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Paid links - where's the risk again?
wheel




msg:4112294
 1:14 pm on Apr 8, 2010 (gmt 0)

I woke up this morning thinking about how I'm going to promote a couple of my secondary sites. And I got to thinking about all the effort I put into hand building white hat, quality links. Sure it works.

But so do paid links. And I'm seriously starting to question how big the risk is. More to the point, I'm starting to think that the risk is minimal.

- paid links have been around for years.
- they're easy to get
- they work. people rank just on bought links, and on very competitive terms.
- except in a very few cases, Google isn't doing anything obvious to stop them. (which would be the risk).
- Google hasn't been doing anything obvious to stop them in years.
- The serps are filthy with people ranking over the long term using paid links.
- the serps are still fine. Nobody's complaining Google's serps are full of spam or junk. In fact, there's probably less complaints than there were before paid links became commonplace.

In short, the risk is having your site penalized or booted out. But that's not happening -and hasn't happened in the long term. I was concerned about risk over the first year or two, but year after year after year people continue to rank without problem using paid links.

So remind me again, what's the risk? Why am I not doing paid links as a primary strategy?

 

jk3210




msg:4112635
 10:18 pm on Apr 8, 2010 (gmt 0)

Why am I not doing paid links as a primary strategy?

I guess you could call this a reason from Matt Cutts...

March 3, 2010
"Google has been working on some new algorithms and tools to tackle linkspam and we’d like to ask for linkspam reports from you. If you’d like to tell us about web sites that appear to be using spammy links (e.g. paid links that pass PageRank, blog spammers, guestbook spammers, etc.),..."

Google has been doing the war-dance about paid links for many years, but while it's absolutely true that you can still pay your way to the top, maybe Google has a new method to identify paid links. (I doubt it, but it's possible)

On the other hand, the risk is that even though you run a completely white hat site, you could still get nailed by something like the -950 and suffer just as bad as if you were the worst spammer in the history of America.

It's a hard call unless your site is a throw-away you don't mind experimenting with.

wheel




msg:4112695
 1:09 am on Apr 9, 2010 (gmt 0)

Well, that's what I've always said. But year after year after year, with no real response from Google other than yet another post on Matt Cutt's blog about BAD DOG! NO PAID LINKS!....

Another post by Matt Cutt, in a long line of similiar posts, well, at what point do we realize they ain't doing anything?

Worse, all the serious contenders in my niche use paid links in one form or another. Directories, blatent paid link networks, theme sponsorship, etc. They've been ranking for years doing this, except me.

Am I to expect that I wake up one day (probably years in the future) and they're all gone but me, and a bunch of other sites? And so on, across everyone's niche? What does that serve - it's not like the serps are bad, they work perfectly fine even with paid links helping to rank.

I'm not seeing either the benefit to Google to 'fix' this. In addition, after this many years of no change, at what point does an expectation of change become minimal? I'm starting to get there now.

CainIV




msg:4112774
 6:01 am on Apr 9, 2010 (gmt 0)

Definitely frustrating, I would have to agree.

However, there is risk - and when the sweep does come along, there are websites that get hit. Over a year ago two websites in one of the genres I watch got hit with paid links penalties and sat at position -51 for about one year.

Many businesses cannot afford this large of a hit.

The unfortunate part, and the part I would like to see more consistency on, is the application of penalties across larger authority websites that purchase links.

Don't look for that to happen anytime soon, as I am noticing a very popular discount store online buying links at almost unbelievable rates, and taking top 5 spots for incredibly difficult keyword terms.

I think the next time I hit one of the major conferences this would be a question well worth asking in smaller circles.

leadegroot




msg:4112954
 2:43 pm on Apr 9, 2010 (gmt 0)

What gets me about 'the paid link question' is there are sites I would happily pay for a link on - they are on-topic and their traffic is perfectly matched to what I can convert. But I can't help them out that way, by Google rules. I can only beg them to link to me in a 'but think of the children!' way. I don't like it - don't they deserve my buck?

(My sites are whitehat and I haven't bought any links. But I'd be happy to pay for value.)

Makaveli2007




msg:4113203
 8:52 pm on Apr 9, 2010 (gmt 0)

I find leadegroot's point interesting. What are Google's rules on paying for links that are truly relevant?

