If you already know about backlinks and their importance for attracting traffic to a website and raising a website’s Search Engine Ranking then please skip ahead to the first highlighted heading where the methods for increasing backlinks are discussed; otherwise, if you’re uninitiated then please continue reading from here.
Any link from one website to another is called a backlink; and there are two good reasons that you need them: exposure and Search Engine Ranking.
Exposure gives more opportunity for your site to be visited by real people and search engine crawlers. The more links pointing to your site, the more visible those links and the more interesting their anchor text, the more visitors you will snatch for your website. More visitors equals more sales opportunities and more ad views.
In most circumstances, search engines are where most of your site’s traffic will originate. The more backlinks you have, the more relevant the linking page’s theme to your page and the more relevant the link’s anchor text to your page then the more value that backlink adds to your page’s search engine ranking.
You will have seen Page Rank, also known as PR, mentioned in most webmaster forums, blogs and “how to…” guides etc… Page Rank is a calculation of a webpage’s value as deduced from the number, relevance and quality of its inbound links. Most webmasters crave it whereas some think it is less important now than it used to be when it was first defined. What many webmasters don’t realize is that Page Rank is a patented process that is solely licensed to Google i.e only Google can use the Page Rank analysis algorithm that was devised by Larry Page (hence “Page” Rank). Other search engines like Yahoo and Bing use a similar algorithm to calculate a webpage’s value and relevance to their users search requests but Page Rank is specific to Google. For the purposes of the rest of this article I will use the term Page Rank generically to cover the PR algorithm used by Google and similar algorithms used by other search engines.
Page Rank (and the similar algorithms used by search engines other than Goolge) is part of the calculation that search engines use to estimate a webpage’s Search Engine Ranking. I don’t think anybody fully knows the full appraisal system used to calculate a page’s Search Engine Ranking because it is a closely guarded secret but it is common knowledge that most search engines determine part of a webpage’s Search Engine Ranking by comparing backlinks: the more links into a website, the more valuable that website is deemed; and a web page with high PR is more likely to show at the top of a search engine’s results than a page with low PR with the same or similar content.
But oh, were it only so simple as to get thousands of links…
Not every link has the same value: a link from a page with high PR is considered more valuable than one with low PR. That’s not all, the PR of a page is passed on to those pages to which it links but it isn’t a straight passing: the giving page’s PR is divided among the outbound links contained within it; consequently more PR is bestowed to pages from a page with few external links than is bestowed from one with many external links, assuming both bestowing pages have an equal PR.
To put those two ideas into context:
- two webpages on two different websites each have a PR of 4; each has 10 outbound links; therefore a backlink from one of those websites to any other website has the same value as a backlink from the second one to any other website; but,
- two webpages on two different websites where one has a PR of 2 of and the other has a PR of 4 and each has 10 outbound links; therefore a backlink from the second website to another website has greater value than one from the first one to another website; likewise,
- two webpages on two different websites where both have a PR of 4 but one has 5 outbound links and the second has 10 outbound links; then a backlink to any other website from the first website is worth more than a backlink from the second website to another website.
To summarize that:
Search engines use backlinks to help determine a webpage’s Search Engine Ranking. Each inbound link is considered to be a vote for a website. The value of a backlink is determined by at least 4 factors:
- the number of inbound links pointing to the backlinking page (e.g links > backlink’s source page > backlink’s destination page)
- the number of outbound links on the backlink’s source page
- the relevance of the backlink’s source page to the backlink’s destination page
- the relevence of the backlink’s anchor text to the backlinks destination page
In my view, there are three types of backlink:
- those that target humans,
- those that target search engine crawlers and other bots, and
those that target both humans and and machines.
We have to cater our backlink getting strategy to deal with those three types by categorizing our backlink sources accordingly.
