This issue of backlinks is a hugely debated topic in internet marketing. Backlinks are defined as links to your website from other sites, preferably authoritative ones.
Many people swear by them as a way of driving traffic to your site; others are less sure. What is the reality on this?
To understand fully the issue of backlinks, we need to understand the different ways in which backlinks can be obtained, and differentiate between natural and authentic ways of getting backlinks, versus more “shady” forms of backlinking which are not recommended.
Organic, naturally developed backlinks can definitely be a good way of driving traffic to your site, increasing domain authority and ranking articles better on Google. Actively trying to force backlinks is NOT a good idea however, and can lead to your site being penalized by Google algorithm updates.
In this sense, we are adovcating a more “white hat”, natural form of link building SEO, rather than “black hat” tactics of trying to artificially get backlinks in a way that is forced and can actually hurt your wesite longer term.
At the end of the day the number one rule for success online is creating high quality, useful content and many bloggers will be far better off spending time on this rather than on trying to build backlinks.
On this topic we follow very much the approach of Income School, who acknowledge the importance of backlinks, but are against actively forcing backlinks to your site. Rather their approach focuses on creating good content, and then letting the backlinks build organically rather than consciously trying to force them.
Here we find some nuance to the topic that is often missing from so much discussion of backlinking. No one is against backlinking; rather the question is how you build the backlinks.
Do you force them or let them come naturally? Which is a better use of your time? Let’s look at the issue in more detail.
Jim and Ricky from Income School show how their sites attracted thousands of backlinks without them needing to do any work to force it
The Potential Benefits of Backlinks
There is no doubt that backlinks can help a site rank on Google. When natural, it acts as a signal to Google that people value the article or page that is being linked to, and therefore having lots of backlinks to an article can prompt Google to think the article is popular or useful and push it up the rankings.
Backlinking can also provide authority to a site, with lots of links to your site from credible external sites building trust and reputation in your site, which can further help with rankings and domain authority. See here and here for some interesting pieces on the benefits of backlinks for SEO.
Realization of this has led to backlinking being turned into a business, with people on sites such as Fiverr charging a fee in order to produce backlinks to your site to increase ranking.
This is in reality though a shady “black hat” practice, since it is an attempt to trick Google by paying someone to force a backlink rather than someone naturally linking to your site because the content was genuinely useful.
And therein is the nub of the issue regarding backlinking. No one can argue that backlinking isn’t beneficial, because it clearly is in building site ranking and authority. The question is how you build the backlinks – naturally or by forcing them?
This is why in this article we will rephrase what people are most commonly talking about when they say “backlinking” and call it “forced backlinking“, as this is where people start to get into trouble.
We want to differentiate between backlinks being built organically from useful content versus a site owner actively trying to force backlinks from other sites.
The Dangers of Trying to Trick Google With Forced Backlinks
The dangers of adopting this approach of forcing or paying for backlinking are well covered by the guys at Income School and can be summarized in this one statement from Ricky in the embedded video below:
“Your content will move to the place it belongs“.
Forcing backlinks to a new post may help it rank faster and push the article higher up the ranking for a short time, but once people realize the content is not very good, Google will pick this up and drop your article down in the rankings.
Backlinking is only one factor in how well an article ranks and the quality of the content is what ultimately determines where an article will sit in the ranking longer term.
Moreover, as well as realizing the content isn’t as good as the backlinks suggested, Google is also now clever enough to pick up on sites that are systematically using this tactic to trick them into ranking posts higher than they deserve.
Google have been crystal clear on this issue now for many years – “black hat”, forced link building just for SEO purposes and not for user experience, is against their Terms of Service.
If you get caught doing this then your entire site can be penalized and you can lose all your traffic and put waste to all the time you have spent building it.
Google is regularly introducing alogrithm updates to catch sites which are trying “Black Hat” SEO tricks like this to force themselves up the rankings. If a blog is built on the back of deceptive tactics like forced backlinking rather than good content, then sooner or later Google will find it and drop it in the rankings.
So if you are going to put all the time and effort required into creating a blog, it is far better to invest this time into building the site in a way that it is going to succeed long term rather than “crash and burn” after a short time through backlinking and other tricks. Let’s look at the number one way to do this below.
Google are now very good at detecting backlink profiles which are not natural and will punish these sites in the rankings longer term
Content Is King For Backlinks & SEO
The number one rule for SEO and traffic is in creating good content. Forced backlinking may have worked in the past as a strategy for building traffic but Google is now wise to so many of these tactics and will sooner or later catch and penalize sites that are using backlinks to artificially force content higher up the rankings than it deserves to be.
A much better approach for bloggers is to simply write high quality, useful content that helps people solve a problem that is being searched on Google.
Without forced backlinking, traffic will be slower to come, but it will be genuine, authentic traffic because people actually found the content useful and not because a paid backlink forced the content up the rankings higher than it should be.
Put differently, if you produce good content that helps people out, they will place links to this content on other sites for you without you having to ask them.
