Why You Should Incorporate Link Diversity in your SEO
If you’re reading this, you’ve more than likely seen “link diversity” or “diversify your link profile” in blog posts or within the community – along with people who say they still do just fine using nothing but PBNs and a little elbow grease.
Regardless of what a few naysayers might think, link diversity appears to only be getting more important as time moves forward and should be a part of every serious SEO’s link building strategy.
In this article, we will discuss:
- What backlink diversity is
- Why link diversity matters
- Link types you can use to diversify your link profile and facilitate ranking
Let’s get into it.
Algorithms, Patterns, and Randomness
Search engines have a difficult task ahead of them – to take the query of a user and provide them with the most relevant results possible out of the entire indexed internet.
To make things more difficult for them, the SEO industry is trying to trick the algorithms in order to gain advantages for themselves and their clients. Because of this, they have built counter-measures into the code to attempt to detect and eliminate any foul play and players.
As time goes on, these counter measures have become more advanced and efficient. Entire SEO agencies vanish after big algo updates leave them unable to adapt to the new playing field, and tactics that once were commonplace are now sure to land you penalties.
We can and should expect this trend to continue into the future.
When it comes to link diversity, some SEOs take a percentage-based approach to keep themselves safe and ranking well. We, however, don’t pretend to know any clear-cut limits that ensure your safety, and we don’t think anyone else does either.
The algorithm is constantly changing. Even if you think you’ve got things working well according to a certain ratio one day, you could lose everything you’ve worked for the next by falling into a predictable pattern.
Natural sites end up having backlink portfolios that are much more random. Our data from working with and analyzing more sites than we can count tells us that the best way to deal with the algorithm is to use randomness and diversity as a shield.
What is Link Diversity?
Link diversity is using a variety of different types of links in order to leave a completely random footprint that the algorithm is not able to track and therefore not able to penalize. Backlink diversity also facilitates the ranking process by preventing any roadblocks.
One way to think about this is the “car analogy” for SEO:
Wheels = On-page SEO
Engine = Off-page SEO
Gas = Backlinks and New Content
Oil = Link Diversity
You might be able to make it to your destination if you’re way past due for an oil change – or you might break down, do some major damage to your car, and be in for some costly repairs. Building links without link diversity is a gamble that’s usually not worth taking.
When you look at a site like Amazon, you’ll notice that their links are completely random. They come from a large variety of sources, locations on the linking pages, power levels, ages, types of sites, quality of sites, and so on.
As another example, take a site that’s only using PBNs. Every link is a contextual homepage link on a blog. It’s extremely easy to see that a site like this is manipulating links, and it’s easy to see for Google’s algorithm, too.
It’s still possible to rank sites with nothing but PBN links or nothing but guest posts, but that doesn’t make it the industry best-practice. When you are building links for client sites or any website you want to stand the test of time, you are going to want to protect the site with backlink diversity.
Now, let’s get into the different types of links you can use to both rank and stay safe.
Pillow links include a variety of types of links that act as padding or insulation for your site rather than providing raw ranking power.
Some SEOs only use these types of links during the foundational stages of link building, but they should be used throughout the ranking process to help maintain diversity and naturalness. Natural sites receive these types of links throughout their lifespan.
Pillow links won’t usually rank a site by themselves unless it’s in a very low-competition niche, but having some is equally as necessary as getting the more powerful link types.
We aren’t going to cover every type of pillow link here (there are a ton), but these are the most commonly used. Best of all, you will be able to build most of these types of links on your own – and in many cases for free.
Web 2.0s are essentially platforms that allow you to create your own mini websites to use as you wish. To get a list of these platforms, you can Google “High DA Web 2.0s” or “Do-follow Web 2.0s.”
Creating a Web 2.0 with some relevant content and linking back to your site makes a great pillow link because of the high authority of the domain as well as allowing you to create contextual backlinks with your choice of anchor texts.
These links can become more than just pillow links, however, when you power them up with links of their own (PBNs, niche edits, pillow links, etc). They increase in power more quickly due to the high authority of their root domain.
For more Web 2.0 information, check out our article on getting free backlinks.
Citations and Directories
Citations and niche directories are very common ways of earning links for both local and affiliate websites. You submit your business’s information to a website that accumulates, stores, and catalogues listings for people looking for specific services.
They are essentially the same except that citations allow users to list their NAP (name, address, and phone number). Both give you the option to add your website’s URL, thus earning a backlink.
Citations and directories make great pillow links because they are natural for real businesses to get, they can add location and niche relevance, and they are free (or cheap) and easy to get.
Blog Comments and Forum Posts
Blog comments and forum posts that contain links back to your website were once used a lot more heavily for SEO (a little too heavily).
These links are still great for pillowing, however please keep in mind:
- You shouldn’t do more than would be natural for your business to have
- Your posts/comments should be legitimate and helpful
- You shouldn’t abuse anchor text and URL opportunities (ex: using a exact match keyword as your name on a blog comment)
These make great pillow links because they add relevance, they are free to get, and it is natural for a business to be talked about as well as promoted in comment sections and forums.
Find out more about blog comments and forum posts in this article.
Social and Forum Profiles
Another form of pillow link is obtained by creating profiles on social networking sites and forums that allow you to include a link in your info. One example of this is Facebook. When you create a Facebook business page, you can include your website’s URL.
It’s very common for a new site to get a lot of these at once to prepare for their online presence in the future. It’s virtually impossible to overdo it with this type of link.
Social and forum profile links aren’t very powerful and many of them will be no-follow links. They are still excellent tools for diversification and driving relevance and trust to your site.
These links are functionally very similar to forum posts and blog comments, but they are from a different type of site that is often very well-known and trustworthy.
