Thursday, July 30, 2009

LinkMoses Resurrected #3 - When Cheaters Win, aka Peewater for Links

(Editor's note: See Peewater, as defined by Urban Dictionary)

You'll hear the following question/argument asked at just every online marketing conference, discussion/forum, and I'm asked it at least a few times a month.

"Why should we play by the rules when it's still possible to cheat and rank?"
I understand your frustration, and I can't argue your point, because every day my own analysis shows the exact same thing.

It annoys me as well because I will not use those tactics nor advise a client to try them.

When I begin working on link development for a client, I study the inbound link portfolios of the top 30 or 40 ranked sites across the four largest engines. And plain as day I see countless examples of pure peewater ranking well.

But...

Taking a deep breath, I begin to crunch the backlink data, and I mean hammer on tens of thousands of backlinks across 40 or 50 competitors, all fed into my old school but wickedly cool macro laden excel spreadsheet (60k records at a time, anyway).

What I see emerge time and time and time again is that it isn't always JUST the crappy links and tactics that are working. In other words, the crappy links are there, yes, but there were also some sort of merit based earned inbound(s).

I'm not saying this is the case every time because it isn't. Yes, some sites do rank with nothing more than pure peewater for links. But almost every time I've seen that happen, it's a site in a niche where there is little to no hope of getting merit based links in any volume in the first place. If the keyword searched for happens to fall into one of these niches, Google still has to do what Google does, i.e., rank them. And even if the signals are nothing but the aforementioned junk, Google will faithfully do its job, and rank someone #1 and someone #100, according to whatever signals Google can find, even if those signals are weak, or yellow. After all, is it Google's fault you are lying cheating stealing online pharmacy? No it isn't. (online pharmacy was only an example, please calm down.)

I repeat what I stated, and stick to it...
"...Yes, some sites do rank with nothing more than pure peewater for links. But almost every time I've seen that happen, it's a site in a niche where there is little to no hope of getting merit based links in any volume in the first place.
Since I know the engines are all trying to improve detection of junk links from impacting their result pages, I can't in good conscience recommend or use a tactic I know helps make the results that much worse, and which will stop working, whether tomorrow or next year.

But I also understand business. I just choose not to participate in tactics that make the web uglier.

Next up on LinkMoses Resurrected: How To Make Sure Your Press Release Is Completely and Utterly Useless

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About The Link Building Best Practices Q and A
The Link Building Best Practices Q and A is provided free by Eric Ward. For sites with high value content, I offer several fee-based strategic linking services on a project basis.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

LinkMoses Resurrected #2 - What If Everything You Know About Link Building Is Wrong?

LinkMoses ResurrectedSo let it begin.

Over at Search Engine Land today I wrote Betting On The Link Building Boondoggle Bonanza. I mentioned a couple very specific link building tactics in that column, press releases and directory submissions. What's being sold is, to be kind, bad and worse.

As for directories, some of this you surely already know. I've written about it before. A year ago I wrote Don't Blame Google For Your Own Linking Failures. The salient quote from that article was...

"Are you really going to tell me you are shocked that Google no longer thinks a link from link-o-matic, link-to-my-loo, and LinksForNoGoodReason.de are of any value? Please. But if you knew that such links would someday lose value, why did you take money for that very service? And if you didn't honestly know such links were pointless, how can you call yourself a link builder?"
Here's how I can at least try to make this post constructive, rather than just calling a tactic stupid.

All sites exist on a popularity continuum like this...

Links from general directories that nobody has heard of will only be of value to certain types of sites, namely sites on the left side of the continuum. These will be sites with few links and credibility to begin with, or brand new sites with no links at all. For existing sites that have already shown the ability to earn links, there will be no value from links from these directories. In simpler terms, a site like CNN.com could care less about getting links from directories. But your site isn't CNN.com. True, but is it BrandNewSite.com? Probably not. Your site's linking pedigree falls somewhere between these two examples, as do most sites.

So, am I saying that for a brand new site links from no-name directories are useful after all? A little, but not much. In my private consults the point I make is this...
"Your site will not succeed or fail based upon getting links from no name directories. If those are the only links you can earn, you are dead. Your site will only succeed over time if it attracts merit based links within your industry's universe. And that will require content of merit that can earn such links"
I've made it pretty clear above that certain types of sites might get a small benefit from directories. But a site that can benefit from such a silly type of link isn't much of a site now is it? Why is that so hard to accept folks? Now take it a step further. Let's hypothesize. Why couldn't the search engines use those same directory links as reverse signals? Any site that has links from 57 directories, which as time passes does not also earn merit based links, has helped point itself out as pure crap to the engines. Thanks for the help. Same with press releases BTW, but more on that tomorrow.

As for companies that are selling directory submission services, yes, your service may very well be outstanding. But the best thing you can do is provide this or a similar type of disclosure to your clients before they spend money with you. Don't hide behind "buyer beware" and "free market" arguments. If you know a site will not benefit, don't sell it to them. Is that so hard?

Lastly, there are many directories that are in fact extremely good link building targets. Thousands of them. I use them all the time, when the client's site is a fit. They exist in verticals. Verticals can be subject specific, geo-specific, industry specific, feature specific, even author specific. Credibility and intent are key. If you operate a directory please don't assume I'm lumping yours into the useless category. I purposely have not mentioned one real directory by name in this article. The point can be made without it.

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About The Link Building Best Practices Q and A
The Link Building Best Practices Q and A is provided free by Eric Ward. For sites with high value content, I offer several fee-based strategic linking services on a project basis.

Monday, July 27, 2009

LinkMoses Resurrected - Thirty Link Building Rants and Commandments

By now most who know me know the LinkMoses backstory.

I retired LinkMoses 15 months ago. LinkMoses had a fabulous run, earned over 100,000 links, (smoke that linkbait) and the post LinkMoses Linking Commandments - Part I remains one of my site's top five most visited pages.

So why bring LinkMoses back for thirty posts? Three reasons.

First, it's easier for me to speak my mind when I'm in LinkMoses mode. A defense mechanism that allows me to say things I'm chickenshit to say as Eric Ward. LinkMoses=Buddy Love, Eric Ward=Sherman Klump.

Reason 2?
The awesome post "Is Most Of SEO Just A Boondoggle?". Jill Whalen took heat for it, though she's one of, if not the most under-appreciated and intelligent voice out there. If you aren't reading High Rankings Advisor Search Marketing Newsletter, I have to ask you what the hell are you thinking? Stop reading this post immediately and go subscribe.

Reason 3?
I never wrote LinkMoses Linking Commandments - Part II. There was no reason to be greedy, and why be a Link Whore?

But, it's time.

LinkMoses will be back here for thirty posts. Rather than tell you what my goal is in doing this, I'll let the posts speak for themselves. The first LinkMoses Resurrected Post will be:

"What If Everything You Know About Link Building Is Wrong?"

It will be here Tuesday.

So let it be written...

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About The Link Building Best Practices Q and A
The Link Building Best Practices Q and A is provided free by Eric Ward. For sites with high value content, I offer several fee-based strategic linking services on a project basis.