Link Buying

Dec 4, 2007 • 8:20 pm | comments (6) by twitter | Filed Under WebmasterWorld PubCon 2007 Las Vegas
 

Link Buying Location: Salon B

To buy or not to buy; that is the question in link building today.

Speakers: Moderator: Detlev Johnson who fills in for Elisbath Osmeloski Rand Fishkin, CEO, SEOMoz Jim Boykin, CEO, Webuildpages John Lessnau, Founder, LinkAdage Aaron Wall, Author, SEO Book

I'm sitting in the front row and I came in early but Lisa decided to sit next to me and she's taller so my head is in the way of the projector. There's a picture of a finger and it's pointing at my head with the question, "Should You Buy Text Links?" Just great.

I saw Matt Cutts in the audience. He's not on the panel this time. I think he is afraid. Then again, Michael Gray isn't on the panel either. I guess he really has nothing to fear.

First up is John Lessnau. He's the owner of LinkAdage and LinkXL and always gets asked, "should I buy links? What links? Will I get banned?"

But he narrows it down: if you buy links, what kind of links should you buy? It depends - how old is your site? If you have an older site that has a lot of links, you can slip in a few extra links. How many links do you have now? If you have tons, it's easier to slip in a few paid links. Are you happy with your traffic? Some people buy links even though they're ranked high for the big search term. Don't take that risk. What is your risk tolerance? There's a big risk/reward deal with buying text links. There's one site out there that ranks #1 for a competitive key word and they're buying all kinds of Russian, Chinese, etc. backlinks. (Interesting. Why can't the search engines identify them? He adds that this strategy doesn't always work for all sites.) Do you get natural links? If you're getting tons of natural links, don't buy links. As people to link to you and change the anchor text that works for you a little better. If they like your site enough, maybe they'll listen. Is your site under the radar? Are you selling toenail clippers and want to rank on the front page? You might be able to buy 5 links and get in the front page. But on the other hand, if you're in the competitive areas like Rx, casinos, mortgages, it will take harder.

Why buy links? - It's the only realistic way to get decent links - Shortcut to better natural rankings: if you're willing to take the risk, there can be great rewards (see next point) - Instant gratification - Hopelessness - Keep up with the competition - PR envy

What kind of links should you buy? - Well, don't go to pages that has unrelated links that has an "Add URL" link added. - Don't go to PR8 sites with contextual links that have descriptions. - Do go to links that fit among the content. - Here's a site that screwed up: PR7 and sells links at $100/month. The next week, it had more links and was a PR5.

LinkXL - purchases links in the existing content of websites related to your site that don't openly buy or sell links. Buyers and sellers win.

Cutting Boards R Us: create a strategy for buying links. Come up with a bunch of keywords that you want to rank for and start searching various sites that contain these keywords. e.g. Clean cutting board, cutting board tips, using a cutting board, large cutting board - if a person buys links already in content, you can rank better.

Why links in content: they're naturally relevant, they're the type of real links that created the web, they help search engines understand what your site is about, you're not listed in a large clump of paid links in the footer or sidebar of a website, and as such, you can sleep better at night.

Minimize your risks, buy relevant texts in existent content, and you'll be much better off.

Next up is Aaron Wall. Rather than talking about more links, you need to look at the economics of publishing. These are alternatives to buying links. - Syndicate content on other sites since it builds authority, sends traffic, and flows PageRank - Barter (give stuff away, discount for certain sectors - big in education) - Buy competing websites - Social interaction - if you speak at conferences, it's self-preferential. He says that people talk about you. I'm talking about you now, Aaron. I know you're happy. His bloggers guide to SEO got 50,000 views in the first week (and it just came out about a week ago. It rocks, btw.) - Public relations campaign (pump your publicity)

Encouraging organic links - - Justin Timberlake - cumulative advantage: groups tended to follow a herd mentality and each herd group would vote differently. From one group to the next, it kept changing. - If you have a regular editoral voice in your marketplace, it makes more people want to trust you and follow. If you convert a few people over, that is a lot better. - Show social proof - Beautiful site design actually works - Signs of credibility - about us, etc.

Directories: Business.com Work.com - submit a leading guide. Instead of paying recurring, you get free exposure, multiple deep links, and exposure on Work.com too.

The directory purge of 2007: Google killed many directories. Buy in if: - PR is where you expect it - Cache dates are recent - Listing quality are decent Aaron likes niche directories, JoeAnt, and BOTW - other small ones too (but he won't name them because he doesn't want Matt to kill them) AdWords Ads for Linkbait - Create industry-leading content for authoritative easy-to-link-at topics - Buy AdWords for a wide basket of related keywords.

