| This 88 message thread spans 3 pages: < < 88 ( 1  3 ) > > || |
|Google says link building is not dead, illegal or bad|
|Matt Cutts Tweeted : I did an in-depth interview with Eric Enge at #SMX Advanced about SEO, and it just went live [stonetemple.com...] |
|Eric Enge:There are people who think link building is illegal now. Is link building illegal? |
Matt Cutts:No, link building is not illegal.
Matt Cutts:Itís funny because there are some types of link building that are illegal, but itís very clear-cut: hacking blogs, that sort of thing is illegal.
Plenty of interesting comments and questions in the mix. Anyone care to add their analysis to elements of this interview?
I like the way that Eric and Matt Cutts are trying to refocus SEO's on good old fashioned marketing techniques. Thoughts?
@netmeg - That type of simplicity nails it. Take that marketing message and pin it to your strategy to attract links. Absolutely.
I read the entire interview and must note how quickly it strayed offtopic from link building to an overview on internet marketing. While there is something of value here, the primary forms of acceptable link building noted are maintaining a social presence and guest blogging. Yes, most of these links use nofollow or are recommended to use nofollow by some Google employees (guest blogging).
Press releases/syndication was also touched on, and I have seen cases where rel=author is being used (unknown to the actual authors) in spam links to recommend anothers site/product/service. I did not study this enough to see if/how it really impacts ranks, but some are definitely trying to game the system by hijacking the reputation of popular people to pump up their own sites.
The continued push of social continues, to some degree, in this interview as well. I'm sure Google recognizes the value of having individuals creating content on their platform, just as Facebook, Twitter has. When individuals create content on another platform that they do not own/host, they essentially forfeit ownership of that content and the ability to monetize it. This type of movement will continue, in my opinion, as the online behemoths further strive to monetize people.
In conclusion, I must say that the interview left me disappointed. The title of the post is not fitting of the questions asked and answers received.
I've been saying for a while that building links through social media is one of the few natural ways to do it these days. It's lovely, because you can give yourself a single shoutout, and if your content appeals people will "like" or "pin" or whatever it, and there you go.
The problem is, Google can't follow FB and Twitter links. Even if they can detect that you have 1000 visitors coming from Facebook, they can't see any anchor text or surrounding paragraph to give them clues. FB linkage is carefully constructed to break the Google algo, IMHO. I honestly don't know what Google can do about that.
It sounds to me like Cutts is aware of the problem, and they're not ready to say "Yeah, links are dead, wow, those days are totally over" but they also know that social media links are the new way that people "vote" for your content (more people have FB accounts than are webmasters linking editorially - that wasn't true a few years ago). Google would very much like for link building not to be dead, and it's not... but it's on life support.
Hence the desperate push to get people on Google+ - if everyone would have just converted over to that, Google would have a super reliable way to judge page popularity and we wouldn't be having Panda, Penguin and all this confusion. But I don't think it's suddenly going to take off if it hasn't already.
What Google needs is a way to track traffic that doesn't rely on followable links. Sounds like they're looking into new options all the time, but it's just not happening.
Honestly, if anyone asked my advice, I'd say "Assume Google as you knew it is dead." Just pursue traffic, anywhere you can get it. Hopefully the algo will be able to detect enough of this to rank you accordingly, but if not... well, at least you'll have those other traffic sources.
It is a brilliant strategy on Google's part. Inform users that it is safe to build links their algorithm can't detect or those that are nofollowed. Imagine how many webmasters will waste countless hours trying to build these types of links that offer limited/no value as actual links. On the other hand, if the content is good others may link to it. Outside of the webmaster industry, particularly for small businesses that sell products/services, this does not happen often. That's part of the reason why around half of small businesses polled see no direct value in social media.
As Google gets better at identifying "useful" links (to use Netmeg's adjective), two things will happen:
1) The value of solicited and purchased links (i.e., links that exist only because of SEO) will decline, and....
2) The value of useful or organic links will increase.
And while the statement below may seem obvious, too many site owners and SEOs don't understand it or are in denial:
- The best way to acquire useful or organic links is to create a site or content that people will want to link to because (a) they like it and/or (b) it's a helpful resource for their visitors.
