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Public release here [siliconbeat.com]
Rae: Will you be attempting to ďtake aimĒ at any other link manager type companies who appear to be in violation of LinksManagerís patent?
LinksManager: Probably. However, this type of research takes time so donít expect that to happen next week. A lot of research needs to take place first. We have over 100 sites bookmarked that appear to have at least some similar features. We expect we will make a determined effort to decide which companies we will address in what order in the near future.
When we filed for patent protection, it wasnít because we want to get into the business of suing other companies. It was originally done to protect the Internet against unlicensed companies that we believed may have copied the LinksManager model. However we realize the only way to enforce a patent may be through legal avenues . We will look to our attorneys for their guidance and advise as to how to proceed.
Rae: The patent on auto-rotation of links Ė does that refer to auto-rotation within your system, within any automated system or does it even cover lone webmasters doing it automatically with a home grown script for their own use (an example would be that you can rotate anything with a simple cgi script automatically on a page that is totally static and hand built otherwise)? I think itís fair to say that webmasters have been using auto-rotation for many years.
LinksManager: Thatís a great question. It would be difficult to envision us spending resources to pursue a webmaster who has produced a home grown script to rotate links unless that script also offered additional specific features which appear to be protected in the LinksManager patent. It all depends on the features that the product offers. For obvious legal reasons, I canít make any guarantees but I can say the targets we have in mind are companies who have used our service in the past, and then blatantly ripped off the majority of features in the LinksManager model and are now marketing derivatives of it. Unfortunately, we may have our hands full pursuing just these types of competitors.
So, what's everyone's opinions? Do you think other links programs need to be gathering their defenses? I know the part about patenting auto-rotation of links makes me go hmmm a bit.
I recently helped a client launch a new site, and set him up with LinksManager.com. Aside from a search engine friendly design and proper meta tags, I set up a links page. The links page links with other relevant, quality sites similar to this client's. Within a month I had this site from no rank to rank in Google top 30, simply based on a focus on quality. No spam, no gimmicks, no trickery - just honest, thoughtful design and linking.
I applaud LinksManager for their patent. The software is ideal for webmasters who want to promote sites "above the table" and be a good web neighbor.
First place, "G" doesn't state anything ... everything you read is someone's interpretation of what they think "G" is doing -- and most of those interpretations are grossly self-serving.
But aside from that, the average "G" search returns anywhere from 500 to 50,000 listings, which means the great "G" delivers precious little, in any, business to about 425 to 499,025 sites which are returned for each search.
I build websites for a number of companies that manufacture and/or sell custom motorcycle parts and at least 30 percent of their sales come from reciprocal links. It's just a fact, somebody sees a set of custom wheels he likes and asks the person where he got them. He searches for that specific company, goes to their site, and orders the wheels for, say, $600.
Now most people paying that much money for wheels also want custom brake calipers. So he clicks on a link to "chromed calipers" on the site where he bought his wheels and, if he finds what he wants, spends another $300 or $400 for calipers.
What could "G" or anyone else find wrong with that transaction? If anyone can produce evidence that that transaction is illegal, immoral, fatting or fatal to page rank, I defy them to post it here.
Even if an SE were to "devalue" such links it would only mean you're not getting as many bonus points for them as you used to, it doesn't mean you're losing any points or that the links themselves, in terms of generating new business, have lost any value.
However, when it comes to the subject of reciprcal linking, my experience with it goes back to about 1997, before Google existed. It is one of the ORIGINAL methods of promoting a website, and the practice pre-dates EVERY search engine.
Since 1997, I have managed hundreds of reciprocal link campaigns.
Like Joel Lesser at LinksManager (who is a friend and a business associate), I am a full supporter of responsible, relevant reciprocation. Not becasue of search engines, but because it is the right thing to do, even if the search engines did not exist.
For some reason, reciprocal linking is grossly misunderstood by a large protion of the SEO community. The purpose of it is misunderstood, and how it affects search engines is horribly misunderstood.
One of the reasons for such misunderstanding is because there are a lot of people who do not do this work, yet they find a need to pointificate on the subject endlessly, as if they know what they are talking about. from exerience, I will say flat out that people who do not actively manage reciprocation campaigns can't possibly know what they are talking about. It's not possible, unless you see it with your own eyes.
Proper reciprocation is a vital part of the web community. LinkManager is an online link management tool that allows the do it yourself site owner the ability to do it effectively, and correctly.
LinksManager found an opportunity to patent a technology, and now they have been rewarded with an enforceable patent for that investment. The standards to acheive that are considerable, and it is all within the legal framework of the US patent system. It is their right to enforce their patent as they see fit.
