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|Is The War Over? Has the small webmaster lost?|
If buying links is shunned, reciprocals penalized; where to from here.
Long time Webmasterworld reader, long time SEO going way back. But at this point, I'm kind of wondering what other webmasters are thinking as far as the realm of link development goes.
If you're like me, you've eliminated Reciprocals as a possibility, either because they are basically penalized, or because most webmasters won't touch them with a 50 foot pole. Triangular links are pretty much the same, it seems, in that it is actually almost IMPOSSIBLE to reach webmasters at all these days. I understand this, as at this point the useless Spam link exchanges I get are at the 99% level. I have not seen a reasonable link exchange request in at least 1 year.
Now I'm reading (and feeling, actually), that Paid links via Text Link Ads and others are now becoming useless. As many of you know, these are expensive to start with, but to find them actually becoming Money Pits has left me a bit lost. Are there any other places where good links can be bought? Am I missing out?
You'll pardon me if I'm sounding a bit doomy, but a lot of this comes after years of banging my head against the wall. I'd love to hear from anyone on this.
|..reciprocals penalized.. |
Not all types of reciprocals have been penalized.
High volume irrelevant reciprocals may be penalized depending on the trend at which you obtain reciprocal links. Obtain 100 links overnight with sites irrelevant to yours and sure you are asking for a slap. If it doesn't benefit the web, it may be penalized.
Natural / low volume link exchange is alive and well and will not be penalized as long as you:
- Maintain edtorial discretion always (avoid full duplex software and services that force you to link without your explicit approval)
- Link with quality sites relavant to your site that will benefit your end users experience.
- Keep your volume slow and natural. That means do not use full duplex software or services that force you to link with many sites in a short period of time. "Natural" means you obtain three links today, none tomorrow, one the next day, none for the next four days, three the next day, none for the next week, two the next day and so on. The search engines are trending how often you obtain links. Show an unnatural trend and you may be penalized. Show a natural trend and your site will thrive.
A major Google engineer recently stated this past December that reciprocal linking occurs naturally - he is right.. its been going on since day one of the internet. Nothing wrong with it as long as you do not do it "excessively" - that's right out of the major search engine guidelines for webmasters.
Proceed with reciprocal linking when it benefits your end user. Be careful what you read about reciprocals - much of it is misinformed paranoia written by "experts" who have no experience with reciprocals.
I've been exchanging links for ten years and have never been penalized because I follow the guidelines I listed above.
As long as you obtain reciprocal links slowly with quality sites related to yours over a long period of time, you will not be penalized.
>>>As long as you obtain reciprocal links slowly with quality sites related to yours over a long period of time, you will not be penalized.
As long as it's not excessive.
>>>A major Google engineer recently stated this past December that reciprocal linking occurs naturally ...
That's different than obtaining them slowly with quality sites- which I'm certain is not what he had in mind when he said reciprocal linkage occurs naturally. Reciprocal linking as a strategy for ranking well still works, but if you're successful enough you will run the risk of coming under a site review. How big or small the risk depends on the niche and how willing your competitors are to file a quality report on you, as well as the likelihood that a QA checker comes across the site.
If you can't deal with the competition then take some time to discover better less competitive niches.
You have mentioned the easiest and most popular and publicised methods, reciprocal and link buying.
There are actually hundreds of other methods that wont land you in HOT water. I personally do not engage in reciprocal linking, but agree totally with the speed, relevance, and editorial discretion in which they are obtained. You can see a thread on reciprocal links here..http://www.webmasterworld.com/link_development/3509707.htm
So if I did something noteworthy last week, and the New York Times linked to me, am I going to "invalidate" that link my linking back to it from my blog? Hardly.
Do I think google has identified what a recip links page looks like at taken steps to negate it's affects, absolutely.
Do I think google can isolate the content of a page from the header sidebar and footer, certainly. Have they taken steps to dampen the effects of blog rolls and footer link brothels, absolutely.
Recip linking isn't dead, just really obvious ways of doing it are. Adapt and evolve, look into exchanging non obvious presell, or hosted content pages. There's a reason Google lowered the hammer on "sponsored posts" and "paid reviews".
"..much of it is misinformed paranoia written by "experts" who have no experience with reciprocals".
Possibly, on the other hand and IIRC you have a vested commercial interest in link exchange, and while G is at pains to distinguish "reciprocal" from "exchanged" you're at pains to blur them...