If you use the no-follow tag on a link like that will Google not mind?

Then again, you'd clearly out yourself as an SEO? or not? (just as a knowledgeable webmaster maybe)?

@wheel:

I think it's simply a reward vs. risk thing (well I'm sure this is nt exactly new to you lol), so why not try that technique with 1 or a few of your sites, so that in case you take a blow only sites that you can afford to get hit with a blow would get hit? In other words a bit of a portfolio approach (in case y ou can make sure your sites won't be seen as belonging to the same person).

Maybe in some niches youre in, the reward would be really high (b/c all of the competition does it and you have a hard time competing without paid links)...its all a reward vs. risk kind of thing in the end.

ken_b




msg:4113285
 10:34 pm on Apr 9, 2010 (gmt 0)

...don't they deserve my buck?


Sure they do, and G provides a handy way to get the money to them via site/placement targeting in AdWords.

Right? :)

wheel




msg:4113348
 12:40 am on Apr 10, 2010 (gmt 0)

My point is, back when, Google used to penalize for this stuff.

Now it's been years. No end in site. At some point it's an idle threat. And I'm starting to think we're getting to the point where a lot of people are going to be very sorry, or some of us are just going to continue to look stupid as others make easy money.

jk3210




msg:4115106
 3:19 pm on Apr 13, 2010 (gmt 0)

Google is able to devalue the lower level linking schemes that most rookie link buyers use very well. But the higher level link buys? Forget it.

Short of some SEO accidentally cc-ing a PayPal receipt to Google that says "Receipt for Link Purchase," there is no way these link-buys will be caught. I'm not even sure that some of these guys will even tell their clients which links they bought for the client's site, in case Google tries to run a beard past them.

I've had a running battle for years with several huge sites that buy links, and so far I've been able to hold my own against them without doing link-buys. I rank #1 for about 60% of the money terms associated with our niche, but they score big with the long-tails. However, my site has also been online and pulling in organic links since 1996 which helps a lot. My newer sites are a struggle to promote.

CainIV




msg:4115531
 5:28 am on Apr 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

Don't forget Wheel, some do get hit. And a little business getting hit and losing all traffic in Google can sometimes effectively mean the end of that business if there was not a robust marketing strategy setup at the onset.

nickreynolds




msg:4115577
 7:53 am on Apr 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

Here in the UK I've been asked by seo's for several household name insurance companies to put paid links on my site to them. I'm only a small player and my sites, while relevant to what is being insured, are not about insurance at all. Undoubtedly paid links are commonplace for these guys. Are they penalized? I doubt it!

Even so am I scared of buying/selling links - yes!

joelgreen




msg:4115594
 8:34 am on Apr 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

Per Google

Not all paid links violate our guidelines. Buying and selling links is a normal part of the economy of the web when done for advertising purposes, and not for manipulation of search results. Links purchased for advertising should be designated as such. This can be done in several ways, such as:
* Adding a rel="nofollow" attribute to the <a> tag
* Redirecting the links to an intermediate page that is blocked from search engines with a robots.txt file

[google.com...]

JamieBrown




msg:4115602
 9:16 am on Apr 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

It is 100% about the risk to your revenue. Paid links do definitely work - especially when used in conjunction with other more "natural" link building techniques to spread out the link pattern a bit. And the increase in SERPs can really bring you a lot of cash on the right terms.

But I've personally seen a number of sites wiped out in one fell swoop because they were link buying too aggressively and something flipped somewhere.

If you have lots of sites and you don't mind possibly losing one in the medium term for some short term gain, then go for it. If that site is your livelyhood, I wouldn't risk it at all.

Try buying expired domains with authority links instead! That's my favourite kind of kind buying.

jecasc




msg:4115617
 9:57 am on Apr 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

Paid links are a huge risk, because Google scans your bank account statements on a regular basis and checks if you have received payments from the companies you are linking to. Or not... yet.

Paid links are a risk if they are recognizable as paid links.

JamieBrown




msg:4115621
 10:03 am on Apr 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

Paid links are a risk if they are recognizable as paid links.


