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I suspect the idea of a GB penalty arose a few years ago when people began to realize how much Google valued incoming links. Here's the scenario:
1. People discovered Google likes incoming links
2. Lots of people "signed" lots of GBs
3. Those people got a boost in Google SERPs
4. Google got wise and devalued GB links
5. The GB signers dropped in the SERPs, erroneously assuming a penalty
first it seems to me that G has developed some considerable discount on guestbook links. please correct me if I am wrong.
second - and this is not an ethical but purely entrepreneurial point of view - people get p***ed of if you sign their guestbooks for SEO purposes. This bad reputation will boomerang back to your site and company sooner or later.
third - this is my very personal opinion - I would not count on the old rule of thumb "Google won't let a competitor harm your site" anylonger.
Why? Because Google is not a welfare institution but a public company with metric tons of money involved. The primary goal shouldn't be to take care of the interests of willy-webmaster (and his competitive disputes with oscar-webmaster) but of their own financial ratios.
Plus think of the guidelines - many webmasters have respected the guidelines finding themselves on #1000+ after florida/austin. Now what is the benefit of these guidelines anyhow? Not that I am angry with anybody I just established my own personal discount/filter on official SE-rep statements. :-))
I have my guestbooks set with the metatag so they don't spider. I don't want random visitors to them, I want guests. And any SEO type entries get deleted without being read.
Give me a break, a guestbook link is treated like any other link. Until i am shown consistant proof that links of this nature are bad, I will not believe any of this.
I have some guestbook links, some show up when searching for backlinks, some come up for links to be when searching for keywords. The last thing I would ever say about a guestbook link is that they are bad, they have driven traffic and page rank to me.
Whose job is it to search the internet and find guestbooks to tag as bad for search engines? Saying guestbooks are bad is based on little knowledge, and experiance. Who is consistant evidence that guest book links ALWAYS cause penalties (or even cause penalties 1% of the time?) Nobody does, because it is not true.
The thing is that if you tried to sign some guestbooks, look for the sites that have similar content with your site.
You're assuming that the search engine is judging a site by a theme. It is not. Google judges the pages on a page by page basis.
This point came up last December in an interview that Mike Grehan did with a Google engineer (name escapes me at the moment). The engineer stated something along the lines of, don't be afraid to create an entire website about A, and then have one little page about B. He said that that one page about B will not suffer algorithmically from being associated within a website about A. He was talking about a page by page analysis.
What that means is that a guestbook on a Topic A site is the same as a guestbook on a website about Topic B. If the pages are being evaluated for content on a Page by Page basis, the website's similar or dissimilar content is not a factor. For all intents and purposes, the guestbook is the same as any other guestbook.
Remember, it's called PageRank, not SiteRank.
When operating in a very competive market's things are not that transparent as in Countries where you only need PR5 to rank #1 for sex.
I had a site ranking #1 for a very competetive one word general search.
About a month ago I've noticed a site climbing in the ranks, yesterday it overranked me.
The site has a little content, except links to other artificially generated pages with more or less the same content in the body. The structure looked like this:
and more variations using words like: used, synonims and so on.
all those pages were internally linked with each-other.
Some of you are maybe aware that G did not do any update on backward links for more then a month, if it is not the case in your Country please let me know.
(I've discussed with other SEO's in other countries, and we are doing SEO for more then 30 Clients with PR 4-9.).
Anyway I checked links back to his site and:
The owner left spam comments in guestbooks and blogs, and that lifted him up. Although those links are not shown by Google in back links, you can find them using the right search strings diffrent than link:www.domain.com, those are comments from blog's with a PR.
There could be diffrent factors, but I have seen the page improving rankings one by one, and I belive that it is mainly due to the new links pointing as I have seen the date consistency on the new posts/comments.
Tell me what do you think?
When first trying to get the word out on my non-commercial site, I made entries in a lot of topic-related guestbooks.
I doubt it did much good at all. My theory now is that Google has considered the GB entry matter, but not done much about it.
Why? Simple. Their long existing algorithms already count links from quality incoming pages, PR and/or whatever else. Guestbook Pages have ZERO rank no matter how you define it. Think about it. When is the last time you provided an outgoing link to somebody's guestbook? Having no rank at all, links to your sites languish, with little or no value.
I think your time is better spent establishing quality links, in both directions. Best - Larry