Link Diversity – The Secret to Ranking Consistently
You’ve more than likely seen the words “link diversity” thrown around along with at least one person yelling at the top of their lungs that they just ranked a site in a hyper competitive niche with nothing but PBNs and a little elbow grease.
Regardless of what a few SEOs still clinging to methods of the past might think, link diversity appears to only be getting more important over time.
But what is it? Why does it matter for SEO? How can you do it?
By the end of this article, you will learn all of that as well as how to rank consistently and sustainably now and into the future – regardless of algorithm updates.
Table of Contents
3.1.1 Web 2.0s
3.1.2 Citations and Directories
3.1.3 Blog and Forum Comments
3.1.4 Social and Forum Profiles
3.1.6 Press Releases
3.1.7 Audio and Video
3.1.9 Social Bookmarks
Man vs Machine
Before we jump into link diversity, it’s important to first talk about the nature of Google and other search engines.
These ‘machines’ have a daunting task ahead of them – to take the query of a user and to then provide them with the most relevant answers (results) as possible.
And to make matters worse, they’ve got a bunch of SEOs trying to game the system to their advantage.
Because of this, search engine developers have had to build counter-measures into the algorithms to detect and, theoretically, eliminate those who seek to violate their Terms of Service for their own benefit.
As time goes on, these counter measures have become more and more advanced and efficient.
Entire SEO agencies vanish after big Google updates leave them unable to adapt to the new playing field. Spammy SEO tactics from a few years ago are mostly invalid today.
We can and should expect that this trend will continue into the future.
Many SEOs take a very mathematical approach to their work and swear they have the exact numbers figured out to keep themselves safe and ranking well.
We take a different approach in that we don’t use any kind of set percentages or pretend that we know every factor Google is using to rank sites and identify those breaking the rules.
We don’t think anyone does.
The algorithm is constantly changing, and if you’ve got things working well according to a certain percentn or ratio one month, your site might tank and lose all your rankings the next month.
Natural sites end up having backlink portfolios that are much more random.
It’s for this reason that we’ve found the best way to deal with the algorithm, both now and into the future, is to use randomness as a shield that lets us hide in plain sight.
What is Link Diversity?
Link diversity is using randomness as a shield.
More specifically, 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.
Besides protecting your sites from penalties, it also facilitates the ranking process and prevents any roadblocks or plateaus along the way to the top.
One way to think about this is the “car analogy” for SEO.
The wheels are on-page, the engine is off-page. Backlinks are the gas flowing into the engine, and link diversity is the oil.
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, and be in for some costly repairs.
When you look at a site like Amazon or any other big site, you’ll very quickly notice that their links are coming from all over the place.
They are completely random – coming from a huge variety of sources, locations on the page, power levels, age, types of sites, quality of sites, and so on.
You know what’s very easy to trace and not random at all? A site with almost all contextual homepage links.
You might be able to sneak away with ranking a few sites with nothing but PBNs, but that definitely doesn’t make it the industry best-practice.
When you are working with sites that you want to stand the test of time, client sites, or any expensive project, you are going to want to protect the site with link diversity.
The goal here is to have your backlink profile look more white-hat than a white-hat SEO’s site.
Can you rank a site with 1 kind of link? Absolutely.
Do we recommend it? Of course not.
Types of Links for SEO
For the rest of this article, we will be discussing different types of links, their uses, and potential footprints.
Of course – there’s nothing better than a free link that arises from someone linking to your site naturally. But that is not the focus of this article.
We aim to put ranking power in your hands, and thus we do not follow the “build content and wait” approach to SEO.
If those links pop up at some point – great.
But we don’t ever count on them for results.
Pillow links act like padding or insulation for your site rather than providing raw ranking power.
You should be pillowing throughout the ranking process to maintain diversity.
Having some of these types of links is equally as necessary as the more powerful links in the ranking process to keep your link portfolio diverse, natural, and safe from the big bad algorithm.
Pillow links usually will not rank your site by themselves unless you’re in a very easy niche, but they still play a crucial role for link building.
We aren’t going to be able to cover every other type of pillow link here (there are a ton). These are the most used and talked about pillow links currently and probably will be for some time to come.
Most of these links are quite different from one another which makes them perfect for simulating the actual randomness in backlinks that legit sites accumulate.
You will be able to build most of these types of links on your own and many times for free. If you are looking to save time and hassle, many of them can also be found in our pillow link and diversity link packs.
The actual definition of what a Web 2.0 property is varies from what the SEO definition of a Web 2.0 property is. For our purposes, Web 2.0s are essentially platforms that allow you to create your own mini websites for whatever reason you may have.
To get a list of these sites, you can Google “High DA Web 2.0s.”
Some Web 2.0s provide do-follow links, while others do not. You can find more information on all of these sites and which are the best for SEO quite easily.
Creating a Web 2.0 with some content related to your site and linking back to your site makes a great pillow link due to it’s high DA.
It can become more than a pillow link, however, when you power it up with other links such as PBNs. After powering it up, it will have trust AND power.
We go more in-depth about building Web 2.0s in our article about getting free backlinks.
