One of the difficulties surrounding effective backlinking strategies is that they’re constantly changing and evolving. What worked 5 years ago (1 year ago? Even 6 months ago!) may not work now. Additionally, you might hear one thing from some self-proclaimed guru and something else from another…who’s really right and whose advice should you follow?
Luckily for us, we feel we have a keyword research strategy and an on-page seo strategy that doesn’t require a ton of backlinking at all to be effective. In fact, we’re not entirely convinced that we need to do much backlinking at all…the reason we do it is mostly precautionary. (That and we DID slack off on backlinking and think we observed an after-effect of that, as stated in this income report.) We limit our backlinking to a minimal amount because we’ve found that our plan mostly works without them and any additional cost would have to have a proveable ROI associated and that’s very difficult to do with backlinks. (It’s not so difficult to measure the $$ effect of rankings, but MUCH more difficult to determine which backlinking strategy helped you get there!)
My plan with this post is simply to share some of the backlinking paths we’ve taken, give an overall picture of what we’re doing now, and to share with you some resources that we think are effective and worth paying attention to. By no means is this a full-on blueprint, guaranteed to make you successful and we’re far from gurus at any of this…just a couple of guys with good resources available and a hustle mentality when it comes to business. We hope that you can find your own strategy and mix in anything you get from us to come up with your own successful plan.
Backlinks we’ve used previously:
- Profile Links – We’d previously heard raving reviews about the value of profile links such as Angela’s Backlinks and wanted to try it out for ourselves. Knowing that our sites are extremely micro-niche, we thought a few of these definitely wouldn’t hurt and might actually help a bit. After doing this for a few months, I just noticed very few were getting indexed and they just didn’t seem to provide much value for the time we were putting into them. I have no proof either way, but we discontinued profile links after a few months.
- SENuke X – While I think this is a pretty powerful piece of software overall and it’s a pretty neat tool, well-built, etc. it just seemed like overkill for niche sites. It’s definitely effective at building links for larger, authority sites, but I just didn’t feel SENuke X was needed for the types of niche sites we were building. I may go back on this in the future, but for now we’re not using this on any of our niche AdSense sites. In fact, we only tested this on a few of our sites overall pretty early on.
- Ezine Articles – A real love/hate relationship here. While definitely the most well-known general article directory, their recent hit with the Panda Update left them scrambling for ways to improve quality. After a few less-than-cool messages from their service staff back and forth (Their customer service was never very friendly, but it got downright rude post-Panda) we noticed that less than 50% of our articles were being accepted and published. While these articles were unique and not spun, they would be rejected for a number of reasons that kept our Content Managers constantly having to go back, edit, change, repurpose, etc. and the hassle just became too much to deal with and outweighed the benefit, we thought. We’re still considering replacing Ezine Articles with something like HubPages or Squidoo, but haven’t got around to it yet. We have done a few Squidoo lenses that point to our niche sites and I have to say I’m a fan of Squidoo overall and we definitely might continue this in the future. (Plus, HUGE Seth Godin fan and it makes me “feel good” to donate any earnings there to charity!)
- Article Directory Submission Service (WSO’s) – In an effort to get caught up on our article directory backlinks, we outsourced this process to a couple of different vendors on the WarriorForum. You can review their offers here and here. Since we had SO much to do, we got a pretty decent bulk rate and had them run with it. This is a one-time project and we’re still considering whether or not we want to use this in the future. My real concern is that they won’t be putting nearly the love and attention we put into our work and I worry about the negative effects that could bring. The pricing was right, (TOO right, perhaps?) but we’re still deciding whether we’ll continue with this type of service long-term. They submit to a bunch of different article submission tools, though…quite a bit of value there, potentially.
Backlinking we’re currently using:
Note Added 3/20/12: We CANNOT currently recommend a BMR purchase as an effective linkbuilding strategy.BuildMyRank has been going through some major changes recently. Many are talking about a large portion of their blog network getting deindexed and their links no longer providing the value they had previously. We checked in our account for some of the posts BMR had previously indexed and 9 out of 10 that were checked were nowhere to be found. We haven’t seen a negative effect on our sites from this, but believe the value of the BMR network to be severely decreased. It remains to be seen how this will play out, what BMR will do to recover, etc. We’ll keep you posted!
- BuildMyRank – There’s no shortage of praise for this service online, but I’m guessing most of that has to do with a generous affiliate package and so it gets a little difficult to wade through the BS. What we’ve ultimately found, though, is a blog network that effectively offers you a “guest post” service, allowing you to place a link for every 150 words of unique content you provide them. They have a VERY high indexing rate for their links and they actually build backlinks to the backlinks you create, which is quite nice. For a pretty decent write-up of BMR, check out this page and this page for reviews. Currently, we’re creating between 5 and 10 BMR posts for each site and, anecdotally, it’s had a pretty positive effect overall. If you’re building more than that, I would highly suggest targeting partial-match contextual keywords to build some diversity and also building links to internal pages rather than only the home page.
Note: You can BMR articles written for cheaper than the prices BMR offers directly. You’re looking at just at $1.00 per post here, for example.