I can think of one natural reciprocal linking situation that we encounter every week. We have a "press" section on our site. We will often link to the latest news stories that link to us. We also share the stories with our members with a post that links to the write-up.
reciprocal and exchanged are the same thing.. Thousands of clients linking for the end user and no penalizations is proof that link exchange works if you don't abuse it. Lets keep this thread on topic.
This is why buying links is the "In thing to do" I see web sites rocking in the serps look at their links and 99.9999% of them are buying the links. Not advertised but I can see it.
I agree Reciprocals are dead I have just about quit myself as it is just to much trouble, time consuming and I would bet most all the webmasters here dont't do any Reciprocals at all.
Most have a network they use to gain 1 way links to get sites indexed and slowley ranked in the serps.
Your dealng with guys here been there since the beginning they have a system and that is the way it is.
I am with you Reciprocals are a past tense as it is just tooo dangerous to do it now.
Link development changed considerably in the past 12 months. All those methods that have come to market since PageRankô was unleashed on the public are now coming under fire. There are many who are making a very good living from that particular cottage industry.
All of the cottage industries that evolved around this are at risk right now. Anything that "looks" like it might be questionable is a risk that I wouldn't want to take.
So, how do you combat this process? You do what everyone else has failed to do. Break the footprint. Google and the others are following all the footprints right now, that is the first place to start. The bigger the footprint, the higher the risk.
Left and right navigation elements filled with advertiser links are probably not a real good solution right now because they leave a really, really big footprint.
Link directories have been dead for years. If you still have one, your site has to be stuck somewhere in time. Get rid of it and redistribute your quality links elsewhere naturally.
Anything that fits within the normal link development routines (link profiles) is at risk right now.
Remember the days when you wrote a page about something and then linked to various resources within the content of that page? From my perspective, that really is one of the best links one could get and give. Inline Links
Has the small Webmaster lost?
No. The small Webmaster needs to think small out of the gate. Too many want to go after large chunks of the pie when they have no right to. They need to keep their focus tight and develop a niche first and then start thinking big! I know its a slow process but if you start now, you'll be that much further ahead when we have this same conversation 5 years from now. :)
[edited by: pageoneresults at 2:55 pm (utc) on Feb. 20, 2008]
Reciprocal linking isn't dead by a longshot. The problem is that getting quality links isn't as easy as it used to be, as every webmaster's email is now inundated with spammy requests. It's not that recips aren't effective when accumulated slowly; it's that some people are too lazy to work for them.
People are going to be asking for reciprocals 10 years from now. A lot of people here expound on the virtues of "treat your site as though search engines didn't exist", and seem to have forgotten that people were exchanging links in the 90's simply to encourage cooperative traffic. Why should Yahoo and Google see that any differently, as long as you're not being excessive about it.
|I know its a slow process but if you start now, you'll be that much further ahead when we have this same conversation 5 years from now |
If I am after link swaps in 5 years then something must have gone wrong ;)
|Paid links......are now becoming useless. |
I beg to differ.
The question to ask yourself is - if you were a search engine, and you wanted to stop SERPS manipulation, what would you want to stop and what is and isn't acceptable to you?
Once you have your answer to that, keep outside those perimeters. Everything else works just fine.
|Get rid of it and redistribute your quality links elsewhere naturally. |
Thats a very big risk IMHO. The cons outweigh the pros in some cases.
Imagine a ecommerce site selling mountain bikes, they may want to link to local riding schools. A links page is good for that if they do not want a sitewide link (too much loss of link juice).
- You may suddenly lose a lot of backlinks which were supporting your business. Removing them may affect your natural ranking.
- It is a lot of work to redistribute 20 links naturally among this site (different types of site will vary).
- If the owner of the site changes the URL you might have trouble finding all their links unless they are stored in a database somewhere. I doubt Google thinks highly of webmasters who do not update outgoing links.
- Google may in the future penalize you for this page so its best to get rid of it now.
- Google may be (or already is) ranking this sort of linking strategy higher than a typical reciprocal links scheme.
With all else remaining equal it is a better business decision to not change anything, especially if it may affect your bottom line.
For new non-ecommerce sites it may well be a good idea to think more about where links should go to help the users, but I would not recommend it for a site which is already performing well.
Attracting good one way links is much harder because not every site is amazing and viral from day 1. Personally I give out one way links where it will help customers and do not always expect something in return. I also do links where I expect a link in return. I also buy one way links (back in the day they were called 'ads').
Without links you will get no traffic. Even if your site is viral you need some 'seed' links.
