Building Backlinks in 2013 17

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) has changed forever.  Less than a year ago, most webmasters were using an array of automated tools to build hundreds, thousands, even hundreds of thousands of backlinks to their website.  Today, some still do.  Those webmasters have a very short-term view on SEO.  They want to rank as quickly as possible, with minimum effort, and will worry about the next Google algorithm change when it happens.  Readers of my site know that I do things differently. I am not interested in what works today, I am interested in what will still be working in 10 years time.  OK; I’ll confess I don’t have a crystal ball, but I do have common sense.

In this article, I want to tell you how I am doing my backlinking and hopefully persuade you to stay away from the dark side.

I’ll hold my hands up….  When Google introduced Penguin, I had to change my own backlinking strategy, but not a lot. 

You see, for any site that I care about, I have always concentrated on building quality links, rather than quantity of links.

NOTE: I actually care about all of my sites, but many are used for testing so I don’t expect them to stay afloat when Google make sweeping changes like we saw in 2011-2012.

I wanted to think of a short phrase I could give you that encompasses my 2013 & Beyond backlinking strategy (I can see that may be a title for a new Kindle book).  I wanted it to be something that you could easily remember and repeat, every time you are about to drop a backlink to you site. This phrase must be something that you can use to evaluate whether or not you should be leaving that backlink.  Here it is:

Don’t build backlinks, Build Authority

OK, so what does that mean?

First and foremost, I know what some of you are thinking. 

Backlinks build authority, right?  Therefore, just build lots of backlinks using whatever automated tools ….. STOP!

This is what has caused many websites to be penalized in Google during the last dozen or so Google Updates.

Get one thing straight.  Backlinks DO NOT equal authority.

Let me show you an example of what I mean:


There is a backlink to a website selling a popular male (mostly) product.  Does this link give the site that it links to any authority?

To decide that, ask yourself what a person would think if they saw this webpage.

It’s pure spam. 

So what does it say about the site it links to?  Absolutely nothing positive.  How can links like this build authority?

So why did the webmaster put this link on a page that is nothing more than mixed up words? 

The answer is simply because this strategy USE TO work to help web pages get ranked higher in Google.  This strategy no longer works (thanks to Google) and will instead get your site dumped out of Google. 

So what kind of links can build authority?

It’s simple.

Links on pages that show your website in a good (or great) light.

e.g. if you have a website on educational kids toys, how about writing a really good “related” article about an educational game you play with your kids.  Describe how that game helps them learn the letters of the alphabet, or whatever.  Instead of posting that article on your site (which has a slightly different focus, but is still relevant), post it on a site with good authority ( I showed you how to find sites like this in newsletter #317.  Ironically, that article is right beneath another article on SEO Link Robot – a tool for automated backlinking which I no longer use or recommend).  Include a resource box, or better still, a paragraph in the article explaining that you have a website on educational kids toys, and link to it using the name of your website, or just the URL of your website as anchor text.  That will give you a backlink that adds authority to your site.

Doesn’t this take a lot longer to build links?

Yes.  But don’t you want your sites to last a lot longer? 

By building quality backlinks like this, you not only build “search engine authority” for your website, you also build personal authority as an expert in the eyes of your visitors as they read your articles on other websites and click through to your site to see what else you have to offer. 

A dictionary definition for authority is:

An accepted source of expert information or advice

That is how your visitors will see YOU and your site as they get more and more exposure to your content around the web. 

Funny thing is, Google sees it the same way.  Next time you think about building a backlink to your site, repeat the mantra:

Don’t build backlinks, Build Authority

Do you still want to add that backlink?

If you want to read more about backlinking, and SEO in general, check out my Amazon Kindle book – “SEO 2013 & Beyond”.  That gives you a little more advice on anchor texts, sources of backlinks, etc.

I’d also recommend you read my article on Internal Linking & SEO, as this type of backlink is also very powerful and I show you an example from one of my sites.

If you have any comments or thoughts on this article, please leave a comment below.

