Recently I was contacted by a Squidoo lensmaster and his exasperation at trying to do well at Squidoo and not meeting his objectives was so palpable from his email that I could feel it. And it was this statement that stood out for me:
“Backlinks and bookmarking. It is a painfully slow process for me. I feel more desperate when I see some tier 1 lenses with a lot of backlinks from a lot of sites. My question is: How do you handle this process knowing that you have so many lenses and are building new ones very often. I know about blog commenting,forums,some directories etc but is there something that makes the process less painful.”
This is an issue that a lot of people struggle with, so I thought I would post my take on all of this here on Squidlog in the hope it will help others.
And of course, what I am about to say comes with a Disclaimer: All I can do is tell you what works for me, there’s no guarantees it will work for you.
So what about Backlinks? What backlinking do I do? And where do I backlink?
Before I answer those questions, I will give you a bit of background.
I am coming up to four years on Squidoo and when I first joined I did not know the first thing about how to get traffic. A natural researcher, it was easy for me to search for information and find what I needed to know. We are lucky that most of what we need to learn is freely available in the form of lenses on Squidoo. Lenses that have been written by very generous lensmasters who are happy to freely share what they have learned and what works for them.
Back in the summer of 2008, I soon picked up on SEO, keyword research, writing original content and backlinking.
By the spring of 2009 I was beginning to feel I had learned some good stuff and was putting it into practice. Please note the time scale! I joined in July 2008, but it was not until around 8 months later that I started to feel I was getting somewhere. And that is something everyone needs to take on board – succeeding on a site like Squidoo takes time!
Fortunately I enjoyed the challenges of keyword research and was starting to get traffic as a result. I drew up a spreadsheet (because I need a method I can stick to) and listed all the sites where I could backlink in one column down the side and along the top row I listed each lens as it was made and the date it was published.
Then I backlinked and backlinked, ticking off the boxes on my Spreadsheet. Forcing myself to link on a large number of sites because that is what we did in those days. It was mind-numbingly boring but it HAD to be done.
These days so many people still believe that they should backlink themselves silly in order to compete, but I have some good news for you – that ain’t the case any longer. Well, not in my experience.
It was a couple of years ago that the rumours started. “Google Watchers” started picking up on hints from Google that things were going to change. Very simply put, it looked like Google was fed up with the Gamers who were buying backlinks and using “black hat” techniques to falsely inflate their Google Page Rank and dupe the Search Engines into thinking they were publishing quality content. And to balance things back in favor of quality sites various updates would be run and lo, Panda and Penguin were born!
The result of all of this (in a nutshell) is that as we enter this new era where Content REALLY is King, backlinks seem to be lessening in importance (or at least the actual number is) – which is great news for those of us bored stupid with the process of creating them.
I started reducing the effort I put into backlinking in the Fall of 2010. Did it affect my traffic? No.
And by March of this year, I made the decision to experiment further. I drew up a list of 18 places where I would backlink, plus 2 RSS Feed sites and then for every lens I published I immediately used 10 of those sites to Backlink, plus the 2 RSS Feed Sites. Then I left it alone and only backlinked when relevant and in the course of my everyday activities. Apart from the initial burst of 10 I have been allowing the backlinks to grow “organically”.
The sites I use to backlink are a mixture of my Blogs and sites like Redgage, Posterous and Zimbio. I also drop links (sometimes) on Facebook. And of course if I comment on a relevant site or blog then I link to one of my related pages where you can add a website URL to make a link with your name.
Now to look at what our exasperated friend said about: “I feel more desperate when I see some tier 1 lenses with a lot of backlinks from a lot of sites.”
And you know what? They may have a lot of backlinks, but there’s other factors that contribute to high ranking lenses. The factors that contribute to the lensrank algorithm – some of which are natural and some of which are down to the actions of others, which I call “artificial boosts” and are marked with a *.
Tier 1 Lenses are in Tier 1 due to a combination of some, if not all, of the following factors:
1. Search Engine Traffic
3. Sales via the Squidoo Modules
4. Likes from fellow lensmasters*
5. Increased traffic due to being on the front page*
6. Getting Lens of the Day (increased traffic due to being on the front page)*
7. Being awarded a Purple Star (temporary lensrank boost)*
8. Visits from fellow Lensmasters due to Networking on sites like Facebook*
9. Traffic from sites like Twitter
11.Getting a Lensrank Turboboost for reaching a level on the Monsterboards*
I am sure there’s more factors, but look at how many * there are. And because of this, there’s the temptation to start Networking like crazy on Squidoo to increase those artificial boosts to have a chance of getting into Tier 1. It is a whole heap of work and it gets harder. Quite frankly I would rather be publishing new stuff.
In the meantime, while you are doing all this networking, you may be missing a crucial point – I deliberately put Search Engine Traffic at Number 1, because I believe that this is the key to long term success. It may not mean a Tier 1 lens, but it could mean a lens that makes consistent sales, which in the long term may generate more income.
And yes, I have Tier 1 lenses. I have no idea how some of them stay there. I also know that having a lens hit the #1 spot on Squidoo was due to the attention it got from the Squidoo Community and was nothing to do with traffic. That was obvious from my Dashboard. I have had other lenses get more Search Engine Traffic in a week and they never got near the Top 50.
Of course, that’s not to say I was not “over the moon” when Queen Elizabeth II got to #1
This lens has never made a sale and it will start to slide now that the Squidoo Community interest in it has dwindled. I may get a Tier 1 payout for it for this month, but then it will probably slip back into Tier 2/3, which is where it has remained consistently since it was published.
You have to remember Tier 1 is only around 2000 lenses. Competition for those places is huge and it is a fact that many of them are there due to the Community Boosts they receive. No, that may not seem fair but that is how it is. So far better to concentrate on the factors you CAN influence to make sales, rather than rely on Tier 1 or 2 Payments for the bulk of your Squidoo income.
So to answer that question about Backlinking: “Is there something that makes the process less painful?” Yes! Don’t do it! Just create 10 backlinks when you publish and see how it goes.
For me, Backlinking is not the key, because 100 backlinks to a page that no one is looking for, will NOT on its own get you a Tier 1 lens and it won’t get you traffic and sales.
No, the key is keyword research. Write quality, original content that has beatable competition, about topics people are looking for, and you will start to see the results. No, you may not get a Tier 1 lens, but they are tremendous hard work. Far better to free up the time to make even more lenses that have the potential to make more sales and in the long run you have the potential to make more money.
It is crucial to also remember that it is far better to get less, but good targetted traffic, that has more chance of making sales, than it is to get huge traffic numbers that don’t buy anything. And good keyword research will help you with that as well.
Image: Public Domain picture from Pixabay