Various posts in here make invalid assumptions about both reciprocation in general, and LinksManager in particular. Combatting such nonsense is an endless process, and the perpetrators never, ever stop to consder how ridiculous they sound, and how groundless their claims, in spite of overwhemling evidence to the contrary.
That is why a lot of people with real experience at reciprocation work avoid these fourms like the plague. These forums are infiltrated with people who have no interest in facts or reasoned discussion. They just want to spew age old myths and attitudes about the practice, again and again. It is pointless to argue.
I don't see many people saying recips aren't a valid form of promotion. BUT, for years the life (search engine ranking wise) of a website was successful merely on reciprocal linking. Personally, I think reciprocal linking is a valid form of linking - but I think anyone using reciprocal linking as their sole link strategy are not being the smartest about the long term growth and stability of their sites. Reciprocal linking is kind of like word of mouth marketing to me. A friend recommends you to another friend. It is great for business, but there comes a point where in order to keep gaining new business and to keep yourself competitive with others, you have to branch out into flyers, commercials, billboards, newspaper advertising, etc. Reciprocal linking, done correctly, isn't "ineffective" IMHO, it just isn't able to carry an elephant on its back anymore.
>>>consder how ridiculous they sound, and how groundless their claims, in spite of overwhemling evidence to the contrary
A lot of SEO is opinion based - most really. As you said, you see constant "evidence" to the contrary - not a document from the search engines saying "hey, we give three points for reciprocal links". And, a lot of times, because of the tons of different variables involved in the algorithms, people *think* one thing is causing them harm when it is something else, while others think something is working for them when it is really something *else* that is successful. Most of what is discussed about SEO is speculation and everyone is entitled to speculate. If you don't agree with someone - you have the choice to give them a counter opinion or chuckle to yourself, but everyone has the right to think outloud on this forum - as long as they do it within the bounds of the TOS.
Sugarrae, I see that all the time. From some very big names in SEO. It's ridiculous. Instead of me making claims and putting words in their mouths, I can post an article reference list, if you like, where these people are publicly disparaging the practice of reciprocation. But, as you said in your post, this is not the thread for that. The list of names is well known, vocal, and active, both as conference speakers and well-known writers. What I have never seen are facts to support it. Because here, we have considerable evidence to wholly refute what these people say.
>>>I think anyone using reciprocal linking as their sole link strategy are not being the smartest about the long term growth and stability of their sites.
There are many ways to get links. I encourage clients to pursue as many as possible, but time and money constraints often come into play as well. Reciprocation is just one way to get links, but in many cases it is the "foundation" on which other methods can build, or it is the most accessible and affordable of the various options. Choices must be made.
Most sites that reciprocate actively begin to get links that are not reciprocated, thus reducing their overall reciprocation ratio. In other words, laying the foundation of reciprocation generates other linking back to the site, of various types.
For instance, if we earn 200 links to a client site that had no links whatsoever when we started, it is typical to see hundreds (maybe over 1000) unique domain links coming back to the site after 6 months. This "link expansion" continues indefinitely.
Where did all those other links come from? As it often turns out, from a lot of different places and situations, especially if the site is now ranking well for it's prime keywords. Quite often, the client has done nothing else pro-active to earn these other kinds of links. That's their choice, not mine. I just observe the outcome.
This "links beget links" phenomenon is almost universal within my client link profiles. How someone can ignore it or deny it's effectiveness is worth a good "chuckle", as you said.
As I said, reciprocation is foundation work. Put it in place and build upon it, as budgets allow.
>>>If you don't agree with someone - you have the choice to give them a counter opinion or chuckle to yourself, but everyone has the right to think outloud on this forum - as long as they do it within the bounds of the TOS.
I totally agree. I hope that applies to me as well, when I say that most of what is published about linking and SEO issues is mostly just total bunk. It fails to hold up to close scrutiny, when real SERPs are applied to it. I see that all the time.
I'll regularly read some absolutist statement about linking coming from some big name SEO guru, and then I look at the hundreds of situations that we monitor here, and it fails miserably to hold water.
Instead of chasing linking fads and the scare tactics that these people continue to foist upon us, I prefer to continue to do what has worked well for years. It's a very traditional, branding-based approach to reciprocal linking that actually takes search engine considerations out of the mix entirely. The search results DERIVE from that. We ignore PR and other search-based factors. That's just noise.
People can make all kinds of claims in the SEO business. What matters is SERPs. And yes, there are hundreds of factors that drive SERPs. But, by reviewing large numbers of results pages and the sites behind them, common patterns emerge again and again, with inevitable exceptions as well.
