For years, backlinking was a “secret sauce” of SEO that wasn’t so secret. Sites wishing to rank simply made pages filled to the brim with spammy backlinks to their main site. When social-based “web 2.0” emerged starting around 2005, this tactic persisted under a new MO, this time taking the form of socially-based backlinking pages rather than custom-hosted ones.
Google caught on to the fact that people were boosting the ranking for their sites in ways that were hurting the average search user experience. Now, any site suspected of using such tactics will have their ranking penalized, heavily.
Yet, web 2.0 links still work when done right. Some forms should outright be considered mandatory, while others require a lot of effort to be seen as legitimate. In short, the web 2.0 linking game got a lot more strategic, with risk/reward dynamics affected by how much effort you are willing to put in.
So, to help you take advantage of backlink strategies in the post-2.0 era without getting smacked on the wrist by Google, here is our guide to the best strategies and the best web 2.0 sites for backlinks:
First: A Fair Warning
Just in case we did not stress it enough in the intro: reckless, excessive backlinking is a bad SEO strategy in 2016. A “magic backlinking bullet” no longer exists since every single piece of content must offer some value to page visitors. Yet, there are still plenty of sites out there promising you “150,000 backlinks from quality sites for just a few dollars a month!” Beware of giving them your hard-earned money because the products they’re hawking are more likely to hurt than to help.
If Google suspects your site of using gray-hat tactics to benefit from web 2.0 links without adding value, they will penalize you. As such, this practice should be seen as part of a balanced SEO strategy and it should only be engaged in as far as you are willing to put in the effort.
To make the process easier, this guide will outline the tasks that every site should perform first, then move on to the more involved, long-term strategies next.
1. Complete Your Profiles on the Major Sites
Your first step is to give your company a social presence on as many relevant web 2.0 sites as possible. This step will help guide people to more resources on your offerings while providing a more comprehensive and therefore authoritative footprint online.
At the very least, every company should complete the following:
- A Google My Business page
- A Facebook page
- A LinkedIn profile
- A Twitter account
- Your Yelp profile
- Confirm Alexa page link
- A TripAdvisor page (if you run a B2C business with a brick-and-mortar component)
Add in relevant information and definitely provide a link to your home page or an appropriate landing page. Include over 100 words on what your business does and what sets it apart from others.
Make a point to post on Facebook and Twitter at least twice a week and LinkedIn at least once every other week for two to three months. These early posts give a nice starting foundation to your social presence so that visitors (and search index spiders) see more than just a blank page.
Also, strongly consider starting a blog within your main domain or with a similar URL to your main domain. The content you publish here can greatly boost your ranking given proper keyword use — far more than excess backlinking — and it can also give your social profiles something to publish on a regular basis.
Now, none of these tactics are web 2.0 link building proper but they do anchor your company name and any niche keywords immediately associated with it to your home site or preferred landing page. You generally shouldn’t bother with web 2.0 link building until your company has a branded social presence.
2. Spread Your Footprint with Branded Persona Profiles
Once you have a social presence with branded profiles on all the top web 2.0 services like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, you can begin to establish a separate identity from your brand proper.
The simplest way to accomplish this is to create a new profile on community sites like Quora, LinkedIn Groups and other, similar forums related to your niche. Making a Disqus profile to comment on content is also a good idea.
These new personal profiles should disclose the connection to your company but they should ideally be represented by your real name to add to the perception of legitimacy. However, they should not share an email address with your site domain or the same email used to register Google products like Analytics and AdWords. You want the connection to be tangible but not obvious to Google. Otherwise, you may get penalized.
Once you have accounts set up, include profile links back to your main site on the “About” section. You can anchor these links to keyword text, but do not do this more than twice every 200 words. Always try to strike a balance between self-promotion and subtlety to avoid penalties.
Then, go answer questions! Find out ways to help people on Quora and in forums.
You can also contribute your own two cents to trending blog posts related to your niche. Say something thoughtful — not just “Good info! Thanks for the post!” — then say something along the lines of “Jane Doe works for XYZ Company that specializes in these services, which can be found here.” with a link to your landing page.
So, to recap, this step involves answering questions as a face of your business but with a somewhat separate identity. Think of the difference between a McDonald’s franchise owner offering recipes and a McDonald’s official page recommending their low-priced combos; one helps, the other sells. Be the first one.
3. Create Community Pages with Loose Branding Connections
After completing the first two steps and dedicating the needed time to them, you can branch out your online presence with pages that appear like third-party entities but are actually affiliated with your site. This is the traditional face of web 2.0 backlinking and it is also the most tricky. You absolutely have to restrain yourself from outright selling, going overboard with keyword density or offering empty posts with no value.
Instead, you should genuinely be inserting yourself in a community with interesting content that occasionally links back to your site and occasionally promotes your services. Think no more than five links a week for the former and two blatant promotion posts a month for the latter.
The easiest sites to get set up with are:
- Tumblr blogs
- Facebook fan pages
- Secondary, unbranded Twitter handles
- WordPress blogs
- Blogspot blogs
- Youtube pages
- Instagram accounts
So what type of content are you posting? Something your customer audience would be interested in! As an example, Joe’s Tucson Pool Place could post images of the best-looking pools on Tumblr then blog about pool maintenance tips on WordPress. A business coach type could post about effective practices or even client horror stories.
Look at Clients from Hell for an excellent example of the latter in addition to stellar examples of how to sell with restraint. Rob Dahm’s Youtube page is another perfect example of “branded” content that only occasionally sells or talks about his business. He sells services as a business coach but his page is filled with interesting videos about exotic cars, something practically guaranteed to pull in strong traffic.
Within every third-party-esque profile you build, include profile links to your site or within anchor text to an appropriate landing page. As long as you consistently offer interesting, relevant content to your audience, you are much less likely to get penalized for admitting your affiliation. In the case of Clients from Hell and Rob Dahm’s page, no one even cares because the content is so good by itself.
4. Web 2.0 Linking Practices to Be Careful With or Avoid Entirely
Despite the previous warnings about Google’s tendency to penalize sites, many so-called “SEO Gurus” will still recommend grey-hat practices that will get your site in trouble. Others recommend practices that have high risk and little chance of reward that could really only benefit a few select niches.
- Create a Wikipedia page — A terrible idea for most small and medium businesses since the Wikipedia community will likely delete a page for a company few people have heard of. On the other hand, if you want to create a new page for a local or niche interest and casually mention your company along with a link, that could potentially be OK. For instance, a vehicle restorer can create or improve on pages for classic car shows near their area. Note that Wikipedia links are “NoFollow” and not indexed directly.
- Creating several WordPress or social media accounts at once — Less is more in the era of Google Panda and Pigeon. Don’t bite off more than you can chew by starting several sites at once. One high-quality site will provide more ranking juice than 20 poorly-made ones.
- Paying for others to boost your web 2.0 links or profile links — Just don’t do this one. You are more likely to hurt your ranking than help it while paying for the displeasure.
Conclusion: Stay Balanced
If you noticed three common threads through this guide, they were likely:
- Post something interesting or don’t post at all
- Sell with restraint
- Use web 2.0 links and profile links in balance with other SEO tactics
We hope we hammered them home enough to make a difference and encourage you to participate in communities as a quality member, not just a parasitic link-builder. Do everything right and your site should benefit. Good luck!