Thread about Gaining Good Links to Offset the Effects of Bad Links

ephricon recently posted at SEW forums in a thread about scraper sites:

Its sorta funny, but I've not really needed to continue to build many links for this site, as its got enough high quality ones and ocassionally gets a few more natural links here and there. I think its hilarious and a bit annoying that I'm now considering a link campaign for a site that has alot of natural links, solely for the reason to offset these automated links! Sorta ironic there.

Google prefers you build a great site and not focus on building links. I do that. I get ranked well. I attract scraper links, and now I need to build links to combat that!

Have you ever had a strong ranking site filtered out of the results because automated links gave you an unnatural linkage profile? Sounds like something that wouldn't happen, but in Google's results just about anything can happen. Even canonical URLs can be a big problem.

As a bonus, The Kills have a great song called The Good Ones

Why Reciprocal Linking Sucks - Part XVII

Not sure if the link removal agent position has been added to the association of search engine spammers ( yet, but people are going to new lengths to hurt competitors.

A friend recently got this email:

Hi link exchange partner.
Someone is sending our reciprocal link partners a request to remove our link. The email appears as it is being sent from [our site]
Please be assured that we will not remove any links and we are not in process on redoing our link section as stated in the email.

If you have any questions, please email me direct at [my email].

Best regards

People would rather be lazy and work to hurt competitors instead of trying to build up their own sites. Short sighted. Sad really.

When people do shit like that it eventually comes back at them.

That sort of thing is all the more reason to get to know people in a real sense, and have a link exchange represent a business partnership - not just a link.

Hidden Links on Financial Times Website. WTF?

When you can no longer trust media...

Ever get the sense that many business models are being challenged by the web? In spite of being subsidized, the Wall Street Journal has been seeing eroding profits. In the most recent issue of the Linking Matters Newsletter Ken McGaffin noted that Financial Times sells hidden advertising links.

That is prettymuch the two largest papers about making money and both of them are getting worse at it, and Financial Times is running a business model based on deception. Can you trust news sites that hide their content and their own business model?

It will be interesting to see how Google deals with the hidden links. Something tells me they are not going to delist FT, although I could be wrong. As this type of shady link activity spreads it will require search engines to place more weight on click stream data, editorial review data, and user data.

If you ever listen to people like Noam Chomsky talk about not trusting certain media he usually uses Financial Times as an example of one of the media sources you can trust since they are so heavily finance based and investors tend to expect more for their money since they need timely news to trade.

Friends have also showed me other similar sites that were doing the same, but I don't really want to out them.

Good SEO is Bad to Google. Dareth a Light Flicker On?

Doug Heil, the evangical whitehat SEO, is worried that the new Google Sitemaps offering may remove the USP for good SEOs.

Gasp, dare I say that Google probably does not give a crap about your or my business models?

Rule #1: to Google there is no such thing as a good SEO business (unless SEO somehow means spending big money on pay per click ads).

As a bonus, there is another good Doug quote in the thread:

Make no mistake; I know exactly why Google is trying this out. I certainly have never been called naive.


More on Google's Secret Review Labs & Why Google Hates Affiliate Sites

Henk posted a couple more posts about his interactions with GoogleGuy on WebmasterWorld, as well as explaining his reasonings for creating the Search Bistro site:

The published insights are not that spectacular. But insight in Google's evaluation of websources is rare. I wanted to forward the details to the web community to get some discussion. Why? People should know how a search engine works. Basically, it's a stupid thing. Intelligence has to come from the user. If he/she doesn't ask a smart question, he/she gets a stupid answer.

Spam Guidelines:
In my last post about Google Search quality evaluators I also forgot to post a link up to the Spam Guidelines document (doc) that Henk posted.

GoogleGuy requested that the documents not be posted, so they may get removed. Downloading copies for internal use and training may be a good idea. The spam guidelines document goes on to show a number of sites deemed as search spam and how / why Google would evaluate them as such. Since affiliate marketing or reselling pay per click ads are the usual forms of search spam most of the examples fall into those categories.