People can speculate all they like. But when people make claims as to the financial viability of the LinksManager business or their competitive intentions, while holding no facts whatsoever, it crosses the line of credibility. It's like saying that the moon is made of green cheese. It's a free speech thing. Anyone can say it, but what is the point? Only to denigrate a business that is doing nothing wrong (and actually trying to do the right thing), just because they are involved in link reciprocation? I don't get it. They can say it. I can counter it. Readers can choose what to believe.
Finally, to drag myself out the contentious mode for a moment, the post from MsRach (#:3050406) was an excellent example of what I have seen hundreds of times in my life. Genuine, subject-relevant reciprocal linking pursued as a branding function of the business, combined with good on-site SEO practice. It's hard to beat.
That post was followed up by a great post from biker6 (#:3050735), explaining exactly how reciprocation, done properly, works for a niche site.
Not everyone is confused about reciprocation, but from my experience, they are in the minority in the SEO world.
I wouldn't term myself as "well known", but I do speak on link development and write about it at times. And I'll be the first to say, recips, as far as carrying an elephant on their backs, don't work the way they used to. Most of the people I know of (personally or follow) who write and speak on the topic aren't saying recips are worthless - they're saying they aren't what they used to be and not to focus your entire marketing campaign on them, circa 2002.
>>> if we earn 200 links to a client site that had no links whatsoever when we started, it is typical to see hundreds (maybe over 1000) unique domain
But what "type" of links are they? There is a big difference between quality links from well trafficked and well "regarded" sites and scrapers.
>>> Where did all those other links come from? As it often turns out, from a lot of different places and situations, especially if the site is now ranking well for it's prime keywords.
That is what I'm referring to when I say "carry and elephant on its back". Back in the day, any type of links could get you ranks and once you ranked, you became the obvious choice for quality sites looking for resources to link to. Basically, ranking in Google made a site popular with trusted sites. But, these days, newer sites need to find their own popularity from trusted sites *to* rank. Can you get recips from trusted sites - most definitely. Can recips from good sites help you in your ranks - yes, from what I see daily. But, IME, the old method of throw up a site and exchange with 100 other sites as new and untrusted as yours is not going to take Google by "storm" these days. The latter is what *most* people that I see associate with the term "reciprocal linking". A quality link is a quality link, reciprocated or not, IMHO (though the value is likely different).
>>> then I look at the hundreds of situations that we monitor here
But, again, there are many factors at play. Age of site, age of links, where the recips come from, what other links they have and tons of others... What can be true for you can be false for another - based on those myriad of other factors or simply based on the quality of the reciprocal links you get vs. another. Reciprocal linking *can* work wonders, when the links come from the right types of sites and partnerships. They can also do nothing based on the wrong types of sites and partnerships.
>>> I hope that applies to me as well
>>>Most of the people I know of (personally or follow) who write and speak on the topic aren't saying recips are worthless - they're saying they aren't what they used to be and not to focus your entire marketing campaign on them, circa 2002.
I have seen absolutely no changes in the SERP effectiveness of reciprocation, when done properly. In fact, if anything, a lot of our clients have actually gained and solidified their positions since 2002. Many of these are clients that have not pursued any other means of earning links, besides reciprocation.
I understand that the prevailing "common wisdom" in SEO circles claims that "they aren't what they used to be". I just see virtually no evidence here to support that statement. Actually, what we see here contradicts it, in a big way, among not only our clients, but also among the larger realm of sites that we link with who are not our clients.
Sorry, Sugarrae, but that's how it has played out here, throughout every single Google algo update. I feel fortunate about that. Otherwise, I'd likely be in some other line of work.
Our agency/SEO clients see it as well. They continue to bring us fresh sites to work with, having seen what has been accomplished in the past. It's hard to explain that kind of second hand validation with anything but "hey, it still works".
Just because 50 people say something does not make it true. Most "scientists" once believed steadfastly that the world was flat, and they ridiculed anyone who claimed differently.
I have read most of what is said about linking by the "experts". Honestly, in most cases, their limited experience or their lack of broad perspective is glaringly obvious to me, but probably not to most of their readers.
It's hard to argue with someone on a podium at a big conference. But the podium doesn't make them right.
My experience here deals only with linking, all day, every day, and we work with hundreds of client sites, and observe even more. Those sites are very diverse in their SEO approach, both offline and online. It gives me a very different perspective, one that probably not many other people have.
