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Is SEO more effective than a linking scheme?

 10:23 pm on Dec 11, 2013 (gmt 0)

Obviously the question begs another question or two. Like, "for who and for what?" Still, in today's world the two seem to have become nearly mutually exclusive and it's seems you still can't have your cake and eat it too so it seems like a relevant question. Anyway, would I be better off marketing my mythical "What Every Housewife Needs to Know About Widgets" website via a tried-and-perhaps-still-true SEO strategy or would I be better off slathering the web with links to my new miracle website and attracting visitors that way?

p.s. no real websites or niches were harmed during the posting of this question. :)



 12:26 am on Dec 12, 2013 (gmt 0)

I am currently running an experiment on this where I have done only on page SEO with siloing and added only 2 pr3 homepage links from my relevant websites along with social shares on my fanpage and twitter account. So far I am pretty surprised with the initial rankings in less than a week.


 12:40 am on Dec 12, 2013 (gmt 0)

I think another burning question inside this question is, is there a happy medium between the two? What you're doing sounds like a good experiment. I'm looking to set up a similar test in the very near future. I think that some sort of happy medium is what a lot of folks are looking for.


 3:41 am on Dec 12, 2013 (gmt 0)

How long do you want to sustain? You might get a short boost by slathering the links. You might get a longer boost that sticks too but it's probably more likely that your boost will fade out pretty quickly. If you're not in it for the long term, the link slathering might be the way to go.


 5:45 am on Dec 12, 2013 (gmt 0)

Indeed, SEO is a more effective process than engaging in a link scheme. However, a person has to follow Google link schemes. In the one way to other, you cannot escape from creating links for any website to rank it well in search engines. Nevertheless, Google does not allow or encourage webmasters to build unnatural links for a website. SEO is now for the sole purpose about getting natural links through content marketing and knowledge about your niche market. It demands quality and time. You also have to have an industry expert to create link that is valuable for target visitors.


 6:04 am on Dec 12, 2013 (gmt 0)

How long do you want to sustain? You might get a short boost by slathering the links. You might get a longer boost that sticks too but it's probably more likely that your boost will fade out pretty quickly. If you're not in it for the long term, the link slathering might be the way to go.

OK, fair question. And it shows that we need some defined goals. So, the goal is to acquire long-term traffic to my mythical website. That goal includes nurturing my visitors and giving them a reason to come back. It also means bringing in new, regular visitors. So this site is looking for sustained traffic over a long period of time.

Next, let me nix the term "slather" for a moment and start with something simple e.g. one inbound link. This link is posted in a blog comment or perhaps in a thread on a forum somewhere. The link appears in a discussion about widgets and is included in a substantive comment that details my experience with widgets and directly addresses the main point of the thread. It's linked to an article on my site which is highly relevant to the thread as well and actually expands on the subject.

Let's also presume all the links on this blog or forum are nofollowed. So, theoretically, I shouldn't get any boost in the SERPS for this link but I have created a conduit to my website that people can follow.

Do I know what the long-term, cumulative effect of that link will be as relates to my site's SE ranking? And do I know ahead of time how many visitors that link will eventually send me via click-throughs? The answer for me is, I don't know yet. Have I done anything to damage my rankability? Probably not. Have I created a pathway to my site that will bring visitors? Probably but...

Let's repeat that a thousand times with variations each time (no copy and paste so we won't be accused of slathering). So, every instance is unique. Links to the same site but perhaps to different pages or on different topics, from different discussions, using different link text, etc.

The first question I have is, at what point does this strategy become detrimental to my SEO strategy (or will it)? The next question I have is, at what point does this strategy become more effective than my SEO strategy?

