SEO Question: Is it safe to check a sites backlinks daily or would you recommend once a week, my understanding is that using API's for the same site to often a no no as the search engines can easily track this.
SEO Answer: For most webmasters it probably does not matter what is being tracked. There are thousands and thousands of webmasters out there marketing their websites, so I don't think that search engines probably flag linkdomain: searches via APIs as being a bad thing because the main thing frequent research typically indicates is that others want to know how someone got to the top of the search results.
As far as checking the backlinks for a site daily, so long as you are manually publishing content and manually acquiring quality links I don't think you are going to acquire them too quickly per say.
I typically only use tools to research how competitive a market is or to look at the best links pointing at a competing website. I think if you are checking your backlinks daily you are probably wasting time that could be spent creating more content or getting more links.
A couple SEO blogs have recently pointed out Greg Boser's Tattler, which is lightning quick and works with the Yahoo! Site Explorer. It is a bit light on features but easy to export and fast as can be. Great for free!
If you are worried about people stealing content or use content syndication you can check out how many pages a unique article or post wind up on by searching for a unique text string of 8 or so words with them surrounded in quotes. Many of the places that legitimately syndicate articles also link back to the source document or link location in the credits box.
I also typically recommend avoiding bulk link exchanges as I don't see it as an effective forward looking SEO strategy for most webmasters, although here is a free script for checking reciprocal links, and you can also do the same in a bit more automated fashion using tools like Backlink Analyzer.
If you run a blog type site I think it is more important to see how quickly your blog is growing compared to related channels and similar publishing formats in the same field. There will always be ups and downs, so don't think everything will go up and to the right forever.
Also note what percent of your new links are legitimate. If most of your new links are spammy and your posts are not getting any new legitimate citations it might be time to think about taking a bit of a break or change what and how you are posting (at least if distribution is a large goal with your site). I find reading a few books and exercising a bit tends to get me inspired and maybe a bit more creative with a new perspective.
I do vanity searches for things like "Aaron Wall", Seobook and "Seo Book" about once or twice a week. By seeing who is talking about you and why they are talking about you it makes it easier to write posts in the future that more people would be willing to talk about.
SEO Question: How do I promote my art site via SEO and search? I want to drive traffic to my site from Google.
SEO Answer: I have been asked this question in various formats more times than I can count.
How I would Have Marketed Art Years Ago:
A few years ago when I was far greener to marketing I would say get links with the anchor text you want to rank for. Make sure those words are also in your page title and page content. Then mix in a few quality links by submitting to the Yahoo! Directory, DMOZ, and vertical authority sites that are related to your field.
My very first SEO client was an artist by the name of Gregory Christeas who was also a photographer. A couple years ago I used very low level uber spammy techniques and his site started ranking in most of the search engines for "headshots" within a month. I charged him maybe $100 or so and then within a month he had already got a lead that gave him thousands of dollars in profit. He is the one who sorta made me become an SEO...although I sold no services at the time he was demanding that I helped him and so I did. I still thank him to this day for that. SEO has probably got a bit more complex since then, but I digress...
A couple years ago he moved overseas to Greece, his native land. Before he moved I had the chance to meet him and he is probably one of the top 5 most spiritual people I have ever met. He still has an art site. Years ago he used some of my low level SEO techniques I used on his art site and now he ranks at #3 in Google for abstract artist, but the site looks like dog crap compared to how amazing his artwork is. In fact, I think it makes his art look far worse to be on a site that looks like I designed it.
Mindshare is Key to Promoting Abstract Ideas:
Some of my friends think Paris Hilton is really ugly from top to bottom from the inside out. But she gets lots of search volume because she has mindshare and media coverage. Many people think she is this or that because they are told what to think of her and given enough repetition they start to believe it. I guess the theory I am saying here is that if enough people tell you something falls into a certain frame set or category then eventually many people will believe it.
What is beauty? The more abstract an idea is the more inclined we will be to rely on others inputs to formulate our own opinions.
Now if a person is searching for Pablo Picaso prints, in spite of him being an amazing artist, that is a bit of a commodity and maybe that is a good thing to optimize for since there is low commitment in products with low cost.
