I Disagree...With Mike Grehan & Jakob Nielson

Hopefully Mike still likes me, but I disagree with this snippet from his second part of the Could PageRank Possibly be any more OverratedTM? series:

If I'm paying for links, I want a lot more tangible evidence from the site owner. I want stats that tell me how visible the links are across all major search engines, how much traffic they send, and how much traffic they attract overall. I want to see the site owner is a savvy online marketer and is an authority in his community or is developing a presence as such. I need to know he understands and uses analytics to provide tactical data. This is sound, useful marketing intelligence. It's a lot more important to me than a meaningless 4 or 5 in a little sprinkling of green fairy dust above the pages.

Sure if you are paying a ton of money you want to have some evidence backing up the link price, but due to my business model (which lacks recurring revenue) I am willing to take gambles buying many cheap links knowing the owner may not realize the value of them (something like US Web does, but usually with a bit more tact).

Most webmasters know nothing about tracking and most successful web based businesses can not compete with the largest ones on all aspects, and thus must look for market inefficiencies to help market their sites until they tap viral marketing and their business models mutate to become more competitive with the industry leaders.

I would prefer to buy links from people who may not necissarily understand the market value of their links. I don't want the average link selling webmaster to be marketing savvy. Think how bad it would suck if you had to pay full market value for every link you bought. It would end up becoming a zero sum market like AdWords.

I bought links which quickly increased in price by over 300% for anyone who followed. A few times I did it based primarily on PageRank because I knew to have PR8 internal pages the site had to have solid connectivity data, but most of those type of link buys were over a year ago and when I did it the linking page were typically virgin and this site was a bit (maybe a lot) more obscure than it is today.

Of course due to many people reading these blog posts and looking through linkage data that sort of stuff does not last very long if I get those types of links for this site (which is perhaps a good example of why it is sometimes better to dominate low key categories than to try to compete in overtly competitive high profile ones).

I helped a friend market one of their websites, which only retails one type of product for one manufacturer, and on under $1,000 a month ad spend their site sells well over twice as much as this one does (and their site does not have much original / unique / compelling content).

I have been a bit lazy with link building recently, but for a while I was in the top 10 of Google for SEO (currently #7) & search engine marketing (currently #15) with 2 different sites on well under $1,000 of monthly link spend, due in large part to buying or renting low power links for under fair market value.

The most powerful links are no doubt worth a pretty penny to many business models, but sometimes it is just cheaper to give those people a good reason / excuse to link at you instead of trying to buy ads, and if you can't do that then the links may not be worth buying if you have to pay full market value for them.

Outside of SearchEngineWatch, DMOZ, & Yahoo! this site has few on topic high power links from official type resources. I have bought or rented:

  • many cheap on topic links from low power sites

  • a few off topic links from sites with great webwide connectivity

and this site ranks well for a wide variety of search related terms without significant ad spend.

***Disclaimer: I am not saying my time is an unlimited free resource, but am saying that spending a bit of time finding underpriced links may be a better link buying route than expecting webmasters to come up with numbers and justifications for expensive link prices.***

While I am still feeling obstinate, Jakob Nielson disses Amazon's usability, also calling contextual ads on merchant sites crap:

Amazon spends about two inches of each product page advertising other websites. Although this generates revenue, the average e-commerce site should be ashamed if it can't make far more money selling to a hot lead who's already investigating one of its own products. Amazon's position as the default place to buy books is so strong that it can afford to send shoppers off to other sites, knowing they'll return later and buy the book anyway. You can't make the same assumption. Sell to your prospects, rather than throw them away.

Many people have stated contextual ads provided a low effort passive income stream without doing much damage to the main income streams. The only way you can be sure whether or not ads are right for your sites is to test.

Jakob should probably step away from his ideals and visit a bit of reality before calling good business logic a shameful activity.

Published: July 26, 2005 by Aaron Wall in marketing


Bogdan Manolache
July 26, 2005 - 1:32pm

Speaking of cheap but valuable links:

This one has PageRank 7

July 26, 2005 - 1:47pm

well I wouldn't buy a link on that page for this site. a few reasons:

  • people are spamming highly visible blogs and forums to promote it
  • the forum sig links and the blog post here specifically mention PageRank value
  • the price is to far under PERCEIVED value
  • all those pharmacy links make it a wee bit sketchy
  • your site sells a $49 SEO package

To me links from that page would probably add lots of risk with exceptionally limited upside potential.

...although it might be interesting to see how that site built that sort of link popularity or if they were doing anything sketchy or why that page was showing a higher PageRank value than the home page of that site.

BTW, I am going to edit out your URL since you did not state that it was self promotional.

July 26, 2005 - 4:39pm

Nice article, Aaron.

What is wrong IMO with the PR argument is that it tends to be zero-sum argument. Don't look at PR - Look for PR.

PR is a relative measure. One of many other measures that are more important, such as theme, context, link display, and price. One should combine all this factors into a strategy.

Turning off the toolbar may enable you to concentrate on the other important measures, but when I go to battle, I want a full arsenal of weapons available, even if I choose not to use one.

Mike's article is noble, your article is brave.

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