Travel Niche Challenge: The Backlinking Strategy

links

By now you might know that I’m working on a Travel Niche Challenge along with other travel bloggers.  Part of the challenge is to give full transparency of our process so you can learn what works and what not.

An important part of creating a niche site, and have it rank high on the search engines is the backlinking process.  There are several strategies one can use to rank higher in search engines and the one I’m going to explain in just one of many.  This strategy is not an invention of mine, though I’ve modified it to achieve the process with the least spending possible.  Still, the main framework of the process is still the same.

This strategy was outlined by Joseph Archibald in his 40 Day Challenge – Top 5 Within Google Within 40 Days thread on the Warrior Forum. (really good and loooong thread)

In my opinion… It works!

FYI, this post is long, but the process is explained in detail!

Overview

Basically, this backlink strategy doesn’t focus only in backlinking the niche site, instead, it uses the niche site as a nucleus, surrounded by an anchor layer of sites, which link directly to the niche site, and an indirect layer of sites, which link towards the anchor layer, not the site.   The diagram below shows the structure of this backlinking strategy.

The Backlinking Diagram

Parts of the Structure

The Anchor Layer

The anchor layer is made of the following:

  1. Free blogs – like blogger, wordpress, tumblr, etc.
  2. Top Article Directory Submissions
  3. Web 2.0 properties – like Hubpages, Squidoo, etc.
  4. Links from Linkvana

All these link directly to the niche site.

The Indirect Layer

The indirect layer counts with the following:

  1. Mass Article Submission using Unique Article Wizard
  2. Mass Bookmarking Submissions using SocialMarker

These link to the anchor layer, not the niche site.

Ok, so you must be wondering, why link to sites other than the niche site?

The reason why you are creating an anchor layer is because the indirect layer is used to create massive backlinks (hundreds), in contrast to the handful backlinks the anchor layer creates.

If you suddenly point hundreds of backlinks to a completely new site, it will look suspicious on Google’s eyes and they could “sandbox” you.  On the other hand, the sites and properties used in the anchor layer are part of high-ranking populated sites, so they will be able to handle massive backlinks.  Those anchor sites, in turn, will pass some of that SEO power generated through the backlinking towards your niche site.  The anchor layer is basically a shield that “protects” your site while you create hundreds of backlinks.

THE Process

1. Create an Original Article Related to the Niche

I recommend this article to be over 400 words but not more than 600. Why? When submitting to article directories, some of them (like Ezine Articles) only accept articles over 400 words, and articles that are too long are tedious to spin (we’ll get to this later).

You can post this original article in your niche site and use spun (reworded) versions of the article to create backlinks.

2. Spin the Article

Spinning is basically rewording your article in a software that allows you to create hundreds of unique versions of the same article.  This allows you to create multiple submissions of the “same” article without creating duplicate content (or having its penalties).  Plus, it saves time since you don’t have to create hundreds of articles from scratch.

Some people might be uncomfortable with spinning since they see it as spammy, but that’s another discussion.

To spin the articles I use the free site Jet Spinner.  I think it’s a great spinner, considering it’s free, but it takes some time to go word-by-word looking for automatically generated synonyms that can replace each word in the article.  For an easier and less time consuming spinner, you can use The Best Spinner.  I personally decided to sacrifice time vs. money, since I’m trying to do everything with the least amount of spending – so I’m using Jet Spinner.

Basically, you paste the article into the software (site) and then replace the words with the proper synonyms that will allow multiple spins of the article.

For example:  A sentence that reads “The boy sat next to the tree”, might look like this in the spinning software: “The {boy|girl|man|woman} {sat|laid|kneeled|rested} {next|right next|adjacent} to the {tree|pole|bench|house|car}.”

What this means is that the program will create sentences using any of the options above, so a sentence might read, “The woman laid right next to the bench.”

Pay attention to what words you choose to use as replacement.  In some occasions certain synonyms don’t make sense when read in context.  I personally try to keep a level of quality and readability.

