One of the reasons more and more webmasters prefer whitehat backlink building every year is that it doesn’t require as much maintenance as blackhat backlink building. You’re not trying to outwit Google, you’re working with Google to promote your high-quality content.
But that doesn’t mean that things don’t change. We’ve already seen Google introduce what might be a game-changer for backlink building—Google Authorship. And the Penguin update has moved some greyhat techniques into blackhat territory. Here’s what you need to keep increasing your traffic in 2013.
The Basic Rules Stay The Same
Your backlink building should still focus on quality over quantity, and the best way to get high-quality backlinks is still guest posts to other sites in your niche and related niches. (But keep reading for why that might not be true in 2014.)
The Penguin update seems to have penalized links coming from outside your niche, so 2013 is the year you stop making directory submissions or otherwise encourage random strangers to use your content. Focus on getting targeted backlinks.
You may also want to be careful about your go-viral strategy. Although a few days of high traffic can be a great payoff, unless that traffic converts well, you could end up with a bunch of low-quality inbound links which will eventually look to Google like paid backlinks.
Instead of investing in content which may go viral, look at the costs involved in targeting very high page rank sites in and around your niche. You may need to pay someone a fair amount of money to produce a completely top-notch guest post, webinar, infographic, or other piece of content to get on your target site, but a single backlink from one of the highest ranked sites in your niche can significantly improve your ranking.
RIP: The Link Wheel
The link wheel debuted in the Warrior Forum a couple years ago as a whitehat/greyhat link building technique. It offered a simple method to quickly build natural-seeming links:
1. Create a bunch of free accounts on blogging sites.
2. If you were whitehat, post mediocre content to your free blogs. If you were greyhat, post spun and other low-quality content to your free blogs.
3. Occasionally link the free blogs to each other.
4. If you were desperate for a better rank, occasionally link the free blogs to your main site. If you were less desperate and more worried about Google penalties, occasionally link the free blogs to about three cutout sites you controlled and then link the cutout sites to your main site.
The link wheel seemed like a cunning way to fool Google, but its popularity was its downfall. As various SEO outfits began to systematize the link wheel and use lower and lower quality content, Google eventually wrote an algorithm which reliably detects link wheel content.
Some SEO companies still claim their link wheels work—and they may be telling the truth. But those link wheels are automatically built by computer programs who don’t mind registering for hundreds or thousands of accounts. Spending hours of your time trying to create a link wheel sophisticated enough to fool Google will probably not be a good investment of your time. The link wheel is dead.
Commenting Like Its 2009
Just in case you haven’t been keeping up, hiring someone at a ridiculously low rate to post comments linking back to your blog doesn’t work anymore. Every blog content management system uses rel=nofollow for comments these days and almost nobody clicks comment author links.
Comments can still be a viable strategy, but you will need to take the time (or pay someone the money) to write blog comments which attract the attention of the author of the blog. My favorite way to do this is to find a noteworthy error in the blog post—if the author agrees that it’s an error, they’ll often update the blog and link your name to your site in the update notice—giving you a real link.
A more reliable commenting method is to simply use comments to build a relationship with the blog author before your offer to guest post on his or her site. But this too requires high-quality comments.
(So please stop hiring people to post low-quality comments on everyone elses blogs.)
Google Authorship—Does It Change The Game?
Google Plus Authorship—the little picture of you Google puts next to your search engine results—is leading Google’s next-generation spam detection engine.
Right now, Google authorship is a novelty which may help you get a little extra traffic. But soon it may be practically required.
Google wants to know who wrote what so it can promote content from high-quality writers over content from anonymous people who are probably spammers. We can debate the privacy implications elsewhere, but the implications for backlink building are huge.
Google Authorship, or a similar system from other search engines, will eventually massively devalue unattributed content. That includes guest posts—if you post to a site and there’s no authorship information, Google will not give the backlink to your site the same value as other links from that site.
A site which never includes authorship information may have less effective links than a site which does include authorship, even if both sites are in the same niche and have the same pagerank.
Conversely, getting a highly-searched author to write for your site (provided you add authorship information) may help boost your ranking.
As I write this in July 2013, it’s still too early to tell what will happen. The first thing to wait for is how Bing and other search engines reply to authorship. The next thing is to see how many significant websites adopt authorship. Finally, we need to see if blackhat types can scam it.
But if everything works out for Google, expect 2013 to be the last year unattributed guest posts work as a backlinking strategy.