Some Great Examples of Link Bait

There is a huge amount of discussion on the web about links, what makes a link a good one, what should be avoided and what is a great idea, The thing is, as with any other area of SEO, if you ask the three Internet Marketing Experts the same question you will get back four answers, all of them being different, more on this later.

Linking – an area that needs care

However, to get back to the point, Linking is an area that needs careful consideration and craft. There are other blogs on this site that discuss the matter in more detail (buying links being covered in some depth), but this is an external one from a very respected source.

Create content that people WANT to link to!

It covers the area of creating copy that people want to link too. If you can crack this nut then you are well and truly on the path to success, as the links will just keep coming in. All you have to do is to create the content and then ‘prime the pump’.

Both will be dealt with on this site over the next weeks, this being a part of the new Frequently Asked Questions section that we are creating. But for now, have a look at this site, it provides much food for thought…

Of Cheats, Penalties and What Google Wants

There is a lot of discussions going on the moment about some new Google rule changes, these concerning the issue of having too many ads on your site. The word is that having too many ads ‘above the fold’ on a page will result in penalties, (see this in turn resulting in a loss of ranking.

This is just the last of many and as ever it will pay site owners to take heed of this rule change.

Penalties and Paid Links

But what of the other rules, and more especially what about the ones relating to the use of ‘paid links’. The established wisdom is that using these will result in both the site providing the link and the one receiving it being downgraded by Google. Now while I cannot be certain that this is indeed the case, I think that there is more to this ‘rule’ than many think.

Past Google Penalties

But before we look into this area more closely, let us check on what has happened in the past. There was the famous instance of BMW, who back in 2006 were removed from Google for manipulating results (see [Note this came up high in the rankings when I searched for ‘BMW + Google + penalty’ which shows just how good keyword rich URL’s can be].

Google Panda’s Update

More recently we have seen the results of Google’s Panda update (which is in essence all about content and how good / unique / relevant it is). The list of sites that lost ground was long and contained some surprising names. See for some more detail.

So we can see that Google does remove sites entirely from its SERPs and in other cases removes them partially, thus reducing their ‘visibility’ and thus traffic.

What Are Google Trying to Achieve?

But what are Google trying to achieve? Basically (besides making pots of money) they want to provide their users with the best possible list of sites for any given search term. In order to do this they assess all sites, looking at the words on the page and the links to the site, at least that is what their computers do.

But besides these computer checks, Google also employ humans to check the sites that appear high in the lists. These pages / sites are checked to see if they are using any underhand methods on the page as well as, more importantly, how ‘useful’ the site is and how well it matches the related search phrase.

In theory then the above systems will ensure that only the ‘right sort of site’ will get / retain their listings. But what if a site that is otherwise ‘good’ is seen to have ‘cheated’ by buying some links? Will Google then take action and remove the site from their first page, as well as taking action against the site that provided the links?

Well not in my experience and don’t think that Google won’t have noticed the bought links either. It takes but a few minutes to find out that a site is selling links and a quick view of the code to work out who is buying them.

What Actions are Google Likely to Take?

So what actions are Google likely to take? Well in some instances I expect that they might do something, but only, at least if logic prevails, when a site selling links sells ones pointing the totally unrelated sites. I say this as if a site that is otherwise is ‘delivering the goods’ is linking to relevant sites then is it not only providing it’s users (and Google’s) with a better quality offering? The fact that the site is making some money is in my view irrelevant.

If on the other hand the site is just a vehicle for adverts (see above) and does not have good content and is selling links to just about anyone, then it will more than likely be downgraded. But it won’t be just the selling of links that causes the downgrade…

Paid Links May Be Disregarded

There is another school of thought that states that all ‘paid for links’ will simply be disregarded when deciding rankings. This is quite possibly true (and is the main reason that SOM does not believe that links should be bought UNLESS they also provide the promise of good traffic).

In the end it all boils down to the issue of ‘Cheating’ and ‘Quality’. If a site is really good and yet still employs cheats, then whilst it does run the risk of being downgraded, the chances of this are remote. If that is the links are from related sites using related terms. Then from what I can see there is little chance of any down grading.