JetSubmitter

3. Submit to Article Directories

Now you will use various spun versions of your article and submit them to different article directories.

I submitted to the following sites for their page rank: (though there are hundreds to choose)

In each article you submit, add at least one link to your niche site in the author bio/resource box.  This link must have your main keyword (in my case it is Travel Insurance for Backpackers).  In most sites you can add up to two links, so it’s good to use another keyword you’re targeting or just link with the plain URL.

Here’s a sample of one of my articles in EzineArticles. (Yes, I’m using Amy Laurent as my pen name.)

4. Create your New Blogs and Web 2.0 Properties

These blogs will be part of your anchor layer that link to and “protect” your niche site.  Although these new free blogs will have a page rank of 0, they still benefit from the page rank of their main hosting site (ie. wordpress.com [PR9], tumblr.com [PR8], etc), so they pass a small link juice towards your niche site.  Same thing applies to article directories.

Use one version of the spun article on each new blog you create (it’s also good to add a picture and/or video if applicable).

I used these platforms for my blogs (all free):

These sites just require one post and remember to link to your niche site.  There is no need to cross-link between these sites, but it can be done if you wish to (known as link wheel).  I didn’t do cross-link.

These are the web 2.0 properties I used:

These are very similar to the new blogs but they require a slightly different setup.  Here, make sure to add an image; you can add an RSS feed, and other features particular to each property.  Dedicate a bit of time doing these properly as they can be picky with approving your pages (especially HubPages).  Remember to link to your niche site.

This step can be skipped when repeating the whole process over and over again (yes, you have to do this a couple times).  But, if you wish to repeat it for more links, you can use Posterous.com to link all (or most) of your new blogs and post to all of them simultaneously from this one platform.  Posterous posts through email, so I found it very convenient while I was traveling since I just wrote one email (post) with some text and a link to my niche site, hit send, and voila… it was simultaneously posted in all my linked blogs.

5. Mass Article Submission and Indirect Linking to Anchor Sites

Now is when the massive backlinks starts.  Remember, these links are pointing to the anchor sites and articles you created in steps 3 and 4.

I’m using Unique Article Wizard to achieve this.  (This is a paid program and I’m using it since I wasn’t able to find a good mass article submitter for free.)

Unique Article Wizard uses three of your spun article versions; it mixes and matched their paragraphs, and creates hundreds of different versions of those articles.  UAW submits these hundreds of versions of your article to a network of decent PR blogs, and it also shows you a list of links to sites where your articles have been submitted (a nice proof the job was done).

It is also good to do backlinking with social bookmarking.  I used the free service of SocialMarker.com.  While at first you have to go through the tedious process of signing up on each social bookmarking site, once you have it done, the process of bookmarking with up to 50 bookmarking services (like digg, delicious, reddit, etc) is done in just a few minutes.

Unique Article Wizard

6. Create Quality Links with Linkvana

Now, this step is not critical, but I believe it helped a lot since the links tend to have a decent to good PR quality.  Linkvana allows you to create posts (100+ words) with one link to your niche site, or articles (250+ words) with up to three links to your niche site.  They submit that post or article to one of their high-ranking blogs on their network.

Linkvana doesn’t like the use of spun content, so if you decide to use a short version of your spun article, make sure it is properly written and unique.

I’m using a strategy of writing one post per day per 30 days and one article per week.

Linkvana

A note on Linkvana: I’m using Linkvana for this project and it seems to have brought good results, but I don’t recommend the use of it if you’re only working with one niche site.  This program is way too expensive for just one site.  But, I’m working on a few sites simultaneously, so hopefully it will pay off eventually.

7. Rinse and repeat.

My Experience

Up to this date, I’m sitting at #6 on Google for my main keyword.  I repeated steps 1-5 (skipping 4, except for posterous) four times, and submitted 8 blog post and 4 articles in Linkvana.