>>>But what "type" of links are they? There is a big difference between quality links from well trafficked and well "regarded" sites and scrapers.
No doubt, there are scraper links in there. Almost every site gets some of those these days. There are also a lot of "quality" links from legitimate sites, as people find the site and link to it, for whatever reason they choose. The landscape varies. It could be a forum posting, a product reference, and article reference, etc. It's genuine, unsolicited linking. The kind that everyone talks about as "good quality one-way links from good quality sites". Toss out the scraper links, and you still have a lot of good meat on the bone.
In a lot of cases, reciprocation was the primary catalyst that made it all happen, and then it takes on a life of it's own.
>>>But, IME, the old method of throw up a site and exchange with 100 other sites as new and untrusted as yours is not going to take Google by "storm" these days.
I agree. 100 links works only in the non-competitive situations these days. Established, stable sites have a HUGE advantage. But, you have to start somewhere, and build toward some kind of parity, or else not play the SERPs game at all. It may take a multi-pronged approach these days, in competitive situations.
The bar gets raised every day. Competing in competitive situations takes longer and costs a whole lot more than it once did.
Instead of speculating about who says what, how about that I send you the list of anti-reciprocation references that I have collected, and you can review it and then conclude what is being said. They may or may not be the people that you follow, but they are all well-known in SEO circles, and they all make a point of steering people away from reciprocation.
The autorotation feature has been found helpful in displaying links at different locations in a listing so that the links may vary in exposure. Specifically if a person generally views a few links in a particular category, then it is unlikely that this particular person may ever view links at the end of a category. However, if the links are autorotated, links, which may have previously been at the end of a list, may be moved to where some may be present near the beginning, depending upon the particular formula utilized. Furthermore, after several successive autorotations, it is more likely that some of the links which began closer to the bottom of a particular listing will move closer towards the top of a particular listing.
All together now . .
Please be advised that I have in the past and will in the future randomize lists, be that manually or programatically, and those lists on various websites may include lists of names or lists links or lists of dates, places, locations, . . whatever. I suspect this business of randomizing lists in all manner of media - hardly an original or inventive idea, whether done manually or with the aid of a random number generator or otherwise - has been around since they started distributing The Daily Phoenician Advertiser on papyrus. "Hey! No more ads for me until you fix this. I pay the same amount as Ezekial but his ads for oxen teathers keeps showing up on top of my ad!"
I don't mean to be provacative but sometimes too much of a good thing can be bad. Sometimes going for the whole enchilada - in this case "patent everything" - ends up showing the flaw in the process.
Please don't come knocking on my door to claim rights to the randomization - programatically or otherwise - of lists. It likely would be wise not to come knocking on anyone's door to enforce that part of the patent. The whole patent might begin to collapse, as I can imagine search engine IP lawyers might have something to say about bots and link checking.
None of this is to say that it's not a good product. I don't really know as I have no experience with it or any other like product. Sounds like a good system. Just a boneheaded patent, at least in part.
I'm sure any effort to enforce parts of the patent will be warmly received in the webmaster community, don't you think? Shakes head no whilst grimacing at the thought.
[edited by: Webwork at 7:23 pm (utc) on Aug. 22, 2006]
Nope. Sorry. I won't expose my clients that way.
I do provide proof to serious parties that are interested in seeing it. It is usually by phone, and takes a good hour or so of the reviewing the search results for a lot of very different sites. I've done it hundreds of times. But it's not for publication.
So, there you go. It's a face value thing. Just like almost everyone else in this business.
I have never seen any proof from anyone that reciprocation is nullified, discounted, penalized, or any other thing that the big name SEO gurus claim constantly. Yet nobody seems to question any of that. They take it at face value and eat it up like puddin' pie, just becasue it comes from a prolific, well-known individual who likely has no real facts to back it up.
As I say all the time, people need to read what is said, and compare that to real search results. Pick your own keywords, and do an in-depth analysis of the reciprocation status and other linking for the ranking sites. That way, it's not cherry-picked results.
But since I have actually done that hundreds of times, I have no doubt at all how it will play out. The anti-reciprocation myths head south, all the time.
Frankly, I would really like to see someone independent do this in a proper way. I have no fear about the outcome.
I am not saying that a multipage reciprocal links directory will get you banned. And I am not saying that LinksManager will get you banned. I am not saying that LinksManager is ineffective, either (in fact, I am interested to learn how the product can help develop one way inbound links). I am merely stating the fact that once a site has been banned, it will not pass a search engine hand check and be reincluded if it has a large multipage link directory on it.
