I hear you saying, “Ugh, backlinks on a wedding blog … Boring!”
But stay with me on this article because I suspect I will touch a nerve with a few wedding vendors. That’s okay. Just know that I come in peace. My objective is to figure out what is best for the long term value of my business as well as yours.
I like healthy debate and being able to see all sides of an argument. That’s why I want to start a discussion about a controversial subject in the wedding blog world – direct backlinks in real wedding posts.
What’s a Backlink?
While it may seem weird to touch on the topic of SEO on a wedding blog, the reality is that almost all online business entities must know something about search engines, organic rankings, or even paid search. And since we deal with a lot of offline wedding vendors, I thought I would spout my limited knowledge. I could never hope to delve sufficiently into such a broad and diverse topic here …. entire blogs are devoted to the single goal of discussing all things SEO.
Here is the definition of a backlink from Wikipedia:
“A backlink for a given web resource is a link from some other website (the referrer) to that web resource (the referent).”
Furthermore, a backlink can be either followed or no-followed. The debate rages over whether the only type of link that has any value is a follow link. Personally, I have seen evidence in my time building and managing websites over the years to know that a no-follow link does have value. We won’t get into that debate in this article, suffice to say that everyone who owns a website in this world wants ‘dofollow links’.
Why Links Matter
I will say that links matter. Follow links matter even more.
Even technical newbies or ecommerce novices know that getting a follow backlink from a high authority website is a big deal. In fact, it is worth a lot.
Links are the voting system of search engines. The more variety of links you receive to your website, the more of a vote of confidence in your website. That should translate into a higher domain authority and presence on search engines like Google for your content.
Links Have Value
Higher domain ranking equals more clicks, impressions, and overall traffic to your website, which ultimately leads to your end goal of more revenue.
Some wedding vendors pay for backlinks. They signup for any number of wedding vendor guides. Yup, Love & Lavender has one too. Part of the value of being listed in a vendor guide is the backlink that gets created.
Free Backlinks vs Paid Backlinks
I’ve read enough to know that Google doesn’t like paid links in any form. If a business (like ours) receives compensation in any form, then that link must be ‘no followed’. That’s where you go into the html of the link and add a piece of code that says “rel=nofollow”. I know, I hate seeing that little code snippet too! We subscribe to Google’s advice for both the protection of our website asset as well as your business.
You could try and get away with providing a ‘follow’ link, but you are playing with fire. I don’t recommend doing that at all. You never know when Google (or other search engines) will update their algorithm and punish both you and the site you link to for violating the rules.
If you are a prospective vendor, don’t even think of inquiring to L&L: “Hey, you provide a dofollow link for a sponsor post, right?”
The answer is no.
And you shouldn’t be asking for one either – from us or any other blog outlet that you approach for advertising services. Heed my words of warning. If you want to be in this online business game long term, then you better be on the side of the “Big G”. Nobody knows the real inner workings of Google’s search engine. However, if Google is telling you that they don’t like something, you had better listen!
Alright, onto some wedding website specific stuff.
I’m A Vendor and I Want a Backlink
You want a follow backlink. I know this for two reasons:
- I also run my own ecommerce wedding necktie store and want follow links.
- Without fail my weekly inbox has messages such as, “Hey! I see you posted XYZ wedding. I was the florist/baker/candlestick maker at this wedding. Can you please link to my website?”
From above notes above we understand that links are valuable. That is one reason this whole online wedding blog thing exists. Wedding blogs put together real weddings, styled shoots, and other useful content for brides, grooms, or vendors like you to consume.
It all takes time and money to execute.
The Great Wedding Vendor Backlink Debate
Get out your martini mixers, cause its time to shake up the wedding industry – let’s start a debate!
I forget where I stumbled across the notion that ‘in the wedding industry, it is standard to link to all vendors who worked on a wedding’. I imagine I was reviewing other wedding publication’s submission guidelines to see how they handle backlinks.
It doesn’t matter where I found it, what matters is asking the following questions:
- Why is it standard practice? Is it standard practice simply because a hobbyist wedding blogger first did it back in 2008, and so all wedding blogs that followed believe that linking to everyone in a real wedding is the way to go?
- Bloggers in other industries don’t link to everyone. They understand the value and power of giving away backlinks. Why is the wedding industry different in that respect?
- What is the current state of linking in real weddings across other wedding blogs?
- How many external links on a page is too many from an SEO perspective?
- ** Warning: Controversy Ahead ** … Should vendors pay for backlinks in real weddings?
That last bullet point in particular is a real doozy. I can picture thousands of wedding vendors across the USA reading this and screaming:
“What! Outrageous!! Who does he think he is to suggest that we have to pay for a link in a real wedding. I was part of the wedding, therefor I deserve a link from your wedding blog!”
The reality is that wedding blogs are media companies. Hard copy print wedding magazines provide similar utility as an online wedding-blog-formatted real wedding or other article. Its all content that a bride/groom consumes in some way.
You want to be featured (a.k.a advertise) in a bridal magazine? Chances are you will pay for that privilege, no matter what part of the magazine your advertisement appears.
Nonetheless, here is an interesting question to think about if you are a wedding vendor:
“What if the so called industry standard of linking suddenly was switched on its head … if all wedding blogs and online wedding media entities suddenly stopped linking for free, or even started charging for links?”
