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Google's Guideline on Link Exchange
Is it unfair to webmasters who exchange links w/ editorial discretion?
cnvi




msg:3388057
 8:44 pm on Jul 6, 2007 (gmt 0)

A webmaster guideline specifically mentioning link exchange has been published over at Google:

[google.com...]

It states (in part):

Examples of link schemes can include:

Link exchange and reciprocal links schemes ("Link to me and I'll link to you.")

I will carefully presume this guideline is more targeted towards some webmasters who participate in full duplex (fully automated) link schemes where links are obtained in high volume with little to no editorial control.

However, I wonder how this will affect those webmasters who obtain links sometimes through relevant link exchange while maintaining editorial control?

Is this Google webmaster guideline over-reaching?

Will this guideline affect how you link with other sites?

Do you think this guideline is fair?

Is Google dictating how webmasters will obtain relevant traffic apart from search returns?

 

Reno




msg:3403188
 3:34 pm on Jul 24, 2007 (gmt 0)

If you are participating in link exchanges on a scale that is sure to send signals, expect those pages to become null at some point if they haven't already.

To be honest, Google could give our "links" page zero PR and I couldn't care less -- it's only there as a way to maybe generate a little extra traffic from visitors who go to sites that are complementary to our own.

This is why I wish there was a legitimate way for siteowners to signal to Google that they can ignore with our blessings ALL reciprocal linkage on our own site (PR neutral).

My concern however is that G might lower the PageRank on other pages that I DO care about -- unfortunately, their guidelines do not (for me) make a correct course of action very clear.

...................................

Lord Majestic




msg:3403225
 3:56 pm on Jul 24, 2007 (gmt 0)

Why not use rel="nofollow" attribute on those recip links, if they are indeed not for PR purposes?

Reno




msg:3403260
 4:25 pm on Jul 24, 2007 (gmt 0)

Why not use rel="nofollow" attribute on those recip links, if they are indeed not for PR purposes?

I admit I may be confused about this.

While I don't care about gaining PR for our own page from arranged cross-linking, wouldn't using rel="nofollow" work against the other people linking TO us?

In other words, if they enter into the agreement thinking that their link on our page will send the spiders their way, and then we do something to block that, isn't that contrary to what they'd expect?

Or do I misunderstand what nofollow is meant to accomplish?

.......................................

Lord Majestic




msg:3403267
 4:33 pm on Jul 24, 2007 (gmt 0)

The theory is that using rel="nofollow" is a legit hint to a search engine to discount value of that links for purposes of algorithms that rely on links, ie PageRank. So, in theory if you link to each other using rel="nofollow" then both links should be legitimately discounted before making to stage where suspicious interlinking is checked.

That's theory - I personally feel (and this is not based on anything other than gut feeling) that inside Google they treat links with "nofollow" as a red flag indicating that a given page MAY contain links (naturally external) that should not be trusted. Maybe they will discount only links explicitly marked with "nofollow", maybe they will put that page through extra analysis - it is not defined in a spec (is there a formal spec actually?) what exactly will happen.

While on the subject - don't be confused with "nofollow" word - it should have really been called "norank".

idolw




msg:3403275
 4:39 pm on Jul 24, 2007 (gmt 0)

If you are participating in link exchanges on a scale that is sure to send signals, expect those pages to become null at some point if they haven't already.

Exactly. And once the site goes null, all you need to do is to point these links at your competitor.

Reno




msg:3403347
 6:01 pm on Jul 24, 2007 (gmt 0)

don't be confused with "nofollow" word - it should have really been called "norank".

Oh, the confusion deepens.

The Random House dictionary gives 11 definitions of "scheme", the first 2 being:

"1. a plan, design, or program of action to be followed; project.
2. an underhand plot; intrigue."

And now we learn that "nofollow" should be thought of as "norank"!

When it comes to my income -- which will greatly impact the quality of my life -- I do prefer precision in language, and I bet that's true for most people.

If Google was a joke site where double entendre was applauded, we'd not care a hoot about the exact meaning of words.

But unfortunately, that's not the case -- if we drop out or significantly down in their index, we hurt, and so these murky guidelines do nothing but cause unnecessary concern.

