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Google says link building is not dead, illegal or bad
Whitey




msg:4592087
 11:40 am on Jul 11, 2013 (gmt 0)

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.

Eric Enge:Really?

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?

 

EditorialGuy




msg:4593302
 5:41 pm on Jul 15, 2013 (gmt 0)

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.)

diberry




msg:4593306
 6:05 pm on Jul 15, 2013 (gmt 0)

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?


YES. This has already happened to me. There IS survival outside Google.

What makes the big businesses links immune from creating a penalty?


There are a lot of other factors in the algo, and Amazon has the resources to hire as many SEOs as needed to find what works. JC Penney wasn't immune when they got caught buying links. What's the difference? They're both huge, trusted brands that users love. My guess is that nobody in leadership at JCP had the contacts/tech savvy to know how to find a reputable SEO and make sure that SEO was doing it right. Whereas Amazon, being an internet start up from the first, probably did.

Planet13




msg:4593310
 6:27 pm on Jul 15, 2013 (gmt 0)

"Google has never said you can't promote your site."


I am not sure that those who tried to promote their site through article directories, blog comments and site directories would agree with you after they were hit by Penguin.

Not everyone who participated in those areas was doing it primarily to boost page rnak. If you read many of the MARKETING sites (that don't talk about SEO), they suggested doing those things to promote TRAFFIC, not page rank.

So people who were trying to supplement whatever search engine traffic they might have had by MARKETING their sites via low cost methods instead cut one of their own legs off.

netmeg




msg:4593311
 6:30 pm on Jul 15, 2013 (gmt 0)

We're WAY off the original topic now, but Amazon doesn't need to worry about links for good or for bad anymore. Their other signals more than make up for it.

netmeg




msg:4593314
 6:35 pm on Jul 15, 2013 (gmt 0)

Not everyone who participated in those areas was doing it primarily to boost page rnak. If you read many of the MARKETING sites (that don't talk about SEO), they suggested doing those things to promote TRAFFIC, not page rank.


C'mon. None of those (except for a very small handful at the top) have been able to send any significant traffic for years. The main reason they exist is to manipulate the rankings. Maybe you have to be an SEO to know that, I dunno.

The point is, there are plenty of ways to promote your business or your website that have nothing to do with Google, that Google can't even detect. If your niche doesn't lend itself to that (and I for one am unconvinced that anyone's niche can't be promoted outside of Google) then maybe it's time to find something else to do. Because Google isn't going to wake up one day and do a 180.

EditorialGuy




msg:4593315
 6:41 pm on Jul 15, 2013 (gmt 0)

I am not sure that those who tried to promote their site through article directories, blog comments and site directories would agree with you after they were hit by Penguin.

Not everyone who participated in those areas was doing it primarily to boost page rank.


Maybe not, but I'll bet most of them were.

In any case, if some site owners have shot themselves in the feet by trying to promote themselves via article farms, comment spam, and low-quality directories, that doesn't mean it's "dangerous to promote your site." It simply means that you're known by the company you keep, and diving into the cesspool won't do you much good when it's time to pass a search engine's smell test.

EditorialGuy




msg:4593330
 8:04 pm on Jul 15, 2013 (gmt 0)

Addition to previous post

Something else to think about: If site owners who have promoted themselves through "article sites," blog comments, and directories are harmed by something like a Penguin update, the harm probably isn't occurring because Google is targeting them. It's more likely that Google has reduced the value of "article site", blog-comment, or directory links, which means the recipients' incoming link juice has evaporated.

You can call this "collateral damage" if you wish, but the search engine isn't the guilty party. It isn't reasonable to expect a search engine to leave the value of low-quality links intact for the convenience of site owners who made poor choices when deciding how to promote themselves.

1script




msg:4593342
 8:45 pm on Jul 15, 2013 (gmt 0)

@EditorialGuy:
incoming link juice has evaporated
That's not exactly what's happening. These links have never (OK, past '05-'06) carried any weight. But you could get the word out about your site by leaving good, constructive blog comments with your site's URL in it.

What I'm personally concerned about (within the topic of this thread) is that these formerly benign types of promotion can directly hurt you now. Not by the virtue of removing whatever link juice they might have provided, like you've suggested, but directly hurt you via an algo filter (Penguin) or perhaps even a manual action.

