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Google says link building is not dead, illegal or bad

     
11:40 am on Jul 11, 2013 (gmt 0)

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Matt Cutts Tweeted : I did an in-depth interview with Eric Enge at #SMX Advanced about SEO, and it just went live [stonetemple.com...]

Eric Enge:There are people who think link building is illegal now. Is link building illegal?

Matt Cutts:No, link building is not illegal.

Eric Enge:Really?

Matt Cutts:Itís funny because there are some types of link building that are illegal, but itís very clear-cut: hacking blogs, that sort of thing is illegal.

Plenty of interesting comments and questions in the mix. Anyone care to add their analysis to elements of this interview?

I like the way that Eric and Matt Cutts are trying to refocus SEO's on good old fashioned marketing techniques. Thoughts?
7:19 pm on July 11, 2013 (gmt 0)

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This is probably my (least) favorite part:

Eric Enge: One great way to build links in my vision is to build strong Twitter, Facebook, Google+ presences. Build strong, engaged, followings and then create great content and you push that out and then that audience will likely share it, and start doing other things that cause visibility and help it rank. Thatís a cool way to do link building.

Matt Cutts: Absolutely, I completely agree. If you take that big picture view in which youíre really doing marketing, one of the ways to get the word out is to have a devoted following. Musicians could have a mailing list or people could follow you on Twitter or Facebook or Google+ or any social outlet.


I don't need Matt Cutts to tell me how to do marketing, thank you.

I need Matt Cutts to tell me what google wants in terms of SEO, which is one segment of our overall marketing.

