Archived posts from the 'Risky Linkage' Category

Interested in buying a text link

Today I give up on answering emails like this one:

Hello,

First of all I would like to introduce my company as one of the best web hosting service provider from [country] named [link]. We are in the hosting business since 2004 and have more than 3000 satisfied customers.

We are having PR -6 and an alexa ranking of 63,697

We are interested to purchase a link at your site, please provide us with a suitable quotation.

Waiting for your kind reply.

Regards,
[Name, Company …]

Besides the fact that a page claiming a PageRank of minus six most probably is not that kind of neighborhood I’d tend to link out to, it’s a kinda stupid attempt.

Not only the page where the contact link was clicked is in no way related to web hosting services (it just triggers a few green pixels in the Google toolbar). Each and every page on this topic has a link leading to my take on paid links, which does not encourage link monkey business, so to say.

My usual reply to such emails was “Thanks for writing, you can buy a nofollow’ed link marked as advertising for a low as [tiny monthly fee] when you suggest a page on my site which is relevant to yours and I like what you provide to your visitors/users” plus an explanation of the link condom. No takers.

The message above is from a clown abusing my contact form today, so I guess it’s OK to quote it. It is however symptomatic, there are lots of folks out there who still believe that fooling the engines is that simple. I admit it can be done, but I’m with Eric Ward who says it’s not worth it.

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Is buying and selling text links risky?

To answer the question above: Yes, selling links can be risky, buying links is quite safe, and I do recommend link brokers. I don’t want to fuel the heated “paid links evil or not” debate, but there is so much misinformation out there that I feel I’ve to step in. Two things pointed me to this topic today, TLA’s affiliate program and an article by Jill Whalen.

I got an email from Patrick Gavin from Text-Link-Ads.com (TLA) introducing his new affiliate program. I know he’s a nice guy, so I’ve signed up and placed his banner on all related pages of Smart IT Consulting Internet Services. Checking the link I found this statement on the landing page:

…our ads can … help your link popularity which is a top factor in search engine rankings.

Well, I disagree respectfully, so I wrote an article How to buy and sell (text) links and linked it as editorial note below the ads. Don’t get me wrong, I won’t promote TLA for ‘lousy’ $25 per signup. I do believe that traffic brokers like TLA provide extremely valuable services, and although I don’t use TLA’s service myself I got a few recommendations from trusted sources. So please consider TLA’s program recommended when you buy traffic.

Ok, next I stumbled upon Jill Whalen’s good article Buying Text Links - Is It Evil?. Jill does a terrific job in explaining why paid links confuse the hell out of the search engines and why they dislike selling link popularity. Basically she says that buying links isn’t evil and bought links will not get a site penalized by the engines:

It’s not a matter of if this [dropped rankings] will happen with paid text link ads, but when. It could be next week, next month, or next year. Regardless of when the engines decide to lower the boom, you can bet we’re going to hear a lot of crying in the forums about it! For now, if you’re buying text link ads, or have been thinking about it, I wouldn’t really worry about it. Just make a mental note to yourself that whatever boost to your rankings they may provide now could vanish at any time.

That’s right, the destination page may not get the PR boost, but the page carrying the link may get penalized, and unfortunately she doesn’t mention the latter fact.

If Google or another SE takes away a site’s ability to pass reputation in links that’s fatal. It may be not that big deal with outgoing links (although that’s pretty much questionable!), but internal links do lose their power too. If a site concentrates incoming links on the home page or few points of entry, the result may be that all the content pages attracting the money terms in lower link levels disappear from the search results.

So if you sell links, via broker or not, you really should make clear that your links will be castrated. Selling links with condom is fine with the engines. If you buy links, don’t worry but don’t expect an everlasting ranking boost, if any - just enjoy and convert the traffic.

Related links:
Sell and buy links via Text-Link-Ads.com (affiliate link to TLA)
Jill Whalen’s article “Buying Text Links - Is It Evil?”
My notes on buying and selling text link ads

UPDATE: Patrick’s statement: “We recommend only purchasing links on websites that have a good chance of sending you targeted traffic that converts for you. If you are getting your money’s worth in targeted traffic you don’t have to worry about how the search engines treat the link and any benefit will be a bonus.

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Reciprocal links are not penalized by Google

Recently, reciprocal linking at all is accused to tank a Web sites’ placement in Google’s search results. Despite the fact that it’s way too early for a serious post-Jagger-analysis, the current hype on oh sooo bad reciprocal links is a myth IMHO.