When comparing spam sites to good sites the document states:

To appreciate the difference, ask yourself this question: would any user want to go to rather than directly to Barnes & Noble? To rather than to Amazon? The answer to the former question is Yes, because at Barnes & Noble, the user would not be able to see any direct price comparison between the B&N’s price and competitors’ prices for any given item; the answer to the latter question is No or Indifferent between the two.

They also bolded the following statement:

To determine whether participation in affiliate programs is central or incidental to the site’s existence, ask yourself this question: Would this site remain a coherent whole if the pages leading to the affiliate were taken away?

They also go heavily into reviewing hotel sites, stating IAC properties are whitelisted, and showing many spam sites, offering additional tips such as:

One cannot both be an affiliate of others and offer affiliation opportunities. So the presence of the link to become an affiliate is your hint that the site has its own booking functionality and can complete transactions for its visitors.

Automation VS Unique & Useful:
As a summary, most search spam sites are heavily automated and provide little useful, unique, or compelling to the end user.

Recently Rand did a review of a paper about link spam as well, stating

The paper also notes the common achilles heel of spam pages - automatic generation.


It is also the opinion of the author that link spam will eventually require such sophistication and effort that it lose its ROI and become a less effective tactic than attempting to obtain natural incoming links through quality content and legitimate promotion.

Why the Spam Guidelines Document is Useful:
Google's reviewers may not be used to directly effect search results, but at the very least they are used to help train the relevancy algorithms. By seeing how Google trains them you get to see what Google wants. If you know what they are looking for it is far easier to give it to them.

Just like pay per click, SEO is a game of margins. Search engines aim to decrease the margins on both fronts so they can extract maximum profits.

Automation can bring great returns until it is caught. Algorithms, editors, search reviewers, and other webmasters who may link to you all look for reasons why people should WANT to visit your site instead of thousands of competing sites.

Due to a lack of sophistication (especially within the young MSN Search) many people are still making large sums of money from low quality bulk affiliate or AdSense websites.

Owning a few of those types of sites might be a good call for creating passive revenue streams, but most webmasters who like the web would do well to create at least one great site about something they were passionate about.

Further coverage on the Google search review labs:

Spam Reports, SEO, & Focusing on One Shady Competitor

Today I got a phone call and about a half dozen different emails about the same issue. Many people see someone else in a great market position in the search results which they deem to be using risky or shady techniques.

All sites will randomly mix about from time to time, but focusing on one specific shady site does not really do much to build longterm value for your own sites.

Should you pattern your actions after what one shady site is doing right now? There is no correct answer, but here are the justifications why


If you can use throw away domains then why not take risks with a few of them. Even if your sites get banned in some search engines you still get to learn about the SEO process and search algorithms by trying to create a few different aggressive test sites.

If you have an exceptionally strong brand and are spending millions of dollars per month on AdWords ads you likely have a bit more leeway than average Joe webmaster. Even if you are risky make sure you are relevant and do not take risks you can't afford to take.


Search algorithms continuously change. If something looks overtly shady and many people are doing it then likely it is a hole which search engineers would like to plug soon. If you are trying to create a longterm business with real tangible longterm value then it is best not to pattern your actions after sites using aggressive shady techniques.

Only take the best pieces of their marketing mix and look for the best marketing pieces of other top ranked sites. From there look to create partnerships, tools, ideas, and market positions which are not easy for others to duplicate.

Goole Toolbar PageRank Missing, Google Engineers at WMW Conference, Yahoo! & DMOZ Weighting

goes missing from toolbar. Brett Tabke said it is just a temporary glitch though.

Google Engineers:to appear at the New Orleans WMW conference

Does Reciprocal Linking Work?
Recently I saw the Blue Gecko SEO forums ranking at #10 for SEO. Most of his link popularity looked like it was from link trades associated with his webmaster resources directory. The reason people say link trades do not work are mostly because:

  • they are usually slow and expensive to build if you do not outsource or automate

  • most people exchanging links in bulk are not doing so with quality sites

DMOZ Weighting in Yahoo!:
I created a one page site about Effexor which is listed in DMOZ. I have not built any other linkage data, and it is ranking in the mid 30s for Effexor out of over 7,000,000 sites.