Memo to Google: You've got the best software engineers in the world, now how about getting some people on staff with highly developed language skills? A little editorial clarity could go a long way in making all this work better.

...........................

Lord Majestic




msg:3403359
 6:07 pm on Jul 24, 2007 (gmt 0)

I have no idea why they picked such a misleading term - "nofollow" to me reads a "search engine won't follow link" as it is a robots.txt like mechanism or robots META tag along the line of "nofollow" but on a link level basis.

However the premise for this attribute came from issue of PR trading and nothing that I have seen about it puts any obligation on a search engine not to follow the link, in fact it is totally up to search engines to interprete this attribute any way they want - it is all a black box.

The only half-logical explanation of choice for "nofollow" rather than "norank" is that "nofollow" already used in robots META tags, however clearly in this case it is about ranking, not following.

CainIV




msg:3403821
 5:55 am on Jul 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

All summed up perfectly, by a quiet and great post Robert made:

#3401201

It is all about intent and I believe it's easy to spot because intention and action breed methodology.

Intention - link to a handful of high quality websites using reciprocated links - I have always seen my sites do well this way.

Intention 2 - Trade reciprocal links for the purposes of ranking better / hoarding pagerank - different methodology, different action and different link profile for the website.

Other website who have many reciprocal links usually stay afloat, if they are, by a balance of positive trust factors versus negative factors. Remove one positive trust factor and you might have -950.

Marcia




msg:3403829
 6:17 am on Jul 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

>>intention and action breed methodology

That is stated *gorgeously* and it just about sums up how things folks do get caught up with and end up coming back to bite.

Kurgano




msg:3403867
 8:28 am on Jul 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

I read the article and I'm responding, forgive me for not reading the replies so far in full, I scanned, but they don't change my opinion. They can't because this has gone on for a long while now.

Google is shutting down anyone who is in the "link" business while pushing their own link business EXTREMELY hard. Googles new "refferals 2.0" program is nothing but a glorified link scheme in which you can PAY GOOGLE to get a link on your site to some third party site but GOD FORBID you cut out google and do it yourself. Refferals 2.0 is NOT context based and falls FULLY under their own definitions of what is NOT allowed.

I want my piece of cake back.

Quote of what google deems bad... "Buying or selling links"

ARE YOU KIDDING ME? What does adwords/adsense do EVERY DAY? and I just got a monthly notice suggesting I needed to increase to THREE the number of google ads on my pages.

I ask you, and please consider this carefully, when google presents you with a menu of links to chose from, aka refferals 2.0, HOW is that different from looking at a menu NOT from google?

zeus




msg:3403920
 9:42 am on Jul 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

i think they will just go after those php,cgi scripts which are only made for link exchange, personally I would also not alow over, hmm 30 linkexchange.

irldonalb




msg:3403926
 9:50 am on Jul 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

Sssssssshhh Don't speak badly about Google, it mind hear us

But seriously, I genuinely don't understand how people can complain about this.

Examples of link schemes can include:

Links intended to manipulate PageRank
Links to web spammers or bad neighborhoods on the web
Link exchange and reciprocal links schemes ("Link to me and I'll link to you.")
Buying or selling links

If I link to a supplier and my supplier links to me we're not part of a link scheme as we're not manipulating PageRank. We're not web spammers or linking to bad neighbourhoods. We're not part of a scheme and no cash has been transferred. What's the problem? I don't think Google will have a problem either.

Lord Majestic




msg:3403940
 10:29 am on Jul 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

> What's the problem? I don't think Google will have a problem either.

I think the problem is that it is hard, if possible at all, to be 100% certain which recip links are okay and which ain't: you know they might be good or bad because you are aware of your context, but Google and other search engines have to process tens of billions of urls very quickly so the level of intelligence that they can afford to apply is not very high.

callivert




msg:3403943
 10:37 am on Jul 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

This thread is a lot of panic over nothing.
Two things:
1) Matt Cutts has said (I'm paraphrasing) something like this: "some reciprocal linking is okay, but don't overdo it." Can't find the quote, it was on his blog.
2) I have a blog with reciprocal links both to other, related blogs and a couple of directories ("gasp! you did a reciprocal link with a directory!"). Also lots of one-way inbounds and outbounds. The blog has PR4 with no problems, thus demonstrating the truth of Matt Cutts' words.
They're after sharks, not minnows.
Let's wrap up this conspiracy theorising and stop jumping at shadows.
Move on folks. There's nothing to see here.

irldonalb




msg:3403952
 10:52 am on Jul 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

They're after sharks, not minnows.