Just like forum posts and blog comments, you don’t want to overdo it with Q&A links. Also be sure you are providing quality answers and linking in non-spammy ways – failing to do so will greatly increase the chances of your answer being removed.
Q&A links have the potential to drive additional traffic to your site as well. Because of this additional benefit, it’s even more crucial that you try to provide as much value as possible.
Press releases are submissions of newsworthy articles to a service that distributes them to a large network of news sites. You include a link to your site within the article.
Like many other pillow links, press releases were also used and abused in the past. To keep safe, only use them every now and then and only use branded and naked anchors. When in doubt, ask yourself if you are using the press release in a natural way.
Because your press release will be distributed to a large amount of sites, it’s important to keep them as natural and non-spammy as possible.
We like to use press releases in conjunction with other types of links as a way to simulate internet buzz. You can read more on this in our article on blending links and allocating your budget.
Audio, Video, and Slideshow Links
Links from these types of sources carry a lot of trust because creating this amount of content takes time and effort. They are a quality signal to Google that your business is legitimate.
That being said, the content that you create doesn’t have to be high-quality. Google can’t watch videos, listen to audio, or analyze slideshows… yet. So get some passable content and include your links in the descriptions.
Social Bookmarking Sites
Heavily spammed in the past for SEO purposes, social bookmarking links don’t carry much weight now – much like most other forms of pillow links.
We don’t use this type of link much any more, but they still make good pillow links for those looking for additional ways to diversify their link profiles.
The Three Kings
These are the most popular and most powerful tools for ranking websites right now. Almost every site we rank uses a combination of the following three types of links to push them into top positions in the SERPs.
Each of them has a distinct footprint that can become a pattern if used too heavily without diversifying. They also each have their own advantages and disadvantages, so using all three makes sense for more than just backlink diversification.
Guest posts are probably the most popular form of “power link” today. This is because they are embraced by white, grey, and black hat SEOs alike.
Guest posts are newly written articles (no age or preexisting backlinks) on inner-pages of niche-relevant websites. The backlinks you get from guest posts are usually contextual.
If you are trying to get guest posts on your own, see our article on finding guest post opportunities for more information.
Guest posts are great because they are:
- Available to get on very powerful sites
The downsides to guest posts are:
- They can be expensive
- They can take a lot of time to get if doing yourself
- Your article will have zero preexisting backlinks (high authority, low power)
Let’s see how they compare to the other two.
Niche Edits are extremely similar to guest posts minus a few key differences.
They are both:
- In articles on inner-pages
- On niche-relevant websites
- Available to get on powerful websites
Niche edits differ from guest posts in that:
- Your links are edited into preexisting articles
- The articles may have preexisting backlinks
- They are cheaper
- You have less control over the article
From diversification standpoint, the big differences between guest posts and niche edits are page age and the page’s preexisting backlinks. We find that the two compliment each other nicely, though we tend to use niche edits a little heavier recently due to their cheaper price point.
PBNs links are completely different from guest posts and niche edits. They are one of the most stigmatized tools in SEO and are generally not as beginner friendly as the other two types of links.
Although they have a bad reputation with some in the community, they are the most powerful type of backlink available. They also can be completely safe when used properly and with diversification in mind.
PBN links are generally homepage links with a lot of preexisting backlinks to the URL. They are contextual and niche-relevant as well.
Out of the three, PBN links are the most unnatural to get – it’s just not natural to get a large amount of high-powered homepage links to your site. Unless you are using a PBN building service, they also take a lot more know-how to do properly and stay safe.
When using PBN links, it’s more important than ever to keep your backlink profile diversified. These links are generally not recommended for beginners.
Other Forms of Diversification
Now that we’ve covered most of the common types of links that are used to rank and diversify, there are a few other non-link factors you can consider that also help to blend in and appear natural.
Social signals are links that appear on social media sites. They are technically not counted the same as regular backlinks, but they do play a useful role.
Any business that is being linked to from normal websites will be linked to and talked about on social media as well. For this reason, we use social signals as social proof for our link building campaigns.
We don’t think social signals alone would be enough to rank anything, although they do appear to facilitate the process. For this reason, you can think of them purely as a diversification and blending tool.
Reviews aren’t links at all but are important for appearing natural. They are a major trust signal that your business is legitimate and being used and talked about by customers.
We use reviews much in the same way we use social signals – as social proof for our link building campaigns. Reviews can be harder to get, but they also have a more noticeable impact than social signals.
Traffic, or people visiting your website, is another factor to consider (however debatable as far as impact).
Whether bought or natural, traffic is yet another way to provide social proof for your link building campaigns. Sites that are being linked to should have people visiting them as well.
It’s natural for sites to get both no-follow and do-follow links. Real sites get a mixture of both.
In a perfect world, you’d want all of your links to be do-follow. But that’s just not the way it is. Having a backlink profile of 100% do-follow links is not normal and is something an algorithm can pick up on.
Anchor text, or the text that you click when you click a link, is deserving of its own article.
However, we’ll quickly mention that you should be diversifying your anchors as well as your links. Don’t repeatedly use the same exact-match anchor over and over. Use variations of your keywords and long tail keywords as well.
Also be sure to be getting a healthy mix of naked, branded, and generic anchors. Real sites get these, and so should your site.
As the algorithm continues to get better at detecting those trying to trick it, our strategies must evolve as well. Link diversity is a shield of randomness that prevents the algorithms from detecting patterns and penalizing websites.
Throughout this article, we’ve given you a plethora of different types of links to use to keep your link profile looking natural and blend in.
So mix things up, treat each site a bit differently, and even do things for no apparent reason from time to time. What can’t be tracked can’t be penalized.
If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below.
Chris Tzitzis is an SEO and a Co-Founder of SirLinksalot.co. He has extensive experience with Affiliate SEO and running an SEO Agency.
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