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Would you consider this "buying links"?

     
1:37 pm on Sep 11, 2009 (gmt 0)

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We ran a very successful (too successful) campaign to give some of our customers a higher position in one of our industry directories (Normally $199/year) in exchange for a link from their site. We had 90-100 customers take us up on it.

After a couple of months, we received a -50 penalty from Google, along with a steep drop off in traffic.

Here's a couple of questions for my fellow webmasters:

1) Do you think Google would consider this to be buying links?

2) Do you think that if we asked some of those customers to remove the links that our rankings would return, or is a reconsideration request the only way?

2:27 pm on Sept 11, 2009 (gmt 0)

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Isn't this just a variation of a 3-way link (which everyone seems to agree) is detactable?
9:21 am on Sept 14, 2009 (gmt 0)

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1. No because not only was there no money exchanged but I think this MIGHT be an algorithmic issue.

2. Asking a signficant amount of them (not just some) to remove the links may be the way to go if you can't remove links to them. If it's not helping what's to lose, right?

If the ranking problem doesn't improve then you might want to check if it's the outgoing links that are causing the problems instead of the incoming ones. Probably good to make sure you aren't linking out to cranky sites already.

11:37 am on Sept 14, 2009 (gmt 0)

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Hey martinibuster - thanks for the tips. I haven't thought about the outgoing link angle.

And I surely have nothing to lose on the delinking side!

drakke - I think this would be more like a plain old recipocal link, except they link to my home page, and I link to theirs from their "listing" page.

3:24 am on Sept 15, 2009 (gmt 0)

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You may take a look on linking to bad neighboring site that will impact your ranking as well.
7:51 pm on Sept 15, 2009 (gmt 0)

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"We ran a very successful (too successful) campaign to give some of our customers a higher position in one of our industry directories (Normally $199/year) in exchange for a link from their site" .. thats your problem.

If you require a link back when cash is being exchanged, you are in direct violation of G's guidelines on link building.

Years ago when engineers at G were more accessible, they told us straight to our faces that requiring the reciprocal when $ is exchanging hands is asking for trouble. We stopped requiring the link back and instead made it optional.

It's ok to require the link back (although I do not encourage our clients to do this) but when you require the link back and you charge $ for links, you are in direct violation of G's guidelines on link building.

If you charge for links, do not require the link back.
If you require the link back, do not charge for links. Its that simple.

8:18 pm on Sept 15, 2009 (gmt 0)

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>>>>If you charge for links, do not require the link back. If you require the link back, do not charge for links.

According to this, if I create a high ranking auxiliary site (A) and provide links to other relevant sites in return for a link to my main site (B) then that is ok with Google. It will pass a hand check since I have asked for a link in return for a link and no money exchanged.

But an algorithm will see a site (A) with lots of links going to other sites and those *exact* same sites linking to another site (B). Don't you think that will look artificial?

8:52 pm on Sept 15, 2009 (gmt 0)

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Now you are getting into another issue.. Google says to make linking decisions for the end user and with editorial discretion. Noone has said do not reciprocal link. G has said to avoid high volume irrelevant reciprocal linking.

Noone knows the exact speed limit to avoid. I would say you first have to define what you consider to be "lots of links" before we determine if that is artificial. Also keep in mind its well known (based on google's published patent filings) that there are differing speed limits depending on type of site, age of site and industry the site is in.

3:32 am on Sept 16, 2009 (gmt 0)

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cnvi, that is very interesting since I was thinking of creating a directory site for a niche industry and offering listing to complementary businesses in return for a link to my primary site. But I read that it would be seen as a 3-way link. I had not considered the speed of link generaton.