If you want to get clean links: - Go directly to Google. Blog about new Google products and wait for someone to blog about your blog post. - Use Google Checkout - designer portfolio, etc. - Sponsor events and advertise - Contests and award programs - even if prizes are virtual and have more value, if the right people seed the idea, it can be highly acclaimed. An example is the Web2.0 awards from SEOmoz. It got a ton of great links. - Donate or give stuff away (widgets are big) - Affiliate programs - the more people who see you, the better you're going to do Dirty links - Make sure they're hidden in the content or organic looking lists without any disclosure - Run really dirty stuff through your affiliate program Jim Boykin is up next. He doesn't have a presentation (thankfully, I don't really want to type from slides anymore) :) What's already been said? Just about everything. But he reiterates: - Don't buy links unless you're the Yahoo directory. - Don't buy reviews unless you're reviewing Google products. - You can't really get links for free. You have to work for it. - Stay under the radar. Don't piss off Google.

Finally, Rand Fishkin is up and discusses how to buy links and get away with it. Imagine an ideal link graph of the web: everyone likes everyone else's stuff and links to them. What happens when paid links are into the equation? Everyone will link to the person who has money because they'll get paid for it.

From an engineering perspective, paid links equals worse results. The engines who have the most success against manipulation will win market share.

Paid Links Search Engines Catch: - Brokers who don't cover their tracks - If it sticks out like a sore thumb, you're in trouble. - Brokers who display their inventory - Links that appear on the web in an unnatural way. If there's a surge in links all of the sudden during a particular month, a search engine will investigate.

Paid Links Search Engines Haven't Yet Caught: - Direct one-to-one purchases - Very smart link brokers that you don't know about. The less you know, the smarter they are. - Any part of business relationship where links are a secondary part of the services.

A chat with Google Engineers on Paid Links - how do search engines (Google and Microsoft) feel about paid links? - Matt Cutts: the toolbar update was intended to reduce visible PR based on sites selling links. Google DID NOT visibly reduce PR of all sites that they caught and Matt didn't want to give a percentage. Going forward, Google is likely to continue this practice of visibly showing some portion of sites where it feels the owners have violated link selling protocol. - Paid link reporting by Matt Cutts: do it because it's in your best interest to see your competition receive lower rankings; do it because you want the web to be a better place and to make the jobs of the search engines easier; the argument of "honor among thieves" is a fallacy - nobody should legitimately believe that paid links make the web a better place (from a SE perspective); send reports through your Webmaster Central account for faster response times. - Potential penalties for link buyers and sellers: PR might be a penalty, but there's more - removing athe ability of links to pass value, but don't show anything visibly; remove the ability of the links tp pass value and downgrade the visible PR in the toolbar; remove the ability of the links to pass value AND penalize the rankings of the sites/pages being linked to AND/OR the site(s) selling links; remove the ability of the links to pass value AND remove the offending site(s) from the index.

Eydan Seidman from Microsoft also shared his wealth: - The vast majority of paid links are not beneficial to the user experience. The most recent example was someone advertising mortgatges on the Wisconsin Dells website (which is a water park). The response from the site owner was "someone looking at the Wisconsin Dells page has very broad intent." Philosophically: it's to try to devalue things that matter to our customer. Live does things manually and algorithmically.

Publicity: Microsoft doesn't speak often on paid links. They're keeping quiet. They are developing channels, however, to do so. (You should sign up to Microsoft's Webmaster Tools because it has extra competitive intelligence that helps.)

A solution to the issue of paid links: - What is a way of doing paid links that the SEs are okay with? Editorial reviews (Yahoo directory - people review the site and if they like it, it will be included). If every site passes the review, then it's not quality.

A Marketplace for Site OWners who wnat to link and buyers who want reviews to connect - here's a process: 1. The buyer submits a page that needs to be reviewed 2. Interested parties take a look. 3. The reviewers write about the page - if it's good, use a nofollow. If it's great, take the nofollow off, and if you don't like the content, don't write about the site but we'll still pay you.

Search Industry Entrepreneurs, Start Your Engines!!!!!!!!

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Comments:

Michael Martinez

12/05/2007 10:58 pm

Since neither Google nor Microsoft know where all the paid links are, neither is in a position to be saying that paid links are bad for the Web or that the majority of paid links are not beneficial to the user experience. The majority of Web sites shown in search results are not beneficial to the user experience since most users don't visit the majority of Web sites shown in the search results. The bogus arguments and smokescreens that Matt and Eytan threw out don't change the fact that the more challenging they make it for people to get search visibility, the more compelling the paid link economy will become for people. Detoxifying the search engines from dependence on faulty algorithms that devote too much attention to easily manipulated linkage will solve many problems for everyone and reduce the pain across the board considerably. Both Google and Microsoft need to focus on relevance, not links. The two are mutually exclusive.

Mike Tekula

12/06/2007 04:15 pm

Hi Tamar, I'm going to read more - but I could a typo you may want to correct. At the end of one of the first paragraphs, "it will take harder." Just letting you know. -Mike

Mike Tekula

12/06/2007 04:16 pm

Wow I just made a typo myself. That was sad!

Barry Schwartz

12/06/2007 04:20 pm

Mike, These are unedited, live, type as fast as you can and post, coverage of the conference. I am sure there are tons of typos....

Mike Tekula

12/06/2007 04:25 pm

Barry, I understand that, but I thought Tamar might want to know about it and correct the error - that's all. No ill will meant by it.

Barry Schwartz

12/06/2007 04:34 pm

Cool, just clarifying...

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