... and that's not just the obvious "stuck in the footer of an irrelevant page". I believe it's also patterns in anchor text, or velocity, or the quality of the links coming in.

wolfadeus




msg:4115622
 10:18 am on Apr 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

Maybe we should re-aling the forum to the question: What sort of links can you buy that will be beneficial for your rankings and not harm you?

I sell advertising from my websites, most commonly in the form of advertorials (a small banner with a textlink). Most customers buy them for the sake of direct conversions, some realise that there is a real value for SEO, too. In addition, I have three to five external links from every article on my site; plus, I limit advertising customers to locally and thematically relevant ones (eg. in my area and industry). I think it is very hard for google to recognise these links as being "paid" - and even if, so what? I link to sites that offer products that might be of use to my readers. Isn't that what advertising is about? The border between "paid links" and "conventional advertising" is blurry!

idolw




msg:4115630
 10:35 am on Apr 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

I have been looking competitors buying links for years now and there is just one rule that works for all in my hugely spammed niche.
If you buy links from non-related sites you gonna get caught.
If you buy links from related sites you gonna get ranked.

Rosalind




msg:4115634
 10:43 am on Apr 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

Directories, blatent paid link networks, theme sponsorship, etc.

Not all directories violate Google's guidelines. If there's some sort of editorial process going on to weed out the junk then you don't have to worry about buying those links.

wheel




msg:4115635
 10:53 am on Apr 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

It's not about Google's guidelines. It's about Google's lack of any type of enforcement of those guidelines, now ongoing for years.

It's not just about directories. It's about huge amounts of directories. It's about themes sponsorship. Huge blog buys. networks.

The risk is you get penalized. It used to be every time there was a Google update huge swaths of sites got penalized. But when everyone's doing it and hardly anyone is getting penalized then it's no longer much of a risk.

Folks suggest that sites with unpaid links should be your main strategy, and tinker on the paid links. I wonder if that's not backwards. Keep a site with unpaid links as your backup, and work on lots of paid links to your main site. That's starting to seem like a smarter way to go.

johnnie




msg:4115652
 11:36 am on Apr 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

What gets me about 'the paid link question' is there are sites I would happily pay for a link on - they are on-topic and their traffic is perfectly matched to what I can convert. But I can't help them out that way, by Google rules. I can only beg them to link to me in a 'but think of the children!' way. I don't like it - don't they deserve my buck?
Isn't that what the nofollow attribute is for?
bwnbwn




msg:4115659
 12:03 pm on Apr 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

wheel In Matts post it states we "are" developing an algo to detect this type of activity and we need for you to "show" us some of the sites buying links so "Goole can Study" and learn. I am like you and don't see this anytime soon. I see real doggy site popping in the serps now for big terms and looking at the links is does show a history that can be used to show this site buys links. I can see it so I assume Google can as well "if" I turn the site in.

Ok I do report it to Google then G may spend years studing the behavior of these sites and see a pattern emerge. Now at some point in history this is added to the algo.

When who knows is Matt blowing smoke I don't think so that dude hates cheaters so I am willing to bet he has been working on it.

Will I do it because someone else is and it is working nope one day I will be able to watch them go poof and keep on trucking. Been doing it for 12 years bro and still the same domain, and I am gonna keep it like that.

blend27




msg:4115692
 1:30 pm on Apr 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

@jecasc

because Google scans your bank account statements on a regular basis and checks if you have received payments from the companies you are linking to. Or not... yet.

That quote is not for a near future, at least NOT in a near 100 years. Regulators won’t allow it after what has been going on the Privacy front for GORG. You just scared half the Geek readers on the Net with that statement.

end @jecasc

And for the rest of "Users", STOP using the "free services" of the company if your think the company might harm your bottom line or if you simply DONT't TRUST them including Free: Email, Desktop Widgets, Toolbars...etc, spyware.

I totally don't understand the honest webmaster working on his or his client’s site, giving away his/his client’s content to GORG for FREE and then expect him self to get a "punishment" from GORG for spending his/her advertising monies on sites other that GORGs.

Temporally generating extra revenue stream utilizing techniques your are not sure of usually comebacks and bites you in the places where the sun don’t shine.

I am going to go water my Beautiful Garden.

wheel




msg:4115716
 2:19 pm on Apr 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

wheel In Matts post it states we "are" developing an algo to detect this type of activity and we need for you to "show" us some of the sites buying links so "Goole can Study" and learn.