Somethings do not make sense to push algorithmically, and some leads have very little value. I don't think SEO is a real solution for most live artists. SEO doesn't really get too many people talking about you.
Artwork from an Amazing Live Artist is Not a Commodity:
Take for example my friend Gregory Christeas. He hid out on the streets of France while in exile from Greece. While living as a street bum / artist without a home he made art out of whatever he could find...coffee grinds, aluminum foil, whatever. His site looks piece meal at best, yet if you hunted about you could find the story about how he met Pablo Picaso.
About two years ago I tried putting his art in a database and tried moving him to become a blogger before I even knew anything about blogging. I don't think I sold him a convincing story though because I didn't really know anything about blogging at that point. Eventually though I would love to work with Gregory to help him do better web marketing because he is a great guy and his art work is amazing. Or maybe I think it is better than it really is because I feel I know, trust, and like him?
It's all about Feelings:
And I am not saying that I am one of those asshats who thinks that blogs will save the world or whatever. What I am saying is that story telling matters. Giving people a reason to come back and learn more about you and get to know you matters. Letting people feel they can know you and trust you and know what your motives are is really just about the cheapest for of marketing you can come across.
In the same way that SEO as a standalone bolt on product has largely died and is dying I think walls blocking off distribution to artwork will prevent many artists from succeeding.
At a place in SOHO I saw the expression on my artist friend Gregory's face when he saw this literally hairy pink and lime green pokedotted striped piece of artwork on the wall. He was pissed at the idea of art teachers telling people to be provacitive without reason.
We are all different, and if we express who we are in what we do that will only work to our advantage. But people run into issues if they try to be different just for the sake of trying to be different.
Create Connections & Tell Stories:
If you can find ways to make people talk about you then you win. The more levels you can connect with fans on the greater you will win.
The Importance of Conversation:
While search engines seem to be pushing many content production models to the lowest common denominator I believe they are pushing artists to become story tellers.
Today there's the explosion of choice brought on by the Internet. All entertainments are approximately one click away. The search-cost of finding another artist whose music or books or movies are as interesting as yours is dropping through the floor, thanks to recommendation systems, search engines, and innumerable fan-recommendation sites like blogs and MySpaces. Your virtuosity is matched by someone else's, somewhere, and if you're to compete successfully with her, you need something more than charisma and virtuosity.
You need conversation. In practically every field of artistic endeavor, we see success stories grounded in artists who engage in some form of conversation with their audience. JMS kept Babylon 5 alive by hanging out on fan newsgroups. Neil Gaiman's blog is built almost entirely on conversing simultaneously with thousands of readers. All the indie bands who've found success on the Internet through their message-boards and mailing lists, all the independent documentarians like Jason Scott, comics authors like Warren Ellis with his LiveJournal, blog, mailing list, etc.
So how would I recommend marketing art?
Research to see what others have done to become successful using the internet. Maybe don't copy them, but consider how their ideas have spread.
Make sure your site design and format sells the same story you want the content to.
Don't be afraid to mess up. Many of my past posts are garbage. Many of my future posts will be as well.
Don't try to connect with everyone. The world is a big place. If you try to be interesting to everyone then you will be interesting to nobody.
Don't be afraid if sometimes people take things the wrong way or derive an alternate meaning. If people can't get multiple meanings from something how can it be good art?
Make sure you give people reasons to talk about you regularly.
Don't be afraid to be opinionated. Isn't art just an open expression of opinions and interpretations anyway?
Give stuff away. If people really want it they will find a way to access it. Piracy is a form of progressive taxation. Further consumption of your artwork is just going to lead to further consumption.
Give stuff away. Many artists have made their names by being the first or only person in their field to give stuff away in the format that they give it away. Helping others makes it easier to feel good about the day. Also imagine what type of great marketing it is for a person or a brand to donate to Amnesty International or other cool charities.
Go where the conversations are on and off the web. If I were an indie rock musician I would try to find a way to get to Coachella.
If I were any type of artist I would probably go to Burning Man.