- SubmitYourArticle – It’s funny, because we originally chose SYA as it was one of the few that submits to EzineArticles and now we’re not even using that directory with the service! Still, though, SubmitYourArticle allows you to submit content, spin it, and send it out to a host of the majory directories. (and many of the minor directories too!) You’re able to spin resource boxes, contextual keywords and links (highly recommended) and even include keywords in the main article, foregoing the resource box to get them posted as a ghost writer on a blog network. We used to have a somewhat complicated process of having each article link to two sites, having those sites randomly selected from spun options, etc. We’ve simplified…one article links to the main page and one of the secondaries (randomly), with spun anchor text.
Note: I’m not really going to get into the ethics or utility behind article spinning. I have some doubts about effectiveness and serious doubts about overall usefulness, but I’ve also read some compelling arguments for using and we’ve continued so far, although I have to say I would NEVER spin anything I’ve written myself.
- OnlyWire – Social bookmarking tool that we use early in site creation to help get our sites noticed/indexed faster. Long-term viability of these links is questionable, but we’ve found it useful for getting the sites crawled early. It’s a bit of a pain to sign up for all new accounts with all of the services, but once you do it’s a breeze. We used to go with the free option and multiple accounts, but one of the readers here pointed out that was probably pretty silly and costly overall and we listened and ponied up the cash for a paid account. I think we’re currently paying for the $200/month option.
- Blog Commenting – We have a rep on staff here that will seek out relevant do-follow blogs, read through the post, and make a useful and relevant response. We’re currently doing 5-10 of these per site and use anchor text when possible and just a name when it’s not. Nothing groundbreaking here at all…you can use a do-follow search engine like DoFollow Diver or use any of the useful search strings that look for CommentHut, CommentLuv, or the like. We have her take an hour per site and get as many done as she can in that timeframe.
- Fiverr Gigs – I know, I know…we keep pimping Fiverr’s services here, lol. The truth is we do NOT use this as a regular part of our process, but I have ordered backlinking gigs from various Fiverr providers for our larger sites and for some of our niche sites. Check this out for a recent Fiverr backlinking experiment someone reported. I’m not sure if I really expected anything out of it, but I’d usually make the orders when i saw we had $5.00 – $15.00 left in our Fiverr account, it bothered my OCD, and I just HAD to clear out our balance and add another round of funding to the Fiverr account. (As one of the Content Managers forgot to take it to $0 and remind me to refill! lol)
Note: You can find some pretty cool Fiver gigs at BestOfFiverr.com. I really like that blog and recently ran across the owner on the Warrior Forum and had a chance to tell her directly…I like when that happens!
- Social Oomph + Ping.FM = Automated Social Media – While we haven’t used this on any of our niche sites (yet) we are using on our more robust “authority” niche sites that we’re building. Effectively, these two together allow you to set spun/recurring social media updates to all of your social media accounts for the niche. It gives you web references/mentions for your targeted sites and can help drive additional traffic. For our smaller niche sites this seems hardly worth it, but any site making over $30/month we’re looking to add this in the future. It’s a bit time consuming to set up and to initially create all of the content, but once it’s set it’s self-sustaining…just check in on it every once in a while and try to add some engagement so you’re not a boring bot.
As you can see, we’re really not doing too much regarding off-site seo and are mostly sticking to the basics.
Useful Backlink Resources:
There’s a ton of noise out there when it comes to backlinks and seo. Trying to cut through the clutter to find information that’s particularly relevant to niche sites AND is written by someone I think knows what they’re talking about can be challenging. I wanted to share a few articles, strategies, and plans that I found that stuck out to me and, hopefully, you can add them to your arsenal as well.
- SmartPassiveIncome Backlinking Strategy – Pat goes into an effective strategy he put together, modeled after a WF post by Joseph Archibald. It’s quite useful, although I’d say it’s more applicable to authority sites (which I would consider SecurityGuardTrainingHQ.com, his “niche” site) than our mini-niche sites. Still, effective linkbuilding that works. Here’s another similar post from him.
- SEOmoz competitive Backlink Analysis – Almost anything that comes out of SEOmoz is useful...those guys really know their stuff. This particular posts is looking at how to methodically review the backlinks for the competition, but I think it’s extremely useful at giving you ideas to create your own, once you understand that competition. Good read.
- SEOmoz on anchor text – See…I told you I liked these guys! Interesting post I got from Spencer at NichePursuits regarding the use of partial anchor text instead of always focusing on exact match anchor text. Aside from appearing less artificial, I think it will significantly improve your ability to rank for more long-tail phrases.
- Spot reserved for YOUR recommendations!
Keep in mind that many backlinking strategies are best applied to more aggressive niches and tend to be a bit more involved than we actually need. Still, they’re useful if we’re able to pull bits and pieces out of them and create a useful backlinking plan for us that works without breaking the bank! It wouldn’t be cost effective for us and our mini-niche sites to have a backlinking budget of $100-$300, where it would be worthwhile for a site that’s going to have 50-200 quality content pages, targeting an exact match term with more than 10,000 exact match searches per month, etc.
Lastly, just a reminder, we’re far from experts here. I know that many of you have much more experience with backlink strategies than we do and we’re really asking for your help in adding to this post from your breadth of experience. If you have anything useful you’d like to share please feel free and we’d love to add it here for others to benefit from as well!
Update 3/30/12 – Want to see what we’re up to more recently? Check out Part 2 of our Linkbuilding Strategy here!