If you ask me which is the best and safest link building mechanism available out there, I would say it’s theme or template sponsorship. Yes, sponsoring a WordPress or Blogger (or other) theme can fetch you 100s of quality backlinks from a large number of domains in no time and it has several other advantages such as:
- One time low investment
- Sustainable backlinks if you pick the right theme and developer
- Progressive link building than faster approaches
- No manual effort – just sponsor a theme and forget
How Theme Sponsorships work for SEO?
When you sponsor a theme, basically you are paying for a link – with your chosen keyword – that is inserted (usually on the theme footer) into the theme code. Since these blogger or WordPress themes appear on multiple theme directories and download sites, many bloggers and webmasters would naturally download them and install on their blogs providing you several backlinks to your website instantly.
As you know, backlinks are the backbones of offsite search engine optimization and hence your website’s search ranks are highly likely to go up with this form of link building.
Where and How to find the right theme to Sponsor?
If you are looking for cheaper (below $25) theme link sponsorships, the DigitalPoint Template Sponsorship Thread is a very good starting point. However, you need to be wary of cheap themes that hardly get any download, forget alone links. It is always good to check the reputation of the developer, quality of his themes (cross browser compatibility, past downloads, quality of coding, customizability,…) and the channels that he use to promote his themes.
Cheaper template sponsorships will typically have up to 4 links in their footer and it is always good to pick only one of them than putting multiple keywords backlinking from the same page. One link sponsorship typically costs your $10 to $25 and isn’t that good deal if it can fetch a few hundred backlinks?
The other option is to go for a complete theme sponsorship which may be a $100 upwards affair. Small to mid-size players (e.g. FThemes, MagPress) may offer you this option. Usually, big theme development houses may not offer a sponsorship option but they tie up with famous pro-bloggers to get their act together in promoting the theme to a broader market.
Yet another option is to get a developer, code a theme, brand it yourself, insert your encrypted links to its footer and push it to the marketplace and your own blog as free download. It is possible to get a decent quality theme designed for $100 or even less.
Risks with Template Sponsorship
1. Many downloads but few backlinks: Many bloggers these days are technically skilled people and hence the first thing they do with the free download themes is to remove any sponsorship links. Hence regardless of the number of downloads, you may notice very few links coming in. Encrypted footers will help to some extent but this can still be taken out by an expert.
One way to address this issue is to promote multiple platform themes. For example, many blogger bases blogs don’t have highly skilled webmaster or blogger behind it. Hence don’t just go after WordPress or Drupal themes to promote. Never discount the power of blogger templates for your link building requirements.
2. Rated sites installing the theme: If a rated or warez site installs the theme that you sponsor, basically you are getting a backlink from a very bad neighborhood. If it’s a one-off case, it may be okay but if you have so many such links, Uncle Google might penalize you.
Choosing niche specific (closer to your niche that is) themes and design can often get you highly relevant backlinks from similar niches.
3. Need to choose your keyword very carefully: Due to the viral nature of the theme sponsorship based link building, once you commit to a particular keyword strategy, you better stick to that. Unlike other paid links or link exchanges done, you may not be able to remove these backlinks on request.
4. Cheap and copied themes: Beware of those cheap theme developers that keep replicating their own themes under different names with just a few changed images or colors. For them the sponsorship is a mechanism to raise quick money and their themes may not even get good enough downloads. As I mentioned, check the reputation of the developer and his products on forums and on the web.
I have just completed sponsoring a few themes and awaiting the results. I was forced to do so after seeing a lot of fluctuation in the search traffic as well as page rank on my pages.
Why don’t you go for some template sponsorships as well?