I say this after carrying out some extensive research in a very competitive area, one that would be sure to attract the eyes of Google’s engineers and ranking rules. The top sites (as is the case with most of such sites) were definitely buying links.

Google and Common Sense

Besides my research there is the matter of common sense. In all my years of working on SEO I don’t think I have ever found a ‘top’ site that has not gained their position through some form of ‘cheating’ in the linking area. It is a fact that all these sites use methods to inflate the number and quality of their links, Google know this and in essence have to turn a blind eye for fear of knocking many good sites out of the listings (and thus give their customers a poor service).

This does not mean that they will stand for anything though, take things too far (like having a linking structure that is noticeably manufactured – all the links using the same words etc) or having too high a percentage of paid links (or paid links from irrelevant sites) and you can expect trouble.

In any case, whether you use bought links or not, always remember what Google wants, high quality sites, with unique content and evidence of user involvement (this being so called User Generated Content).

Analysing the traffic on other peoples websites

When you are considering placing links on other sites for SEO / backlinks purposes you don’t really have to know what sort of traffic a website gets, after all, all you want is the ‘Link Juice’ that these links give.

Traffic – link juice or both?

There are times however when you are thinking about placing a link on a site not to gain that extra link, but to gain traffic. In these instances you need to know how popular the site is, especially if you are paying for the link.

Buying links in not always bad

By the way, buying links is often considered a bit of a non starter for SEO purposes, the word on the street being that these are ignored by Google when deciding which site to link first. Others say that selling links on a site can actually result in that site being down graded by Google (it’s Page Rank being reduced etc).

Does Google really penalise sites or ignore paid links?

Now while the latter may indeed be the case (there are lots of comments on the web about this sort of thing happening) I for one am not totally convinced. In my view Google already know that most sites on the web ‘cheat” by buying links and that means that many must be selling them.

No, in my view Google are going to take other things into consideration. After all, Google’s aim is to ensure that it’s listings include the very best resources. Therefore are they not going to check out the site that is being linked too and by what keywords (anchor text)?

If the site is worthy then all should be well

If the site is relevant and is worthy of a high ranking (this of course goes down how good it matches what Google wants) then in my logical view they will take the power of the link into account and not penalise the site providing the link, it will after all be assisting them in locating and promoting the very best sites on the web.

But, how do you work out if the site you are considering is any good, if it’s traffic levels are worth the effort (or money if you are buying the link). There is no accurate way of finding this data, but there are some sites that will give you some information on which to base your decision. Please see our page on the analysis of traffic on other sites for information and links to the sites in question.

You may also be interested in details of our premium link building service as this gives you information on how SOM goes about getting the higher worth links that are often required.

Buying Links is Bad – But That Does Not Seem to Stop People Buying Them!

As anyone in the SEO world knows, buying links is frowned upon on the basis that these links have not been ‘earned’ and therefore Google will ignore them.

Does Google Penalise Sites That Buy Links?

Some say that Google even go so far as to penalise those selling the links and those who get them, but I very much doubt that the latter is the case (as it would enable people to get other sites into ‘trouble’ and I just don’t believe that Google would get into this sort of thing, the lawsuits in the USA would be marvellous..).

So, what is the true story here. I must admit to not knowing, as if the stories are true then these links would be worthless, at least ‘linking’ wise, i.e. they would not assist in obtaining that first page ranking on Google that all strive for.

Traffic or Link Juice

But there is another issue here, that of Traffic. After all, that is what people want, relevant high quality traffic to their site, that is why they want that first page place for their keywords. So perhaps then these sites are not selling ‘link juice’ but traffic. That makes more sense and to my mind, makes buying the link worthwhile, whether or not it helps with rankings.

This is the strategy that we follow in our premium link building service, so YES, we do buy links, but only on the priviso that they may help with traffic, just in case they don’t give any linking power.

As for the so called penalties, well, as I menioned above, I just don’t believe that Google for one will downrate a site because it buys links. Sure it might knock down the site that provides them (hence the need to check on a sites rankings and traffic before buying a link) but that is all.