Each strategy has a certain level of potential effectiveness. I think everyone here can relate to the concept of penalties for link scheming so we know there can be a downside where SEO is concerned. Conversely, too much FUD surrounding SEO can lead people to abandon link-building altogether (just to be safe). The reason for the question is to weigh whether there is a balance to the act, an equilibrium of sorts, and whether it is wise to abandon one strategy in favor of the other or not. Or would it be better to start by focusing more on one with the idea of migrating to a heavier reliance on the other over time? Where is the point of diminishing return in this equation and will it be the same point tomorrow as it is today? OK, the last part of that question was obviously rhetorical.

[edited by: webcentric at 6:31 am (utc) on Dec 12, 2013]


 6:06 am on Dec 12, 2013 (gmt 0)

You also have to have an industry expert to create link that is valuable for target visitors.

I cross posted past the statement above and I think we we're thinking along the same lines regarding authority (see previous post).


 6:09 am on Dec 12, 2013 (gmt 0)

I often have difficulties following how SEO is different than a link scheme. Both are forms of search engine manipulation, the question is degrees of manipulation.

I've been looking at a site for a couple of days that's within the top ten for a reasonably competitive phrase they are seeking. Their inbound links aren't strong and there is a very high number of no-follow links. But, all those no-follows are very topically related.

That isn't even the reason I'm looking at the site. They have a really interesting internal link strategy that I believe has more impact than the inbound links.

Personally, analysis is SEO, page or link manipulation is all a degree of scheme type stuff.


 6:13 am on Dec 12, 2013 (gmt 0)

I often have difficulties following how SEO is different than a link scheme. Both are forms of search engine manipulation, the question is degrees of manipulation.

I beg to differ. Links don't have to have anything whatsoever to do with SEO. They can bring traffic all on their own. There are two sides to this question. Getting SEO traffic and getting link traffic. The question really goes to the point where these two concepts intersect.


 6:38 am on Dec 12, 2013 (gmt 0)

It appears the answer to your questions is to get more link traffic. I suppose if you get enough links, you'll get enough traffic to not have to worry about the search engines.
Best of luck with that.

Links don't have to have anything whatsoever to do with SEO



 7:43 am on Dec 12, 2013 (gmt 0)

I'm not looking for luck. I'm trying to understand where a point of diminishing return is. It helps to be able to unglue your mind from the concept that links ONLY exist to have an impact on the SERP's (even if only for the purpose of having a discussion). A link can drive traffic independent of its effects on rankings. If the only way to think about a link anymore is to imaging what it's doing to your rankings then you're looking at half the picture (or at least some fractional part of it). Links can and do produce traffic just by existing! Or at least that was their intended purpose back in the dark ages. Tim Berners-Lee didn't envision hyperlinks as a tool for influencing search engines. Their purpose is to facilitate navigation between documents. It's what a link does.

Links don't have to have anything whatsoever to do with SEO

Can be more clearly stated as

"Links don't NEED to have anything whatsoever to do with SEO"

I'm not saying linking isn't part of SEO. I'm saying the natural process of linking (and it's results) cross over into SEO (whether that's page rank, penalties or whatever). They intersect. Where's the balance between getting booted to the bottom of the SERPS for a linking scheme vs getting a number one listing for just the right number and type of links (combined with some great content and user experience of course)? Oh, and while you're answering that. Where is the balance between getting no referrals from links and getting a ton of referrals from links? It's about balancing the best of both worlds if that's possible. Not favoring one over the other. Unless of course, there is a clear cut scientifically provable answer to this question which I don't think there is and even if there is, will it be valid tomorrow? Why does everything have to be black or white? I see it as a sliding scale and discussions on this board toy with the question every day. I'm looking for the sweet spot on the scale but it helps to be able to acknowledge the extremes on either end if you want to have a discussion.


 9:02 am on Dec 12, 2013 (gmt 0)

I really don't spend much time thinking about links. I realize they can bring traffic by themselves and I realize there are SERP impacts to their existence.

I consistently test, and if test results are favorable over a period of months I then implement similar strategies on sites that are more significant.

I guess my question would be:
Have you ever pointed tens of thousands of links at a site and what were your results?

Or are you just looking for someone else to give you the results?