Fact is, organic links do occur. Our information site gets unsolicited backlinks almost daily, and we link to other Web sites all the time.
The challenge, for the majority of Webmaster World members, is how to attract natural or organic links to e-commerce and affiliate sites. How can that be done? I can think of two potential examples right off the top of my head:
1) A site has a unique or useful tool. (For example, a site that sells pet supplies might have a "puppy finder" tool that helps users select breeds based on characteristics such as size, lifespan, tolerance of small children, exercise needs, grooming requirements, and so on).
2) A site has great product reviews and advice (e.g., a mail-order fromagerie that has an illustrated guide to all 400+ French cheeses plus a "cheese pairing" tool for menu planning).
I suspect that neither of the examples above is original, but that isn't the point: What matters is that the fictitious sites I've just described would have more utility than 95 percent of the e-commerce or affiliate sites that sell pet supplies or cheeses. By having great tools and/or content on their sites, the business owners would have the chance to attract organic links from journalists, bloggers, pet columnists, food writers, and so on.
"But wait," you might say. "My skills are in sales and SEO, not in creating online tools or content." To that, I'd reply: "Then hire a programmer or writer." If you want to attract organic links, you need a site worth citing. And if you do manage to build a site that journalists, bloggers, etc. will link to naturally, you'll enjoy a bonus: Your site will have the kind of content that search engines want to show their users.
|Here's a sample list that springs to mind, more designed to exercise thoughts in folks resisting the direction Google is encouraging : |
2. Speeches and interviews [ Yes just like Eric Enge and Matt Cutt's interview ]
3. New and exceptional UI design features , have industry comment on it
4. Exceptional deals nobody else has
5. Controversial comments
The main problem I see is that these things may be copacetic for the time being, there is no guarantee that you won't be marginalized in the future for such actions.
Maybe google will see award sites as spam. If I were to get an award, even from a reputable site, I would probably ask them to make sure that they nofollow the link to my site.
Speeches and interviews, again, are not really all that different from guest blogging, are they? And we were warned in that Eric Enge interview by Matt Cutts that we should be careful when guest blogging.
So what if people decide that instead of having guest blogs on their sites, they are now going to have interviews? Would google not frown upon that?
And as Robert Charlton pointed out, their seems to be a tipping point where certain actions become an issue for google, AND WE CAN'T KNOW WHAT GOOGLE WILL DETERMINE THAT FUTURE TIPPING POINT TO BE.
For example, I am probably sure that there are directories where people originally got links several years back and they honestly felt that they did not violate google guidelines because they thought that those directories were legitimate (or legitimate enough).
But then the bar got lowered - or those directories devolved into poorer quality directories (i.e., accepting ANY quality of site for a few dollars). Now links from those directories are a liability.
Article directories, for instance, were once a GREAT idea in the eyes of many people - not just those seeking links, but USERS appreciated them as well. Users actually liked using some of them.
Today, they are relegated to the trash heap.
The point is some good sites go bad, and do you want a link from those sites when they do go bad?
|"But wait," you might say. "My skills are in sales and SEO, not in creating online tools or content." To that, I'd reply: "Then hire a programmer or writer." If you want to attract organic links, you need a site worth citing. And if you do manage to build a site that journalists, bloggers, etc. will link to naturally, you'll enjoy a bonus: Your site will have the kind of content that search engines want to show their users. |
This all sounds fine if we lived in a dream world. But in real life, using your scenario, I am faced with:
a) should I invest the money into the tool, then spend years waiting, with the hope that somehow someone will find my cheese website and link to it.
b) spend that money on advertising and ensure that I quickly get targeted traffic.
You are assuming, for some unknown reason, that I need organic unsolicited links, and, for the same unknown reason, you are trying to convince me that I should abandon a fast and easy strategy of buying links in exchange for the very slow and risky organic links?!? Why would I do something like that? For a vague promise that my website may rank in 5 years for 2 months and then get hit by one of many possible penalties not related to linking? No, thank you.
If Google wants me to go the unsolicited way, they better show me a compelling enough reason to do so.
|You are assuming, for some unknown reason, that I need organic unsolicited links, and, for the same unknown reason, you are trying to convince me that I should abandon a fast and easy strategy of buying links in exchange for the very slow and risky organic links?!? |
And you're assuming that your "fast and easy" strategy will continue working indefinitely. Is that a viable long-range approach? We'll see.
