September 26, 2007
Beren from webmasterworld have posted an interesting observation about link building being harder than it was before:
Back in 2001 or so I had read that Google used links in their algorithm, so I decided to start asking other websites to link to my clients’ sites. I didn’t know if anyone was doing link solicitation – this was before I discovered webmasterworld.com and similar boards. My email just said I have a suggestion for your site: you may want to add a link to my site. And it worked. While most of the sites I asked for links did not give me one, many did. We had good success with Google and as Google became more dominant, good success period.
Link building was something I would do maybe once a month, as it was time consuming and not much fun, even though it was very effective.
As the years wore on, link building has become harder and harder. The success rate declined and resistance increased. I even started receiving link requests from other webmasters, and it seemed that link building was going mainstream. I knew we had passed some sort of milestone two years ago when a woman responded to my request that she would not give me a link because she looked at my site and did not see a link to her site! She would not give a link unless a reciprocal one was given. It appeared that the run-of-the-mill site owners now understood that links were valuable. I don’t mean people who hang out on webmasterworld. I mean the average site owner now understood that links carry value.
This rise in awareness of link value is a large part of the reason I think people are less likely to give them out. It’s not a secret or even known just by people in the trade. When people understand that links are worth something, they start to see link request emails as spam.
Today I received a request for a link to an unrelated site. The requestor suggested which page I put his link on (something I often do also) and then said “or any other minimum PR – 3 page”. Can you believe it?! He explicitly asked for a link on a page with a minimum PR! This type of link requests poisons the well even more. It teaches people to be aware of PR! No longer is PR something that only professionals know about; with this type of request more and more people will know about PR and start to think in those terms.
The point is that with all this link request activity, the average site owner now understands links are worth something and therefore much less likely to give links to requestors they don’t know. It’s a shame, but the success of link building activity has poisoned the well.
and cnvi response with top 6 reasons why this issue:
Excellent observation! I share your concerns because I work in the link exchange management business and I see the same trend you do on a daily basis. Today’s new webmasters (who don’t have the experience you have) simply don’t see it the way you do.
I would like to share with you top 6 reasons why I believe link building is harder in 2007 than in 2001:
- Reason 1: Some (not all) webmasters have abused link building through link exchange in high volume with junk sites. In my opinion, this is Google’s fault because they revealed their Pagerank scoring system based in part on link popularity instead of keeping it hidden like so many of their other technologies. G opened this proverbial pandoras box providing a means to game the Pagerank scoring system.
- Reason 2: You all have received an irrelevant link exchange request. If you know how to read between the lines, you realize that irrelevant link exchange requests are part of today’s Internet – and that there are still quality link opportunities out there through relevant link exchange. But not all webmasters think that way anymore.. many webmasters have become frustrated with irrelevant link requests and some have thrown up their hands and said “no more” which is putting the baby out with the bathwater in my humble opinion. These webmasters who have given up on link exchange are missing out on some quality linking opportunities (see my reason 4 below where I tangent on a way to cut down on requests via email).
- Reason 3: 98% of what I read about link exchange on today’s web is flat out false misinformation and/or webmaster paranoia. There is so much inaccurate information regarding link exchange on the web today, it confuses webmasters who don’t know what to believe. Some simply say “I won’t do it because Y blogger said X”.
In the past week, I have seen article and blog topics along the lines of “link exchange will get you banned in Google” and “Matt Cutts said don’t link exchange”. Both completely false statements. The truth (based on my ten years of experience in the link exchange business and monitoring factual search engine webmaster guidelines) is that link exchange in slow natural volume with quality sites related to your own builds traffic to your site both via the links themselves, and through search engines rankings based in part on link popularity. Matt Cutts has never stated “do not link exchange”. I read the conference transcripts and I watch his blog. Matt has indeed stated “there is such a think as excessive link exchange”. Matt has also stated “avoid irrelevant reciprocal links”. Google knows webmasters acquire quality links through relevant link exchange. But most webmasters don’t realize this.. if it’s been blogged by Joe SEO Expert, many webmasters believe it. This spreads false information causing webmasters to abandon this classic link building method.
- Reason 4: Link exchange is a mind numbing time consuming data management challenge. And although there are editor based software scripts and application services on the web that manage the tasks for you while allowing you to maintain editorial discretion, many webmasters are paranoid to use any software because they fear “it will get me banned by Google”. Paranoia surrounding what G thinks affects webmasters decisions to link exchange; “I won’t link to you because you are using X software”. When all the while, there is documentation in Google webmasters forums indicating that G views link management software and scripts as CMS’s.. it’s HOW you use the software and not necessarily which software you use. However, unless the webmaster is reading these facts in an official forum maintained by a major search engine, webmasters are more inclined to believe the next paranoid blogger statement without questioning it’s validity. “I read about it on the Internet so it must be true!”
