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The Secret of Penalty-Proof Paid Links

     
9:35 am on Feb 17, 2011 (gmt 0)

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I have the secret as to how to utilise paid links without attracting a big Google Slap

The fact is, in competitive SERPs (proper ones, not the ones people SAY are competitive) paid links are a necessity. Overstock [webmasterworld.com], and JCP [webmasterworld.com] provide two examples that we can talk about here.

Many, many others abound. How do they avoid the Google Slap where mere mortals are relegated to the lower realms of the dungeon dimensions (also known as PAGE 5!)? Most established webmasters or SEOs know two things about paid links
1) (Almost) everyone does it
2) It can be a risk

It's a lot like bluffing in Poker. It's dangerous unless you know the hows, whys and whens of what you are doing. Its very hard to win without it. It hurts if you get caught. Any you're never quite sure exactly how much your opponents are doing.

So, when is it OK to buy links? Or rather, what factors shift the probability curve for getting the Google Slap (which is independant on whether taking that risk offers ROI- which could make for an interesting thread in itself). I have heard, sometimes from my own keypad, the nebulous concept of "brand" mooted as one posibility. Other, equally ill-defined, concepts include size [...OF WHAT?], link profile, or niche.

I'd love to hear what definitions and, if you're feeling particularly adventurous, values move sites toward immunity.

Ok, ok, I lied in about having the answer, but made you read, didn't I? Maybe if you contribute, we can come up with the answer together.
9:51 am on Feb 17, 2011 (gmt 0)

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All I can think of is this. If such a secret gets shared in this thread, it might not continue to work very much longer.
10:42 am on Feb 17, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Oh, I'm not necessarily talking about techniques. I'm just wondering where immunity starts. I mean, my site is tending towards immunity (we can get away with stuff we definately could not 5 years ago). I've seen verticals that are oligopolies wrt SERPS that appear to be engaged in link warfare. No Slap.

Then again, I've seen year-old sites that are shooting up the SERPs, hitting page 1 on multiple converting terms, beginning to be players. These new sites begin to experiment with behaviour they see all around them, only to get The Slap.

I've seen members here who used to warn strongly against paid links become a convert across the last couple of years. Others who have preached against the orthodoxy (often a bit vocally) have been marginalised. I think now there is a general awareness that paid links work, but there is clearly a line- and that line seems to shift, not with just with algo changes, but with site maturity.

I think a good discussion about tolerances is in order- with a bit more finesse than the blanket "Paid links are bad, m'kay" or "everyone does it, jump right in" which appears to be dished out with reckless abandon.
11:21 am on Feb 17, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Shaddows - I think good old "luck" plays a big role.

Google allows blatant link buying in my vertical - some get the slap others don't - some who get the slap get unslapped, others don't.

I wish they were fairer with their slapping... especially when i'm on the wrong end of it....
11:32 am on Feb 17, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Have a good site that will pass manual review for any popular queries the site is visible in.
12:52 pm on Feb 17, 2011 (gmt 0)

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A general rule of thumb is if you embarrass Google you will get slapped. Google needs to protect their business model just like I would protect any of my business models.

I do not think there are penalty proof paid links. I think there are paid link strategies that are less risky and thus appropriate for certain situations.
1:16 pm on Feb 17, 2011 (gmt 0)

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What about buying links with ones domain name as anchor and on pages with very few outbound links? It passes some PR and more than likely will not trigger a penalty?
1:28 pm on Feb 17, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Avoid making it obvious to your competitors that you are buying links. I was able to create a Google alert that told me about each new site in a network that my competitor was buying into. As soon as a link to my competitor pops up on a new site in this network, I report paid links to Google. When I do so I show that it is far more than my competition involved in buying links.

I believe that Google has penalized this link network now (but not my competitor). At least the competition isn't getting any more juice from the scheme.
1:32 pm on Feb 17, 2011 (gmt 0)

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So insteed of buying a link, i sponsor a contest, or help fund the development of a software program and get a link as a result. The main intention was getting that link. Is that spam, will one get slapped.
1:33 pm on Feb 17, 2011 (gmt 0)

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I'm just wondering where immunity starts.


Immunity starts when applying a penalty hurts G in that it makes the search results incomplete for searchers.

They could comfortably deindex BMW, because very few people buy BMW's online - it's such a large ticket purchase, that people like to go to the showroom, test-drive the car, inhale the smell of leather and all the rest of it. If they do searches for BMW they are more likely looking for review pages, which are supplied by other sites.