BTW, I'm not assuming anything about the links that you require, because my message isn't about you. It isn't even about site owners in general. There's more than one way to skin the proverbial cat, and if a site owner doesn't want to invest time or money in content of intrinsic value, there are alternatives. (Advertising comes to mind.)
|"It sounds to me like Cutts is aware of the problem, and they're not ready to say "Yeah, links are dead, wow, those days are totally over" but they also know that social media links are the new way that people "vote" for your content (more people have FB accounts than are webmasters linking editorially - that wasn't true a few years ago). Google would very much like for link building not to be dead, and it's not... but it's on life support." |
No denying social is on the rise. But I am not 100% sure they would spend all that money and effort on creating and updating Penguin if they felt that the value of linking and page rank to the algorithm was on the verge of demise.
|The main problem I see is that these things may be copacetic for the time being, there is no guarantee that you won't be marginalized in the future for such actions. |
Where's the guarantees for a brick and mortar business? None of these issues (in principle) are all that different than offline. Everything has a shelf life. You always have to adapt or die. You can bust your butt over your brick and mortar store only to have Walmart move in down the street or the city decide to run a construction project that closes your street for two years. All of these challenges that Google presents are variations of the types of challenges that businesses encounter every day. Some businesses/sites will be able to figure out a way to do it. Some won't.
But online or off, if your foundation isn't solid, whatever you build on it is at risk of collapsing. If you aren't fulfilling some defined need, and doing it better than most if not all of your competitors, and giving your visitors a reason to come back to your site over and over, and refer their friends, then pretty much nothing's going to work for very long.
And sites that *do* that stuff get links. Pretty easily.
|Fact is, organic links do occur. Our information site gets unsolicited backlinks almost daily, and we link to other Web sites all the time. |
Unfortunately the same rule of thumb does not apply to many of those who sell actual products or provide legitimate services. No amount of quality links, even from Fortune 500 companies, can overpower the dominance of paid ads pushing organics beneath the fold. This is why many brick and mortars I work with have dramatically cut back their online marketing budgets. They have reverted to increased advertising in print, television, radio, direct buys and other forms of advertising that are not diminished by an algorithm gone wild or excessive CPCs. From what I am hearing, their ROI is much better than they have seen online over the past year.
Although we can debate the value of links, the truth is paid search is being slowly rolled out. That is what everyone who is dependent on search traffic should be concerned about.
In as much as there can be a guarantee for anything in this life, at least brick and mortar (B&M) businesses are playing by known rules and none of the calamities you mention happen overnight, which does give them some time to react. In fact, the comparison of Google with Walmart does not apply to every site because Walmart would be a competitor to some local B&M businesses whereas for an online business G would be a utility, not a competitor. The comparison with a road improvement project does work but #1 The length of the project is known long before and #2 cities do go out of their way to alleviate some of the inconveniences because the businesses that are being hurt are the taxpayers that the city depend on.
|Where's the guarantees for a brick and mortar business? |
does not apply to online businesses either because the rules of the game are constantly changing by a third party. Granted, you can say that we (hope to) know the general direction of the changes (i.e. to keep SERPs free of spam) but without knowing the actual changes the end result, at least short-ish term, give or take a year, seems chaotic and unpredictable.
|if your foundation isn't solid, whatever you build on it is at risk of collapsing |
And that's not a self-evident truth either. When everyone is afraid to link to anyone for the risk of receiving a penalty from Google, attracting links (actual do-follow ones) is very difficult. I would say that there are niches out there where receiving a do-follow link would be a strong suspect, if not dead giveaway, that the link was paid for.
|And sites that *do* that stuff get links. Pretty easily. |
If that's the way you see it, then there's nothing more to say. Good luck.
|Imagine how many webmasters will waste countless hours trying to build these types of links that offer limited/no value as actual links. |
Well, for sites built for Google, they may be useless. For sites built for visitors, social media can send a whole lot more, and better converting, traffic than Google ever could.
|I suspect that neither of the examples above is original, but that isn't the point: What matters is that the fictitious sites I've just described would have more utility than 95 percent of the e-commerce or affiliate sites that sell pet supplies or cheeses. By having great tools and/or content on their sites, the business owners would have the chance to attract organic links from journalists, bloggers, pet columnists, food writers, and so on. |
I'm in product reviews, and your guess here is a bit off. Journalists ignore reviews. Bloggers afraid to link to anybody. What you will get are Facebook and other social media links. Even the big companies that want to link to your review of their product will do it via their FB page. Organic links really are much harder to come by than they used to be. There simply isn't any way around this.