That's not merely my opinion, it's my hands on experience. Anyone who speaks to the search engine reps directly, or who has managed a site rehabilitation, will be aware of the fact that large recip directories won't pass a hand check.
What does Ethics Have to do With it?
But let's get back to the subject of Ethical Reciprocal Links Management... I think that generally, ethics doesn't have much to do with link development in so far as you are doing it to rank better. Yes, there are things you can do to generate inbounds that are search friendly approved. But I don't think a massive recip campaign is one of them.
Is the word Ethical code for Search Engine Approved? I don't know for sure, but it sure sounds like it. I have always been suspicious of anyone who posits reciprocal link development as a search engine approved method for promoting themselves. Until I see Sergey Brin smiling from the box of a links management software, I'm going to continue in the mode that some methods of link development may not be search engine approved.
Sorry. No. If you read Matt carefully, he does not disparage relevant, legitimate reciprocal linking at all. He does mention that junk linking, that is linking to everything an anything, is not the best.
I just wanted to add to this discussion that some engineers at a couple of the major search engines have privately told us that using a specific link management tool or content management system will not specifically get a site banned from the index or cause ranking problems unless the site is using it in a way that violates search engine guidelines.
Engineers have explained to us that it all goes back to proper use and what benefits the end user. Engineers also have told us they realize that many webmasters will not provide a link if they cannot get one in return, ie, reciprocal linking. Nowhere in any of the search engine engineer blogs does any engineer state to avoid reciprocal linking. Some have publically stated to avoid high volume directories full of irrelevant links to sites that don't benefit the end user. Reciprocal linking can be done properly and ethically or it can be done poorly.
The most important thing to take away from this is to link for the end user and not the serps. That means don't link in high volume to irrelevant sites. A good link management software should allow the user to maintain editorial discretion and NOT offer any type of high volume batch approval. That means link exchange opportunities should be considered by a human, not a fully automated scheme.
Reciprocal linking has gotten a bad image because there are now hundreds of services on the web that offer high volume link guarantees overnight. You pay your $50 bucks, choose a few categories, and bam, you are cross linked with hundreds of sites in a very short time period. This is bad. It will create a "synthetic graph" and the search engines can spot it easily. Then that site's serps drop.
If webmasters will simply make linking decisions based on what is best for the end user, and keep the volume low/realistic, reciprocal linking can be a great way to build traffic.
Low/realistic means you might exchange a link with a site or two one week, then none the next week, then you might get 5 the next week, then none the next week, then 12 the next week and so on...
None of the search engines have publically stated what their speed limits are so noone knows where that line is in the sand. That's why it's so important to avoid services that guarantee X number of high volume links in a short period of time.
That said, I have first hand experience that mirrors MB's when it comes to getting penalties lifted. One of the first hoops to jump thru is the removal of the recip links. Did they cause the penalty? Absolutely not, but it doesnt matter because the hand check of the hand job results in some serious SE arse kissing.
Both Y! and G have had spokesmen downplay the importance of recip links, but that doesnt mean their algos have done the same, at least not yet.
So to bring this back to the OP, IMO the way a SE deals with automated links programs is different than how they deal with home grown recip links. The fingerprints they leave are just to easy to ID and target.
If a SE devalues LM type links, doesn't that really just hurt the recipient while the user of these auto programs tends to get back links from pages taht aren't associated with the programs and thus not devalued?
<ducking while the defenders of these programs lock and load>
I mean, how the heck do you patent something that has been around before they even thought about LinksManager as a company? What gives with the USPTO these days?
Its Link Bait
This is the new form of marketing for some and it works. Do something totally off the wall and then get the links from Blogs, etc.
You pay your $50 bucks, choose a few categories, and bam, you are cross linked with hundreds of sites in a very short time period. This is bad. It will create a "synthetic graph" and the search engines can spot it easily. Then that site's serps drop.
So all anyone has to do is pay $50 bucks and enter your competitions domain to get rid of them? Just doesn't seem right...
If webmasters will simply make linking decisions based on what is best for the end user, and keep the volume low/realistic, reciprocal linking can be a great way to build traffic.
You know, in a perfect world, that would be the best case scenario. But, our world is not perfect and after reading through the patent and then the verbiage used to promote the patent, I'm happy I never went down the "automated link exchange" path. Google, see what you created? You have all these little monsters out there and its all your fault. ;)
Most Webmasters are not making linking decisions based on what is good for the user. Most are making decisions based on what is going to get them to the top in Google, Yahoo! and MSN.
Also, all that whitehat/blackhat verbiage is going to come back and haunt you one day. There are no hats in this industry.