So are we supposed to "build strong Twitter, Facebook, Google+ presences", or are we supposed to spend that time and money building great content?

~~~~~~

Also, it's great how Eric Enge talked about link building being "illegal" in google's eyse, and Matt Cutts took it literally, interpreting it as a matter of law, instead of as something that googles various algo combinations frown upon.
8:02 pm on July 11, 2013 (gmt 0)

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The less I pay attention to what Matt Cutts says and the more attention I pay to the Google SERPs the more I learn.
8:14 pm on July 11, 2013 (gmt 0)

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*Sigh*... Remember when building websites was fun?
8:17 pm on July 11, 2013 (gmt 0)

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@dawnstar Just about remember that time.......
9:00 pm on July 11, 2013 (gmt 0)

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I remember when building websites was about writing great content. Now it seems to be about red tape and trying to shoot a goal in Google's invisible but constantly moving goal posts.

While I have continued to work hard on adding new content, I have spent more time this year faffing around with trying to keep Google happy than I should have. I would like to get back to concentrating on adding content. Not worrying about back links and other things that Google no longer like.
9:04 pm on July 11, 2013 (gmt 0)

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*Sigh*... Remember when building websites was fun?


I'm learning to enjoy it again...the biggest thing for me is quitting my Google addiction (studying it, searching with it, reading about it, caring about it). The less I think about Google, the happier I am.
9:28 pm on July 11, 2013 (gmt 0)

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Matt Cutts:Itís definitely the case that we will improve over time at assessing the authority and reputation and all those characteristics of authors and people in general and people on the web.


Hey dudes, get on the Google+ bandwagon to create authorship for yourselves... It has worked out well so far with numbers increasing... You can do it :)
10:07 pm on July 11, 2013 (gmt 0)

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Apart from the fun bit, links are the foundation of the web and Google knows it can't just ignore it. Links will keep being important in the algorithm for quite a while IMHO.

I think that is the reason many spammy sites have managed to fool all of Google's animals and reach a link threshold where with no effort they can get to the top of very competitive SERPs even with 2-page WordPress site.

Even though one might suggest thats an easy one to spot for Google, that is clearly not the case even with Penguin 2.0. Google is vulnerable to links and for years I've been guessing that there is a threshold where links do count even if they are total spam.

So Matt is now talking heavily on authorship and guest blogging etc. I would guess these are the types of links they are after as blackhatters are already in the authorship game heavily.

As always (have labelled Matt Cutts as Google's Chief Misinformation Officer - nothing personal Matt) he wants to divert attention of the SEO community to stuff that doesn't matter or matter a little bit. So all these authorship and blogging crap and wonderful "marketing" ideas he is on about are the next Penguin targets.

My clients are ranking fine with or without authorship signals, so do the spammers and that is a fact. Quality links is what will get you ranking in the long-term, not an authoritative Google+ account...
6:34 am on July 12, 2013 (gmt 0)

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I like the way that Eric and Matt Cutts are trying to refocus SEO's on good old fashioned marketing techniques. Thoughts?

I do too, Whitey, and I think that those who scoff at this interview (taking every other thought out of context), might be missing some important clues about where things are going.

The interview is about how Google is raising the bar on link acquisition, and how one needs to leverage all applicable aspects of marketing, online and off, to compete going forward. As is obvious in context, not all examples discussed are applicable to everyone, nor to all situations.

The article discusses some ongoing questions that many have had here about how Google looks at various types of guest blogging, press releases, syndication, etc.

If for nothing else, the article is worth noting because of Matt's comments about the quality standards Google will be applying to guest blogging. This is timely with regard to a SearchEngineLand article yesterday on the same topic...

Google: Guest Blogging For Links? You Better Nofollow Those Links
SearchEngineLand - Jul 9, 2013
by Barry Schwartz

[searchengineland.com...]

The SEL article raised a few eyebrows... it certainly raised mine... particularly because of the video in which Google's John Mueller said...

I think sometimes it can make sense to guest blog on other peoplesí sites and drive some traffic to your site because people really liked what you are writing and they are interested in the topic and they click through that link to come to your website but those are probably the cases where youíd want to use something like a rel=nofollow on those links.

In contrast, Matt, in the Eric Enge interview (dated 7/10/2013) discussed some considerations of quality applied to guest blogging, and he didn't mention rel="nofollow".

Matt said...
Posts like that can be a great way to get your name out there, to build your reputation, to make yourself more well-known, potentially build links or traffic or help with your SEO.

The problem is that if we look at the overall volume of guest posting we see a large number of people who are offering guest blogs or guest blog articles where they are writing the same article and producing multiple copies of it....

If people just move away from doing article banks or article directories or article marketing to guest blogging and they donít raise their quality thresholds for the content, then that can cause problems....

Implicit is that future thresholds will depend on how much this type of blogging is misused.

Many channels are explored in the interview, and numerous considerations are discussed... and yes, these are "marketing" considerations, applied to the web.
1:34 pm on July 12, 2013 (gmt 0)

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Planet13 - I agree, you don't need Matt Cutts (or me!) to tell you how to do marketing. More what I was trying to do in the interview is get some clear statements from Matt on strategies for link building that are not in Google's cross hairs.

There has always been a gap between Google's philosophy about what it wants webmasters to do, and what it can enforce. While this gap has been closing in the past 2 years, there is still a gap, but knowing what they would like to see can also inform the publishing community about the types of practices Google might go after in the future.

Robert - regarding the John Mueller comments on NoFollow-ing guest post links, I don't think this applies to simple attribution links for guest posts on high authority sites (note emphasis on high authority). I will try to reach John Mueller to ask him about that!
1:59 pm on July 12, 2013 (gmt 0)

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regarding the John Mueller comments on NoFollow-ing guest post links, I don't think this applies to simple attribution links for guest posts on high authority sites


It better not. That's just balls out ridiculous right there. NOFOLLOW is supposed to be used for sites you don't feel you can vouch for. There are no circumstances under which I would not vouch for my own sites, and if I invite a guest blogger, I am happy to vouch for his/her sites or the invitation wouldn't have been offered. If guest blogging spam has gotten out of control, then let Google go after *that*.
2:00 pm on July 12, 2013 (gmt 0)

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welcome to WebmasterWorld, ericenge!


in addition, one should always parse the message for qualifications and "weasel words".
2:02 pm on July 12, 2013 (gmt 0)

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If guest blogging spam has gotten out of control, then let Google go after *that*.


Google probably will, and in most cases, it shouldn't be too difficult. Boilerplate "guest posts" should be considerably easier to recognize than paid links.