To target humans:
- Add comments in blogs, forums and bulletin boards,
- Guest Lists, Guest Books, Visitor Lists etc..,
- Add links to directories,
- Social Networking Sites,
- Write articles for publication to Article Banks with a link or two pointing back to your own website,
- Write press releases for publication on Press Release sites with a link or two pointing back to your own website,
- Use either paid, reciprocated or free advertisement,
- Ask other webmasters to trade links with you,
Add links to your own network of websites,
To target search engines
- Add links to link lists/link dumps,
- Join a Link Farm,
- Create a web template or web application and place a link back to your own website,
- Ask other webmasters to trade links with you,
Add links to your own network of websites,
To target both humans and search engines
- All of the above. Every link has the potential to be viewed by people and/or be followed and rated by search engines,
I consider two of those backlink sources to be better than the others: blog comments and directories. They’re easy to find, easy to use and tend to have high Page Rank (PR). Additionally, blogs (potentially) get a lot of human traffic.
Finding blogs is as easy as using Google to search for “Google Blog Search“.
It’s easy to get a sneaky backlink because most blogs allow visitors to leave comments with a link embedded in their username; and remember that these links are one way i.e not reciprocal.
Try it now, open Google in your browser and search for Google Blog Search (or click the link above) then search for blog post subjects related to the webpage to which you’d like to backlink, open a few of the returned results in new tabs, scroll to the bottom of the blog page’s comments to where it says “Post Reply” and look for an input field that says “URL”. as the URL is used to create a link out of the poster’s username, if the reply form doesn’t ask for a URL you should close that tab and move to the next one. When you find a post that does ask for a URL, scan-read the post and leave a comment that relates to it under a pseudonym (username) that inspires people to visit your website by clicking your username.
The blog might not have a high PR, it might use no-follow tags but the longer the blog exists the higher its PR will become and, even if it uses no-follow tags, it will supply visitors to the website or the webpage URL you put in the “URL” field.
Directories (and Guest Lists, Guest Books, Visitor Lists etc..,)
Again, directories are very easy to find; but finding the right type of directories requires a little skill. We can add links to any old directory and will at least get a backlink that might bring traffic from the directory but will it be a valuable link that will raise a site’s Search Engine Rankin and thus bring lots of traffic?
We need to look for directories that potentially have high PR and/or lots of traffic. Fortunately for us, many content management systems like Joomla, WordPress and phpBB have plugins that provide them with directories. Because we know that blogs get traffic, tend to stay around for a long time and get good PR, all we need do is find those sites that use those directory plugins. The easy way to do that is to use a search engine to look for those plugins’ names, key sentences that are used on their “Add URL” page and/or the backlink that the plugin’s creator has probably added to it.
A few examples,
On this site, JournalXtra.com, I use the WordPress Directory Plugin; if we google for “Wordpress Directory Plugin” (with quotes) we’ll find many sites that mention “Wordpress Directory Plugin”. Most of these sites will be discussion boards and not sites that use this particular directory plugin; however, many of them will provide a backlink opportunity through another directory system or a comments section. To improve our search, we need to be more specific. “Powered by WordPress Link Directory” is displayed by default at the bottom of every page that hosts the “Wordpress Directory Plugin”. A search for “Powered by WordPress Link Directory” (with quotes) brings up hundreds of directories that use that plugin.
Another WordPress directory plugin, the Business Directory, also advertises itself on the pages that host it by displaying “Powered by Business Directory”. Google “Powered by Business Directory” (with quotes) and you’ll be greeted by hundreds of sites that use that plugin.
Of course, if all you want to do is list your site with the more common directories such as Gimpsy or Dmoz then just search for “add URL” or “free directory listing”. Just bear in mind that the more general directories have thousands of outbound links and pass little PR to the targets of those links (This doesn’t mean they’re useless for Search Engine Ranking, it just means they’renot necessarily good for PR).
