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December 4, 2007

Link Buying

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Detlev Johnson is moderating the last session of Day 1 with speakers Rand Fishkin, Jim Boykin, John Lessnau, and Aaron Wall. Let’s do it.

Detlev says that link building is something that has become very important to search engine optimization. It’s become fundamental. Google has popularized it, but all the engines have to calculate this.

But, says Detlev, there are a lot of people in the search engine optimization industry who have learned how to game links. Today we’re going to talk about whether or not you should buy links and talk about motivations webmasters have for buying links. What type of site you are is going to help you determine whether that’s a rational idea or not. Having moderated many sessions on this topic, Detlev says things are normalizing.

John Lessnau is up to start the mayhem.

He gets asked questions every day about whether or not people should buy links, what they are, do they need them and will they get banned.

Should you buy links?

It depends. How old is your site? How many links do you have now? Are you happy with your traffic? What is your risk tolerance? Do you get natural links? Is your site under the radar?

Sites buy links because often it’s the only realistic way to get decent links. It’s a short cut to better natural rankings. They provide instant gratification and reduce hopelessness (aw!). It helps them keep up with their competition and curb PR envy.

The main thing isn’t whether or not you should buy links, but what kind of links you should buy. You don’t want to buy links on sites that include clumps of paid links or on sites completely unrelated to your niche. You want to buy links on pages where your link will be nestled nicely into the context.

His mantra is purchase links in the existing content of Web sites related to yours that don’t openly advertise they sell links. Both the buyer and seller win.

Links in content are naturally relevant, they’re the type of links that created the Web, they help the search engines understand what your site is about and you can sleep better at night. You don’t want your site listed in a large clump of paid links in the footer or sidebar of a Web page. That kind of link isn’t going to bring you any value.

Next up is Aaron Wall.

Alternatives to buying links:

Syndicate content on other sites: This builds authority, sends traffic, and flows PageRank
Barter: Give stuff away. Give discounts for certain sectors.
Buy competing Web sites
Social Interaction
Public Relations campaigns: Pump your publicity.

He talks about the Bloggers Guide to SEO he wrote, which got approximately 50,000 page views in the first week.

While people are talking about you, you want to follow that up with more public relations stuff to keep people talking about you.

Often when sites buy links, they forget about encouraging the organic links and the other stuff important to their company, like creating a regular editorial voice, community participation, showing social proof, having a beautiful site design and showing signs of credibility (about us, etc).

In 2007, Google killed a lot of directories. Only buy in if the Page Rank is where you expect it, the cache dates are recent and the list quality is decent. He likes niche directories like JoeAnt and BOTW. He likes a lot more but he doesn’t want to tell Matt about them. Heh.

Other ways to get links:

AdWords Ads for Linkbait: Create industry leading content for authoritative easy-to-link-at topics. Buy AdWords for a wide basket of related keywords.

Clean bought links: Blog about new Google products and wait for someone from Google to blog about your blog post. Use Google Checkout. Sponsor events and advertise. Contest and award programs. Donate or give stuff away. Affiliate programs.

Dirty Links: Try to get links hidden in content or organic looking links without disclosure
Run really dirty stuff through your affiliate program.

Jim Boykin is up and says he doesn’t have a presentation. He doesn’t want to get any search engineers upset. The main thing he has to say is stay under the radar and don’t piss off Google. That’s it. Excellent.

Rand Fishkin is up next and accidentally flashed a private presentation. I don’t know what it said but Rand got all red and flustered. Time for the real presentation. Rand is going to talk about how to buy links and get away with it.

Rand says Aaron is one of the best minds in the industry but people don’t see it because his style is so "mountain man". Hee! Best quote of the day! Rand says you won’t find a better source of information for Webmasters.

Rand says we’re kidding ourselves if we say that paid links don’t impact an ideal link graph of the Web. Yes, some of those links would exist anyway, but it’s an unnatural link arrangement. From an engineering perspective, paid links create a worse SERP. The engines who have the most success against manipulation will win market share.

Paid Links the Search Engines Catch

  • Brokers who don’t cover their tracks.
  • Brokers who display their inventory.
  • Links that appear on the Web in an unnatural way.

Paid Links the Search Engines Have Not Yet Caught

  • Direct, one-to-one purchases.
  • Very, very smart link brokers
  • Business relationships where links are a secondary part of the services.

A Chat with Search Engineers on Paid Links:

Google and Matt Cutts on the Toolbar PR Changes

The toolbar update was intended to reduce visible PageRank based on sites selling links. Google DID NOT visibly reduce the TBPR of all sites that they caught, and Matt was hesitant to share 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.

Matt Cutts on Paid Link Reporting:

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 make the search engines’ jobs easier
The argument of "honor among thieves" is a fallacy – no one can/should legitimately believe that paid links made the Web a better place.
Send reports through your Webmaster Central account for faster response time.

Matt Cutts on Potential Penalties for Link Buyers and Sellers

TBPR losses are only one of the potential penalties link buyers and sellers might incur. Other include:

Remove the ability of the links to pass value, but don’t show anything visible
Remove the ability of the links to pass value and downgrade the visible PageRank in the toolbar
Remove the ability of the links to pass values AND penalize the rankings of the sites/pages being linked to AND/OR the sites selling links

Etyan of Live on Paid Search

The vast majorities of paid links that we see is not beneficial to the user experience and in fact take away from it. The most recent example I came across was someone advertising mortgages on a Wisconsin dells Web site. The goal is to take these parts of the page into account and to give more weight to thinks that are actually useful to customers. With regards to publicity, Live isn’t at the point where they’re talking publicly about their spam efforts. This may or may not change in the future.

A Solution of the Issue of Paid Links

Editorial Reviews = Search Engine Worthy Links

I’ll try to give a few rules of thumb to think about when looking at a directory. When considering submitting to a directory, I’d ask questions like:

Does the directory reject URLs? If every ULR passes a

A marketplace for site owners who want to link and buyers who want to connect.

Step 1: Buyer of links submit a page you want to have reviewed
Step 2: Interested parties could take a look
Step 3: The reviewer writes about the page on their blog. If you liked it, link to it with a nofollow. If you loved it, link without the nofollow. And if you didn’t like it, we’ll pay you but you don’t have to write anything.

[Matt Cutts told Rand he wasn't thrilled with Rand's idea.]





3 responses to “Link Buying”

  1. David Temple writes:

    Whatever happened to buying links just because they bring relevant traffic to your site? Okay so that’s not as sexy as all this paid links for seo controversy but hey, if it works. Pssst how much for a link? Google will never know, its just between us.

  2. Michael Martinez writes:

    Whatever happened to search engines ranking results on the basis of relevance rather than linkage?

  3. Yuri writes:

    But Michael, if there are 100 relevant sites on a topic, which one do you place in top 10? The one with lots of trusted links or the one without?

    Surely, there may be some nuances of relevancy, but links are a part of it. Maybe they should just reduce the link weight or something, tho.



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