Backlinks are an important part of getting your Christian blog recognized and improved search engine results. When you are first staring out, it is difficult to get backlinks naturally because nobody knows you or knows that you write really good content. There are some legitimate ways to build backlinks to your website like guest blogging on other blogs, writing articles to be syndicated on article directories, and posting your website on quality website directories like Yahoo and Dmoz and niche specific directories, and using other social sharing or bookmarking sites. There are also some less than ethical methods of building backlinks that in today’s age of Google’s penguin and panda updates can destroy your website and it’s rankings. Because the Christian blogging community has been so good to me, I want to give back by making you aware of some of the link building schemes that could end up costing you more than you know.
What is a link building scheme?
Your site’s ranking in Google search results is partly based on analysis of those sites that link to you. The quantity, quality, and relevance of links influences your ranking. The sites that link to you can provide context about the subject matter of your site, and can indicate its quality and popularity.
Any links intended to manipulate a site’s ranking in Google search results may be considered part of a link scheme. This includes any behavior that manipulates links to your site, or outgoing links from your site. Manipulating these links may affect the quality of our search results, and as such is a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.
The following are examples of link schemes which can negatively impact a site’s ranking in search results:
- Buying or selling links that pass PageRank. This includes exchanging money for links, or posts that contain links; exchanging goods or services for links; or sending someone a “free” product in exchange for them writing about it and including a link
- Excessive link exchanging (“Link to me and I’ll link to you”)
- Linking to web spammers or unrelated sites with the intent to manipulate PageRank
- Building partner pages exclusively for the sake of cross-linking
- Using automated programs or services to create links to your site
Here are a few common examples of unnatural links that violate our guidelines:
- Text advertisements that pass PageRank
- Links that are inserted into articles with little coherence, for example:
most people sleep at night. you can buy cheap blankets at shops. a blanket keeps you warm at night. you can also buy a wholesale heater. It produces more warmth and you can just turn it off in summer when you are going on france vacation.
- Low-quality directory or bookmark site links
- Links embedded in widgets that are distributed across various sites, for example:
Visitors to this page: 1,472
- Widely distributed links in the footers of various sites
- Forum comments with optimized links in the post or signature, for example:
Thanks, that’s great info!
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As you can see, Google is pretty specific about what is a link building scheme. Over the last year they have really cracked down on these types of things. Not all of these are specific to Christian bloggers but some are very applicable. I will try to go over the ones that I have seen Christian bloggers using. I do not think that most Christian bloggers, especially mommy bloggers who are just trying to supplement their income at home or those using giveaways are purposefully trying to break the rules. I think most of them are ignorant of the rules. However I do know of a few that are using link schemes to boost their rank for the sole purpose of financial gain.
Common link schemes within Christian blogging circles.
- Probably one of the most common mistakes that Christian bloggers make is excessive link exchanges. I don’t know how many times I have gone to a Christian blog and seen a blog roll that almost scrolls off the page. They have little widgets, banners, directories, ect, of all their friends, sites that they have signed up with, ect. Now I understand the temptation to put all kinds of cool little things in your sidebar and to show how many groups you are a part of, but understand that Google just sends a computer program to look at your site and if it sees that you have a bunch of links heading out to a variety of places, and that those places also link back to you, to them it looks like a link exchange.
- Another very common mistake I see all the time is mommy bloggers doing reviews for money or gifts. As much as it might be a short term benefit, it violates Google’s webmaster’s guidelines. You are in essence, selling a link. Now you may not have thought of it that way, or did not understand that links were important, but you can rest assured that the company that you are reviewing a product for knew. Your blog will be penalized for selling the links and eventually the company that is buying the links will be penalized as well. If Google scans your blog and finds that you regularly link out to companies that sell products, you will get black listed and your quality content that you are trying to help people with will not ever be ranked and so nobody will ever see it.
- One other way that I see some Christian blogs using link schemes is not so innocent. Recently I came across a Christian website that is probably using another Christian website’s ignorance of the webmaster guidelines to specifically entice people to link to their website. It is in the form of a “free giveaway”.
$500 Amazon Gift Card Giveaway For Christian Bloggers
1st: $500 Amazon Gift Card
2nd: $150 Amazon Gift Card
3rd: $50 Amazon Gift Card
How To Enter:
You must first be a member of the Christian Bloggers Directory here at xxxxxxxxxxx.
After you are a member, you have the opportunity of earning up to an additional 12 entries.