And it's fine by me - I never built for Google, and always in fact built with the assumption someday Google would ban all my sites (it pushed me to work harder on other traffic sources). I'm just setting the record straight.
|I am not 100% sure they would spend all that money and effort on creating and updating Penguin if they felt that the value of linking and page rank to the algorithm was on the verge of demise. |
I think they spent is because they are desperate for links NOT to be on the verge of demise, but because they think it's doing well. I could be totally wrong, just tossing that out as something to chew on.
|at least brick and mortar (B&M) businesses are playing by known rules |
Not really. Big business has increasingly won tax incentives to pay their way - the old "Give us a huge tax refund, and we'll build a store in your town" type thing. Small businesses can't possibly promise anything that would inspire lawmakers to give them a backhander like that. And this is just one example of how the rules are very, very different and often pretty clandestine until the press breaks a story. Which may be too late for certain small businesses.
Look, in business people play dirty. A lot of folks here think Google should be knocked down by an anti-trust suit - well, at one point a lot of small B&M store owners felt the same about Wal-Mart. Now Wal-Mart feels Amazon's trying to kidnap what they've rightfully stolen, to paraphrase The Princess Bride. No matter who you're up against, there's going to be crap flinging and unfairness. It shouldn't be that way, but it is, and you can't fix it so you have to work around it.
|No amount of quality links, even from Fortune 500 companies, can overpower the dominance of paid ads pushing organics beneath the fold. |
|the truth is paid search is being slowly rolled out. |
Paid search has been rolled out already in Product Search. In Web search, Google doesn't need to do anything quite so drastic: If enough ads are displayed above the organic result, the effect is likely to be much the same.
From Google's point of view, having more ads on transactional pages (especially for highly competitive terms) would have two obvious benefits:
- Ad revenue would increase as users became used to more of a "Yellow Pages" approach to transactional search results, and...
- Search spam (and SEO of any kind) would be less productive and cost-efective, because fewer users would see the SEO-influenced organic results.
It's also worth remembering that traditional Google Search (the organic "blue links" kind) may not be a good match for e-commerce searches, since Google Search focuses on Web content and isn't very good at judging things like customer service, integrity, efficiency in filling orders, return policies, how likely a company is to have a given product in stock, etc. If Joe User is searching for "Widgetastic Model ABC-123," the top 10 organic search results may lead him to the best Web content (or, more likely, the best-optimized pages and sites) for that topic, but they won't tell him which of those top 10 vendors is going to provide the quickest service and best overall customer experience. Maybe Google is starting to believe that "Yellow Pages results" are a better fit for commercial searches than traditional "organic search results" are.
My question is - if SEO optimised sites are disavowing links, linking out with nofollow etc., are the winners sites that do not do any SEO, do not link build, do not use disavow, freely link out etc. There are many of such sites, even in eCom area.
Or even - if a site that never got involved in SEO link building do some on-page optimisation - would they shot up in ranking because their link profile is natural?
I am one of those folks! Why do you think anti-trust laws exist? One company dominating an industry is simply bad for business. Everybody's except that company, of course.
|A lot of folks here think Google should be knocked down by an anti-trust suit - well, at one point a lot of small B&M store owners felt the same about Wal-Mart. Now Wal-Mart feels Amazon's trying to kidnap what they've rightfully stolen, to paraphrase The Princess Bride. |
I think you have a wrong view of Google in relation to a site that isn't also a search engine. Unless you are a search engine (or maps/translator/free email/ ... the list goes on but it's not infinite, at least not yet) Google is not a competitor, they are for all intents and purposes a utility company that controls access of customers to your site in the same way the telephone company has been controlling access to your business when it was solely owning the telephone lines and all the rest of the switching. As such they should be regulated as any other utility company out there.