I call them benign because there was never an implicit assumption that the links themselves could really help you much in terms of PR (page rank) but they could be a part of your more traditional marketing and PR (public relations). So, the promotion vector, if I can use that expression, was going like this: you post some useful blog comments, leaving a URL to your site. The blogger (or other bloggers reading those comments) like what you have to say, check out the site, like that and either add you to blogroll or refer to some of your own posts on the topic.
The same applies to forum posts with signature links. Cannot say anything about articles and directories having not done much of either myself.

So, in technical terms you will end up with a dozen or more no-follow comment links before you would get one do-follow out of it (if it ever works out), and even then it would likely be a blogroll links - also a strong suspect these days.

So can anyone say, based on the latest comments by Google, including those in the original post in this topic, whether this type of promotion would be considered dead, illegal or bad?

rish3




msg:4593365
 10:25 pm on Jul 15, 2013 (gmt 0)

It's more likely that Google has reduced the value of "article site", blog-comment, or directory links, which means the recipients' incoming link juice has evaporated.


Matt Cutts has been pretty clear that Penguin involved "negative ranking factors". Also, it would be pretty disingenuous of him to suggest that the penguin-afflicted try using the disavow tool if all of this chaos was just due to devaluation of links.

For me, that's where big G went over the line....when they decided to implement negative link juice versus just nullifying them.

EditorialGuy




msg:4593381
 11:29 pm on Jul 15, 2013 (gmt 0)

For me, that's where big G went over the line....when they decided to implement negative link juice versus just nullifying them.


It's pretty basic human psychology: Reward good behavior, and punish bad behavior.

If spammers go unpunished, they have no incentive to refrain from spamming.

rish3




msg:4593395
 12:19 am on Jul 16, 2013 (gmt 0)

It's pretty basic human psychology: Reward good behavior, and punish bad behavior.

If spammers go unpunished, they have no incentive to refrain from spamming.


I don't have hard metrics, but from my perspective, spam has increased. The spammers just adopted churn and burn.

At least for the things I search for regularly (not my own niches, but stuff I'm actually searching for), Bing is currently cleaner than G. That wasn't the case in the past.

And, of course, negative link juice makes negative SEO that much easier.

turbocharged




msg:4593440
 3:31 am on Jul 16, 2013 (gmt 0)

I think if Google was really concerned about paid and spam links, they would put a lid on pagerank. They don't because they like the free publicity of their pagerank figure being used as the definitive gauge of a link's value. But pagerank serves another purpose... Especially during an update that leaves a lot of collateral damage, a quick pagerank export temporarily changes the discussion in the webmaster community and takes the heat off of Google.

Now we have webmasters wasting hours trolling through links looking for bad apples to disavow. Others are spamming their competitors with links, and yet others are copying content and ranking it on properties that Google itself owns. Maybe Google's thought is to keep smaller webmasters running in circles so that they don't have time to build links and gain any traction. I don't know what their true intent is, but the organic product they have been serving in search is definitely substandard in many industries I monitor.

mcskoufis




msg:4593447
 4:18 am on Jul 16, 2013 (gmt 0)

Maybe Google's thought is to keep smaller webmasters running in circles so that they don't have time to build links and gain any traction.


@turbocharged It is why I have awarded Matt Cutts with my Chief Missinformation Officer award.

Couldn't agree more. They keep spreading rumours and "helpful" advice about authorship and other "tips" which keep webmasters into the wrong direction.

The top marketing executives/directors/etc of major international brands are also mislead by "SEOs" about the true brilliance of applying a solid and diverse local linking strategy and not poor quality blog commenting, forum spam, etc.

Maybe Google does this on purpose to detect spammers who rush to use authorship and spam G+, so they can track them via their other services and better understand how they work.

diberry




msg:4593450
 5:32 am on Jul 16, 2013 (gmt 0)

It's pretty basic human psychology: Reward good behavior, and punish bad behavior.


Actually, psychology studies show that it's better to reward good behavior and, when practical, just ignore bad behavior. When rewarded, people keep doing the good behavior. When punished, they just look for sneakier ways to do the bad behavior again and not get caught. When ignored, they don't repeat the bad behavior but instead try other behaviors to get what they want.

