Creating backlinks by hand is still the best thing you can do. Suss out where your potential market is lurking and entice them back to your site with quality content and an open loop that leaves them wanting more (see our member’s area about pain killer content).
However backlinking tools abound and most nearly everyone uses them or has used them at one time or another.
And in these days of pandas and penguins the $6 Million question is how do you survive not only these recent mods to google’s ranking algorithms, but the potential zebras and skunks in the future?
How does one create inbound links without creating a potential disaster in the advent of an future update?
The answer lies in using a tool that has a very natural signature; in other words, one that creates content and inbound links in a way that is so similar to those done by hand as to be indistinguishable.
The trick is to find those tools who do just that – and my advice is to not settle for “second best”.
What I Look for in a Backlinking Tool
The marketing copy and sales page must not be too sleazy – if it’s sleazy on the outside, chances are VERY high it will be sleazy on the inside – this holds true for anything I buy – but quite possibly most important for links; because links are not something you can have easily removed. If you get penalized by Google for “unnatural links”, regardless if its a warning or a sandbox, the only way to dig yourself out is with quality links or by jettisoning the pages that have been flagged.
The Quality of the link is of utmost importance:
Location, location, location! Don’t tolerate spammy 3rd party sites; look for good, clean respectable sites. Some lesser quality is to be expected with most packages, it’s how they inflate the number of links and make themselves look good next to their competitors. However I’d rather pay a little more per link and have quality – and I’m certainly not interested in a package that has nothing but spam links. Sleazy sites usually spell spammy links; often times regardless of what the copy might say.
1. I am not so interested in a network of blogs – Google has hit those hard recently, and therefore everybody wants to hide their blog URLs on their network. Understandable, however if I cannot see it, I have no clue the quality of the link; is it themed, is there pagerank, is the content descent – those would be the three things I would want on a platform that is linking to me and if I can’t see the platform, I have no clue.
2. I want links from proven platforms that drive traffic AND PageRank. Some links will be from sites that no-follow their links, and that’s fine as it looks more natural. Here is my preferred types of 3rd party platforms in descending order
- squidoo, storify, scoop.it and other major social blogging platforms are really good
- article directories, wiki submissions
- .edu links – be prudent with these; a handful is enough unless you have a very educationally rich topic or a topic that would appeal strongly to students (like concert ticket sales)
- web directories, business directories – you have to have some of these, but 100 of them is plenty, then you start getting into lesser directories that are more spammy
- articles on Web 2.0 blogs like Digg and Stumbled Upon (real articles, not just a bookmark or micro-article)
- public blogs like blogger.com, wordpress.com
- micro blogs like twitter
- social bookmarks and status updates are marginal, as are forums and blog comments – better than a hit in the head, but you have to have a *lot* to make any impact – and their kick doesn’t seem to last for more than 90 days.
- content aggregator and RSS aggregator sites (least important because I cover this in the one feed, if they don’t)
- whois, about us, website statistic sites – these links are like fodder; they won’t last long and are largely meaningless; however it will register an awareness with google – it’s a good process to implement at the beginning of phase 2 as you are starting to ramp up your linking campaigns; there is a place where you can get 3000 of these links for free (all at once) or for $10 you can get 30,000 of them dripped out over the course of 60 days.
3. Being able to schedule the links or throttle the speed is important – new sites need to build slower – as well as those which have not ever had an inbound link campaign – don’t go from 0 to 3000 overnight.. talk about looking unnatural!
4. I want a list of urls – for two reasons
- I want to check on the quality of the work – what’s the content look like; grammar errors, theme of site, page and content around the link.
- I want to pipe the urls into an RSS feed and send them out as part of the second-level One-Feed
How I Proceed with Testing a New Service
Testing backlinks can be a really hard thing to do – it takes time to tell if they worked; and it’s hard to dedicate a single domain to a single backlinking campaign, where it’s been long enough since the last campaign to tell what kind of difference this one is making and still throw enough links at it to see a result.
The best thing you can do is have a minimum of 6 domains all at a very similar level with roughly the same length of time of activity, similarly competitive niche (maybe the same niche), same level of traffic and similar rankings and conversions. While keeping everything else the same on all 6 sites to create a “baseline”, on 3 of the sites you test the new backlinking process.
Give it 90 days and watch the traffic, conversions, rankings and the pagerank. That should be long enough for google to run a panda/penguin or whatever animal is the latest craze; as well as a couple of the regular monthly evaluations.
This means you have to be disciplined enough to have a consistent strategy that you can maintain for about 6 months. Three months prior to the test start this strategy so you have the “baseline” then you add the new process to three of the sites and watch for fluxuations.
Also keep an eye on Google webmaster tools for any signs of “unnatural links” or other messages.
If you get a message in Google webmaster tools, you still can’t be absolutely certain that the offending issue is the new stuff you have added – it might be that you simply crossed a threshold somewhere and triggered a response. It could possibly be a combined effect from everything you are doing, so you have to make sure your total test will be within reasonable limits.
I try to look at analytics and webmaster tools for my entire empire once a week; making notes of interest in a diary type file.
Reasonable limits will depend on the size of the site, the age of the site and the traffic to a site. If a site is brand new when you start your 6 month test, then throwing much at it at all will raise a flag. Similarly, if you have had a domain with a one-page placeholder and no traffic on it for the last two years, and suddenly it starts getting links without traffic, that will raise a flag. So think about this carefully and make sure you construct a test where all of the parameters will appear as natural as possible.
Want to see the list of the platforms that have made the cut for me (as well as those who have recently failed)? You’ll have to look in the member’s area for that – check out our new “Back in the Box?” page specifically for Back Linking and Traffic Tools.