Parallels between Google and pre-1984 AT&T are striking, to me anyway. The entire telecom industry would not have existed had AT&T not been split under the anti-trust laws. Google themselves owe a great deal to that anti-trust split because without it, Internet access would never be as affordable and they would have "only" perhaps hundreds of thousands of customers instead of millions they have now. Indeed, they are able to propose Google Fiber now, something that would have been impossible had AT&T still controlled all of telecom.
Sorry, this is way off topic in the thread about link building, I just thought the Walmart analogy was wrong and should not be used to excuse away anything Google does, including in the general sense to the online marketplace.
Here's the whole problem in a nutshell (If I understand Mr. Cutts correctly):
The businesses with the largest social media budget will win.
Google is giving less credit to good content and more credit to other factors in their ranking algorithm.
It is hard to get organic natural links if you are on page 3 or 5 or 13 of the SERPS NO MATTER HOW GOOD YOUR CONTENT IS.
You can have the best content in the world, and if no one sees it, then it counts for naught.
I regularly see site with FAR BETTER CONTENT THAN MY OWN OR THOSE OF ANYONE ELSE that rank WAY BELOW ME (we are talking pages 5 through 20). If quality of content were the most important factor, these sits SHOULD be ranking #1.
How likely is it that their great content is going to be getting lots of freely given links if they rank around 150th in the SERPs?
So if I understand correctly, to get "organic" links, they need to pimp their site out (via social media) so that their great content, which no one would otherwise know about, can get some "organic" links.
But how will this actually change anything?
Won't this just reward companies with larger social media budgets?
Then maybe when google realizes that links generated by social media buzz are the new "paid links", they will create some sort of alogrithim filter to punish those sites.
|It is hard to get organic natural links if you are on page 3 or 5 or 13 of the SERPS NO MATTER HOW GOOD YOUR CONTENT IS. |
Sure, but that was true 10 or 15 years ago, too.
More to the point, as content becomes more important in the post-Panda era, mom-and-pop e-commerce sites with finite resources will need to decide where to invest their time and money:
- Should they focus on useful content, to boost organic search results?
- Should they focus on advertising?
- Should they focus on whatever SEO or link-building technique is currently in fashion?
- Or should they focus on word-of-mouth referrals, like the couple I know who who have built a profitable service business mostly through referrals from TripAdvisor forums?
Links aren't everything. If you can't get them, maybe it's time to try something else.
|Press releases/syndication was also touched on, |
Is it safe to use a press relese agency? I have a release going out that is critically timed with something about to break in the UK. I don't know whether I should go ahead or not. I feel like my site is comiong out of Penguin and I don't want to endanger it. This is probably not the place to ask but time is NOT on my side!
@netmeg, the difference with Google is that they are a multinational corporation operating outside the rules of government.
If I own a brick-and-mortar business and the city proposes to close the road for 2 years while constructing, I have a voice in the process because public actions require public input. Likewise if Wal-mart is built I have a say about that too. I may not always win, but I still have a voice.
Google is worse than Government because in their world, dollars count, not votes, and they do not have to answer to me, they only answer to their shareholders. If they implement an algorithm that wipes people out, no advance notice is needed or given, and there is nothing you can do about it, no one to call.
|So if I understand correctly, to get "organic" links, they need to pimp their site out (via social media) so that their great content, which no one would otherwise know about, can get some "organic" links. |
I don't understand this concept that people think they can't do any active promotion of their site. That's not what Google says and it never has been. What they mean by "create great content" is do create something people will like, then tell people about it by word of mouth, email outreach, social media, etc, and if they like it, they'll link or share it. What they don't want is every piece of outreach you do to be "please give me this exact-match anchor text."
Did B&M businesses of a pre-Internet era only put a listing in the phone book (and perhaps pay for a more prominent one) and then do nothing else? No, they told your friends and family and anyone else who will listen.
|Google is worse than Government because in their world, dollars count, not votes, and they do not have to answer to me, they only answer to their shareholders. |
That's one interpretation, but others feel differently. Obviously Google wants to make money, but I myself have seen plenty of evidence that they're in it for the long game as opposed to the short con. They have certainly shown themselves willing to give up AdSense and AdWords revenue in order to boot out what they deem to be ... less than stellar participants.