Unconventional Link Building / SEO Techniques

I posted stuff like this before, but did not give away all my insider secrets. What would you do for a link? ;)

  • Create a quizes or contest

  • Get the top score in a quiz doah, I should have cheated - talk about black hat link building ;)
  • Win the Cooney Island hot dog eating contest.
  • See how much weight you can gain in a month.
  • Tell someone they are out to lunch. Has got me a few links.
  • Say something out to lunch or offensive.
  • Buy someone lunch. Give them something to talk about. Any Penn State proffesors want a free lunch? email me. If your university position is high enough and your university has a great link reputation I am also will to fly.
  • Go to college to become a system administrator and web designer for a school. A friend of mine as a freshman was both last year. I am thinking this friendship may soon grow leaps and bounds.
  • Get a crap job you do not care about. Write a humorous blog about it until you get fired for it.
  • Have your child send $8.43 cash to the government to help pay down the federal debt. Make sure you are available for press comments and get links in your coverage.
  • Move to Texas. They have big links there.
  • Always carry a big flag around with you. Even in the shower.
  • Help your local congressman get reelected. Get links from their site.
  • Join the local government.
  • Draft government bills with Orwellian terms, calling them exact opposite of what they do.
  • Point out said flaws in Government bills.
  • Join the military and work the .mil link angle.
  • Buy your way into the government for .gov links. If you can not afford this move to a poorer country where you can afford to buy your way in.
  • Get on the terrorist list by being a peaceful Muslim.
  • Work on a plan to overthrow your government.
  • Join or start a religious cult.
  • Go to a conference - I go to learn too - but there is lots of link popularity floating around at conferences. I have got a free PR9 link from a conference I went to.
  • Wear crazy clothes to a conference.
  • Eat lots of food at the conferences. Refuse to bathe, use deoderant, or change clothes while at the conference. Tell everyone how you have had a lucky streak and did not want to change anything.
  • Go to Vegas. Climb to the top of a casino and repeatedly yell jackpot while jumping up and down.
  • Get on Donald Trumps TV show. Compete with him in a money losing contest. Take lots of pictures of yourself.
  • Create a competing show and / or tell Donald what you think of him.
  • buy a sports team. be its biggest rabid fan.
  • Become a pro wrestler. you can do it young.
  • Go streaking at a sporting event.
  • Get caught on tape doing something illegal yet humorous.
  • Get on a radio show. A friend of mine who used to sell adult sex toys (he sold his site, but it still ranks #1 for his primary keyword phrases) would go on the radio to get them to link to him. The shaddier your marketplace is the more value legitimate links.
  • Donate or help someone with their site.
  • Fix someone's car tire on the side of the road.
  • Accidentally wreck into the car of a famous person, obscenely exclaim it was their fault, and then sue them.
  • Get ran over by a rich person. etc.
  • Become a semi stalker. Sue the celebrity for stalking you.
  • Admit yourself to a psych ward or rehab where you know a link rich person is currently at.
  • Tell others that they should start a site, knowing they will link to you.
  • Create free tools or software with powered by or designed by links in them.
  • Intentionally do something to get sued by a large overbearing company.
  • Date or marry an annoying overhyped celebrity or marry into a link rich family.
  • Talk about your brother's court case. Create a phpbb skin for a site pleeding his innocence. <-- cheap marketing. more people should do that.
  • Routinely have cosmetic surgery done that deforms your face.
  • Talk about Google showing nude pictures of LaToya Jackson when safesearch is on. What is that? That is not safe.
  • Talk about how Google is ruining the world.
  • Place controvercial 5 cent AdWords ads for hot issues.
  • Talk Google's stock down at $85 and less than a year later talk it up at $260. Give people the hype they want. Avoid honest investment advice.
  • Fraudulently invest others money on a massive scale. Serve 6 months and get a lifetime of free linkage.
  • Start a .com company with an ignorant business model. See if you can lose money fast enough to build serious linkage data.
  • Join the Global Neuroscience Initiative Foundation board of advisors. I still need to help them some with on the SEO front a bit, and get a link on that page. If nothing else this is a personal reminder. I think the brain is really cool and would love to learn a lot more about it. I think that is a kick ass project. :)
  • Become a verb. The domain ( is a ppc directory site
  • Assume a fake identity. Sneak into the pressidential press room and ask bogus questions. Make it easy to find out that you work with gay porn sites. It has been done.
  • Stay awake and stare at your computer long enough to make random lists until you actually post one.