So yeah, if it's technologically feasible with Google's goals, they're probably better off quietly ignoring and devaluing the links rather than punishing people for them. I have a feeling it's not that technologically feasible, however, and that's why they're doing what they're doing. I.E., they may just have such a mountain of data to parse that they feel the need to wipe entire sites out of consideration for months/years at a time, and penalties allow them to do that.

Automotive site




msg:4593533
 2:57 pm on Jul 16, 2013 (gmt 0)

How ironic that Google which for so long emphasised quality content now wants people to spend time mining for bad links pointed to their sites, effectively reducing the time people have to create that quality content.

Automotive site




msg:4593536
 3:23 pm on Jul 16, 2013 (gmt 0)

If you have mediocre content you can get to the top these days if you are very social media savvy. We end up in the same situation. So many people out there with poor sites but are very good with social media are outranking genuinely good sites.

Planet13




msg:4593573
 4:29 pm on Jul 16, 2013 (gmt 0)

@ EditorialGuy:

While I agree with you that there are probably a significant number of instances where "the recipients' incoming link juice has evaporated," I must ask:

If site owners who have promoted themselves through "article sites," blog comments, and directories are harmed by something like a Penguin update, the harm probably isn't occurring because Google is targeting them. It's more likely that Google has reduced the value of "article site", blog-comment, or directory links, which means the recipients' incoming link juice has evaporated.


Then why create a disavow links process, and have google spam team employees state that people should use the disavow file for ALL unnatural links (which is something John Mueller has stated in individual cases several times in the google webmaster forums [or whatever it is called now] and in webmaster central videos?

Also, why have people seen recoveries from Penguin after using the disavow links tool?

Or are you stating that Penguin, manual penalties, and the disavow tool are ONLY for in-conetent paid links? And if that is your opinion, how is google able to determine if a link is paid for or not?

(When I ran my site through some of the various link analysis tools out there, about 60% of the links were flagged as false positives for bad links. While I am certain that the tools available at google are much better, I would be surprised if they were not to register false positives.)

econman




msg:4593954
 6:34 pm on Jul 17, 2013 (gmt 0)

Then why create a disavow links process, and have google spam team employees state that people should use the disavow file for ALL unnatural links?



Answer: This provides a nice, low cost, high quality set of data obtained from webmasters who self-report all of their "bad" links.

Since the definition of a "bad" link has been intentionally left vague, webmasters are reporting to Google all of the links they are nervous about -- particularly the ones they purchased, the ones they built using link wheel software, the ones they purchased from some mysterious guy who was advertising 1,000 PR 1-7 links for $12, and the ones from some strange site they never heard of, but when they take a look it is so filled with autogenerated garbage text, they better list it, just to be safe.

The beauty of this approach is that it allows Google to compare various data sets -- essentially comparing the links webmasters know, or think, are "bad" against the links Google currently thinks are "bad" based upon its other data sets and analytical tools

This allows Google to tweak the dials, giving more weight to some "signals" and less weight to others, and to refine the algorithms they use to spot patterns in various large data sets, all in an effort to identify "bad" links and provide search results that are unaffected by the "bad" links/spammers.

atlrus




msg:4594030
 11:21 pm on Jul 17, 2013 (gmt 0)


Answer: This provides a nice, low cost, high quality set of data obtained from webmasters who self-report all of their "bad" links.


When the tool first came out, I was willing to agree. But now, seeing how very few webmasters are using it, along with those using it improperly - I doubt the set of data is either big or of any quality. Whatever it was intended to be, now it's just an erroneous waste of time, like almost anything in WMT.

turbocharged




msg:4594061
 1:38 am on Jul 18, 2013 (gmt 0)

I agree with econman. The disavow tool gives Google the ability to turn ordinary webmasters into a collective army of manual reviewers. Google loves scale, and this was one way for them to expand the manual review process exponentially with very little cost to them.

netmeg




msg:4594076
 2:25 am on Jul 18, 2013 (gmt 0)

(Quick note - before Google released the tool, webmasters were *screaming* for it - some on this very forum. Of course Google doesn't do anything that doesn't serve its own end in some fashion, but it *was* a top priority for webmasters too)

turbocharged




msg:4594079
 2:56 am on Jul 18, 2013 (gmt 0)

netmeg, I think many webmasters had expectations that the tool would work. The few reported successful recoveries would suggest that it does not work in the majority of cases involving both algorithmic and manual actions. This has been a major letdown to those who spent many hours trying to rectify linking problems, some of which were not even of their own doing.