If you want to try to also use search for marketing think laterally. Connect yourself with important ideas and ideas which matter to people you would like to appeal with.
Probably more stuff, but I don't yet know lots about art and it is early in the morning.
Disclaimer: I have not an artistic bone in my body and I may be full of crap, but I believe the stuff in this post. ;)
SEO Question: Can you explain what the Deep Link Percentage is, I ran a few sites and was surprised to see numbers as low as 7% with some very well respected SEO and large brick and mortar store websites.
My basic understanding is your deep link percentage is the number of internal pages which are linked to by highly relevant incoming links from highly relevant established pages. So for example if you had a ten page site and had one incoming indexed link pointing to each page from a site with proper anchor text your DLP would be 100%?
SEO Answer: Deep link percentage is the % of all your backlinks (or inbound links) that point at pages other than your home page.
What you do is the following steps:
Do a link search for a site in Yahoo! to determine all links pointing at it, say Y! [linkdomain:linkhounds.com]. That just returned 1,490 results for me (all links to that domain).
Lets subtract out links to our domain coming from within that domain (also known as internal linkage data) Y! [lindomain:linkhounds.com -site:linkhounds.com] 1,480 results (all links to domain - links from internal pages...it is a really small ~ 10 page website)
So we calculate deep link ratio to be
# of deep links
# of links pointing at site
----- = 84%
84% is exceptionally high for most sites. Most major newspapers are not even that high. The reason that site was so high are
I have not actively promoted the site much
the site generally looks like dog crap so people are probably hesitant to link at it (hey I used a free design template)
the tools on the site are rather useful and attract a good number of natural links (notice how Jim Boykin just said yesterday how he thinks most paid SEO tools are pure trash, but he also posted that he frequently uses the tools on Linkhounds)
some people mirror some of the tools and link back at the original tool locations
I pulled results from Yahoo! because they tend to show more of their known linkage data than Google or MSN do. The theory with the deep link ratio is that sites with a higher deep link ratio typically tend to have a more natural link profile.
Depending on your content quality and your content management system you may end up having a really high deep link ratio or a really low one. Generally a higher deep link ratio is better, because it does a better job of shielding you link popularity to make it look natural, but you should compare what other sites in your industry are doing and go from there. Blending in is typically a good thing.
When you referenced the 7% figure for some of the brick and mortar stores they may lack useful compelling content within their site. If they have a strong brand but little citation-worthy content then most of their links will end up pointing at their home page.
Also note that it may be uncommon for all your deep links to point at one specific page. If sites are naturally integrated into the web they should be able to acquire multiple references to their site from related sites.
Many new webmasters do not mix their anchor text very well and concentrate too much on trying to rank just the home page for hyper competitive terms. Many of the old guard on the SEO scene also spend a good amount of time trying to drive 3, 4 and 5 word searches at some of their internal pages.
Please note that there are some killer ideas that are just uber cool linkbait that will end up causing many links to point at one page. Be it the home page or an internal page. A couple examples I can think of:
If you have individual pages or ideas that are exceptionally link-worthy I would not suggest worrying about them or downplaying them because you are trying to fit some random ratio (as I don't really think there is a golden ratio). Ride them for all they are worth, but then also look to come up with other good ideas or content, etc.
Roger Smolski also has an article on DLR. I am not sure, but I think he may have been the one who coined the phrase.
SEO Question: Lets say I have a web service company (sales) site and a blog about proper web design at domain.com/proper-web-design/ Then lets say I have a blog about hot design sites at domain.com/hot-sites/
If the blogs becomes successful would it help domain.com in Google serp rankings?
SEO Answer: In a word, yes.
Quality links to any part of your site make it easier for the rest of your site to rank well. So long as you use good internal navigation your link popularity flows throughout your site.
Although you didn't ask the questions, as to weather your blogs should be 2 separate blogs or 1 blog and as to weather it would make sense to keep them both on your main site it really depends on what your goals are and how much effort you put into them.