I couldn't agree more.

Lord Majestic - I think there's a lot of panic for nothing. Of course webmasters can link to other websites if they feel it will benefit their users. These Webmasters won't have to crawl through the other site making sure there's no link back. Google will look at the bigger picture.

Lord Majestic




msg:3403955
 10:59 am on Jul 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

I think, and soon I will be able to say more definitively, that it would be logical for a search engine to look at totality of links to a page/site and look at ratios of those that it thinks are not good, if this ratio is very high like it is typical for a heavily spammed site then whole page/site can be dropped, and if it is low then these links can just be ignored.

callivert




msg:3403962
 11:13 am on Jul 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

it would be logical for a search engine to look at totality of links to a page/site and look at ratios of those that it thinks are not good

I think that's probably what they do. They also look at things like speed of acquisition. Hence, if you obtained 7000 backlinks yesterday, you might be a search spammer.
(and I've never seen a story of someone getting banned after making the Digg front page, so Google is at least that smart)

WebPixie




msg:3403967
 11:23 am on Jul 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

People care about what Google thinks because they want to make money. You can't make money on the internet without traffic and G is the number 1 provider of visitors on the web. Google sees it's job(in terms of organic search anyways) as gathering traffic and redirecting that traffic to the sites that are best matched to the users stated query. A major part of G's ability to determine what site best matches what user requests is link history. So sure, linking done with the sole purpose of influencing G search results is a major problem.

The problem is that Google's model is flawed. If I figured out that guys that wear yellow tennis shoes make much better boyfriends and designed a business based on hooking girls up with guys wearing yellow tennis shoes I could make a lot of money. So maybe my business booms and it becomes hard for a guy to find a girl without going through my service. Then guys figured out that all they needed to do was buy some yellow tennis shoes, of course they are going to go buy yellow shoes. At that point I don't have much else to offer. So now I try and restrict guys from wearing yellow tennis shoes unless that would have had I never based my business model on wearing yellow tennis shoes? Or they can wear yellow tennis shoes but must put a sticker on them(nofollow) that says, "These are yellow tennis shoes, but please don't think I'm good boyfriend material because of my shoes".

When you add in the fact that Google is now also selling yellow tennis shoes(a bit of stretch perhaps, but not far from the truth) the situation gets even cloudier. The yellow tennis model was flawed from the beginning because it was not a true method of determining who was a quality boyfriend, it only identified one trait that many quality boyfriends shared. And that trait was something that was easy for poor boyfriends to fake. All this hoopla now just seems to be a lot of time and effort spent on recapturing the glory days instead of figuring out a new better way of teiring potential boyfriends.

trinorthlighting




msg:3403980
 11:43 am on Jul 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

This has been in place for a while, why do you think so many of the sites were -950? Link manipulation, three way links and link exchanges

callivert




msg:3403999
 12:19 pm on Jul 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

The problem is that Google's model is flawed.

I think "limited" is a better word. They have various indicators of quality- these work to varying degrees. They also have orthogonally to this, indicators of spam, or attempts to trick their system.
It's an evolving game, for sure, and interesting to watch.

Edge




msg:3404007
 12:33 pm on Jul 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

I'm in the "Ignore what you don't like camp" instead of punish the evil doers camp.

I think that Google should clarify exactly what giving a one way link really means to the donating site. There are many that assume that they loose PR and credibility by giving out many links.

Their link policy actually discourages legitimate links reciprocal or one way...

Google should try other shoes on for just a moment.

callivert




msg:3404032
 12:56 pm on Jul 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

I'm in the "Ignore what you don't like camp" instead of punish the evil doers camp.

