Many SEOs say that in order to get a website ranking, you need to create a natural link profile with links coming from a variety of different sources. This is what’s known as “link diversity” and it’s been a topic of debate for quite some time.
There are many different types of link sources that SEOs are utilizing today. I recently conducted a poll in my Facebook group, asking folks what link types they’re currently sending to their money sites.
As you can see there’s a variety of different platforms that you can use to get links to your site, ranging from “PBNs” to the coveted “Lol 5 idiots put GSA” links. Classy guys…. real classy.
Note: Just to establish this upfront, we’re not discussing social signals in this article as they’re considered to be a different category all together and serve a different purpose in today’s algorithmic landscape.
Back to the question at hand…
Is link diversity really necessary?
Answer: It depends on the size of your website and the niche you’re in.
Huge Websites / Corporate SEO
If you’re doing SEO for a huge corporate client (500+ pages) or personally manage a website with tens of thousands of visitors per day, then yes, link diversity is needed.
The bigger the website, the more natural it is that it would attract all types of links from a variety of different platforms. Take any of the big player sites, such as Amazon. The chances that Amazon is missing any particular type of link is virtually 0%. Large sites simply can’t help but attract links from all sources. Thus link diversity is a necessary ranking factor for sites of this size.
Affiliate SEO / Client SEO / LeadGen
For the readers of my blog, who typically specialize in creating small to medium micro-niche sites (10-50 pages) or manage local clients… at the time of this writing link diversity is completely unnecessary.
That’s not to say that diversity doesn’t serve a purpose. I use citations to create local relevance and boost link velocity and I use press releases to get out of the sandbox.
But at the end of the day, trust and link juice gets sites ranking and that can come from as few link types as possible.
Personally, I have at least a dozen websites that rank solely from PBNs. I’ve sold even more and they’re all still ranking quite nicely. While I’d love to share these sites, I’m not going to, because who shares a niche?
However, you don’t have to take my word for it. Here’s what some other industry experts had to say when I asked them about link diversity.
Gregory Ortiz – OMG, Source University
“I’ve personally ran tests on a couple hundred sites trying every method available. I’ve seen the best results from utilizing just PBN’s.”
Todd Foster – Blackhat.Community
“The screenshot (click here) I have shared is from a site registered two months ago. All I have done so far is drip PBN Links for 2 months at random dates.”
Ben Starr – ZeroToPassive.com
“I’ve been building sites in competitive affiliate niches for years. At first with exclusively PBN links, and to this day the only essential addition has been social signals. Powerful links are what matters, and I’ve not experienced any evidence that Google requires diversity.”
“I’ve ranked a top niche in London (local) purely on base of 10 PBN links alone.”
What kind of links are actually impactful?
So we’ve established that it’s possible to send only a certain type of link to a website to get it ranked.
However, just because you can get away with sending one link type to your money site, doesn’t mean that you always should. Certain situations and budgets will call for different links.
The key is knowing what types of links are bad, what types of links are good, and when you should use them.
Below you’ll find my synopsis of different link types and their value. They’re classed in three different tiers from least to most valuable…
Class C – SEO Links
These are links that quite simply “only an SEO would use.” I don’t touch any links in this category.
Why you ask?… Guess what, SEOs? Google hates you.
As an SEO, you directly impact their revenue. If business owners can get their websites ranked through the use of SEO, then they’re not going to pay for Adsense (PPC). Hence, don’t do things that only SEO’s would do.
Many SEO are still quite attached to blog comments. Namely, because they’re cheap. Before you freak out, bear with me for a minute and answer this question…
Q: What kind of normal person would go to a blog and fill out the “Website” field with someone else’s website?
A: No one.
Google doesn’t reward people who create their own links. In fact, all of their offsite penalties have revolved around this concept.
Blog comments (for links) suck, don’t use them… with the exception of when you’re creating links in the body of your comment. This implies that the blog owner has approved your comment and deems its content to be worthy of being
Social bookmark sites (e.g.: Digg, StumbleUpon, Reddit) emerged as a way to store your favorite websites for viewing at a later date. They’ve been highly abused as a way to get free backlinks and, over time, this technique has been spammed to death. Social bookmarks used to be a part of my ranking strategy (mainly for anchor text diversity), but recent tests have shown that impacted nothing at all once I removed them from my link flow.