Citations and Directories
Citations and niche directories are both very common ways to earn links early on after a new website has been created (for both local and affiliate sites).
But that doesn’t mean you have to stop there.
Directories and citations are both created by inputting your business’ information into a website that accumulates, stores, and catalogues these listings for people looking for services.
Citations are basically the same as a directory listing that also allows the user to list their NAP (name, address, and phone number). Both give you the option to add your website, thus earning a backlink.
Citations usually add location relevance to the website being linked to, and niche directories add niche relevance (sometimes niche and location relevance if you can find it).
For example, you might find a directory for just Houston plumbing companies.
This would add both location (Houston) and niche (plumbing) relevance. A general plumbing directory would add only niche relevance (which is still great).
Blog Comments and Forum Posts
Both blog comments and forum posts that contain a link back to your website used to be used a lot more for SEO purposes, but they can still do some good work for your rankings.
They should not be used in a spammy way.
We mean this in three different ways:
- You shouldn’t be doing a ton of them
- Your comments should be legitimate
- You shouldn’t abuse anchor text and URL opportunities (more on this in the anchor text section of this article).
Some argue that these types of links are completely unnatural. We absolutely disagree.
It’s very normal for a business to be talked about in relevant blogs and forums both by the owner or happy customers, and Google knows this.
Be sure to keep your comments and posts informational! This will help the link by giving it context as well as giving it a higher chance of not being deleted due to appearing spammy.
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 a profile on a social networking site or forum that allows you to drop a link to your site within your profile.
A perfect example of this would be Facebook. When you create a Facebook business page, you are given the option to include your business’ website URL.
It’s very common for a new site to grab a bunch of these to prepare for their online presence in the future.
A lot of these links will be no-follow, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t useful. Without going deep into it, nofollow links still do very good things for SEO as well as help diversify your link profile.
It’s virtually impossible to overdo it with creating this type of link. So go ahead and knock yourself out. You’ll want to stop at some point, though, considering they aren’t super powerful and will generally not rank your site by themselves.
The better ones also make great tier 2 targets for stronger links like PBNs or Niche Edits.
You can think of these links much the same way you think about forum posts and blog comments.
You definitely don’t want to overdo it with any of them.
Always provide good answers with lots of value for the reader. We never advise to link to your site in a spammy way – always link in a way that appears natural and helpful for other users visiting the site.
You could potentially generate traffic to your site from this method as well, so really be sure to put some time and effort into your answers.
Press releases are the submission of a newsworthy article to a service that then distributes the article for posting on a large network of news sites. You include a link back to your site within the article.
Like many other things, press releases were also used and abused in the past. Spamming them won’t do you any good these days, but you can still get some good use out of them for pillow links.
It’s very normal and natural for businesses to use press releases to let the public know things about their business, so they aren’t going anywhere soon.
We advise that most people just use naked, branded, or generic anchor text when doing press releases. You don’t want to blow up your anchor text ratio with a bunch of exact match anchors with these things.
We’ll talk more about anchor text near the end of this article.
Audio and Video
Links from these types of sources seem to carry a good amount of trust, most likely due to the fact that creating this type of content takes more effort and and gives an air of legitimacy.
Social bookmarking is using a social site’s features in a way that let’s you go back and view sites you’ve added easily at a later time.
Heavily spammed in the past for SEO purposes, social bookmark links don’t carry much weight any more.
They still do make great pillow links, though. We’ve also used them from time to time as a way to get pages or sites indexed.
The Big Three
These are the biggest, most powerful tools for ranking right now.
Almost every site we rank uses a combination of these three types of links to give them the power they need to achieve top positions in the SERPs.
Each has their own footprints, advantages, and disadvantages.
Guest posts are probably the most popular form of ‘power link’ today.
You can pay a provider to have them done or do manual link outreach yourself.
Guest posts are newly written articles with a link back to your site posted on ‘normal’ websites.
They are much safer and easier to use than PBN links for someone who doesn’t really know what they are doing yet.
There are many cheap and spammy guest post providers whose sites are very easy to discern as providing guest posts for money. We don’t recommend using these sites.
Not only should guest post sites look like a real site, they should BE a real site that serves a real purpose.
Guest posts don’t pass as much power as PBNs since the posts are generally on inner-pages without any links going to them yet, but they pass a lot more trust if they are from good sites.
Niche Edits are a newer, lesser-known type of link that is really rising in popularity recently.
They are very similar to guest posts and are also very safe to use.
The big difference between niche edits and guest posts is that niche edits are link placements into existing articles, while guest posts have a new article written.
So the big difference between the two is age and the fact that with niche edits, you don’t have to have a whole new article written.
If you get lucky, your niche edits may be placed on a page that already has some other links going to it as well.
Just like PBNs and guest posts, niche edit links are contextual.
Niche edits also tend to be the cheapest out of the ‘big three’ type of power links because there is no new article written or major work to be done. Your link is just edited into an existing article on a niche-relevant website.
PBNs are made from old domains that have been bought at auction because of their preexisting backlink profiles. They are repurposed into a linking tool by SEOs to pass on as much of that power as possible to the site you are trying to rank.
