To my mind, this is a no-brainer. When you buy a blog or any form of online community, you're not simply acquiring links, you're getting:Again, this is an interesting and unique strategy that Rand has come up with which should be very successful in situations where it makes sense to implement. While this strategy might not make sense for a lot of other businesses, the key take-away is unique and fresh content, especially blog content. I have seen well written and optimized blog posts show up in the top 10 search results on Google in less than 10 minutes after posting. The importance of fresh content is underestimated by far to many business owners who simply don't understand that the days of "set it and forget" websites are long gone. For about a month now, SEOs have been scrambling to avoid the "over-optimization penalty" Matt Cutts warned about at SXSW. This problem with a lot of the panic, in my opinion, is that it's been unfounded - unless you've been buying links or keyword stuffing your content. Writing legitimate, SEO friendly web content basically boils down to writing naturally for "humans" (not search engines), while including the types of keyword phrases your audience will be searching for. Laura at Success Works has written a great post that breaks this down in more detail. But fresh and unique content serves a dual purpose. Remember, the point of this post is to talk about getting inbound links. Quality content is often by its very nature "link bait", meaning it's something that other webmasters find interesting/useful, so they'll link to it from their websites. As we mentioned earlier, we've seen paid links work for some websites and sometimes for extended periods of time, but we'll always advised against it because Google flat out says don't do it. Google takes things a step further in their description of and warning about "Link Schemes" (emphasis mine):
- An engine for brand building and indirect customer acquisition
- An ongoing methodology to pull in links, tweets, shares, +1s, likes, etc.
- Brand evangelists who will help expand your reach and credibility
- A PR opportunity like few others, even in fields where PR is hard to come by (acquisitions are talked-about, blogged-about, and make the news, even those of relatively small blogs)
- Content that's already been proven to attract an audience
- All the organic signals that search engines love to see - from links to social to usage to content to branding
However, some webmasters engage in link exchange schemes and build partner pages exclusively for the sake of cross-linking, disregarding the quality of the links, the sources, and the long-term impact it will have on their sites. This is in violation of Google's Webmaster Guidelines and can negatively impact your site's ranking in search results. Examples of link schemes can include:I quoted that last portion to reiterate my point about content being king these days and the fact that you need to write for humans/website visitors, NOT for search engines. In 2011, webmasters began receiving notifications from Google Webmaster Tools about unnatural links. These emails detailed what issues Google had detected, steps to take to come in to compliance and then how webmasters could submit their site for reconsideration. If that all sounds like a lot of work, it's because it is which is once again why we advise against buying links in the first place. For more details on how to comply with Google's policies, check out Modesto Siotos' post about tracking down harmful inbound links and this SEO roundtable post about removing any and all paid links, regardless of how old they are. Krisina Weis summarized the unnatural links issue just this week and explained what you can do to avoid penalties as well, including one method for tracking down potentially low-quality we haven't talked about yet:
The best way to get other sites to create relevant links to yours is to create unique, relevant content that can quickly gain popularity in the Internet community. The more useful content you have, the greater the chances someone else will find that content valuable to their readers and link to it. Before making any single decision, you should ask yourself the question: Is this going to be beneficial for my page's visitors?
- Links intended to manipulate PageRank
- Links to web spammers or bad neighborhoods on the web
- Excessive reciprocal links or excessive link exchanging ("Link to me and I'll link to you.")
- Buying or selling links that pass PageRank
Google Webmaster Tools has a “Links to your site” section that shows you which sites link to your site and how often, which pages on your site have the most links, and what anchor text people tend to use to link to you (they call this “How your data is linked”).I use this tool to analyze inbound links regularly. It's a great resource, but like everything else, it has its limitations. If you review the "Links to your site" section inside your Webmaster Tools account, you'll no doubt find links from websites that seem to be nothing but domain profile directories (for lack of a better term). I don't want to link to them and potentially boost their legitimacy but I'll just mention updowner, agoner and builtwith. Essentially these sites exist to generate ad revenue (you'll find most are plastered with Adsense ads), and rather than create legitimate content to generate traffic, they simply scrape the web and provide "information" about all other websites (IP address, similar sites, related search queries, etc.) Others seem to be scraping and redisplaying search results. The reason this is concerning to me is that Webmaster Tools doesn't attach a note to links like these stating "Your rankings won't be hurt by these spam sites linking to you". Presumably Google keeps an ever growing list of these types of sites so it can discount them, but not punish websites who's webmasters have no control over the links they provide, but there's no way of knowing. GWT provides a great list of ALL links that Google sees pointing to your website, but it doesn't tell us which links are viewed as spam and which are ignored, which certainly complicates matters.