The most common question I got by far on my income report on my 90 day old sites was how I do my link building for these sites. Today I am going to reveal exactly how I linked to these sites for the first 90 days. However, first I want to give you some of my thoughts on the importance of building links to your sites.
UPDATE 3/20/2012: I am in the process of revising my linkbuilding strategy. Blog Networks are not as reliable as they were before, so I advise you read this post before following this link building guide step by step. I will write another link building post once I've developed a new strategy (something I do at least once a year anyway). In particular, BMR has been de-indexed; which you can read about here.
As important as links are to your site for ranking in Google, they are NOT the most important factor in ranking or for building niche websites in general. I know that not everyone will quite understand this, but the most important ranking consideration that Google gives to a site is whether the page has relevant content to the search query. This is primarily determined by keywords mentioned on the page. So, as I gave in my post about analyzing the top 10 results in Google, I proved that I could quickly rank #1 for the term “spencer likes honeycombs” without any links (which I did in a matter of minutes) because I was the most relevant result for that keyword. This is despite the fact that some of the other results on Google have a high page rank and have lots of back links.
The point I am trying to make first here is that you CAN find keywords where the existing sites on Google are not targeting your keyword 100%. So simply by finding these low competition keywords and providing relevant content on your site that is truly targeted, you can often rank well with very few links at all. So in my humble opinion, keyword research is WAY MORE important than link building. If you choose a difficult keyword you may never rank well in Google even though you spend years or point millions of links at your site. On the other hand, if you choose low competition keywords you can rank with very few links and sometimes none at all. Obviously there are very few keywords that do not require some type of link building which is why I am doing this post, but I ask you to please consider deeply whether or not you have chosen keywords that are too difficult from the start.
So choose low competition keywords based on the criteria I show here, and this will make link building much easier for you because not as much will be needed. My guess is that 99% (made up stat but you get the point) of niche sites fail because of poor keyword choice NOT poor link building. Okay, I just had to make my point clear on where the hard part of niche websites really is. However, once you get that low competition keyword you DO still need to build links, and below is a great method that is working for me.
What I Don't Do When Building Links
Many of you have probably tried dozens of different ways to find links for your sites and there is a lot of information that can be confusing or overwhelming. So, I am going to just discuss the methods I used on my niche sites that I build in August of this year to rank #1 in Google. I could have done much more and there are other ways of building links that would work as well. I am just going to share with you what I have done for these sites that are 90 days old. So, just because I don't mention some link building method doesn't mean it wouldn't work – it just means its not what I did.
First, let me just list in general a few types of things that I do not ever use to build links to my sites:
- Forum Profile linking
- Blog comments
- Directory submissions (this can work with higher end directories, but I don't use them)
- Links wheels
I also did not do any social bookmarking on the sites I built in August. I think there is nothing wrong with social bookmarking, but I didn't do any. My advice would be to not overdue it if you build social bookmarks. Hundreds of social bookmarks is too much in my opinion.
I also want to mention link wheels specifically a bit. I know some people swear by them. But I have personally never done link wheels and don't plan on adding them. Link wheels are very labor intensive and quite franking I do fine without them. Are they bad? No, they are probably fine and probably help you get more of your links indexed. So, they can be effective I'm sure – but I have personally never had good enough reason to add them to my business. Its an added expense of time and money that I don't need.
The Links I Did Build
For my 90 day old sites, I used 2 services to build links to my site: MyArticleNetwork.com and Unique Article Wizard. As you can see from the graphic below, I didn't need very many links to rank where I am (this goes back to my point about keyword research being more important). This is the exact same chart that I posted on my previous article but I have added a column for Yahoo Links. These are the number of links indexed by Yahoo Site Explorer (which YES! is still active):
As you can see, I'm not out throwing thousands of links at my sites. The most links is 34 for site #16. The number of links will grow to probably 50 or so on some of the sites as more articles get distributed and indexed, but that's about it. I can also see that I missed doing proper link building for site #11 – that one fell through the cracks! (It happens when you have a couple of hundred sites). However, the process I am using for building links using MyArticleNetwork.com and Unique Article Wizard is working very well for me because its automated once set up and I can outsource it to my virtual assistant.
Here is a quick overview of my link building process. Once the site is built, I wait a week or so before building any links. At that point I take 3 private label rights (PLR) articles, sometimes spin them (more on this below), and submit them to MyArticleNetwork.com. I then either the same day or a few days later (whenever my VA gets around to it) take 3 additional articles and submit them to Unique Article Wizard. I set UAW to distribute these articles as slowly as possible, which is 20 submissions per day. I then move onto the next site – that's all I've done with the 20 sites listed above that were built in August of this year.