Predicitibility of SEO and Falling Victim to Free Leads

Clint, who I do not think I know, has a pretty good rant thread going on at SEW about his Google rankings headed south and business drying up.

His post was a bit over the top, and I am surprised with that tone and frame anyone wanted to help him, but he got a ton of good advice.

One of the biggest problems with SEO is that sometimes for an extended period of time the free leads allow you to profitably run what would otherwise be a completely non functional business model. Too often people take success for granted and do not shore up other marketing methods. Out of nowhere eventually they pay for the arrogence or laziness as the leads dry up.

With this site for a period of time I was a bit arrogent thinking that it wouldn't fall. Many of my links had the same anchor text since many of my early links used my official site name and most people link to this site use the same link text.

For a short period of time my rankings headed south due too much similar anchor text and a new Google filter. Luckily I had other revenue streams and traffic streams. Even without Google sending much traffic to my site for about a month my sales were still close to 90% of what they were the prior month.

Some of the feedback people gave Clint:

You can't base your livelihood on getting free listings in Google. It's time to put together a real marketing plan if sales through your website are that important to your life.


You have had 1st position for a large number of keywords for years and years, you have mysteriously disappeared overnight from Google, through no fault of your own, and [despite having a very good run over the last decade] are merely days away from having to live on the streets.

Does that about sum it up?


Personally I don't like to have much more than 10-20% of the traffic coming from organic results. It have to be low enough for me (or my clients) to survive if they are one day dumped from the index.


I would look at the footprint of your site... and try a find other sites in different industries with a similar footprint... see if they have been hit as well..

Every time a search engine tries to fight spam, there is always a collateral damage... you could be in that % . and make no mistake Google just released a new spam fighting post filter


The main reason why I don't put much emphasis on SEO for my own business is that we need to be able to manage growth, and the predictability of PPC is perfect for that. If we suddenly landed on page one of Google's results for the right search terms, I'd need to hire 15-20 more people to deal with the flood... then if we dropped back down again, what exactly would we do with those people? No thanks! For me, it's just as important to be able to turn the traffic off when we're growing too fast.

If some of the best SEOs in the world look for alternate marketing channels then it is probably best if other webmasters also create diverse marketing & revenue streams to help pull them through bumpy patches.

While Clint wanted to turn back the clock search algorithms continue to evolve. This is another reason why some of the worst SEO clients are those who used to rank well when algorithms were less sophistocated. Some of them believe:

  • that its easy to do

  • they know what to do (since they used to rank well)
  • and you should be able to work for next to nothing

meanwhile their revenue stream has got cut and they are worried about paying their bills and have little to invest.

While I could probably afford to hire people now, I never have because I wanted to keep costs low in case anything ever fell out of favor. When it did I was still fine because I minimized costs, had other revenue streams, and have diverse traffic sources.

Last year was the first year I made profit from the web and I am already saving up and am still working hard to create other revenue streams.

Flat Rate Ads & the Quick Automated Cheapest Links

Flat Rate Advertising:
Recently a guy talked about creating a peer reviewed information system which charged a flat rate for clicks. The problems with flate rate advertising are:

  • not all ads have the same value

  • charging a flat rate would lead to oversaturation in competitive areas and minimal coverage in less competitive areas
  • the lower overall income generated through such a system would leave less money for marketing it

It is hard to bribe people to rate relevancy. The best bet on that front is to try to establish a system and idea which will be good enough to build a usebase which markets itself, and then figure out how to attach a business model later.