Ways to Enter:
10 Entries: Link to xxxxxxxxxxx through one of your blog posts. This should be easy. Read some of our most popular articles listed below and go to one of your old blog posts that is related to the xxxxxxxxxxxxxx post and add a link. Another way to do this is to write a new blog post and include a link to your favorite article below. (Please only link to xxxxxxxxxxx articles if you feel the content is worthwhile and an added benefit to your blog’s readers).
Five popular articles on xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx that would make good choices to link to are:
1 Entry: Follow xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx on Facebook
1 Entry: Follow xxxxxxxxxx on Facebook
Other Notes About The Giveway:
Winners will be drawn randomly using rafflecopter.com
Must be at least 18 years old to enter.
Read and follow the instructions for each entry completely. Incomplete entries will be disqualified.
Only US and Canada residents are able to win (sorry international friends!)
The Maximum Number of entries a Christian blogger can have is 10
You must run or be a part of a Christian blog or website to enter
The giveaway is considered final after winners are selected.
The winners must provide an email address which will be used to mail the gift card.
That’s it! Have fun with this giveaway and share the word with your fellow xxxxxxxxxxxx!
(Authors Note: Once this was published, the offending websites removed the promotion from their websites and Facebook fan pages. The next day they replaced the post with this edit.
Please attribute any link you use to enter this contest as “no follow” to avoid any perceived violation of any search engine terms of service.
Example: <a href=”http://www.whatchristianswanttoknow.com/22-inspirational-bible-verses/” rel=”nofollow”>22 Inspirational Bible Verses and Quotes</a>
This is a much more ethical way of doing things and they are to be commended for rising up to the standard of ethical blogging.) I am pretty sure that the owner of Faithful Bloggers did not realize how this violated Google’s webmaster guidelines, (they weren’t breaking a law), I also know that the owner of Telling Ministries LLC did know. It is nice to see repentance in action.)
Now, I removed the website names yesterday because I am not interested in flaming anyone, but I had to include the source link so I don’t get penalized for duplicate content. Just as it is unethical to engage in link schemes, it is also unethical to use another persons content without providing attribution in the form of a link.
As Christian bloggers we are called to a higher standard than the world. This is why I have encouraged you so much to allow God to speak to you, use the creativity that He has given you, and refuse the temptation to copy another person’s work or ideas. The reason I used the content from another website was for an example. I am glad that those involved turned from what they were doing and rose to the higher standard of Christian ethics.
Not only are you not to sell links, offer prizes for links, or give gifts for links but you are also not supposed to link out to other websites for the sole purpose of gaining ranking. Now you might not understand how this works. Basically Google also looks at who you are linking to. There are at least 2 things that they are looking at. First of all if you are linking out to a bad website that already has a bad reputation, then they think you are endorsing that website. Thus you are liking what they dislike.
The second way they look at who you link out to is by whether or not who you are linking to is relevant to your niche and the topic of your article. A while back I had a plug in I was using that gave me ideas on who to link to for further information. This plug in ended up being a mistake. It loved Wikipedia. Even though Wikipedia is a reputable website, it is not known for being a religious website, so linking to that website looked like I was trying to manipulate page rank with who I was linking to. I was in essence, trying to get them to like me by liking who they liked. Both of these tactics are not allowed.
On the articles that I took the time to look for good articles to link out to, this helped my rankings. On those that I just used the plug in recommendation from Wikipedia, it did not help. So it pays to take a few minutes to help your readers find some more quality content to read about your subject.
So in the end, if you want to be a Christian blogger for the long haul, take your time. Share your content with other bloggers as guest posts, syndicate your content, build your social presence, the links will come and you won’t have to use link schemes or worry about being penalized from Google.
The best way to build links
- It starts by writing quality content that people want to read about. You can have an awesome article on whether or not Adam has a belly button, but if nobody cares, it will not be shared and linked to. Write your quality content and think about what people need and want to know.
- Build a social presence in your niche. Leaders have followers. The reason you are a Christian blogger is because there is a part of you that feels you have something to say that people need to hear. That means you are a leader. Build your following. It may not happen overnight but it will happen. When you have that following then every time you post a new article, people will like and share it on Facebook. They will tweet about it on twitter.
- Webmasters will see it and link to it because they think it is worthy of a link. This is what Google wants. They want links that are based on somebody thinking your content was worthy of being linked to. This is now what happens everyday at Taber’s Truths. I get notifications daily of a twitter paper, website, or other internet property that has linked to our content. We don’t need to engage in link schemes. We also have people asking to syndicate our content. Link schemes may work in the short run but ethical Christian blogging will last a lifetime.