What Google is after are artificial link schemes, that includes massive reciprocal linkage appearing simultaneously. That’s not a new thing. What Google still honors, is content driven, natural, on-topic reciprocal linkage.

Simplified, Google has a huge database of the Web’s linkage data, where each and every link has a timestamp, plus an ID of source and destination page, and site. A pretty simple query reveals a reciprocal link campaign and other systematic link patterns as well. Again, that’s not new. The Jagger update may have tanked more sites involved in artificial linkage because Google has assigned more resources to link analysis, but that does not mean that Google dislikes reciprocal linking at all.

Outgoing links to related pages do attract natural reciprocal links over time, even without an agreement. Those links still count as legitimate votes. Don’t push the panic button, think!

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Serious Disadvantages of Selling Links

There is a pretty interesting discussion going on search engine spam at O’Reilly Radar. This topic is somewhat misleading, the subject is passing PageRank™ by paid ads on popular sites. Read the whole thread, lots of sound folks express their valuable and often fascinating opinions.

My personal statement is a plain “Don’t sell links for passing PageRank™. Never. Period.”, but the intention of ad space purchases isn’t always that clear. If an ad isn’t related to my content, I tend to put client sided affiliate links on my sites, because search engine spiders didn’t follow them for a long time. Well, it’s not that easy any more.

However, Matt Cutts ‘revealed’ an interesting fact in the thread linked above. Google indeed applies no-follow-logic to Web sites selling (at least unrelated) ads:

… [Since September 2003] …parts of perl.com, xml.com, etc. have not been trusted in terms of linkage … . Remember that just because a site shows up for a “link:” command on Google does not mean that it passes PageRank, reputation, or anchortext.

This policy wasn’t really a secret before Matt’s post, because a critical mass of high PR links not passing PR do draw a sharp picture. What many site owners selling links in ads have obviously never considered, is the collateral damage with regard to on site optimization. If Google distrusts a site’s linkage, outbound and internal links have no power. That is the optimization efforts on navigational links, article interlinking etc. are pretty much useless on a site selling links. Internal links not passing relevancy via anchor text is probably worse than the PR loss, because clever SEOs always acquire deep inbound links.

Rescue strategy:

1. Implement the change recommended by Matt Cutts:

Google’s view on this is … selling links muddies the quality of the web and makes it harder for many search engines (not just Google) to return relevant results. The rel=nofollow attribute is the correct answer: any site can sell links, but a search engine will be able to tell that the source site is not vouching for the destination page.

2. Write Google (possibly cc spam report and reinclusion request) that you’ve changed the linkage of your ads.

3. Hope and pray, on failure goto 2.

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Systematic Link Patterns Kill SE-Traffic

Years ago, Google started a great search engine ranking Web pages by PageRank within topical matches. Altavista was a big player, and a part of its algo ranked by weighted link popularity. Even Inktomi and a few others begun to experiment with linkpop as a ranking criteria.

Search engine optimizers and webmasters launched huge link farms, where thousands of Web sites were linking to each other. From a site owner’s point of view, those link farms, aka spider traps, ‘helped search engine crawlers to index and rank the participating sites’. For a limited period of time, Web sites participating in spider traps were crawled more frequently, and -caused by their linkpop- gained better placements on the search engine result pages.

From a search engine’s point of view, artificial linking for the sole purpose of manipulating search engine rankings is a bad thing. Their clever engineers developed link spam filters, and the engines begun to automatically penalize or even ban sites involved in systematic link patterns.

Back in 2000, removing the artificial links and asking for reinclusion worked for most of the banned sites. Nowadays it’s not that easy to get a banned domain back in the index. Savvy webmasters and serious search engine optimizers found better and honest ways to increase search engine traffic.

However, there are still a lot of link farms out there. Newbies following bad advice still join them, and get caught eventually. Spider trap operators are smart enough to save their ass, but thousands of participating newbies lose the majority of their traffic when a spider trap gets rolled up by the engines. Some spider traps even charge their participants. Google has just begun to work on a link spam network where the operator earns 46,000$ monthly for putting his customers at risk.

Stay away from any automated link exchange ’service’, it’s not worth it. Don’t trust sneaky sales pitches trying to talk you into risky link swaps. Approaches to automatically support honest link trades are limited to administrative tasks. Hire an experienced SEO Consultant for serious help on your link development.

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