Herein lies the reason Reciprocals are just about gone on the quality sites needed to gain ranking and deep spidering.
I link to a site A that right now is a good site Clean well maintained all the things that make a site a good site. 6 months go by the owner has invested his time money and resources to get the website going. Sales are slow not making the income to substain the site pay the employees so he gets a call or email from a SEO company that will get him in the top of the serps.(not picking on SEO's he could do this on his own)
Next thing ya know he is banned your still linked to him ok now what your held accountable to your link partners so you get wacked due to several sites have gotten banned for various things.
It is a pain in the rear to each month have to review each and every site I am linked to just to make sure they have not done the Big Stupid or got sucked into a bad deal by a smooth talker or heard this was the way to get ranked so they do one of the many tricks that will get ya banned.
Cutts has said time and time again linking to a bad neighberhood will get your site wacked, if ya do search on this a kazillion threads will come up all saying the exact same thing.
I am involved in many verticals and I can say all of them have gotten to the point I quit Reciprocals on our company sites just to dangerous and I don't have the time to go over 100's of links on 15 or more sites every month.
|If you're like me, you've eliminated Reciprocals as a possibility, either because they are basically penalized... |
"Penalized"? How about simply "ignored"? What's more, it isn't likely to be that simple: If THE NEW YORK TIMES links to your authority or high-TrustRank site from an article and you link back from your press page, the links needn't be treated the same as say, reciprocal links between Buds-jewelry-affiliate-site.com and Franks-car-rentals-in-Melbourne.com.au. A search engine (a good one, anyway) should be able to look at the overall picture when deciding what weight to give inbound and outbound links.
|Thats a very big risk IMHO. The cons outweigh the pros in some cases. |
Of course there are "always" exceptions to the rule. Let me provide a scenario using the Wiki as a prime example of how I feel links to resources should be constructed.
The Wiki has "mastered" the art of linking. There is no other resource that I'm aware of that has developed an architecture like the Wiki, it is the benchmark for link development, literally!
If you have an ecommerce page that sells a particular mountain bike, you might want to include a small section of resources at the bottom of that page and/or provide a "defined section" for those resources within the mountain bikes category. Think about relevance in this instance.
Or, you could do it the old fashioned way and build a links directory and whisk your vistor off to some unknown destination deep within your site. Yes?
You could also send that visitor to a full blown partner page within your site. I won't get into the specifics but, let your imagination run with it.
Back to the Wiki. Why do you think pages from the Wiki have done so well? From the very beginning! The Wiki is Link Heaven. So are other sites that have similar link profiles. WebmasterWorld is one of them. The way we link from one topic to another and then back again, it is a true masterpiece when looking at link profiles.
I'm convinced that if you are following the "crowd", you'll be part of the collateral damange when the time comes as evidenced now by what is taking place. It is the ongoing day to day grind of our industry. You just need to keep your ear to the ground and make sure that your strategies are not going to become a detriment to your campaigns.
The "commodity" link exchange directory is an old school concept and one that came under fire years ago. There are still some that have survived the fallout but they've done things differently or they are there due to historical reasons. Kudos to them, they will most likely be in it for the long haul if they've survived this long.
If I told you that I tell my clients not to focus too much on link development, what would you say? :)
I'd say you get some strange looks :-)
Reciprocal, Paid-Links etc never made sense to me. If you have a blog, develop unique content or break news so that few others link[ Digg, stumble, slashdot...]to you and your PR will zoom. Additionally, for search queries on related words, your website will have a good rank.
I don't ever want to be quoted as using the words 'user experience' but my opinion would be that reciprocal links are fine when used for user experience (i.e. as noted, press releases and the like) but I wouldn't use them as a link building strategy. The time you spend looking for link partners on related sites can be better spent looking for one way inbound links from related sites.
Back to the OP's post, buying links is far, far from dead. I see top ranked sites who are there strictly from automated link buys.
The fact is, actively promoting your site by developing one way inbounds has and continues to work. And that involves selling your site to other sites in some fashion. Sometimes that sales process involves some cash transfer, sometimes it doesn't. The trick is to make it not look like cash changed hands.
- link buying from some automated places appears to have problems (not in my experience, but from what I've read).
- link buying from some other automated places is working better than ever. I see this daily in the serps.
- individual link buying, done properly has worked for years and continues to work.
The problem with providing related information and links next to a product is you potentially lose sales. Adding a complete page with information on another site is a lot of work especially if they drop our link within 3 weeks.