If you market your main products or services too heavily on a blog it can become a bit harder for people to want to link at your blog. If your content quality is amazingly high you can probably get away with a good bit of marketing without it hurting your linkability too much, although I would recommend keeping the blog looking really pure and non commercial off the start in most cases to make it easier for people to want to like your site, subscribe to your feed, and link at your site. After a while you can flip the switch and make some bank :)
Also keep in mind that even if your main site did not rank better your blog may help establish you as a known expert in your field. Even without marketing your services on your blog some people will want to hire you based on what you write on it (I so am living proof of that concept). You also are more likely to get better leads from people you would work better with by taking leads from friends or working for people who like to read your blog than the lower quality leads search would provide you.
For higher end service based businesses I do not think search yields very high quality leads as compared to word of mouth marketing, building trust over time, and brand building activities.
Many people also do not realize how lucrative proper contextual ads can be in some verticals. In web design contextual ads may not be too great because most of your traffic is going to be people fairly savvy about the web. My mom is learning blogging and has a weight loss blog. She has been blogging for maybe 2 months now and already has got some organic links from other bloggers. Just yesterday, in spite of putting an affiliate ad in a post and three contextual ad units around it, my mom got a decent link from another blogger. Another friend of mine also recently got some great link love from a high traffic site with a rather plain looking blog because he had one of the few blogs in his vertical.
SEO Question: Are you aware of an SEO ranking (by revenue) list anywhere?
SEO Answer: There are two ways to take that question. I will try to answer both of them :)
What SEO companies have the most value?
Very few SEO companies are public. Those that are public are rolled into larger corporations with other businesses as well. I also absolutely do not think that bigger equates to better.
Quality SEO does not scale. You really only need a half dozen or so quality employees to make millions of dollars a year. Many big firms end up hiring lots of people to get on the horn cold calling people or using other aggressive sales techniques.
I have been offered deals to make a commission selling leads to some of the larger SEO firms on the market and I have always turned down that option and have been willing to make less (often nothing) referring leads to friends that I know and trust.
From personal experience I would say that I probably provided better value for my price when I was new to the field because back then I was a bit hungry.
As companies grow bigger they typically get less hungry with how hard they are willing to work to make the same amount of money. I have seen the results of some work from large SEO companies that get people to sign contracts for $1,000 a month and keep charging for work even if they do nothing but offer generalized suggestions that are not implemented.
After 6 or 7 months of working with a large SEO firm one of my friends had about 4 links pointing at their website. One was from their official manufacturer and some of the other links used anchor text like BuyViagra.com with the keywords ran together. Not good considering how few links they had after that much time and $6,000 in the hole.
What SEO Companies do the Best Work?
That is a bit of a tough call because I have not hired many companies. As mentioned above I would probably recommend staying away from large firms with many employees.
I typically refer many people to my friend Daniel, WeBuildPages, or DaveN. When a firm is really good and really established it is hard to match up a client worth working for because they have to be able to afford a high rate to be worth the time of a good firm. Many top SEOs place significant value on their time because they can make money creating their own sites.
What SEO Business Models are Worthwhile?
As far as what business models within SEO are worth doing I think affiliate marketing or contextual advertising are nice because they make great recurring income per unit time / effort and do not require much in the lines of customer service. In fact, if you are good at finding the right verticals you can even outsource large portions of the content production business model while being virtually guaranteed profits.
The other SEO business models that are worthwhile are ones where you can create value without having to give significant attention to each lead and/or guarantee end results. If you are guaranteeing results you should only work with legit companies that have intangible assets favoring them or else you are probably going to be better off working as an affiliate marketer and web publisher.
Many SEO verticals are rather profitable. A few examples:
keyword research services - Dan Thies is considered about the only game in town
link brokering - not much ongoing effort per client AND it includes recurring commissions
link building - since it is considered so hard to build links people are willing to pay a good amount for a set number of links. Even though fewer links may have more value people like the idea of getting x links for y dollars.
directories - not many of these are well monetized via contextual advertisements, but some directories are rather profitable from submission fees. The hard part about directories is many submitters (including me) hate paying recurring fees because it gets to be a bit complex if they pay recurring fees across 100 different directories for 50 different sites. I would probably stick away from making a general one if I made a directory. I would also look for ways to make it extensible (not forcing every site to get the same sized description and link).
