|Benefits (or dangers?) of template sponsorship links|
Wanted to bring up a question that came up in the course of investigating a case of a really bad multiple-site Google penalty (more about the case here [webmasterworld.com]).
Going rounds in circles, trying to find what went wrong (with all sites at the same time no less), I've noticed one trend. Those sites hit with penalty tend to have links from sponsored WP templates. Unfortunately it's not as clear cut as I want it to be - I'm finding some penalized sites that have no template links and some doing OK (for now) that have a few. But, again, in general most sites that were killed last week have WP template links.
I've been using WordPress template sponsorship quite extensively some time ago reasoning that an incoming links can do no harm (supposedly, there is or was even a page at Google that said so) and in case the template got picked up by a good site, you may even get some benefit.
I've grown weary of the practice and did not sponsor any lately, but of course those I did back in 2008 - early 2009 are still out there, some on horrendous auto-blogs.
So, what's the consensus of this great group: can a template sponsorship link harm a site so bad as to get it penalized?
A few years ago there were some client-facing SEO companies that blogged that paid link networks can't be penalized because they're advertising and Google would never bring the hammer down on "legitimate" advertising. These client-facing SEOs were so indiscrete they even publically endorsed specific link selling networks. That was not sound thinking. It was rationalization. There is a difference between rationalizing and sound reasoning.
The reality was and continues to be that paid links are a blatant attack against Google's algorithm. Yes the paid links worked, but anyone who looked past that could understand what we all know now, that paid links did not fit into how Google would prefer to rank websites.
So I ask you to look past whether that technique works or not and focus on whether the Google engineers would support the contention that because someone created a template their site deserves 100% PageRank from a link from topic A, to count the link from topic A as a vote, for the site about topic Z.
Actually, we don't have to speculate. :) I asked Marissa Mayer about that seven years ago at SES San Jose and she said that the link merited to be deprecated. Whether the irrelevant link is actually deprecated is not the point. The point is how Google feels about irrelevant links. Calculations of risk level follow from there.
Something else. A distinction should be made between a penalty and the situation where backlinks are deprecated with the result that the site begins ranking where it deserves to rank in terms of how relevant the backlinks are. It has been noted in the past that much that has been interpreted as a penalty is simply a site ranking where it is supposed to rank.
Also, a white bar showing on a toolbar is not a penalty. In some cases it's social engineering. ;)
[edited by: martinibuster at 8:32 am (utc) on Mar 23, 2010]
I don't use WordPress. I do create templates for folks. I have been tempted to insert links into those... but never have done so since I never know where those templates might end up. Is this, perhaps, what has happened here? Your templates, with embedded links, showing up on less than stellar sites, be the problem?
What percentage of your backlinks would these template links be?
i've got a similar problem in that i've written a few plugins for the wordpress directory, which have links back to me. they'e all decent plugins, and because they're only about one particluar subject, they tend to get installed on blogs that at least have some tiny weeny bit of relevance to mine. but recently i've been getting a bit worried that i've got maybe a few hundred links on blogs that i've got nothing to do with. i might end up taking the link off the plugin.
i think its dumb that google's rules have brought us to thinking like this, though. dont know how they can label something as bad that seems so innocent.
|Something else. A distinction should be made between a penalty and the situation where backlinks are deprecated with the result that the site begins ranking where it deserves to rank in terms of how relevant the backlinks are. It has been noted in the past that much that has been interpreted as a penalty is simply a site ranking where it is supposed to rank. |
You do make a good point but I don't want to leave impression that my entire link building strategy was based solely on those template links. Not at all, I have great variety of links from various sources, including in some cases (legitimate) links from good pages on .gov domains and professional organizations relevant to the theme of the sites.
Also, since I have to look at what happened to multiple sites (10+) at the same time, there is no way removal of template links ranking boost would have the same effect (90% of Google traffic is gone) on all sites simply because percentages of those links are vastly different between the sites.
I guess, my question here is whether having template links at all is bad for your site. So much so that it may cause a penalty.
|Also, a white bar showing on a toolbar is not a penalty. In some cases it's social engineering. ;) |
I am painfully aware of that. Can't remember when was the last time I had the G toolbar installed. Money in the bank is a better indicator I use. Also access logs and Google Analytics :) 90% drop in Google referral traffic starting on the same day for 10+ separate disconnected and not-interlinked websites is really hard to miss.
|Your templates, with embedded links, showing up on |
less than stellar sites, be the problem?
Well, that's the thing: links to my site (and everyone else's, I'm sure) are already showing up on less than stellar scraper and content aggregator sites. There is nothing I can do about it and I certainly should not be penalized for that. I have RSS feeds on my sites and I'm sometimes amazed at where I find my links from those feeds. Off-topic and less than stellar places most of the time.
Just my opinion, but I don't think that having those links can be harmful. Only that, at worst, they can begin to be deprecated and cause the site to rank where it should rank for as explained above. That said, they probably already were deprecated from the beginning.
However, if you're experiencing a 90% drop in ranking then it could be a manual adjustment, which is outside the scope of discussion here in the link dev forum.