Once the site is ranking well after the first 90 days, I may or may not build any more links to the site in the future. If the site is a top earner then I will build more links as I add additional content. If the site is a loser and is not making any money, I will not continue building links. The rest of the sites I kind of play by ear and add links or content depending on if I think I can feasibly move the site up with just a few more links.
What is MyArticleNetwork and Unique Article Wizard?
First I wanted to give a review of what exactly MyArticleNetwork.com and Unique Article Wizard are. MyArticleNetwork is a network thousands of blogs all owned by different people like you and me. When I submit an article, I select categories that the article is related to. Based on these categories the articles get presented to the individual blog owners who are looking for free content. So, a few blog owners may approve the article right away and it gets published to their blogs with my links in the articles. This will essentially drip feed the links as blog owners approve your articles over a month or more.
Unique Article Wizard is also a blog network but it also distributes to some article directories as well. So, with unique article wizard, I will submit my articles and set the distribution rate at a maximum of 20 per day (I would do less if possible). This will slowly distribute the articles as it also takes time for article directories to approve them and for Google to actually crawl and index the links as well.
I will just say that Unique Article Wizard has a terrible interface and has a learning curve on how to use it exactly. My VA does all of this for me and I hate how difficult it is to use – but the results appear to be good. (I am ranking #1 in Google for 4 of my sites above after all).
On the other hand MyArticleNetwork (MAN) has a very simple and easy to use interface – its like night and day between the two.
Where to Get Articles?
I do not have original articles written to be used on MAN or UAW; I use PLR articles. There are lots of resources you can use to get PLR articles and I have used several. Having original articles written is probably better, but from a cost/benefit analysis, PLR articles do the job. I would never use the articles that were actually posted on my niche site as an article for distribution to get links. The only way you might get away with doing this if it your re-write or spin the article. I simply would not risk having other blogs or article directories outranking you for the keywords you niche site is targeting.
For this reason, I am fine getting links from articles that are only slightly related or not even related at all to my niche sites. For example, my site #2 above is ranking #1 in Google and ALL the links are from unrelated articles. Meaning if the niche site is about “cheap computers” (just an example), the links are coming from articles about something different, like “dog walking”. Related links are better – but even unrelated links help. This makes it much easier to submit PLR articles because I don't have to spend time trying to find related articles to my niche. You can hate my process if you want, but the you can see the results above!
Spinning articles is not required all the time. I do have my VA spin articles using The Best Spinner on occasion, but sometimes I will submit an unspun PLR article the way it is to get links. I will always have my VA rewrite the titles of each article at least 3 times. Remember the purpose of these articles is to simply have them published on other blogs and hope they get indexed by Google (and they do). These indexed articles link back to my site and pass on a small amount of “link juice”.
Submitting original articles will have a higher index rate and will likely result in more links to your site. However, it also costs more in both terms of time and money. This could be a whole blog post and discussion about using PLR articles, duplicate content, unrelated links, etc – but it will have to be saved for the future. The point is that Google DOES index duplicate content from PLR articles and still indexes the links pointing to your sites. When this process stops working (and I'm always experimenting), I'll move onto something else.
Anchor Text Variation
Anchor text variation is a very important topic. We all know that using our chosen keywords within the anchor text can help boost our sites, but it can also give your site a penalty if you overuse the exact match anchor text. I don't know if there is a magic percentage. But I would say that if you are using the exact match anchor text more than 50% of the time – its perhaps too much. Here is a great video from SEOmoz.org explaining anchor text variation:
Lets say the keyword is “cheap laptops”. MyArticleNetwork allows you to input 3 links to your site throughout the article. I am submitting 3 articles to this service, so essentially I have 9 available links. On the first article, I will make the first link an exact match anchor text for site #1. The second link will go to site #2 using a non-keyword related anchor text (like “read more” or “click here”). The 3rd link will go to site #3 also with a non-keyword related anchor text.
Article number 2 and 3 will use a phrase match anchor text with the first link (such as “laptops that are cheap”). The second and 3rd links will go to site #2 and #3 with non-keyword related anchor text. I ask my VA to use different phrase matches each time if possible.
On Unique Article Wizard, the links work a bit differently. You are able to just have an author resource box at the end of your article with 2 links in it. However, you can also have multiple author boxes that essentially spin the anchor text or entire content that is used. Essentially I make the first link on ONE of the articles an exact match anchor text and the other link goes to a different site. The other 2 articles use a phrase match to my niche site on the first link and an unrelated anchor text link to a second site.
So, essentially out of the 6 articles that I submit per niche site gets the following breakdown:
- 2 links with exact match anchor text
- 4 links with phrase match anchor text
However, I also gets unrelated keyword links from additional articles that I submit for other sites. So really, I end up with several other links that help round out my anchor text variation.
