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Is it Ok for Zemanta to Suggest Links to Itself?

The Good, Bad and Questionable

6:09 pm on Dec 28, 2013 (gmt 0)

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There's a lot of confusion about some of the products offered by Zemanta. Some are mistaken that Zemanta is selling dofollow links. That's not true. Zemanta does not sell dofollow links.

Zemanta Editorial Assistant Wordpress Plugin
Zemanta has a longtime advertising program based on their WordPress Editorial plugin. The plugin has a reciprocal link enticement to it, in that it promises bloggers to recommend their links to other bloggers in their network in order to help get them traffic and rank better. Here's what it says: [wordpress.org]

Link Love by linking to other bloggers' related posts. In turn, we'll recommend your posts to other bloggers. Then find out how much love (links, tweets, likes) your posts received via Zemanta Dashboard.

That's not a link scheme where giving a link gets you a link. Zemanta is only recommending a link. It's up to the blogger to decide if it's worth linking to or not, which is an editorial decision. All good.

Advertisers can advertise to those same bloggers and have their sites and web pages suggested for a link. All good.

The questionable
I thought it was all good until Chris Boggs, in a Facebook post, noted the dofollow links to Zemanta embedded within a Forbes article, using the anchor text, "SEO" in one place and the phrase "PageRank" in another spot within the article. Really? Zemanta feels it is relevant for the phrase, "PageRank?"

Check it out for yourself on Forbes. [forbes.com]

What is your opinion?
2:34 am on Jan 5, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Personally, I detest links like this. They have one purpose: manipulating the SERPs. And the two URLs being linked to now redirect users to their blog.

When an article links to another site, I expect that hyperlink to land me on a page that either a) further explains what is being talked about in that particular sentence/paragraph in the article or b) is the source of what is being talked in that particular sentence/paragraph in the article.

But hey... Forbes is notorious for doing nefarious things when it comes to links. They've been in trouble several times over the years for selling links. I used to buy links there through Conductor back in the day for several hundred dollars per month per link.
11:17 am on Jan 6, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Actually, I like this kind of ideas. It creates relationships with users; it's like swapping phone numbers with other people.

I do this myself, especially with more websites of more informal nature. It's part of the relationship.

Manipulating the SERPs was never the goal. Search engines can do what they like.
1:40 pm on Jan 6, 2014 (gmt 0)

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hi, i'm bostjan, founder of zemanta,

thanks for bringing it up, we are all for transparency, sorry i didn't notice sooner.

the links you are mentioning were pointing to landing pages explaining the importance of 'seo', 'backlinks' and other concepts in the context of blogs, especially regarding related articles.

when we published those articles, we also had them included in our semantic engine, along with all the posts we publish. we are eating our own dog food.

unfortunately when redesigning the site, we accidentally forgot to migrate some of these pages. so when you looked at this link, it redirected to our blog. we have put them back up now.

best, b
3:50 am on Jan 7, 2014 (gmt 0)

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IMO it still makes no sense for Forbes to link to these two Zemanta articles with THAT link text.

Why would Forbes be linking to a page about interinking blog posts with the link text of "SEO". The post being linked to doesn't explain what SEO is in anyway. It might be very broadly related, but the post is no more relevant to the anchor "SEO" than an article about using hyphens as word separators in the path portion of a URL.

If the Forbes article where about using related posts and/or multipage articles then perhaps that link would be relevant to the Forbes article. Perhaps if they had included the word following SEO in the anchor (i.e. "SEO spam" as the link text) that link might be a little more relevant. ;)

Same is true for the PageRank link - not at ALL relevant. It's funny that Forbes didn't even spell PageRank as one word w/ caps as it should be... instead "page rank"). The "page rank" link points to a Zemanta article about linking out which never once even mentions much less further explains what PageRank is. It's like linking to an article about rubber trees with the link text "driving school" because... well... you go to driving school to learn to drive a car... and cars have tires... and tires are made from rubber. It's a HUGE stretch.

And I find it very ironic that the Zemanta article linked to with the "page rank" anchor has the following in it:

By sending traffic to external blog posts, you are establishing a relationship with original blogs and at some point they may reciprocate and link to one of your posts.

Ah, maybe that explains why Forbes would be linking to Zemanta (in hopes Zemanta will link to them or suggest Forbes to others for linking if they hadn't already), but probably not. It's certainly NOT because they are some authority on SEO or PageRank.

It's also ironic that the article on Zemanta linked to from Forbes with "page rank" as the anchor text states:

Also, not all of your readers are familiar with the nomenclature in your field. By using links to definitions of important terms used in your posts, you will provide a more interactive experience to your readers by letting them explore outside your posts.

which is exactly why I'm saying these are probably two of the worst articles on the web that Forbes could have linked to with those specific keyword phrases... neither link provides the reader any further definition or explanation of what "SEO" or "page rank" (aka PageRank) is.

Maybe I'm wrong, but based on my experience w/ Forbes in years past and their propensity to sell links, it's MUCH more likely that these links are simply contextual paid links than it is that they actually somehow found these 10 sentence articles on Zemanta's site and thought, "Wow! Those are great articles to reference from my Forbes article to further explain to Forbes readers what "SEO" and "page rank" are.

Forbes makes a LOT of money each month selling links. Furthermore, Forbes doesn't need links from Zemanta, so Forbes certainly doesn't need to link to them in hopes of Zemanta linking back to Forbes in the future. A link to Zemanta from Forbes could be huge for Zemanta. A link to Forbes from Zemanta will do absolutely nothing to move the needle.

Bottom line... those links do NOT look like "natural" "editorial" links. They're not even contextually relevant.
7:25 pm on Jan 8, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Even worse, the "page rank" link is in a paragraph quoted from another website that never had a link in it to begin with.
12:52 pm on Jan 9, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Dymero, you raise a good point. Is it ethical to place a link on a quoted text? This goes beyond "Google friendly." When something is quoted it is understood to be unaltered, unless placed in parentheses.

On an editorial level, is it proper to alter a quote?

What does that say about the motivation of the one altering a quote to place an outbound link?
2:38 pm on Jan 9, 2014 (gmt 0)

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As Dymero pointed out, if you're going to quote someone WTH would you link that quote to someone else's very loosely related post at best other instead of linking to the actual source of the quote?

And as you pointed out, even if you were linking to the original source, why would you do it from within the quote. Typically, the link would be inserted outside the quote where you talk about the source of the quote.

Just goes to show that either Forbes' writers are idiots when it comes to linking (which I know they are not) OR as you so politically put it, there was a different "motivation" behind that link. There is no motivation like...

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