SEW also recently had another forum thread about acquiring cheap links. Pyramid Link Building Scheme:
Someone recently spammed SEW forums asking about, which is a link building pyramid scheme that charges people to join it too.

What a hunk of crap site / idea!!!

One Time Fee Links:
Another person dropped in the thread to recommend for building one way links for a one time fee. (incidentally, this person's only other comments are in a thread they started recommending

Why one time fee links suck:

  • Low Quality: High quality sites selling useful ad space usually do not sell that ad space for a one time fee, even most directories suck.

  • Low Quality: If sites are hard up for cash then those sites likely are not going to be long lasting ones.
  • Low Quality: If a site is selling underpriced ad space for a one time fee, then eventually that ad space becomes hyper saturated to where the value diminishes.
  • Low Quality: If sites are made just to sell links for a fixed rate then they may not have enough money to put back into promotion. The site the ad is on may not grow with the web. If a site rarely picks up new links then it would be easy and likely that a search engine may discount the value of links from that site, especially if it is a site that is not well integrated into the web.
  • Low Quality: I started on the web by creating a site that was a bit critical of the military. Its a really bad site and I should take it down, but I leave it up to still speak my mind and show how quickly people can learn. One of the more reputable link brokers spammed that site asking if they could buy links on it. That shows there probably is not much quality in that business model if they are willing to risk their reputation for a few dollars.

Easy to Replicate:
Another common problem with most linking schemes is that they are easy to replicate. This means that if a quick low cost link scheme is effective, easy to trace, and has no quality standards then people will be able to quickly replicate it, thus any competitive advantage gained would be quickly minimized.

Cheaper Links:
I have lots of directory links and one time fee links, but most of them were not built through any broker, and at the end of the day most of them do not drive much traffic, and I am moving away from doing it as much for some of my sites.

Most of the links for a one time fee type programs charge about $20 - $30 for a link. So a dozen crap links would cost you around $300. These links would most likely:

  • drive no traffic

  • be on pages full of other junk links
  • not be on authoritative, highly related, or well integrated sites

The links that drive the most traffic to my site are the ones where my site or I am featured or cited. Examples:

Writing an article might take a couple hours, but if you get it syndicated through the right channels it can build dozens of quality links. These links:

  • drive targeted prospects

  • are on pages with few links
  • are on pages about your topic
  • some of them may be on related, authoritative, well integrated websites

Most articles I write and syndicate quickly bring in at least one or two consulting clients, so there is some value there, plus for about 3 hours of work (writing and submitting the article) I can get links that are worth well over $300, since the articles would have more longterm value than the crap one time fee links.

Free Tools:
Like a twit I recently broke the Link Harvester tool. Currently I have an old version up, but my friend who made it is going to add a few new features to it and have it back up this weekend. :)

The Link Harvester tool so far costed me about 2 hours of my time and around $500 to make. It got links from sites like SitePoint, ThreadWatch, & Yahoo! from within the content part of the pages. In most good algorithms 3 of those links, from sites which:

  • are well established

  • drive traffic
  • are authoritative
  • are not going away anytime soon

are going to be worth far more than a dozen or two dozen permanent junk links. A few other beautiful things about getting links from authoritative sites:

  • Using tons of cheap one time fee links may raise your risk profile. Odds are that Yahoo! is not going to use their link pointing at my site as a reason to ban my site.

  • Getting links on authoritative sites is not as easy to replicate as getting links from a program which serves up links all you can eat at $25 each.

Scalability of a business model is important. If a project or idea does not gain steam then the value of the ad is limited at best. I like investing early into some ideas just in case they pan out, but the people selling links using cheap instead of value as the selling point may not be giving you much value. Sometimes the value of links is destroyed by the business model of the site the link is on.

When you look at links on a shear numbers level you end up missing the value of putting in a little effort or spending the money in indirect ways to get more longterm value out of your link ad spend. [/end rant hehehe]