The only two paid programs I’m using are Unique Article Wizard and Linkvana.  It is not necessary to use those programs and you can do the same and get the same results for free, but they help significantly by saving time and getting quality links.

Alright, now it’s time to generate additional good content on the niche site and to start monetizing it.  Coming up in the next update.

How does this process sounds to you?  Questions?  Feel free to ask!

Image 1 from Flickr’s Creative Commons.

Comments

  1. says

    Great write up Norbert! Since we are using the same reference material we are also using the exact same strategy :) I have been WAY to busy recently to rinse and repeat and I am also doing some outside link building on popular sites which is helping. For me, as I only have once Niche site at the moment, I’m not using Linkvana but I do have the other other tools (including Best Spinner).

    Now that you have written such a nice article, I wonder if I should bother doing mine :) Great job on doing this with other niche sites as well. I’m testing the waters now but will create more soon. How many other ones are you doing? That’s a lot of time commitment!

    • says

      Thanks Todd! Yes, I noticed we are using the same reference. :) How are you doing the outside link building? By commenting, submissions…?

      Right now I have 2 niche sites; this niche site and another one non travel related (I had built it a long time ago but neglected it). I’m also in the process of building another one in a completely different niche too (finance related) to see what happens. Also, I’m going to use Linkvana to build backlinks to this blog to rank for a few travel related keywords. I’m still testing the program, so lets see if it is completely worth it or not.

      Like you said, it is a lot of time commitment… hopefully it will pay off! :)

      • says

        Hi Norbert you will have to wait for my post :) Actually, it goes along with my main strategy that my niche site should be related to my Todd’s Wanderings focus as well. So, because I’m putting up quality advice on Tokyo, when I write a guest post for another blog I put in a link to my niche site. I know this is not a sustainable practice for having a lot of niche sites, but as I’m trying to integrate all of my online strategies to save time all around.

        I’m now getting some search traffic from very different key words than I’m targeting. This is nice as I can focus on those secondary keywords after I get my main ones sorted. This week is my week of pushing the backlinks so well see what happens by next week.

        • says

          Ahh, That’s a nice strategy and it works really well for your niche since you’re trying to become an authority site rather than a niche site.

          Look forward to read your post! :)

    • says

      Thanks Nithya! Yes, that’s one of the purposes of this challenge; to help others do the same by sharing the most possible of our process. :)

  2. says

    Wow thanks so much for the detailed writeup. I’m building a niche travel site too, and I just haven’t had the time to put into developing it like I want to. I’ll definitely be checking out all the resources you added here.

    A question – do you write all of your own articles or do you pay someone?

    Love the layout by the way :)

    • says

      Hi Jasmine, thanks for stopping by! :) I do write all the articles since I want to do this with the least spending possible. Like I mentioned, I try to write 1 blog post per day and one article per week. That’s just for Linkvana. But, for the articles I spin and pun on the site, I try to do one per week. I admit that I’m a slow writer, so that consumes a lot of my time and sometimes I’m not able to write every day.

      I know of people that buy posts/articles for $2.00+ each on sites like elance.com and others. Even Linkvana offers the writing service for $2.00 each.

      Feel free to ask me anything else :)

  3. says

    Interesting read. Definitely some good info. I’ve learned much about this in my SEO classes, but I had not heard of things like linkvana and spinners. You said you sacrifice more time using JetSpinner about how long do you spend on avg?

    • says

      Thanks Scott! With JetSpinner I spend about 45 minutes to an hour spinning a 500 words article, on average. The process is semi-automatic because JetSpinner populates a list of synonyms automatically, so you can choose the best ones for each word, but you still have to go manually word by word in order to be able to replace them.

      On the other hand, The Best Spinner has a feature that highlights all the words it recognizes as possible to replace and you can go selecting synonyms in a quicker way. They even have a “one click” option that does everything for you, but apparently you need to keep an eye on the words it chooses because some of them might not make sense. I believe Todd (Todd’s Wanderings) can give you more details on The Best Spinner since he is using it.

