Linking Q&A

Feb 28, 2008 - 6:45 pm 2 by
Filed Under SMX West 2008

SEO & Linking Track

Linking Q&A - This panel of search representatives and search marketers takes questions about linking, from link building, to issues about buying links, to internal linkage and more. Moderator: Danny Sullivan, Editor-in-Chief, Search Engine Land Q&A Moderator: Brent Csutoras, Online Marketing Specialist,

Speakers: Nathan Buggia, Lead Program Manager, Live Search Webmaster Central, Microsoft Matt Cutts, Software Engineer, Google Priyank Garg, Director Product Management, Yahoo! Search Rae Hoffman, Principal, Sugarrae Internet Consulting Peter Linsley, Senior Product Manager, Search, Todd Malicoat, Independent Search Engine Marketing Consultant, ,Stuntdubl

This is a mixed panel of search engine speakers and marketers and they will be covering questions and answers.

Q: I'm planning on moving one domain to another domain. How do I keep my link credit? Piryank: 301 redirects and duplicate the structure as much as possible. Matt: Do a little at a time. Peter: Keep the content the same. Rae: Getting links after the 301 is done is also helpful to get the search engines to recognize you. Matt: Look at your backlinks and ask people to link to your new site. Nathan: This is a great time to engage a reputable SEO.

Q from Barry: Should I care about an .edu or .gov link? Rae: A crappy link for 8 years is better than an .edu. Todd: And that's because they are that old and have a lot of trust already. Rae: I'd be really surprised about the user pages on domains versus the official pages. Matt: The value is that those links have higher PageRank but the algorithm doesn't really factor (if link == edu or if link == gov).

Q about the nofollow with Ask vs. Google leads to a notification from Peter to say that not all links are created equal. Matt: nofollow is a mechanism to ensure that it doesn't flow PageRank.

Q: What's the definition of a paid link? Matt: Someone asked me "what if I buy a 6 pack of beer and I pay in units of 6 packs - is that a paid link?" If it's some other currency, it's still like a paid link. It's not a link that's most useful to users. Brian White has a good definition. Rae: You created the value on links in the algorithm and you should fix it instead of banning me. I would rather us not to be stressed out. Matt: Just to make it clear, every search engine wants to make their algorithm robust. We take community feedback. Nathan: Some links are easier distinguish as paid. They are totally irrelevant to the site.

Danny: What's the best way to get feedback on this? Google: We have a Google Webmaster Group. If you're worried, that's a great place to ask. You can also ask on my blog. Piryank: We have forms on Site Explorer and other areas and are making it easier to add communication tools. Ask: We are big on feedback. We should look at webmasters in the eyes and tell them that this is why it is. Nathan: We have a webmasters forum and we're even hiring!

Q: Link counts - are they accurate? Piryank: The link counts were off recently but it was an error. You can see less than 1% of the variation. The numbers are expected to be moving around.

Q: What about link baiting through gadgets - when is it spam? Matt: Some links are higher quality and come from higher pages and sources. You need to realize the effort of the link. If there was a random copy and pasting job with a widget, the search engines will probably not value it as importantly as a "relevant" link. Todd: There's gotta be balance and even in reciprocal linking, as long as there's balance - if all your links are UGC, it's going to set off a filter. Even the linkbait that is successful, having that influx of links now is not great for your site - search engines are going to recognize them and counteract them.

Q: What do you have to say about 301s? Do they carry 100% link credit? Piryank: 301s carry all link juice forward but apart from that they don't cause any problems. Matt: If you use 30 in a sequence, Googlebot won't like it, but to the most extent it does. Ask: If you follow all the advice we gave before, you should be fine. Nathan: It may not count 100% if you do the 30 in a sequence, but it generally counts.

Q: Link sabotage - fact or fiction? Can you hurt a website with links? Rae: Definitely. I think that a lot has to do with the balance. I don't think I could take CNN out but I think I could take another site out by changing the balance of their links that is in favor of things that Google doesn't like. Todd: If we can do it accidentally, you can certainly do it purposely. Matt: But you also see why people's rankings dropped and there are perfectly good reasons for why the rankings dropped. Peter: There is identity theft when people link to your site by hacking into it. The key thing is to keep an eye on your access logs. Look at the warning signs. Piryank: If you find spurious links, report them so we can analyze the sources as potential targets. Matt: How many people would then want to report links that they don't want? [A few people raise their hands.] Rae: But what if people don't want to report those links?

Q: Outbound links? Make a difference? Todd: Relevant links are good. Rae: You need to think about the user. [Matt beams.] Matt: You can't always control the links to you but you can control what you link to. That will affect your reputation and it shouldn't be a surprise. Peter: Definitely linking to a bad neighborhood is not a good thing. Todd: The abundance mentality: we don't mind linking to everyone and people are going to respect that.

Q: PageRank sculpting/siloing: should we do that? Matt: In general, worry more about the high quality of your site. After you've taken care of it, then think about sculpting. Put your best pages on top - your best selling products should be linked from your homepage. The nofollow and metatags essentially do the same kind of thing. Google is against abusive manipulation. Peter: It goes hand in hand with the users. Don't pay too much attention to sculpting until you think of traffic. Piryank: All of these tools are for you to use to get the right effect.

Q: I have a website. Some company buys my company and the domain registration changes. Do you pass the credit when the domain registration changes? Nathan: I don't believe there's a change from our end. Rae: When we incorporated a company and we saw no change in our rankings. Matt: The general case is that nobody needs to worry. It happens thousands of times a day, but you can go all the way to the edge: you buy thousands of expired domains and you want to redirect them around. You wouldn't want an expired domain spammer person to count. That's the case we look at. Piryank: Ditto. Peter: Under legitimate circumstances that's fine. Rae: What if you buy mini-sites related to the same topic? Like 15 TV sites? Matt: Mini sites is usually okay. Two or three is normal. Fifteen is a bit high. 1500 is the kind of scope I'm talking about. Todd: If you're moving your business name, don't do your redesign at the same time. Space it out over time and be conservative on how you make your changes.

Lightning round: How concerned should you be about policing old links to you that turned into a porn site? Piryank: Site explorer report spam. Matt: You can't control links to you.

Q: How do search engines view outbound RSS links? Problem? Matt: Generally not. Link the original article in your syndication to know you're the source.

Q: What are your thoughts about spacing links? Todd: 10,000 links at once is an issue usually. Rae: Videos is probably the anomaly.

Q: Absolute or relative links? Matt: We can't answer that in less than 15 seconds. Rae: I care and I go absolute whenever possible. Todd: Go absolute. Don't save 1K for this. Ask: For the fear of having your own content copied, go absolute. Matt: It's easier to move and harder to rip off. It's easier for search engines to know and not get mixed up.

Q: What happened to the download table feature in Google Webmaster Tools and is it coming back? Matt: We'll have to look at that, but we just announced today that you can get your webmaster information in iGoogle's widgets.

Q: What's the deal with nofollow on Flickr? Piryank really didn't answer that one. :(


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