2:13 pm on July 12, 2013 (gmt 0)

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Google probably will, and in most cases, it shouldn't be too difficult. Boilerplate "guest posts" should be considerably easier to recognize than paid links.


@EditorialGuy @netmeg wish it was that easy. First of all what percentage of webmasters will bother even reading about this? How many will understand the principles and implement nofollow properly?

Still see sites with so easy to spot spammy link profiles rule. For years it is so obvious, yet Google can not combat this and still spammers get away. Guest blog, advertorial, etc or not.
2:26 pm on July 12, 2013 (gmt 0)

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Link building dead/bad?!?

Don't know where this came from. There are some competitors of mine who rank high in competitive searches solely by using 2-way link exchanges, you know, the 5 "Links" pages with 50-60 link exchanges with other websites. Believe it or not, it's still a link building strategy that works. I would use it myself, if it wasn't faster and easier to just buy links :)
3:05 pm on July 12, 2013 (gmt 0)

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Hey Eric, welcome to WebmasterWorld!

I don't think this applies to simple attribution links for guest posts on high authority sites


That is where the gap is, isn't it? Let's take this a little further and explore the gap to see what's in there. ;)

1. Google will not make a whitelist of sites to exclude from a do-follow links guest post penalty.

2. A do-follow guest post penalty would unfairly penalize articles with no SEO intent, like no high authority sites.

3.

4.

5.
3:16 pm on July 12, 2013 (gmt 0)

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@ ericenge:

Firstly, welcome to webmasterworld and thanks again for your original interview with Matt Cutts, and for your follow up posted above.

I understand and appreciate that interviewing Matt Cutts can be harder than interviewing a politician...

My concern - both from analyzing the google SERPS and from Mr. Cutts' comments - is that if you want to rank well in google, you should concentrate LESS on having good content, and concentrate more on pimping that content out via social media, advertising, adwords, etc.

It's as if content value has taken a back seat to popularity. It makes me wonder if the algo has been having difficulty with its understanding of semantics... the language-understanding abilities of the algo seem to have been relegated to also-ran status while the trust/authority factors seem to be ampped up.

To me, it seems like domain authority / domain trust (whatever you want to call it) is the king of the ranking factors. Unfortunately, Mr. Cutts did nothing to dispel those feelings.

@ Robert Charlton:

"Implicit is that future thresholds will depend on how much this type of blogging is misused."


I think you have hit the nail on the head.

There wasn't a content farm problem until the flood of Mahalo, suite101, ehow, and article directories. Hence, google created Panda.

Various link building tools and link networks led to the genesis of Penguin.

So will "public relations with authority" (such as guest blogging and social media approval) lead to another animal-named filter?

Writing guest blogs that are good enough for TODAY might end up getting your site marginalized TOMORROW for the simple fact that some time down the road, EVERYONE decides to do it. Then will we be left scrambling to try and have our previous guest posts removed from various blogs across the web?
5:21 pm on July 12, 2013 (gmt 0)

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Writing guest blogs that are good enough for TODAY might end up getting your site marginalized TOMORROW for the simple fact that some time down the road, EVERYONE decides to do it.


It's already happening. "Guest posts" are the new paid links.
5:24 pm on July 12, 2013 (gmt 0)

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Implicit is that future thresholds will depend on how much this type of blogging is misused.


Posting on another domain just so you can get a backlink is idiotic.

Put the research for the post on your domain... now you have a nature reason to link to it.
5:54 pm on July 12, 2013 (gmt 0)

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It better not. That's just balls out ridiculous right there. NOFOLLOW is supposed to be used for sites you don't feel you can vouch for. There are no circumstances under which I would not vouch for my own sites, and if I invite a guest blogger, I am happy to vouch for his/her sites or the invitation wouldn't have been offered. If guest blogging spam has gotten out of control, then let Google go after *that*.


I agree, but the problem is that it's a guess about intent. No one guesses correctly 100% of the time, so Google IS going to get it wrong sometimes. And they're probably more likely to get it wrong on less established sites that send less positive signals just because they're new. And that's too bad because those are the sites that really need genuine marketing strategies like this. (I'm talking here about being a guest writer, which is also now a more dubious thing - if dofollow isn't applies by the other website admin, or Google thinks you used a keyphrase once too often, or Google thinks two guest posts you wrote are too similar, you could get penalized, too).

So the only way to be safe is to use nofollow on all guests posts. When Cutts defines nofollow differently, I have to believe he's not really thinking of all these types of cases webmasters deal with.
6:05 pm on July 12, 2013 (gmt 0)

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So the only way to be safe is to use nofollow on all guests posts.


Maybe. But I refuse. Let em tank me.
6:50 pm on July 12, 2013 (gmt 0)

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Hi Eric, and welcome to WebmasterWorld.

...regarding the John Mueller comments on NoFollow-ing guest post links, I don't think this applies to simple attribution links for guest posts on high authority sites (note emphasis on high authority).

Yes, I'd noted the emphasis on high authority when I read Matt's comments. As martinibuster describes it, there is a gap there... and I should add that it's a gap not just for sites, but a gap also for posters.

It struck me as I read both articles that it's a gap which has the potential of becoming exponentially wide. To a degree, this probably reflects life's realities... but to turn a lack of compounded authority into a nofollow requirement can be seen as onerous. I understand what it's intended to detect, but the prospect of Bloguin 2.0 is not a pretty picture. ;)

I look forward to what feedback you can get.
7:59 pm on July 12, 2013 (gmt 0)

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Maybe. But I refuse. Let em tank me.


High five! I'm with you there.
4:51 am on July 13, 2013 (gmt 0)

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Maybe. But I refuse. Let em tank me.



High five! I'm with you there.


As am I. Sorry Matt, I build the sites and you stick to figuring out how to get the best sites in your index. If you think my site is dirt because I won't add nofollow to a guest post author link then I suggest your index will not have the best content available ranked very well. Let ME worry about who guest posts and who doesn't.

Besides, nofollow is a Google only thing and perhaps it has no place on the web anymore since the need for links to rank well in Google is a Google created monster to begin with. I'm sincerely tired of worrying about both, I have better things to do with my time.
8:17 am on July 13, 2013 (gmt 0)

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Mod's note: The topic of this thread is Matt Cutts on acceptable ways of building links for Google. Let's stick to that subject.
8:40 am on July 13, 2013 (gmt 0)

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Getting back onto the subject of link building. Despite Mr. Enge's attempts to clarify how much of a role that social might have in the near- and long-term future, Matt Cutts did state:

Matt Cutts: I would concentrate on the stuff that people write, the utility that people find in it, and the amount of times that people link to it. All of those are ways that implicitly measure how relevant or important somebody is to someone else.

Links are still the best way that weíve found to discover that, and maybe over time social or authorship or other types of markup will give us a lot more information about that.


