InLinks.com - TLA Launches In Links, an Inline Link Buying Program

Nov 20th

Just in time for the holidays, Media Whiz's Text Link Ads launched a new links product named InLinks, which puts text links inside the content of sites powered by Wordpress, MovableType, and Drupal. Rather than links sticking out like a sore thumb by putting a rail of paid links in the sidebar or footer (the old text link brokering model) this allows for a more efficient marketplace that is more likely to pass link juice and be a bit harder to detect.

Link Location Matters

Yahoo! Search's Priyank Garg highlighted that they look at link location when determining the value of links:

The irrelevant links at the bottom of a page, which will not be as valuable for a user, don’t add to the quality of the user experience, so we don’t account for those in our ranking. All of those links might still be useful for crawl discovery, but they won’t support the ranking.

As Jim Boykin would say, you want links within content linking to content.

Does Google Like This?

Matt Cutts was quick to say that this link buying program violates Google's TOS (and might be against an FTC guideline), but Shoemoney highlighted how Google is known to look the other was on such decisions when it is profitable to do so.

Every time paid links is brought up Matt Cutts brings up the FTC’s “suggestions” on bloggers disclosing things they have been compensated for. In no where in these “suggestions” does it talk about paid links. But even if it did they are just suggestions. They are not law and if Google was following the FTC’s suggestions I doubt Google Adsense/adlinks would be engaging in some of the most deceptive advertising methods I have ever seen on the internet.
  • Google promotes infidelity.
  • When Google launched their affiliate program, you could only tell that the blended inline text links were affiliate if you read a small blurb when you scrolled over them.
  • Some AdSense ad units do not even have the word ad near them...one commenter thought people could think a blog was promoting/endorsing homosexual fitness dating because there was no disclosure.
  • This entire page is a Google advertisement with no disclaimer on it

It appears Google needs to clean up its own act before people will take that FTC comment seriously.

Should You Buy Text Links?

Quoting liberally from Bob Massa's great blog post on link buying:
Invariably I get the question, SHOULD I BUY LINKS?

Wanna know the funny thing? Most of the people who ask me that question are the people who least need to worry about the risk. The risk motivating the question being whether or not they may be penalized by google instead of the risk being about going broke.

Logic would dictate that anyone concerned about the risk of being penalized by Google, is actually worried about losing something they already have. In this case sales coming from targeted traffic generated from superior organic placements in the SERP’s. Fine, that makes sense as that is pretty much the definition of risk. Losing what you already have or at least losing a perceived opportunity that you have already made an investment in, (which was a calculated risk the minute a decision was made to put up a webpage and long before this question ever came up).

But far more often than not, when I take a look at the site belonging to the askee, I see a site that looks like a third graders ransom note and written by a Marlon Sanders school of “But Wait – There’s More” drop out with a title tag that reads, index-Mozilla Firefox.

Little traffic to speak of and certainly no sales to lose. There is VERY little visible investment in design, content or anything else. Yet they brag of the #3 spot they have for a keyword with over a million results like that is all they need for proof of their valuable contribution to the world of online commerce.
Read more of Bob's wisdom at Should You Buy Links? The Truth Shall Set You Free

How to Buy Links Safely

I spoke to some folks at Text Link Ads who said that the InLinks inventory is separate from their traditional old-school link inventory.

Is this new network on Google's radar? Absolutely, but then what did Google expect when they only penalized one link broker while letting all the others rank? In doing so, Google made their fighting paid links program much more difficult to manage.

Might they catch some publishers? Sure, especially if they are greedy, aggressive, and use little to no editorial oversight. But some will do it smartly, and for most advertisers the risk is minimal so long as you use it lightly...many of these sites are well ingrained into the web, with thousands of legitimate inbound and outbound links.

Most search traffic goes to the top few ranking results. I wouldn't use this type of linking program to try to go from #103 to the first page, but if you are ranking #8 or #12, buying a few of these links might be all you need to capture a profitable top Google ranking.