Google's been rattling their sabers for years now. Anyone see any teeth? Not me.

Edge




msg:4115728
 2:32 pm on Apr 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

Google needs to worry about relevance and quality - not what ever business arrangement was struck to post a link.

Penalizing a bunch of websites for accepting compensation for a link sounds like a nasty class-action lawsuit that Google can not win...Anti-competitive/monopoly behavior (AdSense).

freejung




msg:4115767
 3:25 pm on Apr 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

I think part of the reason Google hasn't done a lot about paid links is that there is so much gray area involved. Sure, there are clear-cut cases of link buying/selling for manipulative purposes, but there are also plenty of cases where a releationship between two companies involves various different aspects, including financial transactions and links. Where do you draw the line?

For example, suppose you are a member of a trade organization. You pay membership dues. Membership has many benefits, including participation in trade shows, networking with other members, publication in newsletters both online and offline, and also a link on the trade organization site.

Is that a paid link? Would it be reasonable to penalize it? Is Google really expecting that all trade organizations should nofollow their membership lists? Many of these people wouldn't know a nofollow if it bit them. One of the major nationwide trade organizations in one of my niches has their entire site in frames, for crying out loud.

Gray area is very difficult to handle algorthmically, so I suspect Google is only going to be able to do somethiong about the extremely clear-cut cases.

rocco




msg:4115775
 3:49 pm on Apr 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

Paid links work for a new website: if it gets hit who cares?

If you have an established website and want to go with paid links - then god bless you.

Sorry, but sometimes I assume that link sellers open threads like this one, I might be wrong, then excuse.

MadeWillis




msg:4115815
 4:48 pm on Apr 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

I've had competitors come and go. I used to check the backlinks of my compeitors when I saw them come up and then I would use the report spam link and tell Google what they were doing. I've personally been the reason one company went out of business. Well, they dropped to page 5 or 6 for about a year and I guess they either didn't know how to manage an Adwords account or it just totally detroyed them.

I know how closely I watch my competitors and I can only assume somone is watching me. I manage the largest brand in our vertical and I'm not willing to risk it and for now I don't need to. I have several niche websites as well, and if I do any testing with paid links, those will be the first.

Off to report link spam now...

Copeland




msg:4115824
 4:56 pm on Apr 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

Even if you assume there is zero Google risk with paid links, in my view they are still a poor option. Once you start paying for links, you can never stop, Most paid link deals are $x per month per link. If you average $10 per link per month (good luck getting good links for that price), and get 10 links. That's $1200 annually, $6000 over 5 years. If instead you spent a $1200 on great link bait content/tools/etc, my bet is you could get more than 10 good links from it and those links last forever (and have zero paid link risk). I don't see how paid links are sustainable long term, your monthly link bill just gets larger and larger. Add to that the fact that you are not getting stronger and smarter about creating link bait, and buying links just seems like a short term short cut solution. Last thought: If you go to sell your site to any sophisticated buyer, you are likely to get a lower valuation if the site comes with a monthly debt of $x thousand dollars for paid links to keep the site going. Personally I would not acquire a site (for any premium) if it meant inheriting a substantial paid link portfolio.

MadeWillis




msg:4115845
 5:26 pm on Apr 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

@Copeland - very good point. I bet most people don't even consider the longevity of the link buying process. The starting and stopping and starting and stopping of buying links could alone set off a red flag at Google especially if you are buying in masses. It needs to be consistent and due to the fact that links are being devalued fairly frequently these days, you must keep buying and buying.

blend27




msg:4115860
 5:45 pm on Apr 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

$6000 over 5 years


That is the thing, I see your point, but if the site is on a prominent spot on prominent site, that 6000 beans will have an effect long term by intaking links from other 'wana bees' linking to your site as long as you play a white-hat game.

Game-Changer: don't use currency, charge your linker for the services, goods(think outside the gorg-box for a change) from your site.

Real life example: Verison/Sprint ...etc... promotes Droid Phones and get a hardware discount, together they make [A-Z][a-z]Ilions.

Then comes the Antitrust, but before that some of us bite...

This 75 message thread spans 3 pages: 75 ( [1] 2 3 > >
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