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Why You Should Incorporate Link Diversity in your SEO

by | Backlinks, 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
  • Backlinks you can use to diversify your link profile and facilitate ranking in search engines

Let’s get into it.

Algorithms, Patterns, and Randomness

Search engines have a difficult task ahead of them – to take the search query of a user and provide them with the most relevant search results possible out of the entire indexed internet (i.e. Google’s index)

To make things more difficult for search engines, the SEO industry is trying to trick the algorithm in order to gain advantages for itself and its clients. Because of this, search engines have built in counter-measures to detect and eliminate any foul play by manipulators.

As time goes on, these counter measures have become more advanced and efficient. Entire SEO agencies vanish after big algorithmic updates leave them unable to adapt to Google’s new playing field, and some link building tactics that once were commonplace are now sure to land you the much feared Google webmaster penalties.

We can and should expect these policing patterns to continue into the future.

When it comes to link diversity and backlinks, some SEO professionals 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 Google algorithms are constantly changing (Google releases updates several times a year). Even if you think you’ve got things working well according to a certain ratio or idea one day, you could lose everything you’ve worked for in the next by falling into a predictable pattern.

Natural sites end up having a backlink profile that is much more random. Our analysis from working with and looking at more sites than we can count tells us that the best way to deal with the Google algorithm is to use randomness and diversity as a shield. This concept of diversity applies to your entire SEO strategy and not just in terms of link profile diversity (e.g. backlinks, anchor text, content, keywords, pages, domains).

What is Link Diversity?

Link diversity is the strategy of using different types of backlinks in order to leave a completely random footprint that the Google algorithms are not able to track and therefore not able to penalize. Link 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 backlinks without link diversity is a gamble that’s usually not worth taking.

When you look at a massive site like Amazon, you will notice that it has a diverse range of completely random backlinks. Its link profile is composed of backlinks from a huge variety of sources, locations on the linking pages, power levels, ages, types of sites, quality of sites, anchor text, and so on.

As another example, take a site that is only using PBN backlinks. Every link is a contextual homepage link on a blog. Without any link diversity, it is extremely easy to see that a site like this is building links in a manipulative fashion, and it’s easy to see for Google’s algorithm as well.

It is still possible to rank sites with nothing but PBN links, or nothing but guest posts, but that does not make it one of the SEO industry’s best practices. When you are building links for client sites or any website that you want to stand the test of time, you are going to want to protect with a diverse link profile.

Now, let’s get into the different types of backlinks you can use to both rank and stay safe.

Pillow Links

Pillow links include a variety of white-hat links that act as padding or insulation for your site rather than providing raw ranking power. They are excellent for establishing a diverse link profile during the early stages of a website.

Some SEOs only use this type of link 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 backlinks throughout their lifespan.

Pillow links won’t usually rank a site by themselves unless the site is in a very low-competition niche, but having some is equally as necessary for building link diversity as getting the more powerful link types.

We aren’t going to cover every type of pillow link here (there is a diverse range!), 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.

Some of the best pillow links to include in your foundational link building strategy are a follows:

Web 2.0s

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.”

A few examples are BlogspotWix, and Weebly – check out our full list here.

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 backlinks can become more than just pillow links, however, when you power them up with a link 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 a very easy way to get backlinks for local SEO purposes.

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 a URL for linking to your target site / business , thus earning a useful and natural 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 backlinks linking 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 should not link out more than what would be natural for your business to receive
  • 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 quality blog comments and forum posts in this article.

Social and Forum Profiles

Another form of pillow link is obtained by creating profiles on a social networking website or forum that allows you to include a backlink in your information profile section. 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.

It can also be a good idea to use your best social profiles as tier-2 link targets with cheaper PBN linksniche edits, or other pillow links.

Q&A Links

Q&A links are are a type of backlink that come from posts on question and answer sites such as Quora and Yahoo Answers.

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 in a natural way. Because of this additional benefit, it’s even more crucial that you try to provide as much value as possible.

Press Releases

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 news 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 anchor text. When in doubt, ask yourself if you are using the press release in a natural way to convey meaningful news about your business.

Because your press releases 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

Audiovideo, and slideshow links come from websites that allow you to upload content on their platform such as YoutubeLastFm, and Fliphtml5.

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 perform an analysis of slideshows… yet. So get some passable content and include your do-follow links in the descriptions.

Social Bookmarking Sites

Social bookmarking is using a social site’s features to save things for you to look at later. Examples of sites with these features are TwitterDiggReddit, and StumbleUpon.

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 implement this type of link into our backlink profile as heavily now, but they still make great pillow links for those looking for additional ways to diversify their link profiles. Check out our top social bookmarking sites.

To summarize, pillow links represent a variety of quality, foundational backlinks which are used to establish, insulate, and protect a website. They are natural and easy to acquire.

In contrast to pillow links, are what we like to call authority links. These are more complex and powerful backlinks, which are also used for link diversity, but primarily for ranking pages in the Google SERPs. Let us go over some of our favorites:

The Three Kings

These are the most popular and most powerful tools for ranking websites in the Google SERPs right now. Almost every site we rank uses a combination of the following three types of high-quality links to push them into top positions in the SERPs (and build domain authority).

However, each of them has a distinct footprint that can become a detectable pattern to Google search engine crawlers if used too heavily without maintaining link diversity. They also each have their own unique advantages and disadvantages, so using all three makes sense for more than just creating a diverse backlink profile.

Guest Posts

Guest posts are probably the most popular form of “power link” to rank sites these days. This is because these quality links are embraced by white, grey, and black hat SEOs alike (and are sought after by many high domain authority websites).

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. Guest posts can be purchased or created through manual outreach. The latter may involve you actually writing the article yourself, in which case you get total control over the content, keyword density, etc.

