While I did not expect much in the way of news here in the U.S. due to the Thanksgiving holiday, it appears that Google took the opportunity to update their web master guidelines regarding paid links. The changes essentially reveal that buying or selling links that pass PageRank can penalize a site not only in its Google Toolbar PageRank status, but also in Google search results. What does this mean for those that consider themselves “white hat SEOs?” Better go shopping for a new hat – a nice black one.
It is all over the blogosphere – sites known for selling text link ads or Google PageRank have been slapped with a PageRank reduction for their own sites by the almighty Google itself. Is this a worldwide PR update with a possible algorithm change or is it more along the line of a hand job? Seeing that a couple of sites we launched several months ago are still at a “0″ PageRank, even though they have a good amount of links pointing to them, I’d have to say the latter. The question that remains to be answered is, “should publishers and those buying links be worried?”
Loren Baker has put together some guidelines in using blog reviews as an effective link building tactic. What I like best about Loren’s post is that he provides sound advice without revealing any specifics such as blogs that sell reviews or even companies that actually provide this as a service. With the war that Google has waged against paid links, it is comforting to see posts such as these that provide useful information without helping Google to identify those who are buying or selling the reviews. It fits right in with my previous plea for the entire paid links industry to go underground.
If Danny Sullivan’s report over the weekend that Google is in fact reducing the PageRank for sites that are suspected of selling paid links isn’t enough to send the entire paid links industry underground, then I don’t know what is. Add to this the storm of controversy that recently occurred over Rand Fishkin outing sites that sell paid links. Now I don’t sell paid links for the sake of ranking better in the organic search results, however, as one who buys paid links for client sites, I have been a proponent for some time now of the entire industry, those who buy links, those who sell them and everyone in between, working to make it more difficult for Google and other search engines to identify paid link strategies. Currently we are making their job way to easy.
We are having a discussion over at Small Business Ideas Forum where Dale King starts things of by questioning the effectiveness of reciprocal linking tactics. He basically says that once upon a time, reciprocal links were one of the number one ways webmasters acquired links from other sites. However, in current times, reciprocal links have been greatly devalued by the search engines, at least as far as helping a SEO effort. So are reciprocal links a thing of the past? Should webmasters avoid them like the plague? I would say that it really depends on the “type” of reciprocal link.
Don’t let the title fool you – I’m not against buying links. In fact I buy them quite often for clients. However I am frustrated time and time again when searching for good links. I find a great site in which there is an opportunity to buy a paid link but am scared off for one reason or another. Here is a rant of sorts as I list several things that bug me regarding those who sell links.
Owning a few directories myself, this is a question that is of interest to me, especially after Matt Cutts recently stirred up some controversy when he invited people everywhere to report paid links as spam. With our directories, some listings are editorial while others are paid. In the beginning, every site added was editorial simply to populate the directory. Today we require payment for every submission simply to compensate for the time that is taken to review, edit and include the listing. Therefore the submitter is not necessarily paying for a link but rather paying for the editor’s time to consider the submission for inclusion.
Matt Cutts started a firestorm this last Saturday by inviting people to use Google’s spam report form to report paid links. Many are interpreting this as a sign that Google is having difficulty detecting which links are paid and which are not. Others see it as Google taking another step to dictate how we should run our web sites and even our businesses. Although I can respect the fact that Google wants to protect its own search algorithm and ultimately their business model, I think they have gone a bit to far with this one.
I conducted a test last April (almost 10 months ago) in which I added a phrase to our SearchRank MySpace profile that at the time produced no search results at any of the four major engines. I linked the phrase to Justin Timberlake’s official web site to see if I could get the site to rank for that phrase even though it did not appear anywhere within his site – a Google bombing of sorts. I won’t repeat the phrase here as I don’t want any more pages ranking for it but you can read about the results of my experiment 4 months after link was originally placed.
Loren Baker has an excellent post on why the nofollow tag sucks. In fact he provides thirteen reasons why it has failed to deliver on its original purpose. I couldn’t agree more. Loren reminds us that the NoFollow link attribute (rel=”nofollow”) was originally created to block search engines from following links in blog comments, due to the amount of blog comment spamming. However this has not dealt with the real problem and that is stopping people from spamming blog comments in the first place. Things like asking a question or requiring authentication works much better in combating comment spam.
Andy Hagan, who refers to himself as the laziest SEO in the world, has done it again. He has given away his entire link baiting game plan in “The Ultimate Guide to Linkbaiting and Social Media Marketing.” It is actually a quality piece that no truly lazy person could accomplish. At least it would require some time away from sandy beaches and sipping Mai Tais. Following are a few juicy tidbits but don’t stop there. Any person involved in search marketing should give this guide a read.
Chris Logan in conjunction with Small Business Brief has launched a new site called Free Links which offers a venue for individuals to share their experiences with free advertising and marketing opportunities. Free Links provides ways to advertise and promote a website or business. Currently there are over a hundred opportunities listed including gaining inclusion in web directories to promoting podcasts.