In order to illustrate how I am building links using these networks, I made a quick video. I demonstrate how I vary the anchor text on each article:
Getting Links Indexed
The reality is that this strategy is working for me MOSTLY because I do diligent keyword research to find those topics easy to rank for. I could probably do a much better job about getting more links indexed then I do. As you can see, even though my articles probably get distributed to a couple of hundred places (at least), I only end up with 20 or 30 indexed links. This is because Google doesn't often crawl all the new articles that get distributed to lower tier blogs or article directories.
If I wanted to have a higher indexing rate, I could consider essentially building links to my distributed articles. There are services that allow you to input large volumes of URLs and they will either ping, submit social bookmarks, or create RSS feeds and submit to feed readers to help you get your links indexed. I am not going to provide any reviews of these services because I am not using any. However, if you feel like you want a higher indexing rate these can probably be very helpful. If I was to do everything perfect, I would probably be doing a better job about getting all my links indexed.
Build My Rank Experiment
Update 3/20/2012: Build My Rank Has been deindexed and I can no longer recommend it to anyone. My affiliate links have been removed. Please read about their de-indexing right here.
I am actually in the process of testing out another blog network that I have heard lots of great feedback on. That service is Build My Rank. I just recently signed up for the service, but its too soon for me to say whether or not the results are good. However, I have heard from lots of different people that the blog network has much higher quality blogs and the indexing of links is essentially 100%; often within 24 hours.
Overall, Build My Rank has high quality and aged domains that range from PR1 to PR6. Once you submit your article, the Build My Rank service actually goes out and social bookmarks all of your links and create an RSS feed and distributes it to RSS aggregators. This essentially guarantees that your links will be indexed on these higher value blogs. To say the least, I am excited to test this out on some of my sites that need an extra boost to get on the first page of Google.
Build My Rankis currently offering 10 Free Links if you sign up for a trial right here.
Other Good Ways to Get Links
I'm sure there are many of you out there that use different strategies to acquire links, and that's just fine! My purpose here was to simply show you how I have been building links lately. Some other great ways to build links is through traditional article marketing, social bookmarking, and using web 2.0 properties. I could go into additional details, but Pat Flynn from SmartPassiveIncome.com has written an excellent post on using these types of properties and essentially building link wheels to promote sites. If you haven't read his post on his backlinking strategy, you really should. If you are targeting more difficult keywords you may want to consider the more in depth strategy that Pat has laid out.
I do just want to re-iterate that I have NEVER used link wheels and have been able to create a full-time income with niche sites; primarily because I have made keyword research my main focus. So, while I don't disagree with the potential power of link wheels – I have just never used them.
Many of the services I have mentioned above such as MyArticleNetwork, Unique Article Wizard, and Build My Rank cost a good chunk of money. If you don't have the money, you don't NEED all these tools. You can still submit articles to top article directories like EzineArticles.com, GoArticles.com, and others for free. You can also submit articles to Web 2.0 sites for free and create social bookmarks for free. So, while all of this is very time consuming if you do it on your own – it is doable for free.
The Best Way to Get Links – Naturally
I am well aware that the absolute best way to get links to your sites is to allow other sites to do so naturally. Providing extremely high value content (such as I try to do here) will make others want to link to your site without you even asking them to. These are truly the links that Google loves. This is the way that a large site should be run.
However, the fact is that the strategy I have taken is fairly straight forward. I do keyword research on lots of topics, build small sites on 20 or so at a time, and then weed out the true winners from the losers. For example, my top 4 or 5 sites listed above are my winners from the month of August and I will be focusing on adding content and building those into more significant properties or selling them to someone else to allow them to grow them. But I will also be building new small sites each month in hopes of finding even more winners. The point is that I am just helping the link building process at the beginning; ideally, I will be able to build up some of these top earning sites into something more significant with additional quality content that eventually will begin attracting those natural links.
If you want to start out from the get-go focusing on one large site -that's just fine! I think that's an excellent business model. In fact, I wrote about Good, Better, and Best Strategies for Success with Niche Websites. The best method is building large authority sites with useful tools on those sites. But the reality is that I have taken an approach that allows me to try out hundreds of different niches (making money along the way) until I am able to find a few that I can truly build into more significant sites. The best part is that even the sites that are not big winners are usually still profitable! So, until my sites are able to get links naturally on their own, I give them a little boost using the methods discussed above to help them get ranking early on.
Overall, I think I have laid out clearly how I have been building links to my sites for the past 90 days. I would be interested in hearing your thoughts on the subject. I'm well aware that some of you will love this strategy, while others will despise how I am building links. Either way I would be interested in hearing what you have to say!