Let's put ourselves in G's shoes.
There are hundreds of thousands of webmasters, all working to make their sites better, build their link profile, trying to write "link bait" blah blah blah. That's most people here.
Then there's a smaller number of technically savvy webmasters with resources and money, who can create a vast network of sites with an even vaster link profile in the blink of an eye.
What's Google going to do? I know what I'd do, I'd boot them out of the index.

Reno




msg:3404051
 1:20 pm on Jul 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

...vast network of sites ... What's Google going to do? I know what I'd do, I'd boot them out of the index.

It seems to me that Google's bottom line constituency is the web surfing public. Webmasters are a part of that but are not the whole of that.

Thus, their top priority should be to provide the best results for each specific query, whether or not the best result(s) has links that Google thinks is questionable.

So in regards to the "vast network of sites", is the implication that those are 100% junk? Are they 50% junk? How about 10%? We don't know and Google probably can't truly know either, because "junk" is a moving target and completely depends on your own definition.

The art world being a prime example of this!

If someone is looking to learn something, buy something, or be entertained by something, then it gives them little comfort to know that many of the sites that would have provided that content will not be presented to them in the SERPs because those sites have "bad links" (in Google's eyes).

It's a slash and burn policy based on the erroneous assumption that everyone with questionable links and etc is trying to "scam" Google. That, to me, borders on corporate paranoia, and hardly serves their constituency well.

.......................

300m




msg:3404078
 1:41 pm on Jul 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

So if I wanted to affect my competitors site by purchasing thousands of links to theirs, it would affect them negatively?

pageoneresults




msg:3404080
 1:43 pm on Jul 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

So if I wanted to affect my competitors site by purchasing thousands of links to theirs, it would affect them negatively?

Google says it won't but I tend to believe otherwise.

300m




msg:3404089
 1:49 pm on Jul 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

I think that is a point they can not turn away from. I mean I can see the need to post something about links. However, in my jaded perspective they essentially are telling me that off page factors can and will affect the long term succes of your web site. So if i really wanted to I could basically spend a few grand on linking to a competitors site with nothing but bad neighbors. Sounds like a new tactic, thanks Google.

europeforvisitors




msg:3404195
 2:50 pm on Jul 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

But if the interpretation suggested in this thread is accurate...

And if the interpretation isn't accurate, this thread is yet another example of collective panic over nothing.

C'mon, folks: Give Google credit for having at least as much intelligence nad common sense as you do. It's all about patterns and probability. Google isn't likely to penalize a link from the BBC to Bubbas-bubble-bath.com just because Bubba links back to the BBC. For that matter, Google probably won't even ignore that BBC link, because it has statistical evidence that the BBC is a trusted, authoritative resource. OTOH, Google may well ignore a hundred reciprocal links between Bubbas-bubble-bath.com and sites like Mikes-mesothelioma-and-debt-consolidation-site.com, because (unlike the BBC) sites like Mike's haven't earned credibility with links from other trusted, authoritative resources. Even I, a layman, can figure that out. :-)

buckworks




msg:3404208
 3:06 pm on Jul 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

Only some of the people in this thread are panicking, EFV! ;)

crobb305




msg:3404301
 3:53 pm on Jul 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

fully automated

I am not sure that they care whether or not the process is automated or manual.

Reno




msg:3404312
 4:06 pm on Jul 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

...this thread is yet another example of collective panic over nothing...

Jeez, I don't see that hardly anyone is panicking. There's a fair amount of concern however.

Why the concern?

Because the thousand pound gorilla appears to be somewhat changing its feeding habits, and everyone wants to make sure they are standing in the right place when it comes by.

Seems like common sense to me -- thousand pound gorillas can do a lot of damage if you get their attention, and they don't like it.

.....................................

DomainDrivers




msg:3404316
 4:13 pm on Jul 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

As was pointed out previously by someone with some reasonable sense, and a sense of history, reciprocation between two sites same realm is one of the original and most basic forms of marketing a website. It existed long before Google exsited, or any other search engine.

If two sites in the same realm of interest need to (or even if they simply want to) link to each other, they should not have to worry about a private third party, such as a search engine, looking at that arrangement.

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