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Link Building Strategy: Good Idea or Not?

Dreamed up a cool link building strategy and I need your feedback.

11:16 am on Jan 27, 2012 (gmt 0)

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I have a question about link building strategy our team dreamed up the other day. We want to know if the following is a good idea or not?

A company I work with is currently in the process of developing a new hosted software service. The way it works is website owners will sign up for our product (an ecommerce tool), embed some code into their website, and they can then use our service to list their products for sale.

There will be different account types, a free account and various paid accounts.

The free account will be limited in features, and if site owners want to use the software on their page it will output a small link in the footer with something similar to the following "[a]shopping cart software[/a] powered by ABC Company". So they will be forced to include a link back to our site. Removing the link will disable the software.

Here's why we're doing this:

1. We hope free users won't like the idea of linking back to our site and promoting our software, so they'll upgrade to a paid version so they can remove it. So it's an incentive to upgrade. We think it's fair to have the link promoting our service as we are offering the service free of charge.

This lead us to thinking up the following...

2. This could be an excellent opportunity to get tons of inbound links for targeted keywords, and really improve our SEO rankings. We think it's very likely we'll have 100+ free users sign up a month when we first launch.

My question is, is this a good strategy for generating inbound links? Or can this actually penalize our site as the inbound link could be on 100+ new sites each month on every page of those sites. For example, if a customer is listing 500 products for sale with with his free shopping cart account that could be 500 inbound links from just one site. If you multiply that by 100 sites that could be 50,000 links a month on 100 websites. So is this considered inbound link spam?

If it's not a good idea we would obviously place a "no-follow" in the link, as having the link still gives free users an incentive to upgrade to a paid account.

One other thing, keep in mind that we can change, every other day, the link's keyword and the page it links to when the software is first set up. So we could target 10-20 different keywords a month across 100 sites e.g.:

"[a]shopping cart software[/a] powered by ABC Company".
"[a]ecommerce software[/a] powered by ABC Company".
"[a]online shopping cart[/a] powered by ABC Company".

So I need an SEO experts advice on this. Is this a good idea or bad idea?
2:01 pm on Jan 27, 2012 (gmt 0)

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It's creative, but a bit late to the game. Loads of people did a similar thing with wordpress themes. I'm pretty sure the technique was rendered obsolete a while back (certainly the multiple links from single domain impact hasn't been effective since 2003-4 maybe).

Personally, I think the idea is sound, but I'd be inclined to focus on the marketing potential than the link potential - use social media and the blogsphere to generate interest in the product and aim for natural inbound links.

There's no reason not to include branding and a link on your software. If I use a Wordpress blog, I leave the link in place, but if I was looking at plugins that required a keyword link, it would put me off (but that's more of a SEO perspective than a regular user). If you are linking, I'd opt for using the straight URL or just the company name than the keywords. It seems counter-intuitive in terms of SEO, but I think it's much more fair use and likely to be considered in the same way by search engines.

I wouldn't expect the links to prop up your SEO campaign in the long term though - it's the kind of technique that runs a high risk of being slapped by search engines. So if you are relying on SEO as a marketing strategy, opting for the more traditional social media / traditional PR / marketing route to generate links may be more viable in the long term.
1:53 pm on Feb 1, 2012 (gmt 0)

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I'd do it, but get the anchor text to be your brand name, that is also your domain name. Sending strong brand signals to Google is the sort of anchor text 'manipulation' that is likely to be future-proof, whereas what you're proposing hasn't worked consistently for some time now already.
6:50 pm on Feb 3, 2012 (gmt 0)

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It's not really the same thing as wordpress themes. Wordpress themes, as with some traffic counters, various calculators, and widgets attempt to obtain links back to sites that are unrelated to the theme itself, a business that is trying to rank for business terms or to a third party who is paying to have their link displayed.

What the OP is discussing is a "Powered by" link which is what many web development related software programs already do. In fact, it's common business practice to add a "Powered by" link. You see that in paid and unpaid forum software, and ecommerce software. What the OP is proposing is not unusual. It's common.
12:51 pm on Feb 4, 2012 (gmt 0)

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It can be powerful but you do risk a penalty - as the link isn't 'editorial' it should be nofollowed.
But its probably still worth doing for the 'credit' - people actually seeing what the product used is, clicking through and signing up
(of all things I hate most, checking the markup for a pattern I can try to trace back to a software provider for site features I like the look of, because there is no link, is one of the most annoying)
10:31 am on Mar 3, 2012 (gmt 0)

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I think forcing people to link back and give you credit might be frowned upon somewhat. As was mentioned earlier you are perhaps a little late to the game after everyone did this with wordpress themes.

If you are going to pursue this route, I would make two recommendations... Either no follow the link and accept the promotional traffic that flows or make sure the links that installing your software generates is a mixture of different anchor texts, some no follow, some to different pages.

Hundreds or thousands of links with the same anchor text are going to be fairly easy for Google to filter and they are hot on site wides so either you won't see the full benefits or you face some kind of penalty.
10:04 pm on Mar 28, 2012 (gmt 0)

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Its easy to see visually see whether this is used for branding purposes or for SEO.

Sites that stuff various shopping cart keywords in are trying to gain advantage using topical keywords.

Sites that do not are branding.

I believe there is a huge difference between both. Saying:

Powered by My Solutions

linking back to the software company is much different than

"[a]shopping cart software[/a] powered by ABC Company".

Is it done for the user or for SEO? Gently leading the user to understand who made the software is branding and business 101. Using that advantage to leverage seo is no.

This is why businesses who brand intelligently use keywords in their business brand name where possible.
10:35 pm on Mar 28, 2012 (gmt 0)

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Its a common practice among the companies distributing free tools or interfaces. But getting a thousands links from new domains every month may trigger the google's spam alarm.

If you are doing this for Brand Promotion it should not hurt you in any way, but if you are going to add some keyword specific anchor text, it may be devalued.

The very basic solution of the problem (if any in future) is to use rel=nofollow (in future) to the new installation.

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