  4. says

    This post is very well laid out and easy to follow, thanks Norbert, as I know it probably wasn’t easy to make something rather complicated sound easy. I created a niche site a while ago, but have neglected it to focus more on applying some of these same strategies to my blog. Are you also applying them to your blog?

    I’ve had a Hubpages account for almost 2 years and while I get decent traffic to some of my articles there, very little traffic of it transfers over to my blog. Are you building these links primarily for the links or to get more traffic as well?

    • says

      Hey Laurel, thanks! I am starting to apply this technique to my blog for a few keywords I would like to get more traffic, but I’m not doing it as often or as thorough as with the niche site. Also, instead of doing this process to link to the main page (as I’m doing with the niche site), I’m linking to posts or pages that are relevant to the keyword.

      On the Hubpages, and other blogs, they are primarily for the link juice, but if traffic comes from them, that’s an added bonus! :)

    • says

      Thanks Jillian! I’m starting to use it now for GloboTreks, but not as intensive as I’m using it for the niche site. I’m sending one short article every two weeks or so. It’s just a little test to see if I can rank some of my blog posts I think are “worth ranking”. I’ll let you know in the next updates how did it work with this site too.

  5. says

    Excellent article Norbert! I do have a question about spinning articles…I heard about Google’s farmer updates and read somewhere “that If you rewrite the same articles over and over again to save time, they will add no value to your overall website optimization strategy from Google’s standpoint. Worse, you might run the risk of losing your Google rankings if you tend to be persistent with this content creation strategy”. Do you think this is true? I’m still new to SEO but I do want to try these strategies to get great organic ranking.

    • says

      Hey Grace, sorry for delaying a bit my response. I think it is true, and Mike (who commented below and knows well about this) agrees too. It is important to achieve a great percentage of uniqueness when spinning. Like Mike does too, sometimes its good not just to spin the words, but to spin the paragraphs order too. I will feed you more info on this as I learn it. I’m also learning a bunch of stuff day by day while playing with the niche site and backlinking strategies. :)

  6. says

    Hey Norbert, Great post.

    I tired jetspinner awhile back and did not care for it. I use TheBestSpinner myself. It also integrates well with SeNukeX.

    I have been building some killer wheels for the niche battle. As of now I am on page one for 9 out of the 15 keywords I chose.

    Like Grace said above, spinning can be a make it or break it deal when building the links. Getting them indexed is really important. I spin a little differently…

    I use 6 to 8 articles to get 550 words. I do a lot of nested spinning (paragraphs-sentences-words) until I get at least an 80% uniqueness. You will be sure to get indexed then.

    I am interested in how Linkvana works out for you.

    • says

      Thanks Mike! Yes, I have to agree that The Best Spinner is better than JetSpinner. It’s interesting the backlinking strategy you are using, and with all honesty I might incorporate a few details of yours to mine. ;)

      I’ll let you know how Linkvana performs once I test it a little bit more.

  7. says

    Wow, awesome post Norbert. After sprinting out of the gates on my niche site, I have done pretty much nothing the past month. Between going out of town for 2 of those weeks and starting a new paid endeavor with another travel site, while trying to keep up with my main site and my part time job, I simply haven’t had time. This is an awesome resource, though, and I can’t wait to get started again on this challenge. Things should finally start to slow down for me soon. Great job and thanks!!

    • says

      Thanks Adam! It has been a lot of work but hopefully it will pay out for all of us. Now I’ve slowed down a bit to see how the site performs, what to tweak, and where to focus more backlinking efforts.

  8. says

    The strategy you’re describing has been effective for me, but I usually add a second tier out from what you are calling the anchor tier creating a link wheel for each anchor property. Then I promote that layer with links from articles, bookmarking, etc.