Robert Charlton

 10:51 am on Dec 12, 2013 (gmt 0)

...and added only 2 pr3 homepage links from my relevant websites...

This part of it, I'm sorry to say, is in fact likely to be considered a link scheme, though, depending on the number of links, perhaps a small one. Nevertheless, they are self-placed links, not freely given editorial links. I don't know how good Google has gotten at spotting them, but I'm thinking Google is most likely pretty good at it.

So, this part is a calculated risk... one that, as described, I wouldn't take. In the description "homepage links from my relevant websites", too many things jump out at me as obvious spam signals that are easily detectable. I'm glad it's working for you now. I'm curious to find out how long it lasts.

While a limited amount of cross-linking among owned sites is OK according to Matt Cutts, I tend to try not to cross-link my own sites at all... certainly never just for PageRank. In this sense, I'm probably more conservative than Google is about crosslinking, because such links have come back to bite me. (In all situations where this is happened, it's been because other links that had already been obtained were low quality and spammy, and obviously coordinated.

If a link from one site to another is obviously useful to your user, like a link from your company site to your marketing or information site might be useful, by all means do it. But too many such links, optimized anchor text, run-of-site links, etc, might raise some flags and get you into trouble. I think I'd want to have other good links before adding links between my own sites, so that the nepotistic links would be only a small part of the link profile.

You might also consider nofollow... and yes, I know that this isn't what nofollow was designed for, but sadly that's what it's become. (One could see this coming the day the search engines announced nofollow as a feature.)

I also think you may be missing some points about what "SEO" has become. It's now many more things than on-page and keyword linking.


 1:38 pm on Dec 12, 2013 (gmt 0)

Where is the point of diminishing return in this equation and will it be the same point tomorrow as it is today?

If I knew that, I would invent NetmegRank and retire with my billions of dollars.

You probably want to add to your theoretical site what kind of site it is - is it transactional? informational? a personal blog? I wouldn't be surprised but what that matters.

Over many many sites for myself and for clients, I've never had a link penalty. I've cleaned up a couple, but they happened before I got involved. And the reason for this is not particularly a noble one - I don't know how to do strategic linking and am not confident I wouldn't screw it up, so I just don't touch it. For myself, I link out a lot, but it's usually to people with a lot more authority that I have. When I'm commenting on blogs or forums, I put a link to my site in my profile, and leave it at that. In short, I try to ignore it as much as possible, and use common sense when I can't.

I was looking at the link profile for my main site recently and was amazed how many backlinks I have on it, some of which are really crap. Yet it ranks for some of the damndest things.

I've become convinced that the more you think about links for ranking, the more crazy it will drive you. And life is too short.


 2:43 pm on Dec 12, 2013 (gmt 0)

This part of it, I'm sorry to say, is in fact likely to be considered a link scheme, though, depending on the number of links, perhaps a small one

Although I respect a lot of what you say Robert, 2 links on 2 relevant websites owned by the same family of websites is hard pressed to be called a link scheme.

It would be the same as webmaster world placing a home page link to the "webmaster world webmaster social network" and the webmaster world site for wordpress webmasters".

Case and point. Look at the footer of Amazon, the sidebar of yahoo (although redirected), and the footer of the huff and puff post.

I think that the fear of any linking has made some people not link at all even to their own detriment. A link placed by a website to another website owned by them is one of the most natural links there can be. Who doesn't cross promote their own properties?

So as much as I respect your opinions and expertise, I have to disagree with you. 2 links does not make the sky fall down.


 4:04 pm on Dec 12, 2013 (gmt 0)

I have to say that I've never published a significant amount of links to any of my sites. If a link makes sense, I'll link it to another of my properties. I've sought out link exchanges with other relevant sites on occasion and then there are those that link to my sites because they feel like it for some reason. That's the extent of my link building escapades. I've never posted a link in a comment or a signature on someone else's site yet I've somehow managed to build competitive sites for years.

