SiteWide BackLinks: Good or Bad for SEO? 1

Since the Penguin update, the way we get backlinks has changed a lot. Unlike in the past when the quantity of backlinks mattered most, today it’s the quality and relevance of backlinks which matter most.

A couple of years ago I was getting paid by many webmasters for sitewide backlink opportunities. But after Penguin hammered down on any type of backlink that looked like spam, one of the most common SEO questions asked is: Do sitewide backlinks offer positive value or can they have a negative impact?

Many quality sites like WPMU and QuickOnlineTips were penalized for getting sidewide backlinks using free WordPress themes, and this led many people to conclude that a sitewide link has a negative impact on SEO. However, this is not entirely accurate as Matt Cutts discusses in a recent webmaster video.

Let’s have a closer look at how sitewide backlinks impact SEO, and I will offer my insights on a better way to obtain sitewide links.

SiteWide BackLinks: Good or Bad for SEO?

How sitewide backlinks impact SEO:

Regardless of what strategy you are using to get links to your blog,  what matters most is how relevant those backlinks are.

For example, here at ShoutMeLoud, I write about blogging, SEO and WordPress all the time. If I link to sites like ProBlogger and SearchEngineland in an article, or even maintain a blogroll in my sidebar giving them sitewide links, it’s completely natural and relevant.  Unnatural and spammy links come into the picture when I give an exact match backlink to any irrelevant domain like “Forex trading”, “insurance sites” and so on.

Before I offer further insight into this matter, let’s have a look at what Matt Cutts has to say about sitewide links and how Google counts them (whether 1 link or many backlinks):

Matt Cutts makes one point crystal clear in this video: Sitewide backlinks are not bad if they are natural and relevant.

At the same time, getting links from blog footers like “Site developed by XYZ company” or “Free WordPress theme by XYZ” are not as useful now, as you can’t control where these links are coming from.

Some time back, releasing free WordPress themes or plugins was was an easy way to get a permanent link from all the pages of a domain.  These days, however, this method of getting links is considered spammy, and you could be penalized by the Penguin algo update. One simple reason for this is that you can’t control which niche is using your free theme or plugin, and you end up generating tons of irrelevant backlinks to your domain even with exact anchor text.

Even if you use the Google Disavow link tool you will not have sufficient control, and for this reason I do not recommend using these types of methods to get sitewide links.

The best way to get a domain-wide link is by asking webmasters to link to your domain in Blogroll,  but only if the link is relevant or you can get a sponsored link. Relevancy is always key.

While a three-way link pyramid, (the old classic way), can still be useful, you have to  keep in mind that you could be keeping your blog on the fringe of getting a Google penalty.

What are the best and most natural ways to get sitewide links?

SiteWide BackLinks: Good or Bad for SEO?There are many ways to get natural sitewide links from the footer of a site or from BlogRoll, though the ax hangs on both the site giving the links and the site getting the links.

For design and web development sites:

It is better to get a mention in a blog post than to get a sitewide footer link to your web design and development site.  However, you can make an exception if you are developing  a site for a relevant niche such as a design or web development site.  Once again, relevancy is key.

Another thing to keep in mind is that you want to get links to your brand name instead of to SEO optimized anchor text.

BlogRoll links:

I have previously written about the benefits of outbound links for SEO.  Keeping that information in mind, a Blogroll link to a relevant niche is not a bad idea. In fact, linking out to an authoritative domain with a sitewide Blogroll link is unlikely to have a negative impact. I have seen many of my clients eager to give sitewide links to useful websites in the same niche, and so far I have not seen any of them affected by the Penguin update. Check out the above image taken from SmashingApps which maintains a sitewide blogroll link to quality and authoritative domains.

Note that you must be sure to use a two-way link exchange, as Google algos may otherwise penalize your site for spam. The ideal way to get a Blogroll link is by using a three-way link pyramid. Even if you are going for a paid blogroll link (yes, people do this!), make sure it looks natural and you are not linking out to a spam site or to an irrelevant site.

Have you ever been penalized for getting sitewide backlinks?

What other methods you are using to get domain-wide links, and how do you make sure that such links will not have a negative impact on your site?

Let us know in the comments section below!

And as always, if you find the information in this post useful, please share it with your friends and colleagues on Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus.

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