Over time Google will recognize this and reward your site and content with rankings and credibility. Over time Google will also catch sites that are using backlinking to trick them, and will push them down in rankings.
In this sense, forcing backlinks is a “crash and burn” strategy that may deliver quick results but will hurt you longer term, whereas focusing on good content is a longer term strategy for sustained success.
In terms of content, here are some general markers to give content the best chance of ranking well on Google organically (without forcing links):
- Research topics and keywords beforehand to make sure there isn’t too much competition. “Longer tail” Google searches of five to seven words are usually lower competition than shorter phrases, which are often already covered by big sites which will be difficult to outrank.
- Make sure the title of the article is something that people are actually seaching on Google, not just something you would like to write. Use the autocomplete feature to check what phrase people are searching for in your niche.
- Content needs to be of good quality and length – 1000 words at a minimum and preferably 1500-2000 words.
- Make sure the article is formatted correctly, with a proper title, short paragraphs blocks, H3 heading subsections throughout the article and images, videos and tables embedded where appropriate.
- Make sure the content is useful, helping people solve a problem or concisely answering a question about something, plus any logical follow up or related questions.
- Building content like this is by far a better use of your time longer term than spending time trying to force backlinks to your site.
The Dangers of Forced Backlinking For SEO
Forced Backlinking is Not An Efficient Use of Time & Resources
To sum up, backlinking can definitely be useful in building trust and ranking, but for most niche sites and blogs, it doesn’t make sense to spend time on this.
It makes far more sense just to create content and accept that is takes time for traffic to build. If the content is genuinely good and helps people solve a problem, then backlinks and traffic will come. It just requires patience.
Large companies and corporations with huge budgets can of course hire teams of SEO experts to build backlinks to their site. For these companies with websites in hugely competitive spaces, building links may make sense.
For small bloggers and niche site owners it often doesn’t, since we have a finite amount of time and resources and it is about using this time efficiently.
Trying to force backlinks and trick Google into thinking you content should rank more highly than it does may work in the short term but to repeat Ricky’s phrase from Income School: “Your content will move to the place it belongs”.
“If you have a brand new site with 20 pages on it, Google’s just gonna think it’s weird if all of a sudden all these backlinks to it start appearing from all over the internet”
What Jim is getting at here is that clumsily trying to force backlinks on a new website, way before they would naturally appear and in a pattern that isn’t typical, is going to give the game away.
Google are smart to that kind of stuff now, and once they realize that forced backlinks have artifically moved content up the rankings that does not deserve to be there, they they will penalize that content and you will lose all your traffic.
The best way to rank highly on Google is to produce content that deserves to rank highly on Google and let the backlinks come themselves.
If your skill is writing good content, then put your time and effort into doing that rather than building backlinks.
It is a more efficient use of your time and a better long term strategy to success in blogging than short term “crash and burn” backlinking tactics that Google will eventually pick up on and penalize you for.
Some Ways to Build Backlinks
If you accept all the concerns and risks that come with building backlinks, but still want to do it, then what options are there? Some people may feel their content is good and they want to supplement this by building backlinks to try and rank it quicker.
Again, the approach of Income School and others is that this time would be better spent creating more content rather than seeking out backlinks. Nevertheless here are some common ways of building backlinks that are considered less spammy and “Black Hat”:
- Find other sites in your niche with broken links on them and contact the webmaster or send a message to them through their contact form asking if they would like to replace the broken link with a link to your site instead. The Check My Links Chrome extension is an example of a plugin which can detect broken links on a website.
- Write guest posts for other blogs or websites in your niche. Again reaching out through contact forms can be helpful here, as long as you explain who you are what you are about and don’t come across as spammy.
- Get interviewed on a podcast related to your niche if one exists and ask them to feature links to your site on their site.
- Promote your articles on social media, as long as your niche warrants it and you aren’t spending too much time on it.
- Building links internally within your site is a great idea and definitely good for SEO.
- See this article for some more good ideas on link building if this is something you really want to do.
The Best Way To Get Organic (Natural) Backlinks
Let finish off though with the one tip for building organic backlinks that doesn’t require any outreach at all; it simply involves creating your content in a certain way that gives people a better reason to link to it.
We’re pinching off the Income School guys again, because their approach to this is so down to earth, sensible and long-term rather than short term focused. Here it is:
“Stats Get Links”
That’s it! By simply adding useful, informative and quotable stats to your content, you give readers more reason to link to it as a way fo citing that interesting statistic.
Let’s give a few examples of what we mean by this:
- Studies show that 27% of men ………….
- Statistics show that 57% of women…….
- Research has shown that 65% of Americans…….
Hopefully you get the general idea. By providing a useful snippet of information, you are enticing other people to link to that article when they themselves want to quote that statistic in their own content.
If the stat is more niche specific and comes from your own original research, then even better! This will be more of a unique backlink that can’t be so easily copied by other sites, since the stat originally came from you.
This is an entirely natural form of generating backlinks that Google cannot penalize, and you should therefore always look to format your content in a way that provides quotable statistics when possible.
See the video below for more on this, plus some examples.