Before I briefly discuss some of the other link building options mentioned above, I will offer you some advice: protect the value of your own outbound links by not having too many outbound links listed on any one page and by ensuring you get, at least, as many inbound links pointing to a page as you have outbound links from that page. If you have a directory or link list then try to get reciprocal links (links back to you) for the links placed in it; and check them regularly (some unscrupulous webmasters don’t play fair). Doing so helps maintain your site’s link trade value.
Forums and Bulletin boards
Most of these set a minimum post count before links can be put into posted replies and many of these have a minimum post count before signatures (and links in them) are displayed under posts.
Social Networking/Bookmarking Sites
I used to think these were fantastic; and they can be but they have drawbacks:
- most use the no-follow and no-index attributes so they’re useless for search engine indexing, PR and Search Engine Ranking (read into the no-follow and no-index attributes and their significance for search engine optimization, there’s debate about their SEO roles); and,
- most of their users are freebie hunters – they visit, take what they want and give little back;
On the plus side, they can get you into browser bookmarks and RSS readers; and the traffic is good for pay-per-view ads (the type that get you 1 or 2 cents each time they’re viewed).
Write articles for publication in Article Banks with a link or two pointing back to your own website
Brilliant for back links and exposure of your work & pen-name; but articles take time to write.
Write press releases for publication on Press Release sites with a link or two pointing back to your own website
Works well for backlinks, I’ve done this myself: wrote one press release and submitted it (with minor variations) to many press release sites. Most press release sites use RSS syndication through which webmasters can auto post releases to their websites as full posts or scrolling news feeds.
The downside is that you need something newsworthy to write about.
Use paid, reciprocated or free advertisement
Can be expensive. Paid search engine ads work best, inline text links next, banners last.
Depending on the display method, ads provide as many backlinks as the number of websites on which your ads are displayed. No-follow and no-index tags could be an issue.
Ask other webmasters to trade links with you
Painfully long process. Not all webmasters trade links, not all websites are actively monitored by a webmaster so your link trade request might never be read, not all websites have space for link trades and link trades have to be checked regularly because many webmasters remove traded links when they think no one’s looking.
When you do trade links, add to your site a link to the site with which you want trade before you submit your request; regularly check trades are honoured; and don’t put traded links on your index page (main page) unless you’re getting a good deal.
Try for multi-way links for search engine purposes e.g you link to site A, site A links to site B, site B links to site A.
Add links to your own network of websites (incestuous linking)
Do I need to explain this one? When you do this, be careful that your network doesn’t look like a network or it’ll be penalised by search engines.
Add links to directories
When was the last time you used an Internet directory?
Not many people visit directories when they’re searching for something unless the directory provides a very special and unique service; no, most people use Google, Ask, Yahoo or Baidu (a Chinese search engine). So, in my opinion, directories are good for backlinks and attracting search engines but nearly useless for direct traffic from humans clicking links within them.
Add links to link lists/link dumps
Link lists and link dumps are more commonly used by adult webmasters to get backlinks to their galleries, pay sites and free sites etc… They used to be frequented by people looking for adult sites but, to my knowledge, more people visit TGP/MGP galleries than visit link lists and dumps. They still have their uses though, some are still good for search engine indexing; and there are thousands of them to which you can submit your sites and pages.
Join a Link Farm
Create a web template or web application and place a link back to your own website
Your template could be for WordPress, SMF, self-built website or something similar, it doesn’t matter, the important part is that people like it and use it so that your copyright and “designed by” notice (which should contain your backlink) is displayed all over the web thus giving you more exposure and more backlinks (and maybe a few visitors).
Mixed Targeting Sources
All of the above. All links have the potential to bring human traffic and to provide a means for search engine indexing & profiling.
Getting backlinks needn’t be a proactive process: you can passively get them by baiting others to link to you. Just place something attention grabbing, controversial or useful on your website and people will backlink to it.
Tools of the trade
There are backlink building tools and businesses that specialize in placing backlinks. I’ve not used them so I’m not about to discuss them; I just thought you’d like to be aware of there existence.