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17 thoughts on “Building Backlinks in 2013

  • Johnny G

    Hi Andy,

    Another great post and I especially like the common sense part of it all when it comes to link building for the present and the future. You have been teaching this stuff for years and we all admire how you still stay on top of it all for 2013 and beyond!

    I am revamping my sites all for the long term view. We will all do well to ask ourselves – does my website really deserved to be ranked for the content it serves?

    Keep up the great work…

    Your Fan

    Johnny G

    • Andy Williams

      I think that is the key Johnny – “does my website really deserved to be ranked for the content it serves”. That was the message I was trying to get across in my SEO 2013 book.

  • Carlos, Virus Removal Los Angeles

    Hey Dr. Andy,

    Newsletter 317 refers to Guest Blogging as the way find authority sites.

    However, has Article Marketing made a comeback?

    For example, or Is Google trusting them again?

    BTW, I am a subscriber to the Insiders Course, but have been absent for about 3 months.

    Has this been addressed there?

    Carlos in Santa Monica, CA

    • Andy Williams

      I’d appreciate it if you could ask questions related to the Insiders Group over on that forum, thanks.
      A quick answer – I do still submit to article directories, but I don’t mass submit and I don’t submit the same article to more than one place. I also no longer use spun content to get backlinks.

  • Andy Cockayne

    Hi Andy,

    While I totally agree with the principle of what you are saying regarding backlinks and building authority, here is my dilemma;

    I had (past tense) between 8 – 10 local SEO clients whom I used to manage and help with getting their sites onto the 1st page of Google – after the Panda & Penguin updates I realised that I couldn’t continue with the methods and strategies I was using (mainly BMR at the time) so I began to do SEO the ‘right way’ and in particular I followed your methods…

    What happened then was I spent 70 hours per week writing content and building links (authority) – my SEO business became a JOB and not very nice one, my personal life suffered because my wife was getting tired of me being in my office all of the time (including weekends) and I was exhausted and completely fell out of love with SEO.

    Needless to say I lost most of my clients because a) their rankings were dropping and b) I needed to charge them more for the work I was doing…

    I now just managed a couple of clients (half heartedly) and do it on less than a part-time basis…

    My question is, how would you have done things differently and did 2012 mark the end for small SEO companies like my own?

    Please don’t treat this as a criticism of what you are saying, I have followed you for over 6 years now and you are probably the only IM that I trust!

    All the best!

    Andy Cockayne

    • Andy Williams

      2012 was actually OK for me. Sites I have built in 2012 are all doing OK with one exception, but that was an experiment in poor backlinking, so I expected it to get hit by Penguin. I also had one major site I was building get hit by Panda first, and then Penguin, but I recovered from both of those penalties and the site is continuing to grow. I am just following the SEO in my SEO 2013 & Beyond book.

      The sites that I built prior to 2012 have mostly suffered at the hands of Panda and Penguin. Over optimization on the site, and poor quality backlinks off the site were the culprits. However, any site that I “cleaned up” made a good recovery. However, because of backlink profiles this sometimes meant moving to a new domain as well. That isn’t a luxury that you have because your Clients will want to keep their existing domains.

      I think it is increasingly difficult for small SEO companies to compete, because we don’t have the luxury of quick rankings that customers want to see.

  • Alex @ Simple Affiliate

    Totally agree with your “Don’t build backlinks, Build Authority”.

    Could I rephrase that as “Don’t build junk backlinks – build authority backlinks”?

    On the other hand it seems that Google does not want us to build any back links!

  • Colin

    Dr Andy is bang on with his comment of STOP building back links for the purpose of ranking in Google

    All you need is some killer unique content and yeah that’s going to take time to create but worth the time

    What’s worked great for me is created the killer content… Sometimes a single article will take me about a week
    to research and write before publishing and sending to editors… Then once you’ve got that killer content and by
    killer content I mean useful, informative and non-sales content…..