If you are trying to get guest posts on your own, see our articles on finding guest post opportunities and guest post footprints for more information.

Guest posts are great because they are:

  • Niche-relevant
  • Contextual
  • Natural
  • Available to get on very powerful, high domain authority sites

The downsides to guest posts are:

  • They can be expensive
  • They can take a lot of time to get if trying to acquire manually
  • Your article page will have zero preexisting backlinks (high authority, low power)

Let’s see how they compare to the other two.

Niche Edits

A niche edit is a contextual backlink that’s dropped into a niche-relevant, preexisting article. These articles are aged (i.e. the content pages have been indexed by Google search engine). As a result, the content page usually has a “preexisting” backlink profile that will immediately confer benefits to your link.

Niche edits can use branded, generic, or URL anchor texts. Ideally, they should be contextually inserted into quality content that is related to your target niche.

Niche Edits are extremely similar to guest posts minus a few key differences.

Both types of links are:

  • Inserted into articles on inner-pages
  • Placed on niche-relevant domains
  • Natural
  • Contextual
  • Available to get on powerful websites

Niche edits differ from guest posts in that:

  • Your links are edited into preexisting articles
  • The article pages may have preexisting backlinks
  • They are cheaper than guest posts
  • You have less control over the article

From a diversification standpoint, the big differences between guest posts and niche edits are page age and the page’s preexisting backlinks.

The downside to niche edits in comparison to guest posts is that you have little or no control over the surrounding content and keyword density of the article your link is dropped into. The linking pages have already been created and it will take extra work or negotiation with the site owner to have the pages modified. The main elements of a niche edit that you have total control over is the anchor text and URL.

Niche edits and guest posts are powerful backlinks with their own unique strengths. The decision to use one or the other will depend on your situation and link diversity strategy. It is almost always a smart idea to diversify your link building effort with both types of links to get the best overall results.

Moreover, we find that these two types of high-quality backlinks tend to compliment each other quite nicely during a link building campaign, although we tend to use niche edits a little heavier recently due to their cheaper price point. Cheap and powerful are two words any SEO would like to hear in a sentence.

PBN Links

PBNs links are completely different from guest posts and niche edits. They are one of the most stigmatized marketing 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 SEO industry, PBN links 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. They give you a lot of control over how and where they are placed. For example, you can modify the anchor texts for PBN links on any of the pages that point to your target websites (if you own the PBN). You can write the contextual content in which the links will be placed, using just the right amount of keywords or keyword density that you need.

Out of the three, PBN links are the most unnatural to get – it is just not natural to get a large amount of high-powered homepage links to your site. Unless you are using a PBN building service (that specializes in setting up high-powered PBN domains), they also take a lot more “SEO know-how” to create properly and stay safe. It is too risky to get involved with low-quality PBNs that are at risk of de-indexation by Google at any time.

PBN links should not be expected to contribute to link diversity per se. They are very specific tools used for sending power to another website such as a money site. So when using a PBN link, it is more important than ever to keep your link profiles diversified. These links are generally not recommended for beginners unless taking the proper precautions (see our PBN Checklist).

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

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.

Read more: What are Social Signals?

Reviews

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

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.

No-Follow Links

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 (especially your authority links). 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

Anchor text, or the text that you click when you click a link (sometimes containing a target keyword), is deserving of its own article.

However, we will quickly mention that you should be diversifying your anchor text as well as your link profile. In other words, anchor text diversification is a legitimate strategy. Don’t repeatedly use the same exact-match anchor text over and over. Use variations of your keywords in your anchor text, including long and medium tail keywords as well.

Also be sure to be getting a healthy mix of nakedbranded, and generic anchor text. Real sites get these, and so should your site.

Conclusion

As the Google algorithms continue to get better at detecting when digital marketing gurus and search engine manipulators are trying to trick it, our SEO backlink diversity strategies must evolve as well. Link diversity is a shield of randomness that prevents the algorithms from detecting unnatural patterns which can lead to harmful website penalization.

Throughout this link diversity guide, we have gone over a diverse range of  useful SEO backlinks that will keep your link profile looking natural and blend in.  Backlink diversity is important for SEO.

So mix things up, use the idea you have learned today, treat all domains 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

Chris Tzitzis

Co-Founder

Chris Tzitzis is an SEO and a Co-Founder of SirLinksalot.co. He has extensive experience with Affiliate SEO and running an SEO Agency.

Chris Tzitzis

Chris Tzitzis

Co-Founder

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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2 Comments

  1. Ronnie Hokanson

    That was an amazing read!!! Completely agree on all accounts.

    I absolutely LOVE the “car analogy” (link diversity as the “oil”, off-page SEO as the “engine”, etc) I’d never heard that one before 🙂

    I am also a fan of your reference to “Pillow Sites” – I always called them “Buffer sites” but I like yours better.. There have been Too many times (well a couple times, but that’s too many), I’ve had to explain to a client when describing a foundational SEO strategy for their site that “I’m creating some Buffer sites, no this will not involve the Social Media Management tool “Buffer”)… lol

    Only things I saw missing that I always employ:

    Cloud Backlinks (such as High DA and PA Do follows on Azure, IBM, GCP,, AWS and Netlify Cloud with a hq article and contextual backlniks with optimized anchor texts – I’m talkin DA 90-99 PA 55+ Do-Follow!)

    Google Entity Stacking

    Domain Authority Stacking

    Will definitely be reading your blog more often!

    Reply
  2. Maurice

    Never heard of Web 2.0! I love all of your ideas. I have so much left to learn but I feel like if I implement these things, especially link diversity, I will come out ahead.

    Reply

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