Ah, yes, backlinks, the often touted “secret” way to earn Internet riches from your VPN website.
A backlink is a link on a different website that points back to yours, whether your website’s home page or a specific post on your site.
If you Google around, you will find all kinds of “white hat” (good guy), “black hat” (bad guy) and “grey hat” (somewhere in-between) ways to generate backlinks to your blog.
Backlinks do help you rank better in search engine results, but the story is a lot more complicated. Plus, backlinking efforts can easily backfire and end up hurting your search engine rankings!
At the end of the day, backlinking is another area where I would repeat my golden rule: your limited time, energy, resources and efforts are better invested in developing regular, good content for your blog rather than feverishly pursuing backlinks.
All the above being said, here is my advice about backlinking.
Let Others Backlink For You
First, let others do it for you!
Note this is different from hiring others to help with your backlinking (discussed more below). Publishing good posts will itself lead to readers sharing your posts on other websites.
This will give you high-quality and natural backlinks in the process.
So instead of investing in black hat or grey hat backlinking methods, which can backfire anyway, just write good posts that people will want to share.
Pick the Low-Hanging Fruit Opportunities
Secondly, try to always be on the lookout for safe and easy backlinking opportunities that involve little time, effort or risk. These do exist.
For example, whenever you use an image (free or otherwise) see if the page for that image has a comments section. If so, add a message like "Great image! I just used it on my blog." and include a link to the post on your site that uses the image.
The Rewards Often Go to Who's First
Thirdly, when you see a VPN-related story or post that allows links in comments, get in there early! Being among the first to post a quality comment with a backlink to your website can pay big dividends.
Your comment may generate quality visitors. Even if it doesn’t, your comment will serve as a quality backlink helping your website’s “authority” and thus its ranking in search engine results.
Always make sure your comments add value and are not spammy.
But the key is always to ensure that your comment is of good quality, adds value and is not spammy.
Comments that are obviously solely promotional will not even make it past the approval stage or will soon be deleted by moderators or flagged as inappropriate by other commenters.
This will result in the comment being deleted and perhaps your linked account being banned from making future comments on that site.
You can push the limits on some sites more than others. For example, it seems YouTube lets almost anything goes these days whereas you will get ripped apart within minutes of posting anything on Reddit that smacks of self-promotion.
If the comments permit links, don’t always just add a link to your site. Instead, think about including it among links to other sites too, maybe even competitor sites (especially if they already rank well ahead of you).
This technique often helps the perceived credibility and helpfulness of your comment to the site’s readers and increases the chance of your comment passing moderation and being published.
Post Comments Using an Alias
In many cases, you will want to post comments with an account that is not obviously linked to your website.
When posting comments, don’t use an email address which includes your site’s domain name.
In fact, you may want to create one or more different alias accounts or use temporary disposable email accounts for posting comments.
However, in some cases – most notably Reddit – you may want your site expressly seen as connected to your comments. This is the case where you are trying to build a reputation as an honest and value-added commentator. Such comments will usually not contain links to your website. Instead, you use your comments to generate credibility for your website.
Don't Buy Backlinks or Sign-up to Link Farms
There is no shortage of link farms promoting themselves as, “The sure-fire way to get your site to rank high in search engine results pages (SERPs) and fast!”
This may have worked 10 or even 5 years ago but is now the surest way to get killed in Google’s rankings.
Don’t be tempted! There are no shortcuts.
How Many Backlinks do Your Competitors Have?
If you want to see how your competitors fare for backlinks, you can easily check this for free with an online tool we often mention, Alexa (no, not the talking one).
It can be helpful for your backlinking efforts to see from where your competitors are getting some of their backlink juice.
Knowing the sites on which they have backlinks can help guide you where you might try to post comments or request backlinks.
- go to Alexa > Site Info
- enter your competitor’s domain name
- scroll down to ‘What sites link to’
- visit the inbound link sites and post comments on the same pages (better yet post replies to the specific comments mentioning their URL)
Consider adding the number of backlinks for each rival website to your Competitor Analysis research.
Commenting on Competitors’ Posts?
Commenting directly on posts published on your competitors’ websites is almost guaranteed to be a waste of time as your comments will rarely be approved and survive moderation.
Plus, if the competitor is much bigger than you, you risk attracting their ire and them targeting your traffic using the cherry-picking technique. Sometimes it is better to fly under your competitors’ radar.
The last thing you want to happen is for your big competitor to put you in their sights and start to develop posts based on your top keywords and content, drawing visitors, conversions and revenue away from your website!
Outsourcing Commenting to Build Backlinks
There was a time when I was convinced that backlinks were the missing element to make me a millionaire. (Get used to this phenomenon, especially reading “Easy Hidden Secrets” type posts on SEO websites).
I posted a clear task on Upwork and found a hardworking, decent freelancer who was willing to draft and post comments on other blogs containing links to my site.
I was vetting the drafts and sometimes identifying posts to which she could make comments, so this was a time-intensive process. It was not as time-intensive as if I was doing everything myself but still significant.
Plus, the results were not great. Most comments were not approved and the ones that were approved did not give me an appreciable boost in search engine rankings over time.
In hindsight, I would have been better served publishing great content and letting organic visitors share my posts naturally.
In addition, trying to do backlinking yourself, whether with the help of freelancers, always seems to be detected somehow. So, this does not have the same positive results as true online referrals.
IMHO, you are much better off investing your limited time in organic search efforts to increase the number of visitors to your VPN website.
Backlinks are no magic bullet.
But if you do want to give them a go, I can offer the lessons learned above. Just don't come crying to me if you invest dozens of hours and have nothing to show for them in the end.