    Then and only then after serious self scrutiny on the article submit it to web2 sources like Digg

    When you’re content is truly great and then you use Web 2 property submissions, then and only then will you get that one single quality (or more) link(s) that’s going to make a HUGE difference to your SEO rankings…. Plus it’s going to get you more traffic from more social sites….

    There’s my 2 cents on back link building….. So yeah Dr Andy is right… STOP trying to build links and go out and start earning links 🙂

    Peace out


  • Adi

    I can’t imagine mass automated backlink schemes to be too detrimental to a site. Sure, they’re probably worthless (though I’ve never used one). But if it was that easy to get a site penalized, then we’d see people doing that to their competitors all over the place.

    And a few concerns about the authority issue. Lets not forget that authority does not equate to quality. I’ve seen some pretty deplorable content by big name bloggers who shall remain nameless. Also, on the internet, “authority” really means “popularity”. You’re granted authority if you’re popular and that is fallacious at best. You could be a tiny person with no authority and still have some serious and unique insight – I consider myself in that category.
    That was more of an ethical concern. I realize that pragmatism dictates we assume the Algorithm’s interpretation and go with that. I just don’t want us to throw the actual meaning of the word quality down the memory hole.

    Really it should read STO – search TRAFFIC optimization. Try to guess what people are looking for and the engines should follow (if they’re any good). Besides, it’s not worth much when visitors arrive at your site and it isn’t what they wanted. It’ll just p*** them off.
    Perhaps I’ll try working from the other end: Optimize and tweak with the goal to ensure that NOBODY ever finds my site through a search engine who wasn’t genuinely interested.

    • Andy Williams

      Hi Adi
      Regarding large scale automated backlinks, I think IT IS that simple. There is negative SEO going on where people do exactly as you are suggesting to get competitors sites taken down. Google work hard to try to distinguish this type of sabotage, but it’s a very difficult task. I am only one of many people who have done experiments on this. I threw several hundred automated backlinks at a site of mine that was ranking top 10 for many terms. The site fell out of Google’s top 100 for nearly all of the phrases. I removed those backlinks and the rankings returned. I also had a site that someone else had linked to with really spammy links. My site was penalized. I could not get the links removed, so I moved the site to a new domain and redirected all my good links, effectively cutting off those bad ones. The new site recovered fully. Do some reading on negative SEO and you’ll see it is real. You’ll hear about webmasters recieving “Unnatural link practices” in Webmaster Tools. In many cases those sites go on to be penalized if webmasters don’t clean up their link profile. How would that work if competitors could not harm your rankings? If you need more proof, Google recently cahnges some of their online documentation aimed at webmasters. It use to say:

      “There’s almost nothing a competitor can do to harm your ranking or have your site removed from our index.”

      Now it says:

      “Google works hard to prevent other webmasters from being able to harm your ranking or have your site removed from our index.”

      I believe that there is a certain amount of protection against this type of thing for sites that have “authority”. I won’t go into it here as I explain it in more detail in my SEO 2013 book.

      I agree that “Authority” equates to popularity. The thing is, popular blogs also tend to have higher Page Rank because people link to them. Google are certainly using social factors to influence rankings, but all social links to a site will also increase Page Rank, so Page Rank is the best measure we have of authority. However, I would also say that not all high PR sites are good, and you should not try to get links from high PR sites if you think they are bad in any way. Check out visitor interaction. Does the site look active and is the content something you want your own site to be associated with? Yes? Then get a link.

  • Mike

    I would think that google is trying to slow down the way we build links and rank. I think they want us to build more relevant backlinks which would include more blog commenting, forum posting and way more guest posting. Guest blogging is one of the best ways to get relevant links and rank high with google as this gives content and a backlink to your site and it doesn’t take long until the page is fully indexed.

    • Andy Williams Post author

      Which comment? That Google don’t want us to build links? Simply because they tell us not to build links for the sole purpose of improving our rankings. That is what most people build links for, therefore most link building is frowned upon by Google.