I have tried many times over the years with different approaches and I still find a links page to be the most useful. Some of our visitors actually visit it so I am sure some of the links are useful. The difference is they will look for what we have and if they do not find it they will look on the links page for anyone we recommend.
I have also tried writing article pages for link baiting and even though they are ranked well, and get traffic, they never make sales. I get much better conversion on pages showing subsets of products.
Wikipedia is obviously a good example of linking working, but I actually outrank them for (one word) terms which are fairly common. It shows (to me anyway) that active link chasing will beat natural linking anyday if the site is determined enough.
|If I told you that I tell my clients not to focus too much on link development, what would you say? :) |
I would ask you to define 'too much' and 'link development'. Links are certainly not the only factor but from all my experience they are the most important/influential. Reciprocal links are good and work as long as they are on topic and not automated.
|Reciprocal links are good and work as long as they are on topic and not automated. |
Oh, I agree 100%! But, the environment those reciprocals are in plays an important part in how they perform. Sitting in a links directory surrounded by other links may not be the best option at this point in time. Sitting within an article that discusses a product and/or service from that resource might have a little more relevance.
Hey, if it works and has been for this long, then apparently you've done something right which many do. But, there are more of those who are doing it wrong. And, it puts those who are doing right at risk of being collateral damage as they say. If you're footprints are somewhere within that big footprint, be prepared.
I surely wouldn't expect a new site launching these days to have a links directory attached to it, not from the "commodity" perspective anyway. There are better ways to skin this cat. :)
Just got this email and it states
"Our guarantee: top 10 rankings in Google and yahoo or money back"
wonder how many link partners I have that will ues this and go inot the Google graveyard....
For small niches (perhaps less commercial ones) it still works - even the tired links page - as long as it's editorially driven and not machine driven.
I tend to think of link building as a building a mosaic: nothing works in isolation; nothing is bad in itself.
I look for a mix of link sources: recips, paid links, top notch directories, a few choice "back fill" directories, articles, press releases, presell pages, content exchange, sponsorship, donations, blog posts, blog rolls.
Someone somehere will slate every one of these techniques, but taken together they make up the backlink profile of that 10 year old, PR3 site that ranks ahead of yours.
Reciprocal links are alive and well.
The new version of reciprocal links is "I'll link to you in a blog post if you link to me in a blog post."
This happens all the time and is very effective. The old version of reciprocal linking works just fine too, in spite of all the FUD created by MC and Google.
Reciprocal links still work as long as you focus really hard. The reason many fail at this is because they have a greencarsinnewyork.com domain but:
Instead of - visiting each related site themselves such as bluecarsinnewyork.com or greenusedcarsnewyork.com, then locating the correct contact form and "asking in a sensible way" for a link exchange (discussed elsewhere!).
What they do is - outsource to an Indian firm to gather 1000 links from super-spam-seo.com.au and paid-directories-r-us.ru then pay $19.95 for submission to 700 directories plus 300 article submissions.
The main thing about getting those links is having a good site in the first place. Great opportunities include contacting a US widget firm that does not operate in the UK where I distribute widgets, we link to each other on high value pages and send excess traffic to each other. 5 of those types of reciprocals will beat 100 spam one-ways any day! ... in my humble, simple-minded opinion anyway ...
Really guys - yawn. There is only one way to conclude that recip links are dead and that is when the top ten results for things like "mortgages" and "cheap flights" are full of people who got there without paid or recip links.
Can anyone tell me that this is the situation now?
graywolf - that is a great way to put it. recip links still work its just a matter how you do it. it seems like that is how everything is turning out to be online lately. A lot of stuff has changed but it still works it just depends how you do it. A prime example is sponsored review, you can make it obvious and put "sponsored review" in the title of a blog post or put nothing (without the sponsored review) and get away with it, that is a little off topic but it is along the same lines as doing stuff differently. Google shouldn't mind isn't there something called "sponsored Search"?
Sad thing to me here is the amount of paranoia google's managed to stoke in webmasters.
Should be simple enough business, this linking malarky, at its heart. I find a good, relevant website or even page, and link to it - whether from article or page with links on related topic; maybe even email the site, ask if they'll link to me.
Used to be not too tough to get such links; yet now such fears making things tougher: folks have gotta hoard their pagerank, you know; and now see the notion that my site might be good today, yet some time in future it might become - yikes! - a bad neighbourhood.
I agree it is gettin very difficult to build links with nofollow etc. It might be reducing spam but its also killing competition.
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