Well first, I don’t think Google would like that. The backlinks would definitely have to be ‘nofollow’.
Plus, I wouldn’t want the administrative hassle of spending my time (or that of an employee) to negotiate and manage a whole swath of minimal revenue driving paid backlinks!
So don’t worry, I for one am not about to push that revenue model forward.
However, I raise the issue for one primary reason. As you will see later in this post, I take a quick look at some of the larger wedding blogs and how they link in their real weddings. Essentially they are linking internally to pages that constitute their version of a wedding vendor guide … with nofollow links to vendors … and that you must pay for additional features.
Haven’t the bigger blogs already then embraced a pay model?
It seems to me that getting follow links from high value (domain authority for SEO) websites that use to give them out like candy is becoming awfully difficult.
Real Wedding link overload
What is the optimal number of outbound links for any given real wedding. More to the point, what if it is better from an SEO perspective to only link to say 5 vendors per real wedding?
I once received a real wedding submission with no less than 28 links to various vendors!! That seems like link overload to me, and probably not something that is valuable to either a wedding blog or the websites linked to.
From various online sources I have researched, it seems like there is a limit on how many links one should include in any article or page before it becomes somewhat detrimental.
This is what Adam Groff from ViralBlog.com has to say about the subject of too many outbound links,
“What was once considered the standard in outbound linking, like dozens of links per web page, is now frowned upon. Web pages littered with links just look spammy in the eyes of today’s Internet community.
“If the website you link to isn’t the same caliber as your own or vice versa, it becomes a question of linking ethics. Besides, you wouldn’t want a poorly constructed, spam-heavy webpage linking to your quality, reputable site.”
But aren’t I helping my bridal audience?
On the other side of the debate is the notion that adding all those links at the end of real weddings actually helps the bride or groom and adds value. Linking to each and every vendor is valuable and useful as part of an overall content experience.
There may be some merit to that.
Another very popular SEO blog I read has this to say:
“When linking to a site, you’re telling all your readers that you vouch for that site and it’s content. If you ever link to a shady or crappy site, your credibility will travel on with that link. Even if it’s no follow, you’re telling your readers that you vouch for that site.”
In that same Search Engine Journal article pay attention the the bullet point list that speaks to ‘putting yourself in your user’s shoes’ with regards to outbound links. I think each of those 4 questions make a lot of sense.
What’s the average number of outbound vendor links?
For L&L anyways, I would say the average number of links out to wedding vendors on any one real wedding is around 10. In fact, I took time to go through some of our latest real weddings and count all the potential vendors that were listed (but not necessarily linked to).
The raw number of potential vendor links at the end of each real wedding were as follows: 9, 14, 20, 12, 8, 9, 17, 2, 7, and 7.
The average is roughly 10.5 links per real wedding. That seems like a lot of outbound links in my opinion.
Which leads me to more questions without easy answers:
- How does a blog pick and choose which vendors to link to?
- What is the cost/benefit of doing that in the first place?
- What is the ramifications of having so many links on one real wedding article?
- Where does a wedding blog draw the line in terms of adding value versus simply linking because you are provided with a huge list of vendors?
What are the Big Wedding Blogs doing?
I’m sure you’ve heard of those larger wedding blogs in the industry – sites like StyleMePretty, WeddingChicks or TheKnot.
I took a look at a few recent real weddings on each of the three big wedding blogs to see how they are handling backlinks. Here’s what I found:
ALL links are directed to an internal ‘portfolio’ page on their site. This is essentially a vendor guide.
We actually implemented something similar on L&L last year, but only for certain cities that we feature on our vendor guide. We wanted to build out 5 main cities that we receive a lot of traffic for the blog. After much debate, we stopped doing this because we realized we could never compete with the grand daddy of them all – WeddingWire.
At first I took a look at a few real weddings and found that there were no outbound links. That didn’t seem right, so I checked again a few weeks later.
Sure enough, I went back to the same real wedding and there are links to the a marketplace vendor guide page for many of the vendors. I don’t know their process, but I suppose it took them a few weeks to create and update individual vendor pages. Essentially this is the same concept as StyleMePretty (along with other wedding blogs).
I am a bit surprised that wedding chicks still has links to individual vendor’s websites. I suspect they may think about transitioning to the model used by TheKnot and StyleMePretty.
MY OPINION: I think most wedding blogs will end up with few outbound links on real wedding articles. Instead, links will point to some sort of internal vendor guide.
I am still undecided on where L&L will ultimately land on this issue. I suspect it will be a matter of testing, trial and error, and additional research.
Then again maybe I am wrong … about claiming that *most* wedding blogs will transition to this model. After all, it takes a lot of resources to be able to pull off the wedding vendor guide business strategy that bigger wedding blogs are tackling.
Given that hundreds of niche wedding blogs will never become an ‘everything to everyone’ wedding website model like giants WeddingWire or TheKnot, I wonder what value wedding vendor guides will come to offer. That will form the basis of my next article.
Ultimately, the whole backlink topic likely boils down to relevancy. If it’s not relevant, don’t link to it!
Are you in the wedding industry? If so, what do you think about links on real wedding or styled shoot posts?
Leave a comment below about any of the questions of points mentioned above regarding backlinks to wedding vendor sites.