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Published: November 20, 2008

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Comments

November 20, 2008 - 4:47am

Why not offer us a tool where we can disclose our paid links in Webmaster Central?

November 20, 2008 - 6:11am

As newportseo's link shows, it would be easy to sign up to inlinks as one of your competitors, spend $10 (or whatever the minimum is), then report the link to Google a week later saying you think it's a bit shady, it might be a paid link. What do Google do? Ban your competitor?

How can Google know exactly WHO has commissioned such links? That is the key question. It's not that a link simply exists that was paid for, but WHO paid for it. When links are cheap (and they are), then it's profitable to watch your competitor's rankings slide as you frame them with paid links.

I can't stress this enough: it's not enough for Google to recognise a paid link, they need to confirm (beyond all doubt) WHO paid for it. It would be far worse to penalise sites for paid links that the owner didn't actually pay for (a competitor did) than leave them alone.

I wonder how Matt Cutts would explain how Google knows who paid for a link.

November 20, 2008 - 7:02am

This act of TLA has suddenly started a kinda debate among top pro-bloggers. Some are in favor some not!

...this allows for a more efficient marketplace that is more likely to pass link juice and be a bit harder to detect.

It seems it has more to do with passing link juice, than actually getting a visitor to a site.

My only concern is that an advertiser will have little or no control over the sites that will contain the links.

Of course if you are not an Adsense publisher, this is a new mean of testing various ways of making money from your blog/site.

November 20, 2008 - 8:25am

Of course if you are not an Adsense publisher, this is a new mean of testing various ways of making money from your blog/site.

If I had to guess this will skew Google toward placing even less trust on fairly new links on low PageRank blog entries...this way the advertiser would be forced to eat a good bit of cost before seeing return. But other blog link networks like Blogsvertise clearly work still...so this battle might have a bit to play out.

November 20, 2008 - 10:15am

From the Techcrunch article there's some interesting links regarding ads not being advertised as ads, might be worth a read for UK SEO's:

http://www.opsi.gov.uk/si/si2008/uksi_20081277_en_5#pt11

US SEOs:

http://www.ftc.gov/os/2008/03/P064101tech.pdf

European SEOs:

http://ec.europa.eu/consumers/rights/index_en.htm

Might help inform a few decisions on the law and links.

Does anyone know of anyone that has actually been done by the law (not Google) for not advertising ads as ads online...I just don't see how it could be enforced on any sort of widespread scale...

November 20, 2008 - 11:11am

Google doesn't label all of their ads either.

November 20, 2008 - 6:44pm

If I had to guess this will skew Google toward placing even less trust on fairly new links on low PageRank blog entries...

Aaron,
If you block authority sites through making them blackholes and then social media sites go with the nofollows and now blogs, what part of the internet space is Google going to judge link value? What is left to be considered a clean link? Is Google simply going to have a small piece of space they can trust and reflect those figures into their rankings like wordtracker does keyword guesses based on a small search base? How many more things can they possibly block out of their algorithm without making search really really boring?

November 21, 2008 - 1:56am

Hard for me to answer that question, but if they filter out passing PageRank amongst the bottom 30% of blogs does their relevancy go up? How about the bottom 50%? How about the bottom 70%?

I think that is where they could try to figure out whacking some paid blog link sources.

November 20, 2008 - 7:14pm

Are these links permanent? I know that the reason why I never bought anything from TLA is because the links were all temporary. However, their sister company ReviewME sells permanent options.

If they are permanent, from a SEO's viewpoint, what makes this different that ReviewME or PayPerPost?

November 21, 2008 - 1:55am

The difference between these links and a ReviewME type link is that these links are not disclosed to search engines.

These links are sold on a recurring basis, whereas ReviewME is a one off fee.

November 21, 2008 - 3:25am

I may be missing something, but my understanding is that the other link brokers also offer in line links. TLA just have a dirty reputation in Google's eyes, so this gets bigger news.