But if you do feel as though you have no control over the situation, why do you stay in it, then? Even assuming that there is a valid anti-trust case against Google (and IANAL so I don't know the vagaries of anti-trust law, and it certainly differs from country to country) it took TEN YEARS to break up AT&T. Who's ready to wait that long - or even half that long - for their rankings or online businesses to *maybe* come back?
I don't say that to be mean, just practical. If you really believe the deck is stacked that much against you, you're not doing yourself any favors waiting for someone to step in and slap Google on the wrist. If they ever even do.
I don't think there's anybody who thinks exactly that. My understanding of the issue is that most people believe that "actively promoting their site" these days through any means, no matter how benign, is as safe as diffusing a ticking bomb. At any point in the future Google may decide that this type of self-promotion is bad and slap you with a penalty.
|I don't understand this concept that people think they can't do any active promotion of their site. |
In fact, I believe that Google takes issue with any type of link that is self-originated and that is just plain wrong. Who else if going to promote you if you don't do it yourself? How else are you going to promote it if you don't provide a way to contact you - which in the online world means a link with URL? To be sure, some people way overdo it. But why does everyone else have to suffer?
Once again getting back to B&M example: sure, you do need more than just one Yellow Pages listing (and, BTW, did YP give you the listing out of the goodness of their hearts? No! You paid for it) but you have to make damn sure every piece of your promotion material contains the phone # or the address if you needed walk-in traffic.
|My understanding of the issue is that most people believe that "actively promoting their site" these days through any means, no matter how benign, is as safe as diffusing a ticking bomb. At any point in the future Google may decide that this type of self-promotion is bad and slap you with a penalty. |
That's what I've been saying!
I'm not saying everything Google does is awesome and the governments are right not to do more regulating of it.
I'm saying that some of what people are blaming on Google is more a function of how big business has always had a huge advantage over small. Remember how breaking up AT&T meant little regional phone companies could compete? Well, there are about 4 phone companies available in the US now for phones of any sort, and in the case of landlines you have no choice - it's whomever your city council gave your district to.
So, that helped small business how? That's all I'm saying. If it's not Google making things hard for us, it'll be somebody else. Small businesses have always had the challenge of working around big fish with huge and often unfair advantages. If governments ever do address these unfair advantages, it's usually "too little too late". That's just the reality for small business.
|My understanding of the issue is that most people believe that "actively promoting their site" these days through any means, no matter how benign, is as safe as diffusing a ticking bomb. At any point in the future Google may decide that this type of self-promotion is bad and slap you with a penalty. |
But as we've seen on this very forum, people get hit by Panda or Penguin as a matter of collateral damage. Is it not better to do outreach promotion now and attempt to get traffic-generating links, so that if you are hit, you have at least some users coming to your site, rather than being completely dead in the water?
I'm saying that some of what people are blaming on Google is more a function of how big business has always had a huge advantage over small.
Google should not be compared to big businesses, with the exception that they hunger for more and more profits. Most big businesses dominate their industry whereas Google has control over many different industries. Additionally, Google has leveraged this dominance to expand into other industries.
As this topic relates to links, many small business owners are told their ranks have fallen because of panda, penguin or some other action. What makes the big businesses links immune from creating a penalty? Everyone knows Amazon has a ton of spam links pointing to those sites who link to their products. Yet Amazon not only gets one listing at the top of the search results for a product, but sometimes two or three. Amazon even ranks above the companies that product the products.
Yep. Because they're useful.
|My understanding of the issue is that most people believe that "actively promoting their site" these days through any means, no matter how benign, is as safe as diffusing a ticking bomb. |
"Most people" don't even think about Google guidelines, penalties, or algorithmic idiosyncrasies.
Of those who do, a high percentage are misled by gossip, paranoia, and forum rants by people who have axes to grind.
Google has never said you can't promote your site. Google has never said you can't encourage other people to link to your site. Still, if you're genuinely convinced that a link from any other site to yours could result in a Google penalty or algorithmic karate chop, why not forget about Google and focus on other strategies, such as advertising, "social media," and direct referrals from sites that link to yours without being asked, tricked, or bribed into doing so? (Chances are, those organic links will be crawled by Google, resulting in search listings and traffic that you weren't counting on.)
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