The web is cosparged with link building techniques: forum posting and blog commenting make the top ranked methods to boost online exposure, only to be followed by blog advertising and paid blogroll links.
Have you ever pondered on the reason that pushed Google to such a profound disdain for paid links? Contrarily to what everybody believes, it’s not because of the money involved: in fact, magazines and newspapers do pay people to write reviews, and they do charge for ads on their pages. The difference is in the quality: no ads or reviews are unrelated to the main niche on magazines and newspapers, they are quality contents and their writers work hard to make them appealing to readers, hence every citation (or backlink in the Web version of the world) is fairly, righteously in place.
Web is no different than a huge, interconnected magazine. That is the theory, though. In the practice, people tend to make it look very, very different; dishonest. The key to bring SEO results to their old days of glory lies in webmasters’ honest intentions, hard work and genuine relationships.
The Web is made of human beings, not spiders
The metaphor suits the current situation on the Web. Many SEOs and webmasters have turned their complete attention to search engines over the years, often overlooking important factors like readability, accessibility, pertinence, and applying linking techniques that were overboarding with spam. Google, Yahoo!, Bing are not mere automatized algorithms: there are teams of people behind them, who strive to make their search results optimized for users who are looking for relevant information. They hate dishonest attempts from webmasters to take advantage of their search engine power. Google made this position even more clear with the implementation of the Panda algorithm update: websites that are stuffed with keywords lack readibility, navigation links in weird (but strategic) position
The message is clear: the Web is for human beings, not spiders. Search engines are made for human beings to look for information. Websites and blogs are made by human beings to get in touch with other human beings, to provide information, advice or entertainment. The sooner webmasters and SEOs return to these simple truths, the better their efforts will pay off on the next updates.
Build relationships, not link exchanges
Google expressely banned link exchanges on 2009. The reason is simple: link exchanges do not provide information, nor entertainment, nor relevancy on a website, they don’t shed a light on relationships. They exist for the mere search engine influence, which is not user friendly and it’s clearly spammy in nature.
Is reciprocal linking that bad then? Will it lead to penalization?
The answer is ‘no‘. Google did not ban reciprocal linking, it banned ‘excessive’ reciprocal linking, link exchange systems and link farms.
Reciprocal linking is completely acceptable, indeed, when its done out of genuine purposes, to underline an existing partnership, friendship, business or personal relationship.
Having a sidebar blogroll with links to family members and work colleagues is by no means penalizable. This is natural, it is positive, genuine, honest. Having your family members and work colleagues linking back because they are happily willing to is just as genuine.
In the end, you should not seek reciprocal linking as a SEO technique to increase your backlink count, but to build relationships instead. An optimal way to do this is by having a ‘partnership’ page on your blog or website stating that you’re willing to reciprocate for links given by loyal reader you often entertain conversations with, by online friends you get in touch with often, by work colleagues and business partners you get along with. You may also link them on your own and tell them you linked them because you appreciate them.
Backlinks will be a happy, heartfelt consequence.
On forum posting, blog commenting and social networking
Honesty pays off everywhere, not just on reciprocal linking and content writing. Forum posting, blog commenting and social networking are other, highly exploited methods to acquire backlinks that are turning into penalization bombs already. Here I wish to give suggestions to change your perspectives, from an all-backlinks only viewpoint to a relationships-first-backlinks-after one.
Forum Posting. When you join a forum, either it provides dofollow or nofollow backlinks, keep in mind the reason that led you to join a forum: did the main topics catch your attention? Does it provide entertaining discussions you’d love to take part into? As you get your account approved, start building relationships already, by submitting relevant, insightful threads, replies and private messages to users in need. Make friends when you feel you have a chance, enjoy the feeling of being part in a community, of relating to other human beings. That is what forums were created for. Once you are fully a part of the community, backlinks will be a natural consequence, but you did not look for them.
Blog Commenting. As with forum posting, commentins on blogs should only be placed when you feel you have something relevant to say. If then you know the blog owner already, blog commenting will also turn into an effective way to keep in touch and provide feedback to your interlocutor. Also, don’t refrain from commenting only because the blog you’re reading applies a
rel=nofollow to comment links: a blog post is worth an insightful comment for its content and the effort the blog owner put into it, not for the backlinks it provides. Human beings before backlinks. Besides, Google made it clear that a natural backlink profile must include all types of links, so what do you have to loose? All to gain, indeed.
Social Networking. Most social networks provide nofollow backlinks only, that’s known. However, in order to gain at least some traffic, most webmaster stuff their activity walls with a lot of links and never get in touch with their followers, let alone with people they choose to follow, perhaps to earn a follow back. This is the wrongest, most dishonest approach to social network usage. Remember, human relationships come first: follow people you admire or know personally and get in touch with them, by leaving messages, replies, likes or rewtweets. Then you may venture to other accounts with similar interests to yours and follow them too. It’s good if you message these accounts owners stating the reasons you are following them for, and start a conversation of similar interests. With time, your relationships will pay off in terms of ranking and backlinks on search engines, but they will especially pay off in terms of relationships and trust. This is how credibility works.
Last but not least, keep this simple truth in mind: the Web is an extension of our daily life, with its personal, business and entertainment related activities. Enjoy it, live it, do your best and build human relationships: search engine results will come in on their own, and will reward you for your genuine approach.