Many sites who do participate in relevant link exchange and use quality link management software publish “suggest link forms” to take the hassle out of fielding link exchange requests. Watch for those forms. Use them when the link exchange is deemed relevant. There is nothing wrong with them and you are more likely to get a response to one of those forms than a direct email which we all agree are time consuming to deal with.
Here’s a quickie tangent and tip and then back on topic: Suggest link forms are considered to be “low hanging fruit” for professional ethical link builders. Find them by searching keywords related to the site + link exchange such as “motorcycle parts suggest link” or “motorcycle parts add link” instead of sending email.
- Reason 5: Some webmasters who have read way too much misinformation about link exchange are doing it for SEO when they should be conducting link exchange as a traffic building and branding function. Sure it’s ok to benefit from the SEO benefits but folks who send email demanding a link from “PR 3 or higher” as Beren suggested above are wasting their time and linking for all the wrong reasons. Folks, if you can get a quality link from a site that will benefit the end users of both sites, GET THE LINK regardless of PR or other metrics.
- Reason 6: Other marketing methods exist to build links.. you know them all, we discuss them here all the time so I won’t bore you with a recap. As other marketing methods become successful, webmasters are more apt to try them, especially those that promise lots of links overnight without much effort by the webmaster. In this world of drive thru’s, overnight shipping, and downloadable movies, webmasters want it now. However, it’s the slow natural method of acquiring links that is exactly what the search engine Gods are always watching for. As other methods come under fire such as paid links, I think you will see webmasters return to their marketing roots and explore relevant link exchange.
Sorry for the long post.. I didnt realize I would go on so much! I would like to wrap up this post by explaining the three most important things webmasters need to know about link exchange: Editorial discretion, Relevancy, and Volume.
Editorial discretion: Google’s Search Engine 125 patent cites “gaining links from documents without editorial discretion on making links” as a primary indication of “attempts to spam a search engine.” Translation: maintain editorial control when making links. That’s easy. Avoid software or services which guarantee links. Maintain editorial discretion always and don’t allow a full duplex link exchange software to publish links you have not approved. There are many editor based software and scripts out there. Avoid the full duplex products.
Relevancy: The Google patent states “A sudden growth in the number of apparently independent peers, incoming and/or outgoing, with a large number of links to individual documents may indicate a potentially synthetic web graph, which is an indicator of an attempt to spam … this information can be used to demote the impact of such links.” Translation: Don’t link to sites irrelevant to your own. Who you link out to says a lot about your linking strategy.
Volume: You may read about “natural volume” but rarely does anyone translate that into English.. how many link exchanges is too much? Google’s patent on the subject says “While a spiky rate of growth in the number of back links may be a factor used by search engine 125 to score documents, it may also signal an attempt to spam search engine 125. Accordingly, in this situation, search engine 125 may actually lower the score of a document(s) to reduce the effect of spamming.” … it goes on to say “The dates that links appear can also be used to detect ‘spam,’ where owners of documents or their colleagues create links to their own document for the purpose of boosting the score assigned by a search engine. A typical, ‘legitimate’ document attracts back links slowly.”
So how do you fly under that “excessive link exchange” guideline recently published by Google? Easy. Avoid software or services that make links for your site in high volume. That means avoid the service that offers 500 links for $50. Instead, obtain links one by one over long periods of time (this is exactly what ethical link exchange facilitates). Example: get 1 link today, no links for the next four days, 3 the next day, 1 the next day, none for the next five days, 1 the next day, none for two weeks, 5 the next day, and so on.. That is natural volume.
Hard disk space is very cheap these days. You can bank on the fact that all of the search engines are trending how often you obtain links! Every time a search engine crawls your site, your site is being forensically probed in manners you never dreamed possible. It’s worse than a rectal exam. Don’t give a search engine any reason to penalize you. That means slow natural volume when obtaining links through link exchange.
Hopefully, some of the information above will get some webmasters rethinking link exchange as a perfectly acceptable marketing method in 2007.
Googlelady: I still believe that link exchange is good, and sometimes I receive also link exchange request but 90% are irrevelant sites or topics that will not help my readers.
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