How to generate and track backlinks for your Active Rain profile - A few basic SEO tips
The first comment I made on Active Rain was August 5th, 2007. Since then, I have amassed 7404 comments made over the past 182 days. That means that I am averaging 40.68 comments daily here.
I could write (and have written) posts about the friendships that began as stray comments on AR, or the referrals that I have received (also covered that a few times in posts). However, I wanted to point out that the "Google juice" is a phenomenal side benefit of commenting that you may not have realized.
What am I talking about?
Well, it's really quite simple: The more you comment on posts, the more links you will have pointing to your Active Rain profile.
As you know, when you submit a comment, it automatically includes your signature line, which links back to your profile page. For example, my personal automated signature line says:
So, EVERY TIME I write a comment (if the post is public and not "members only"), this link has the potential to be seen as a backlink for my profile page, which links to my primary website, so it actually benefits both of them. My link "anchor text" (actual title of the link) includes both my name and my primary keyword. To change your signature, you must edit the first and last name fields in your profile. (EDITED: Tom Lyons produced a companion piece to this post in the form of a video tutorial about how to change your signature: Changing your Signature File in Active a Video Tutorial)
HOPEFULLY UNNECESSARY NOTE: Please do not take this as a license to write 50 inane comments on random posts each day. Try to add something of value. If you do cut-and-paste comments, you will not only make yourself look ridiculous, you might just get banned from the site altogether.
If you are only using your name and no keywords in your signature, I would urge you to consider editing this to include something that a consumer might actually type into a search engine. Currently, my AR blog is on the third page of Google and slowly moving up for the term "Austin texas real estate", which is our most important keyword. My primary website is #5 for this term on Google. On Yahoo, we are at #2 presently.
The reason that "Members Only" posts do not produce backlinks is that the entire post is automatically tagged in HTML with "noindex", meaning that these pages will not be included in the search engine results. That is one reason that I try to limit my "Members Only" posts to those items that will not have interest beyond this network, such as contest announcements, or specific features of Active Rain. Everything else just gives me an extra chance to be found by the consumer.
Currently, my AR profile is showing 239 backlinks on Google, and 1,780 backlinks on Yahoo. That is more than a respectable number considering that almost all of those are comment links from my signature. It certainly makes you think about what your signature says, right?
I have been learning and practicing SEO for our site since 1998, and the algorithms are always changing. In fact, when I started, there was no Google at all. It is important to stay on top of the trends as much as possible. Content development and blogging seem to be the new frontier for SEO these days.
You may be wondering how I even checked my backlinks on Google in the first place. That is also very easy to do. Just go to Google, Yahoo, or whatever search engine you are curious about and type the following as if you were going to run a search:
link:http://activerain.com/your profile name goes here
So my specific command looks like this: link:http://activerain.com/jasoncrouch
This command will cause the engine to display the number of backlinks, along with the sources. Please note your profile name may not be the same as your real name, so yours may look different. Also, Google takes a LOT longer to update their backlinks than Yahoo, and it always shows less links than Yahoo.
As a side note, if you are attempting to develop inbound links on other sites or forums, you will want to make sure that they are not tagged with "nofollow", as these are utterly useless to your cause. "No follow" means that the search engine spiders will not even follow that link. Since you clearly want the spiders to find your page, for SEO purposes you don't want to bother placing links that will not be followed. Clearly, there may be other reasons to comment besides SEO (see second paragraph of this post).
Here is a normal link within the source HTML from one of my AR comments (you can click View--->Source while on a webpage to see this yourself):
<a href="http://activerain.com/jasoncrouch">Jason Crouch, Broker - Austin Texas Real Estate</a>
If Active Rain used "nofollow" tags for the signatures, which they DO NOT USE (thank God!), the link would begin like this instead:
Active Rain does use the "nofollow" tags for the actual body of the comments, in order to prevent rampant comment spamming. So, placing a link within your remarks will not help you here.
I believe in giving credit where credit is due, and this post was inspired by something I read earlier by Kay Frenzer. I used her premise and expanded on my own experiences, as I thought this might be helpful for my friends here to know.
Thanks for taking a few minutes to read this one. If you have any questions, please feel free to call or email me anytime. I am always happy to help when I can.
Copyright 2008 Jason Crouch