PBNs, hands down, provide the most power out of all these types of links.
However, that power comes with a price.
There are a lot of things to keep in mind if you are trying to build them yourself, and we don’t recommend trying to do so if you are new to SEO.
If you are buying PBN links, you will most likely have to test services based on trial and error until you find one that is good.
They can also end up costing more than other types of links as they are generally sold as rentals rather than permanent placements.
Links from PBNs are usually contextual (within a paragraph of text) and from the homepage of the site – this is part of the reason why they are able to pass so much power.
Having only a bunch of homepage links can really stick out like a sore thumb, though – homepage links are much less common to get. So make sure to be diversifying.
Now that we’ve covered most of the common types of links people are getting, there are a few other signals to consider that also help to blend in and look natural.
These aren’t the same as links, but they can be thought about and used in much the same way we use different types of links for diversification – things to help protect yourself from penalties and blend into the pack.
Social signals are both links and not links at the same time.
A social signal is when someone shares your site or page on social media with a link.
The fact that these links live within a social media site makes them pretty different from normal links. They aren’t counted with the same weight – in fact, they’re counted as much less.
And some people claim not at all (we definitely don’t agree with that, though).
Like with many other things we do for SEO, social signals help you to blend in because if your site is being linked to, it will also be talked about in social media. So while they don’t carry much weight, they help to blend in.
Reviews are not a link at all, but they appear to be pretty important in the ranking process.
They are a major trust signal that your business is legitimate and being used and talked about by customers.
When getting reviews, it’s very important to try to get your keywords in them if possible, as well as in your replies to the review.
But don’t be spammy! Remember that people will definitely be seeing these. They need to look and feel honest.
Traffic (users visiting your website) seems to be something that is gaining importance over time. We’ve seen sites gain position from traffic alone – even without having any backlinks.
Unfortunately, traffic is getting harder and harder to fake to the point that it’s not worth trying.
What you CAN do is ensure that you have enticing SEO titles and meta descriptions (more info on writing those here) along with good content.
This will help to ensure that users first click through to visit your site, and then stay there without leaving quickly (also known as increasing your click through rate (CTR) and decreasing your bouce rate).
Without going into too much detail, yes, no-follow links are good for SEO.
Regardless of what some people say about them not passing juicing, it’s been proven time and time again that no-follow links are still great for ranking.
Concerning backlink diversity, you should have a healthy mix of do-follow and no-follow links in your profile. Having a site with only a bunch of powerful do-follow links is a pretty big red flag.
Anchor text is the text that you see and click on when you click a link.
We aren’t going to go super in-depth on anchor text in this article, but it’s something you should be aware of that needs to be diversified as well as the types of backlinks you are getting.
You definitely do not want the majority of your links coming to your site to be exact match anchors. These are anchors like “Houston Plumber” that are an exact keyword you are trying to rank for.
Exact match anchors are pretty rare to come naturally.
The majority of your links should most likely have branded, generic, and URL anchors. Long tail anchors work great as well. Here are some examples:
Generic: Click Here
Long Tail: Visit SirLinksalot for the Best Deals on Backlinks Today!
And when you are doing your exact match anchors, be sure to not repeatedly hit the same one over and over.
You can diversify that as well. For example:
Plumber in Houston
Houston Plumbing Company
Plumbing Companies in Houston
Not only does doing this let you hit more keywords, but it also keeps you from sticking out and looking like you are trying to game the system.
Google knows what keywords are related to the main money keywords, so you should also be working in things like “pipe leak fix near Houston” as a way to hit additional keywords as well as build trust.
Again, you should be doing everything you can to appear natural.
Let’s take a look at this scenario:
You are going to comment on a blog post. Many blog posts allow you to enter your website that will then be clickable as a link from the name you enter as your name (non contextual link).
Many people game this by putting exact match anchor text as their name and then entering an inner-page for their URL.
Do you think a normal business owner would do something like using exact match anchor text as their name and then listing their website as an inner-page URL on a blog comment?
A normal business owner would use their name or their business’ name as their name and provide their homepage URL for their website. This is what you should be doing, too.
You should always be thinking, “Is this what a non-SEO would do?” When in doubt, you can go pull up legit sites and pages on ahrefs and check out their anchor text. Aim to be like them.
As the algorithm continues to improve upon weeding out those trying to trick it, everything is telling us that we need to be doing everything we can to appear natural.
Link Diversity is all about that – using a wide variety of links and embracing randomness to stay safe and get high rankings. While you might do very well ranking a site with one formula, you could still do very well using another formula on the next site.
All sites are different and so are their backlink profiles.
The average successful SEO is not a mathematician or evil genius. You don’t need to overcomplicate things – just do what normal people would do and what Google likes to see… random backlinks that appear in a natural way along with the intent to give the user exactly what they are searching for.
You’re gonna get tired of winning!
You hopefully now have some more insight into how Google works and how we can protect ourselves from penalties, both currently and moving forward into the future.
If you have comments or anything to add, enter 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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