selling a how to book - hey that's me! I would do pretty good on the business front if I did not spend so much money going to conferences, building SEO tools that I give away, and have an ultra sleazy bogus lawsuit recently thrown my way.
selling SEO software - most of the buyers in the SEO market are newbies to the market. It is appealing to think that there is some simple automated software that will make it all make sense. If I worked as hard at creating software for sale as I did creating my ebook and blog I have no doubt I would make 10 to 20 times as much income as I do. The problem with software is that it ages quickly, and most of it quickly becomes obsolete garbage, but since people think they need it the demand is there, so people fill the market position. That is why you see sites offering to use software to submit your site to search engines for $2.99. No doubt it is a complete scam, but it is what many people want so the service is available. Most well versed SEO professionals use some of the free software and create their own custom software in house.
I would stick away from selling SEO services unless you had a strong brand which allowed you to get ultra high quality leads. Why?
Organic results drive about 3 times as much traffic as the pay per click ads and yet business on average are spending around 10% as much on organic search as they spend on paid search (at least according to MarketingSherpa).
Marketers spent $5.5 billion on paid listings in 2005 compared with just $660 million on optimization for organic listings.
As the algorithms advance it will be harder to put garbage at the top of the search results. If you are putting garbage at the top of the search results and businesses are only willing to pay you on average about 3 to 5% of the value you are driving then you may as well be a content provider and let them fight over you contextual ad revenue and augment that with affiliate income.
What Keyword Terms and Phrases have the Most Value?
I think it is typically worth avoiding chasing the exact same keyword list many other people chase. The top earning keyword lists that are widely marketed have lead to many people creating sites about mesothelioma. In that sense competition may scale quicker than profits.
If you are in a robust marketplace and most sites are chasing after the top term you may be able to squeak into a great market position by going after some of the smaller overlooked phrases.
Localization and using keyword modifiers are huge. So is market depth. If there are only a few high bidders on the most general terms then odds are not so great that contextual ad value will be much of anything for ads triggered by similar content.
If you can find a way to leverage user generated content that allows you to pick up significant traffic from misspelled terms.
Also within a market you have to look at how the lead value breaks down based on location or other demographics. Andrew at Web Publishing Blog recently pointed at this chart of mortgage lead value by location. Also note that if there are 100,000 people chasing California real estate and only 300 focusing on Kentucky it may make better sense to chase Kentucky if you are starting from scratch.
Overture, Wordtracker, and the Google AdWords API offer search volume estimates and Overture currently lets you view their bid prices, but you also have to research why the top sites are ranked and your chances of breaking into the top results when you try to calculate the value of a market.
Another obvious option for testing market volume and value is to set up a test Google AdWords account and sign up for an affiliate program to see what sort of search volume and conversion rate you get.
You can also look at the number of news articles about a topic and trending blog references to see if the keyword is gaining or losing mindshare within the web publishing industry. I also linked to the Del.icio.us tags on my keyword research tool to show what sorts of stories, tools, and whatnot were recently saved.
SEO Question: As a long time SEO myself, there is one thing that has me mystified. If you do a search in Google under "chocolate", Godiva comes up #1, Hershey comes up #2. Yet, if you look at their home pages, they have almost no text there. In fact, Godiva has no real text at all. Yes, they have PR6, but still, how is it that these "big boys" come up on top with a home page devoid of any SEO or real text? Is it all links?
SEO Answer: For competitive queries Google's relevancy algorithms are probably about 99% linkage data. Those brands are so strong that their linkage data means they do not need page copy to rank for general relevant terms. Should Starbucks rank for coffee? Few sites are more relevant.
Google does not aim to show the most optimized content. They want to list the most relevant content.
By having limited page copy they may end up missing out on ranking for longer related queries since it is a bit hard for search engines to make documents relevant for long multi word phrases that don't occur in the anchor text or page copy, but for general queries they can still do great.