GSA Search Engine Ranker
GSA is a software that submits massive amounts of links through comments, web 2.0s, blogs, PDFs, etc. You name it, it can be spammed it with GSA. Since Penguin came on the scene, anyone who submits GSA links directly to their money site is asking for trouble.
SAPE is a network of real websites comprised of a Russian ad network as well as sites infiltrated by hackers. Directly linking SAPE to your money site is asking for trouble, as these sites commonly get uncovered and heavy penalties are unleashed. Personally, I don’t touch SAPE for ethical reasons, but to each their own.
Class B – Links that Normal Businesses Use
This class refers to link types that are commonly utilized by normal, real businesses. While they’re not very hard to get at all (anyone has access to getting them), the fact that so many real businesses get them all the time puts Class B into a protected category and makes it relatively safe to use.
Anyone can go out and create a Tumblr, Rebelmouse, or Facebook fan page for free. Real businesses use them all the time as well and some would argue (myself included) that the presence of a Facebook page is indeed a positive ranking factor.
Web 2.0s are great for pillow links, or if you’re doing some clever trust tiering, they’re a safe way to deliver link juice, trust and authority.
Most businesses (local or nationwide) are listed in local and industry directories. That’s why they’re completely safe to use. However, since citations are super easy to get and Google is well aware of that, you’re not going be ranking with citations alone unless you’re in a very uncompetitive niche.
As you know, citations are a necessary component for getting ranked in the map pack. They’re also a great source of brand, URL and image anchors and can even be used for affiliate sites.
PR’s have been an SEO tool for quite some time. A quality press release service can be excellent for pillowing (sending non-critical anchors), as a well-syndicated PR can get you 100+ URL anchors.
I suspect that over time, PR’s are going to lose their value as it’s a tactic that’s highly abused. However, since PR’s commonly link to real businesses all the time, it is very difficult to write an algorithm for.
Links from Wiki are relatively easy to get. Typically, it’s just a matter of paying the right guy $50 and you’re done.
Personally, I haven’t seen much of a ranking increase from the “trust” gained from a Wikipedia link, however, in some cases I have seen a substantial increase in referral traffic. This depends on your niche and the Wiki page, of course.
Guest Posts (with Author Boxes)
Guest posts with author boxes are dead giveaways that you’re doing your own link building. Google has publicly frowned upon guest posts, but I’m yet to see many penalizations occur due to it.
That said, guest posting on sites that don’t shout-out-loud “Hey, this is a guest post from the guy whose link is in this article” is safe as there’s really no way to penalize someone for it. These are free and clear, and actually belong in the Class A section below: “Authority Links, Content Marketing, and Outreach”.
Class A – Perceived Natural Links
It’s no secret that Google doesn’t want people doing their own SEO. They want links to occur naturally from 3rd parties who decide to link to your website on their own accord because these people believe that your content is helpful. Thus, it’s no surprise that the best links that you can get to your website are links that are perceived to be coming in naturally from 3rd parties.
Class A links are typically harder to get than Class B and Class C. These are the links that will get you ranked.
What’s so special about PBN links and why do they work so well? Why did the four experts above also mention them exclusively?
PBN’s, when setup correctly, have the primary intention of tricking the bot that they’re coming from a 3rd party. That is… if they’re setup on separate IPs, with separate owners, etc.
Aside from the fact that they typically deliver a lot of link juice, their appearance as being a link coming from a webmaster other than yourself is what makes them so effective.
Authority Links, Content Marketing, and Outreach
There’s nothing more real than a real link. Links from authority sites such as Huffington Post, Elephant Journal, etc. are hard to get. Authority sites like these have internally-staffed editors who highly scrutinize of who they link out to.
Typically, these links don’t deliver a lot of power. If you do manage to get links like these, they’re not likely to be on a homepage, but probably a fresh inner page instead. Don’t expect to rank from links like these, but if your site needs trust and authority, there’s no better way.