November 21, 2008 - 5:51am

This is one of the first brands build directly around inline links without Google disclosure...and because of TLAs past marketing skills I think this is more likely to take off in a big way than other such attempts.

November 21, 2008 - 3:32am

I really hope that this model picks up steam and stands the test of time.

That said, I would recommend basically creating your own network of publishers interested in purchasing relevant mentions with descriptive anchor text within articles on your site(s).

It takes a whole hell of a lot more elbow grease but by cutting out the middle man you will a) increase profit b) make it less likely that Google will pick up the trail

I know that some people have been doing this for years and it seems to work fairly well once the ball gets to rolling.

November 21, 2008 - 4:10am

So Google only hates it when you buy links with cash? What about product reviews when someone gives me a product for a review on my website/blog? What about service reviews, subscriptions online, etc. Where does this stop? It should have never began.

November 21, 2008 - 5:50am

Direct for cash = Google does not like it. The more indirect the purchase is the lower the risks.

Maybe I should start up LinkGold.com ... Gold for links hehehe ;)

November 21, 2008 - 7:09am

Anythingbutcashforlinks.com

November 21, 2008 - 1:58pm

Aaron,

Having been on a panel last week with John Lessnau or LinkAdage and LinkXL I am surprised to see that you didn't compare the InLinks program to LinkXL. It is clearly a copy of the service we offer, giving advertisers the ability to buy links in the content of a publishers website with no footprint.

Few things to point out (in case you've forgotten...) that LinkXL has offered for over 2 years now:

- protected footprint with patented technology
- Buy paid links in Blogs and regular websites too
- ability to buy a DpFollow OR NoFollow on any link (Matt Cutts safe)
- Complete automation, no waiting for us to contact a webmaster

While this has been good press for us as well I feel that it is important to set the record straight. Google hates paid links, approached us over a year ago and we still increase sales each month.

People will do . Agencies want links for their clients, in-house SEO's for LARGE corporations like to buy as well. It's not going away.

Thanks,

Dwight Zahringer

November 21, 2008 - 2:26pm

Glad to hear business is going well Dwight! Tell John I said hi. :)

November 21, 2008 - 3:23pm

Was this offer only for a day.........couldnt access their url.........asking for a password, nice post abt buying links.....the biggest confusion and difference in opinions i see among SEO's is in link building.
Farhan

November 21, 2008 - 3:31pm

I'd like to check this out. Aaron - do you have a user & password for us? It's asking for it to even access the home page. Thanks, man.

November 21, 2008 - 3:35pm

I just pinged someone about that and will post as soon as I know more.

November 21, 2008 - 4:06pm

Looks like the server was being restarted by Rackspace.

November 21, 2008 - 6:23pm

Here is a nice follow-up post on InLinks vs. LinkXL http://www.lessnau.com/2008/11/linkxl-cloned-by-text-link-ads-inlinks-se...

November 22, 2008 - 12:26am

So it is a permanent game: We try to game Google, Google finds out and fixes its algorithm, so now they will be probably checking for changes on text for hyperlinks on articles and blog posts to stop them from passing PR.

November 22, 2008 - 7:51pm

Aaron forgot to mention that he once owned ReviewMe which was sold to MediaWhiz/TLA who own InLinks. Is this a paid post? Paid links in here? (oh- those are affiliate links) (smiles) Matt? Chime in!

November 22, 2008 - 11:23pm
  • Did I blog about TLA's new site in part because I am friends with Patrick? Yes.
  • If John would have pinged me via email I would have blogged about his stuff too, but where is the benefit of me rewarding you for being rude?

Moral of the story? Better to make friends than to alienate the people that you want to talk about you.

November 25, 2008 - 3:44am

Aaron,

We reached out to you last year with no avail. I can resend emails if you would like. You have been on a panel with John before, as you were again 2 weeks ago at PubCon. I just found it interesting that you make mention of InLinks and make no comparison to our product LinkXL.

Not trying to pick a fight, just pointing out facts.

December 8, 2008 - 8:21am

Would be interesting to know your(Aaron's)view about LinXL.

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