Sometimes you will hear some SEOs whine about the updates and others claim that their techniques are more effective because the clients see more stable results. In hyper competitive markets many times the result stability of a particular site has as much to do with client selection as the skill level of the SEO. The result stability in competitive markets has a lot to do with how strong the brand and traditional marketing a company has. Ultimately the search engines aim to emulate end users. Those brands that have significant mindshare in the real world should rank well in the search results as well unless the relevancy algorithms are crap.
A few tips for using flash (if you must use it):
Create descriptive useful page titles and meta descriptions.
Embed the flash into HTML pages and use regular text links on the page if possible.
If it does not screw up the design too bad add HTML text to the page.
Create textual representations of what is in the flash using noembed tags.
Instead of including everything in one flash file it may make sense to break the content into different flash files so you can create different HTML pages around the different ideas contained in it.
Macromedia has a search engine SDK, although I think most sites are still best off using texual representations of the flash files on the HTML content of pages
SEO Question: I read your book and it said you could get links from charities. Do you have a list of the best charity websites to get on or ones you have gotten on? It feels kind of awkward to ask a charity if they will give you a link back if you pay money, that's why I want to contact ones you have already contacted.
SEO Answers: Not sure how good of an idea this is to answer this one publicly, but why not, eh.
There is a thin line with the etiquette to it, so its really something you need to research and feel out. It is not something you just want to work off a list with.
Search for stuff like
please visit our sponsors
thanks to the following donors
After you find a few websites that are leveraging the donation angle
you can follow their paths by doing a Yahoo! linkdomain search for their domain and text that would indicate they were working the donor angle (for example linkdomain:www.site.com sponsors).
A few things I would also say about the donation angle:
If your site is high profile and the donation cost is far less than the value of the link then quickly others will follow where you have been to lower the value of that link.
If you do not have many legitimately earned quality links and most of your links come from spammy bits of the web (like junk web directories and scraper sites) and donation pages then that might mess up your link profile (since your co citation data will put you in the neighborhood of a bunch of spammy sites).
The best donation links to get are things that are a one time occurring event AND on topic. After the one time events have passed you do not have to worry about the page becoming filled with thousands of spammy links. If it is on topic it is icing on the cake as well. Here is a great example: a cat site or pet site helping buy the new server for the Kitten Wars site.
Sponsoring newsletters and the like can be cool as well, as those tend to get less links per page. Our link suggestion tool may help you come up with a variety of other link getting ideas.
Donations that do not look like donations are great. The more abstract your donation the better off you are. So for example if you donate an information product you made that might be hard for others to find and replicate that link (or know why a particular person linked at you). The same is true for those who donate hosting, web design, or logos to great causes. Some people even work eBay auctions into their donation angle.
Even if search engines do not count the donation links for a long time they still are usually cheap enough that the ROI should be there if your business model is sound. Again though they should only be one part of your overall link profile.
SEO Question: A friend of mine has a non profit organization. Part of the organization sells topical literature and another large roll of the site(s) will be to give the background information about the charity. Should we use one or two websites?
SEO Answer: When does it make sense to use two or more sites?
If hosting the product catalog on the same site will make it exceptionally harder to get links to your organizational site you may want to use two separate sites.
If you are selling to different market segments it may hurt your credibility to sell similar products on the same site at vastly different price points or to different demographics (ie: a site that appeals to uber conserviative right wingers is going to use different ad copy than a site that sells to ultra liberal gay couples).
If you are in an organization that may come under a bunch of criticsm you may want to use multiple sites to try to clog up the search results so that naysayers do not get as much exposure. Think international flagship site, local sites, sites for business partners, sites for customers, etc. Some companies like Paypal, Dell, and Home Depot have some pretty bad stuff near the top of the search results.
If you are not one of the above (or have similar reasoning) I would recommend sticking with one site (I will likely eventually integrate many of my various domains soon enough), and here is why.
Google has moved further and further along with their duplicate content filters and generally does not like ranking fairly empty product catalog pages high in the search results. Sites that do not have much specific useful original relevant citation worthy content will struggle as they continue to lose marketshare to other sites and evolving search algorithms.
People will not be highly likely to link at the product catalog pages unless they are highly interactive or your site has an amazingly well known brand like Amazon.com.
