed within search engine results;
- Keywords found in the anchor tags;
- Keywords found in the image “alt” attribute text;
- Keywords found on the page;
- URLs found in the page;
- Headers returned from the server.
(4) Google Page rank checkers are also useful and you will find a selection on the internet, some of which provide more information than others.