The links I've built have brought a small but steady amount of traffic over the years and I've never felt the sting of a linking penalty (that I know of) where the SERPS are concerned. So, I have some data of my own but I wouldn't call it the full range of experimentation some have undertaken. I didn't jump on the Page Rank bandwagon when it was in full swing and I'm not running from linking where it makes sense now. I have one page that rocks the SERPS and virtually all it has for a linking profile is about 2,000 inbound links from a single website that decided the page was a good local resource and they added it to the sidebar on every page of their site. Same link, same link text. Go figure. That site also sends me direct traffic and despite the fact that the page does well in the SERPS, the traffic from people who actually click on the link at this site is actually on par (engagement-wise and volume-wise) with the SERP traffic. So, in this one case, there seems to be a balance.

I do think the FUD has some people terrified of even the most natural of linking processes. Linking (in the context of keeping the SE's happy) is a slippery slope that many would have us believe ends in a pit of despair if we go too far (or dare to make even a single link). Philosophically, I'm asking those who may have more experience with this if there was a point when they actually found that linking was a valuable traffic source in its own right and could justify any potential hit they might take in the SERPS as a result. This might go to netmeg's question about what kind of a site it is. Maybe it's one of those sites I can pull a number one ranking with all day long but number one will never bring me the traffic I need to succeed, e.g. some niche that doesn't have a large volume of searches compared to others. So, this might be a reason to ask if link building (despite the possibility of penalties) might actually prove more effective than protecting my strong ranking which is bringing minimal traffic.


 4:34 am on Dec 13, 2013 (gmt 0)

The Web at one point was interesting and links were freely given to expand the options and information available to all. I don't know if the marketers or corporations came first, but exploits became the way to rank.

Once the exploits start, then you kind of need to make a determination as to whether you choose to compete or take some higher road that might not provide the results you desire.

My philosophy is to provide clear and honest information to users along with some purchase options. How users get to a property becomes a little more cloudy.

I think social terrifies Google because it's something that is way beyond their control. I place just as much importance on social as I do classic/conventional SEO.


 5:23 am on Dec 13, 2013 (gmt 0)

@bluntforce -- Ah! Now the conversation gets interesting because the typical webmaster's usage of social media could easily be called a method of link scheming.

What is a Facebook post if not a glorified comment that's sitting (for the most part) in the authenticated area of a website. Social media is actually an almost separate layer of Internet now that's arguably outside the control of the SE's where webmasters can still work their linking magic. Social links may or may not necessarily impact SEO the way a comment on a blog will but social networks do provide an available sub-space of the Internet where driving traffic through linking is still acceptable. The question is, will social networks eventually start penalizing webmasters for slathering their network with links. After all, they have advertising to sell too. Anyway, on it's face, linking can look like a dead art but really it's alive and well (for the moment) at least where social networks are concerned. It's easy to lump social media into it's own category but on its face, it's more like comment spam than anything you can get away with these days on the indexed Internet. So, in that light. My question still stands. Is SEO more effective than a linking strategy? And I'll add... "Or is fear of linking an unnecessary trade-off too many people are making because they don't have all the facts or see the larger picture". Ask anyone who's had something go viral if SEO can do what one viral post can. Both require work. I'm not saying there's one answer to the question and I firmly agree that each online marketing venture presents different challenges. Still, understanding how the pieces of the puzzle can fit together can provide some valuable insight and the question of whether SEO is the best route for every situation is going to be asked until you're sick of hearing about it because it's a relevant question and it's on a lot of people's minds right now. Again, I think a good goal is to find stability through diversification and balance.


 6:10 am on Dec 13, 2013 (gmt 0)

There was a point where I believed search engines actually wanted to provide the best results.

I don't believe that anymore.

I now believe you need to provide the search engines with something they can determine to be relevant to their users.

Sticky has become more relevant than useful.
Understand that. Funny cat videos have more importance than serious information in Google's eyes.
Pretty sad, but that's what we live in.

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