~~~~~

Also, loved one of the comments:

"Matt totally did that interview just to get a backlink."
10:04 am on July 13, 2013 (gmt 0)

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what a load of #*$! I have to say!

normal people don't use google+ and I'm not going to use it.

everything regarding matt cutts seems false - even his smile on that interview is forced.

my niche great site has a manual penalty because some google review monkey doesn't like some of my directory links that are some 7/8 years old. I'm really but really starting to hate google.
11:54 am on July 13, 2013 (gmt 0)

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Has anyone asked Mr Cutts what would be the best kind of link building for getting a high ranking in the Payday Loans sector?
12:45 pm on July 13, 2013 (gmt 0)

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Matt Cutts: No, not all link building is bad. The philosophy that weíve always had is if you make something thatís compelling then it would be much easier to get people to write about it and to link to it. And so a lot of people approach it from a direction thatís backwards. They try to get the links first and then they want to be grandfathered in or think they will be a successful website as a result.

Their goal should really be to make a fantastic website that people love and tell their friends about and link to and want to experience. As a result, your website starts to become stronger and stronger in the rankings.

Matt Cutts: I would concentrate on the stuff that people write, the utility that people find in it, and the amount of times that people link to it. All of those are ways that implicitly measure how relevant or important somebody is to someone else

It's not just about writing good content. Nor SEO link bait strategies. Think of the top things your website can be the best at, that it would be easier to get accolades on [ and consequent links ].

Here's a sample list that springs to mind, more designed to exercise thoughts in folks resisting the direction Google is encouraging :

1. Awards
2. Speeches and interviews [ Yes just like Eric Enge and Matt Cutt's interview ]
3. New and exceptional UI design features , have industry comment on it
4. Exceptional deals nobody else has
5. Controversial comments

Really the list is creative and endless, and it comes down to the "marketing group" working closely with the "SEO team" to facilitate. Small sites should follow the same division of thinking. Some folks are still putting the cart before the horse. That type of linking is being, or has been retired.

My hope is that if you, for example, put up a funky UI , you will attract or solicit freely given links to your site and Google will respond. That part bothers me, as I don't know how Google can be relied upon to react to that, or if it's waiting for links first, after changes have been implemented to resurface your sites to prime positions.

[edited by: Whitey at 12:54 pm (utc) on Jul 13, 2013]

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