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June 15, 2010

Blogging for Money: Are Backlinks the New Keywords?

You aren’t crazy; search engine optimization keeps getting more and more complicated. Remember the easy days when you could just use meta-tags for your keywords? As with everything, a few bad apples had to use popular but unrelated keywords to drive traffic to their site and ruined it for the rest of us. Search engines – in particular Google, are now focusing on the relationships between websites and the easiest way to calculate this is with backlinks.

Backlinks are links on other websites to your website. This includes a link to your blog in your signature line as a comment on a forum, links on traditional social media sites or any other website out there. Backlinks work like real estate in that most of the value resides in the location. A backlink on a highly reputable website with content related to yours is rated higher by search engines than a link on another personal blog with few readers, for example.

Backlinks serve two purposes, firstly to derive more traffic from the referring website and secondly, and perhaps, more importantly to increase your rankings for your targeted keywords in search engines, in particular, Google.

There are a few rules when it comes to developing valuable backlinks:

  • Make sure the anchor text is a keyword you are competing for with your blog. This is a prime reason why your domain name should include your number one keyword phrase, so even if someone posts just a long URL, you get some keyword credit.
  • Backlinks in article directories are good for increasing traffic to your site, but most search engines do not value them very highly. Search engines also can’t “see” your backlink in an URL shortened form (like Twitter) or on any site with a “No follow” designation for links.
  • Swapping backlinks is appropriate networking with other blog owners or colleagues, but mass backlink swaps with money and no personal contact or connection to the site owners is a no-no. These sites get blacklisted by search engines almost as fast as the owners spend your cash, leaving you with nothing in return.
  • Be selective in where you include your blog’s backlink, especially if you have personal and professional information out on the Internet. For example, if your blog is about financial advice, and you are part of a gun enthusiast forum, placing your backlink on the gun enthusiast forum could confuse the search engines. You can’t control other people placing your backlink in obscure locations, but you don’t need to water down your own blog marketing focus.
  • The most beneficial backlinks are placed in locations that will bring in traffic. By making sure the primary goal of your backlink is to bring in qualified traffic– people likely interested in reading your blog’s content– the search engine optimization will come more naturally. Also, this will decrease your bounce rate and make your focused advertising appealing to your reader.
  • In general, keyword anchor backlinks on trusted websites, i.e. those with a higher page-rank will have more influence on your SERPs than the same keyword anchored backlink on a page with a lower page-rank
  • If you want to increase your SERP position for a given keyword quantity (different websites) and quality (page-rank) of keyword anchored back-links matters.
  • If a website has written about your competitors products/service, they may be interested in writing about your product/services – inform them and ask them to write about it.

Backlinks are currently the darlings of search engines, and the algorithms are computing website “relationships” with them. However, if your blog is meant to bring in an income, qualified traffic is your number one concern. A backlink is just the transport a reader uses to get to your blog, but you can make it appealing with keyword anchor text and place it prominently where your intended reader hangs out in the virtual world. Do these things and the search engines will take notice.

Elizabeth Ann West, Elizabeth writes for the Facebook Messenger application Chit Chat for Facebook. Chit Chat for Facebook supports Facebook Chat History, text formatting and Facebook Chat Emoticons