Whereas people do actually buy stuff from JC Penney and Overstock, and removing them from the index would leave searchers thinking "Google is broken" and going to Bing.

So if you get to the point where your site delivers such value that G suffers if you are removed, you are immune. And the only sites that qualify are a) brands and b) sites supplying technical and obscure info that no one else has thought to copy (probably because they can't monetise it). Everyone else can be removed from the index without a second thought.
4:12 pm on Feb 17, 2011 (gmt 0)

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What is microsoft's stand on paid links? Has people who have reported paid links to google, done the same to Microsoft?

deadsea, how about you? Do you report these to microsoft?

PS: I was about to say Welcome to the forum on seeing the "New User" tag, but stopped typing in when i saw your Join Date :) Guess, Webmasterworld need to assign a better tag for such old users :)
6:02 pm on Feb 17, 2011 (gmt 0)

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There's something of a parallel discussion in the Overstock thread.

But here's another blurry line on Google Slap evasion. Links for cash-like assets. Sooo, if you give something with market value (like fresh content, free goods, or a standing discount), is that more acceptable than cash.

Then there's affiliates. What about about links in exchange for a percentage of the cash from any conversion, or perhaps just for the lead? Link given, cash received.
6:24 pm on Feb 17, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Links for fresh content is strong and gaining ground.

Working on some right now :).
6:30 pm on Feb 17, 2011 (gmt 0)

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The bottom line is that links as a measure of quality, is an easily manipulated fallacy. I'm still confused to why we're still talking about links?! That measure of importance should have gone away with meta-keywords.

But here's another blurry line on Google Slap evasion. Links for cash-like assets. Sooo, if you give something with market value (like fresh content, free goods, or a standing discount), is that more acceptable than cash.


Or... Maybe give away Chrome-cloud powered laptops, or Android powered phones to tech bloggers?
6:45 pm on Feb 17, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Dude, I've done talks on SEO in front of local tech groups in the hopes of getting a link from their site. And when I do so, I'm very direct in asking for a link as a thank you from the attendees.

There's other items of value other than cash. Some that people value higher than cash.

What Google should say is that you shouldn't entice people to give you links. But even that's a blurred line.

There's an exercise for a pubcon panel. A list of things that are cash-equivalents you can use to generate links.

1) discounts
2) content
3) ?

[edited by: wheel at 6:56 pm (utc) on Feb 17, 2011]

6:55 pm on Feb 17, 2011 (gmt 0)

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@Wheel -

I'm right there with you! I support several local small newspapers and online magazine type sites in my City, just to be talked about in their editorials.

- They get free tech support on their web projects...
- I get free backlinks from the mentions they give our business in editorials.

We all know that NEITHER of those two statements are actually true, especially since both of us measure the results from our efforts. Its called marketing to me, but Google would likely consider it rank manipulation, since it IS one of the main reasons we do it for free!

Is what it is right?
7:08 pm on Feb 17, 2011 (gmt 0)

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No, that's good marketing. In my case, none of the tech groups would've given me a link, for any amount of cash. Suggest something like cash to a bunch of opensource advocates and they'll feed you to the lions.

I've already mentioned that I run an ad-agency type of arrangement where I sell advertising on behalf of the top independent bloggers in my niche. None of these bloggers would talk to me otherwise. Send them a check for $1000 every month and they take your calls all of a sudden.

So I'm giving these folks money every month, for ad space I sell to others on their sites. They get money from me. Right?

Based on another thread here, I was reading my wiki page and noticed a claim that was unsubstantiated. So I'm doing a study right now to substantiate the claim. Then I'm going to give myself a link on the wikipedia page, and I'm betting it'll stick. No big deal, just getting some exposure. But then I'm going to email some folks in my ad network and notify them of my study. I bet some of them mention it in their blogs. But they would only do so because they know me because I give them money every month. Lots of cash changing hands. yet not a paid link. Hmmmmm.
7:32 pm on Feb 17, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Seems like there are two basic ways to avoid being slapped:

1. Don't get caught. Ideally, the paid links would need to be on relevant pages/sites, and look just like ordinary links in the same context, so that they would pass human inspection. If so, the odds are good the Googllrithms won't detect them either. In most cases this would be so costly, people won't go this route.