Link popularity flows more naturally internally to other pages on a site than cross site to a product catalog that may not be well integrated into the web.
Some search algorithms not only look at page specific scores, but also use some domain scores to help boost the relevancy / trust of content hosted on that domain. A great example of this occured a few months ago when someone exploited a cross site scripting problem on Sony.com to add a page about poker to the Sony website. Sony.com quickly ranked in the top 20 results for some queries like poker or online poker (although the page may have since been removed from the Sony.com site).
If you separate your money maker and your best web integrated domain it will likely be substantially harder to leverage your original domain's link popularity for as much profit generation.
SEO Question: When people talk about buying links and how they don't help you, does this mean if I were to buy a link on cnn.com it wouldn't help me. Or are they talking about the pages that have nothing but 1,000+ links?
SEO Answer: Most of the paid links on major news sites that are sold are probably discounted in Google as far as their direct effect on SEO.
Many link buyers buy from multiple sites that are obviously selling links. They further compound their problem by not doing things like mixing anchor text and not also building up a wide variety of link types.
Many link sellers sell many outbound links on the same page in a small block. Others sell links to anyone willing to buy them, perhaps even selling highly off topic.
Most people do not try to stay below the radar when buying links, and those link buys that are not below radar attract other link buyers and link selling activity. The end result is that many of the links will still be devalued.
Keep in mind that I do not think MSN and Yahoo! are as good at detecting paid links as Google is.
If you listen to Matt Cutts talk long enough you might want to avoid doing press releases, syndicating articles, submitting to too many directories, and buying links, but his posts are sometimes more about in an ideal world than in all actuality.
Many smart link buys and marketing efforts drive direct traffic and have a viral effect to them as well, so you have to consider that something that may not provide much SEO value may still provide good value from direct traffic or social connections they create. Some of my press releases, articles, and ad buys have helped lead to further organic natural coverage. I also have recieved free secondary marketing worth thousands of dollars based on aggressive or creative ad buying techniques.
Those editorial links that may be created are hard for competing sites to reproduce, and help augment the value created in an ad spend.
One of my theories is that people are going to talk about someone or something. To the extent within my abilities I may as well make that someone be me. Exposure leads to more exposure. Keep in mind if you are doing things like buying hidden links on the Financial Times someone is going to find it.
Some link buys may also be great at hiding why you are ranking. If you are already ranking great and profitable in huge markets like online flowers, mortgages, or insurance those markets may provide enough profit margin that it may be worth buying links that you know will be discounted just to cloud up your backlink profile to make it harder for competitors to do competitive research. The Internet.com partner network does a great job of making competitive research hard.
SEO Question: I am trying to get a higher listing in Google. I've read a several articles that say the more links that I have, with a high PageRank, the higher up the ranking I should appear. Having said that, what page does Google look at when considering the link to my site? Does Google look at the page that I'm listed on or that websites home page? To say it another way, does Google, when looking at the PageRank for relevant links, look at the page that my website is linked from or does Google look at that websites home page?
SEO Answer: It is hard to say with 100% certainty what all Google looks at when determining link quality, but I think you really want to look beyond raw PageRank score. As a measure of value of a link I think most people place far too much emphasis on PageRank.
These are things I would consider:
How natural is the link popularity pointing at the site I am getting a link from? Anyone can buy their way to a PageRank 7 renting a few links here and there. Legitimate sites with legitimate link popularity are going to drive direct traffic and value and if you can get links from those sites in a manner where Google thinks it is an editorial vote of quality that is great.
Will anyone click the link? If the links are tucked away they might not get clicked on. Direct value helps pay for link costs, and eventually some search engines may heavily factor user data into their search algorithms.
Is the site / page an obvious link seller? If there is a block of links on every page that were bought the odds of Google counting them long term are fairly low.
Are the other outbound links of high quality? If not does it make sense to cluster yourself with them?
As far as PageRank goes a site which has a high home page PageRank may be able to carry more weight than a site which had a low home page PageRank, but as far as the strength of the vote in terms of PageRank that is related to the page specific PageRank (instead of the home page PageRank) and how many links are on the page.