Granted, backlink profiles do change as a result of using the tool and a return to previous ranks should not be expected. But for those who have used the disavow option, many are perplexed that their ranks have fallen even further - suggesting that either they did not disavow the correct links or the tools effectiveness is limited to data collection only.

Google has always preached the importance of creating great content for people and not search engines. I completely agree with this. But for such an environment to exist, webmasters need a way out of these penalties so that they can get back to content creation. There has simply been to many friendly fire victims for this to occur. Even a year later, many webmasters find organic search to be a very hostile environment when attempting to balance content creation with an unpredictable Google.

Whitey




msg:4594121
 5:51 am on Jul 18, 2013 (gmt 0)

@turbocharged - I'm not sure if the majority of vocal webmasters have used the disavow tool correctly, or sufficiently strong enough to form a view that it doesn't work. I've no reason to doubt Google's intentions. There is a thread on the stages of Penguin recovery.

Recovery is possible, even from something as cataclysmic as Penguin 2.0. [webmasterworld.com...]

What we can say is that MC stated that the tool required a machete. Folks will naturally take several attempts to get it right IMO, and very few communicate evidenced success [ which is frustrating - but that's just how it is ].

When a site has a lot of authority, it is a lot less vulnerable, as it probably has improved thresholds, to the penalties that are dished out. If anyone still has enough resource less, creating content [ and I include UI in this ] that folks will link "naturally" to has to be the key for that authority. In the context of the OP, this is the marketing edge that is being spoken about.

Planet13




msg:4594145
 7:01 am on Jul 18, 2013 (gmt 0)

@ whitey:

"I'm not sure if the majority of vocal webmasters have used the disavow tool correctly, or sufficiently strong enough to form a view that it doesn't work."


That could be true. There are certainly plenty of people on the google webmaster tools forum who lament filing several reconsideration requests before finally having one accepted. So it may be a similar situation where people are not doing enough work either removing links or disavowing them.

netmeg




msg:4594219
 12:34 pm on Jul 18, 2013 (gmt 0)

netmeg, I think many webmasters had expectations that the tool would work.


I think it's more that they had expectations that the tool would lead to a full recovery of former ranking and traffic. But of course, it doesn't work that way - it can't.

suvaance




msg:4594230
 1:27 pm on Jul 18, 2013 (gmt 0)

Is there anyone who can answer directly whether link building is effective or not? I've mixed results with this approach. Some sites are getting 1st page ranking with this approach and others aren't. My thinking is that it depends on the niche of a site. If other sites in that niche have stronger social influence, citations, built-in links within contents in independent & authoritative sources, then the old school link building technique is not going to help. But for niches like local car repair shop, where social presence is rare or hardly the owners of the sites have interest in promotion in different platforms, the old link building is still doing wonder.

Pjman




msg:4594236
 2:21 pm on Jul 18, 2013 (gmt 0)

@suvaance

I think you hit the nail on the head. Link building is one factor if your niche maximizes other factors; you will need to compete on that.

I am working in a niche now that has sites with 10x the links I have accumulated in 7 months. All the sites have zero social media connections. So I do both and after about 7 months I'm starting to jump on page 1 much more.

EditorialGuy




msg:4594243
 2:59 pm on Jul 18, 2013 (gmt 0)

Re the link-disavowal tool:

I was one of the site owners who requested it, although I don't recall screaming. :-)

BUT...

I wasn't looking for a tool to absolve me from past sins.

I was looking for a tool to neutralize "negative SEO" and unsolicited sidebar/footer linking by sites of questionable quality.

Google seems to view the tool as a repentance and salvation device for site owners who bought shady links and haven't been able to get those links removed. I'm reluctant to use it because I've never asked for (or paid for) shady links, and I have no need to confess or seek absolution. If I ask to have links disavowed, will Google mark me as a former sinner who might backslide in the future?

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