2. Have such a strong site that Google won't wonder how you got there if you move high in the SERPs, and will be reluctant to slap you even if the suspect/know you are doing something they don't approve of. Thus, your odds of being slapped go way down (but, of course this only works if you aren't "outed" in the NY Times).
8:00 pm on Feb 17, 2011 (gmt 0)

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@indyank: I have never bothered with reporting to search engines other than Google.
6:51 pm on May 3, 2011 (gmt 0)

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"Avoid making it obvious to your competitors that you are buying links. I was able to create a Google alert that told me about each new site in a network that my competitor was buying into. As soon as a link to my competitor pops up on a new site in this network, I report paid links to Google. When I do so I show that it is far more than my competition involved in buying links."

I don't understand how you can tell someone is paying for links? If a site suddenly links out to your competitor, you're just assuming it's paid? Or are these links coming from obvious link farms?
8:34 pm on May 3, 2011 (gmt 0)

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I don't understand how you can tell someone is paying for links

You cannot tell. You just assume, unless the buyer sends a copy of the invoice to google - highly unlikely.

Besides back links setup can be so distributed that you cannot tell what's going on.

I am guessing what we see today is nothing comparing to what will happen in few years with IPV6. Domains will be a dime a dozen so I expect even lower quality search results. Right now the model google exposes forces many webmasters to go towards black hat SEO techniques.
10:56 pm on May 3, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Right now the model google exposes forces many webmasters to go towards black hat SEO techniques.


This is a correct statement. I just got off the phone with someone who has Blackhat down to a complex system that lets just says works very well, I just had no idea.

The sites I see doing well and sticking at the top post Panda are sites with paid links, without them I see no way to complete with the million dollar monster sites that are now dominating.

The person I just spoke with has no issues with the million dollar monsters and is loving life through Panda. Either diversify or go to the wayside.
3:29 am on May 4, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Its much easier than you think really. When you buy a link they usually come in what forms?

sitewide, homepage, blogpost (usually with exactly 3 links) and usually have a 2 or 3 word anchor.

I would these make up of 90%+ of the paid links being sold. Not to mention a lot of sites are made only to sell links from after they gain some PR
5:04 am on May 4, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Everybody Shhhhhhh!
6:00 am on May 4, 2011 (gmt 0)

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brinked,

I have 20+ sites. The majority of them have Blogrolls to other sites I don't own. I have given Blogrolls to other sites. I have guest posted on lots of sites. I have never bought or sold a link.
6:57 am on May 4, 2011 (gmt 0)

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buying links

....can someone define this for me?

...is paying an authority to write an article and hoping for lots of back links "buying links"?

...is funding a scholarship in your companies name and hoping for lots of backlinks "buying links"?

...is paying a creative marketing team for making a viral campaign and hoping for lots of backlinks "buying links"?

...is giving away an Ipad to bloggers hoping to get lots of backlinks "buying links"?

...is donating x amount of dollars to a charity that gives you lot of press and backlinks "buying links"?

...every link has to be paid somehow, face it... nothing is for free, even if you get a "free link" you paid it with your time writing/creating that interesting page"
9:59 am on May 4, 2011 (gmt 0)

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If a site needs paid links, it obviously isn't as popular and/or desirable as others in the same niche. Organic links tend to be one-way incoming and are better because people who put the links in their site to yours obviously value it and typically they are related to your niche. Paid links are just paid advertising. Content is still King. If you have a "good" site you will get quality incoming links as time goes on. -- Just my opinion. Personally I have never paid for a link over the 15+ years I have had sites online and my sites are doing quite well. Even Panda has been very good to me. In my opinion too many people think in the short term and spend too much time trying to game their rankings.
10:16 am on May 4, 2011 (gmt 0)

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If a site needs paid links, it obviously isn't as popular and/or desirable as others in the same niche

Or maybe is brand new.

15+ years ago the top results in SEs were most of the results actually. Right now the competition is immense and the mods to the various SE algorithms are continuous. I don't know what search queries you run to conclude that content is still king but the majority of searches I perform bring up very poor results.

It may change at some point and SEs perhaps realize that authoritative content is somewhat important, everything is possible.
12:08 pm on May 4, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Frankly, anyone who thinks ecoms can attract (substantial) links on keyphrases competed for by infos is sadly misinformed.

No matter how good your info is, people are adverse to linking to ecoms. We have better info than most info sites, but substantially less IBLs.

Its worth noting that if ecoms were ranked by the same criteria as infos, you'd never see them. Ever. Studying this fact is very revealing
1:27 pm on May 4, 2011 (gmt 0)

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No matter how good your info is, people are adverse to linking to ecoms.


Agreed.
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