Unlike the 2.45 million other SEO posts on the Internet, I’m NOT going to start this one with a Epitaph of how Penguin changed link building practices forever and then link to Rand Fishkin’s video on co-citation.
Instead, I’m just going to face facts. If you want your website to rank, it needs to deserve to rank and provide plenty of value to users. This in turn, creates the links, social shares, user signals and trust that Google uses to rank your site.
Does Guest Posting Work? Meh…
Everyone in the SEO industry is now doing guest posts, because it’s pretty much the only way of manually building links that Google isn’t penalizing yet. However, if EVERYONE is writing guest posts than it doesn’t take a genius to work out that this is going to get devalued. I do agree HOWEVER that writing guest posts on high quality sites can improve your authority and brand as an author, which in turn could improve the rankings for your own site’s articles. So, I’m not completely against it.
But, there are other types of white hat of links come into play, which Google can now prioritize in value. I’m going to provide some great examples of white hat links my sites received in the last week as well as why it’s impossible to fake them.
7 Examples of White Hat Links that can’t be Gamed
I’m not going to use my actual sites’ names for arguments sake, since it’s just going to distract from the post. They are all in different niches.
- The first link I acquired was 100% natural link where the person linked to my content as a useful resource under his article. He/she just copy and pasted the URL with a live link. It’s from a pretty high quality site that publishes content on a regular basis and actually rarely links out at all.
- The second type of link was a link source from Wikipedia. A partner on one of my websites has written the seminal book in the industry and has also published unique strategies and concepts on our site. We added a resource link both to his book and to one of the unique strategies he’d come up with on the website. Before you said “oh but anyone can add a link on Wikipedia”, technically you can but it will be reviewed and probably removed. These two links on the other hand actually add the page and give proper credit to the author of the theories. Even though they’re no-follow, I think links from Wikipedia are a fantastic brand signal for Google and I’d put my money on it that they treat them differently.
- The third type of link was another natural link, where I participated in a live debate about the future of mobile advertising. The video was recorded and uploaded to a well-known marketing blog, which then linked to me and my site as a credit.
- The fourth type of link was an article that someone had re-written on their blog, using information and sources that I’d personally written for a major newspaper. This person linked to one of my own sites, which was a useful source in the original article.
- The fifth type of link I received was when someone emailed me to ask if they could have permission to republish one of my articles for their businesses’ blog. I said yes, and this person not only linked to the original article source but also the homepage too.
- The sixth type of link I received was credit for being on a judge panel at a recent awards ceremony in the gaming industry. Each of the judges that participated had their name linked to their website on the judges page.
- The seventh link I received was an interview I’d done with a reporter a month ago that published a quote from me and then linked to my site. This is actually a tactic that has working really well for me for the last few months, using a range of PR and journalism tools.
What Have I Learned from this and Why You CAN’T Build these Type of Links Manually
The main thing I learned is that it’s IMPOSSIBLE to recreate natural looking anchors and links to your site. I’ve read articles about how it needs to be 40% brand anchors, 20% click here, 20% natural URL etc…
Seriously, this WON’T work. It might work if you’ve only got 20 backlinks to your site, but if you’re aiming to get 100s or 1,000s of backlinks to your site’s backlink campaign than it will make it too difficult to look natural.
I realized that a high percentage of natural links actually have really random anchor text pointing to inner pages on your site. For example, I’ll get stuff like “you can read”, “made a statement”, “an increasing amount of students” and “the latest figures”.
These are completely non-commercialized, non-branded anchors that are just impossible to fake. Even if you spent your time making sure 10-20% of your links have completely random anchors, the opportunity cost is going to be huge and it would be more cost effective creating strategies to generate natural links in the first place.
Secondly, I realized that in the majority of cases when someone links to you there would be more than five outbound links on the page to other blogs too. It’s pretty unnatural to write an article and only have one random link it to a brand. It stinks of guest posts. Furthermore, even if you try to get around this by adding natural links to your competitors sites and other authority resources, you’re going to lower the value from the PR of that link and also do your competitors’ job for them. In other words, it’s just not cost-effective to fake it.
Finally, I realized that all of these natural links were earned because I managed to get my content out there in front of 100s or 1000s of people and had content that was worth linking to, or my sites were linked to because my partner or I was a credible authority. Content written by an authority, worth linking to, is completely different to hiring copywriters who can rehash existing content for the sake of guest posting for links. It’s less likely anything new or interesting will be linked to or shared in this format, and the types of blogs that accept content from anyone are going to be devalued.