    • says

      Hi Carla! Wow, thanks for sharing your extra tip on building backlinks. I might partially integrate it since it looks like it could work great. :)

  9. Xanne says

    Thank you for providing an article with detail and value. Also, I can tell you put time and thought into your writing, which is quite refreshing. I’ve visited some of the very high-ranked travel blogs, and, personally, I find little value in their articles. Additionally, there is one particular blogger with a very, very high-ranked website with grammatical errors scattered throughout every post. This makes me question whether he is actually writing his articles or hiring others to write for him. Either way, I have quit reading his blog, because no real value is offered or gained. It is somewhat concerning that blogs can rank well without good, valuable content. Keep up the good work!:)

  10. says

    Hi Norbert

    Very clear explanation of this technique. the linkvana is very intresting but its a lot of money s you said. Ill look into this more though.

    Have you had spun content accepted ok? good quality ofcourse.

    thanks

    • says

      Hey Steve – Thanks! Good to see you around! Yes, Linkvana is pretty expensive and in reality it’s not worth paying for it unless you have a few niche sites running and use it constantly. I’ve had my spun content accepted in Linkvana, Unique Article Wizard, and many article directories. Of course, the key is spending some time in doing a good spun with many variations and making sure they make sense. Good quality in the end.

      Cheers!

  11. says

    Thanks for the reminder and on using an anchor layer – One of my sites just got sandboxed thanks to a couple of spammy Fiverr gigs.

    One question – why did you choose to use Linkvana ($147/month) instead of a quality competitor like Blog Blueprint ($60/month)? And since you chose the more expensive option there, why didn’t you buy The Best Spinner? I find TBS much easier to use and more efficient than the Jet Spinner and at only $77/year, it’s pretty cheap. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not knocking your strategy, it’s clearly working for you and well thought out. I am just interested in your reasoning behind your tool choices.

    Thanks again for the great guide and for introducing me to a couple of new SEO tools.

    Cheers,
    Alex

    • says

      Hi Alex –
      Sorry for the late reply. Wow, sorry to hear you got sandboxed. Doing an anchor layer does help a lot to prevent this.

      Regarding Linkvana and Blog Blueprint… While Linkvana is more expensive, I found it to be a bit more effective (based on friends and other bloggers experiences and feedback) and to have more quality sites with good PR. Of course, I haven’t tried Blog Blueprint, so I might be wrong there. So far, Linkvana has worked great for me because I’m using it in a couple sites.

      On the TBS and JS, there I will have to agree with you. I started with JS as a “testing” program, but I too agree that TBS is way better than JS. So I personally recommend TBS too.

      Cheers!

  12. says

    I would say you did a commendable job, i will take your post seriously and workout on my travel niche for 40 days, and it seems your strategy will definite rank me somewhere.
    thanx a lot mate.

  13. says

    Hey, found your post and wanted to ask if you’re still using the same strategy?

    I’m getting into niche sites and have been writing my own articles for a backlinking strategy similar to this one.

    It’s sooooo time consuming and I’d love to just spin the articles but I’m not really sure if given google’s updates, spun content will still be useful for backlinking. What do you think?

    What I’m really afraid off is the spun content being deindexed or never being indexed in the first place. Making all my linking and spinning efforts useless.

    I

    • says

      Hey Malds.

      Quite honestly, I have not used this strategy in the past month, not because it doesn’t work (it worked really good for me), but because I want to understand the new implications that the new Google update has on niche sites and these spun articles. I’m still in the process, so I can’t tell if spun content is still good for back linking or not. I think they still are, but maybe not as strong as before. Google is paying even more attention now to in-site optimization and quality. Like, site loading speed, quality of information, navigability, etc. But you’re right in one thing… spun content is time consuming.

      On the indexing or not of the spun content, if you’re using a “good” spinning platform/program, your articles should still be indexed, as the good programs tend to take care and monitor (up to a certain level) how their sites are being looked under google’s eyes.

  14. says

    I am extremely impressed with your writing
    skills as smartly as with the format to your blog. Is this a paid subject or did
    you customize it yourself? Anyway stay up the nice high quality writing, it is uncommon to peer a great blog like this
    one these days..

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