SOPA Blackout – Will the USA Go ‘Dark’ on the 18th?

The ‘Stop Online Piracy Act’ is certainly causing a lot of concern in the USA, even though it has suffered a bit of a set back in the US House of Representatives. There is also PIPA (The Protect IP Act) yet another bill that is causing a lot of debate:-

(click here for info from CBS News on SOPA & PIPA)

Extract on what it is all about:-

The bills are intended to strengthen protections against copyright infringement and intellectual property theft, but Internet advocates say they would stifle expression the World Wide Web. In essence, the legislation has pitted content providers — like the music and film industries — against Silicon Valley.

“It’s not a battle of left versus right,” said progressive activist Adam Green, whose organization Progressive Change Campaign Committee on Tuesday hosted a press conference with opponents of the bills. “Frankly, it’s a battle of old versus new.”

What is certain however that many major sites will ‘Go Dark’ today the 18th Jan in protest to the whole thing, some big names like reddit, WordPress and Wikipedia being involved.

If you are late to the party and want to join in, then this link to Webpronews will give you details of how to make your contribution to the anti SOPA & PIPA day.

Whatever, it is certainly cause for concern as if these bills are passed in an incorrect manner or interpreted the wrong way then the whole Worldwide Internet Community could be affected.

Definitely something to keep an eye on…


SEO and Scare Stories….

Lets be clear on this, there are a lot of ‘scare’ stories out there in the SEO world. Some may, just be true but some defy logic and I simply don’t believe all that I read and would advise anyone else to do the same (including what I write – check it out and give it some thought before you agree with it).

The latest one comes from a site and a chap that seems to be one of the knowledgeable ones (maybe he knows more than I) and some of the points he raises are good, but he goes on to make some statements about links and how poor quality ones will reduce the overall power of your links as they devalue the goods ones.

Now while I can see some logic in this, I can also some big flaws. First, many of those ‘bad links’ never get noticed by Google (it is reckoned that up to 70% of links are never found) but also and perhaps more importantly, ALL sites have some ‘bad’ links, at least if you rate ‘bad’ as being from a site of low worth.

In fact to me a site with only Good links would be the one to think about knocking off the rankings, as its linking structure must surely be ‘manufactured’.

This possible devaluation also means that you can start to undermine an opponents links by creating links from dubious sources in dubious ways, and I just don’t believe that Google or any other Engine will allow this, at least for long.

Please see the full story at and make your own mind up, but in the meantime please don’t get too worried by what you read.

Google make changes to results in the USA – Is it bad news?

Just picked up this story from the lads and lasses that check out what people are Tweeting about and it makes interesting, but perhaps disquieting news. The article that sparked the Tweets appeared in the Guardian on the 11th Jan and cover the way that Google has altered the results (some say ‘warped’) by incorporating (and giving favour too) data from its  Google+ network.

These changes have only been made in the USA so far and only work when the user is logged in, but it has annoyed many as it may have the effect of making existing Google+ users more likely to use it as they will be more in control of the data they see (this being based to some degree on their own circle of friends and interests as per their Google+ profile and history).

Twitters lead lawyer, Alex Machgillivray was quoted as saying is was a “bad day for teh internet”, which shows how worried / annoyed some people are getting…

Google however have not been silent on the matter either,  Amit Singhai of Google, introduced the changes, saying “We’re transforming Google into a search engine that understands not only content, but also people and relationships.” He also pointed out that there is a “toggle” that will let people see the results with and without ‘Google+ personalisation’.

No doubt the war of words will continue, with perhaps legal action in the USA as the fact that the anti trust laws may be being broken here has been mentioned.

As ever it will need to be kept an eye on as it may well start making getting rankings even more difficult and make the statement ‘Not everyone sees the same results when they type in a keyword phrase’ even truer….

Click the link for the full story on Google+ data used in their SERPs listings.

Frequently Asked Quesitions on Search Engine Optimisation and Marketing

The Online Marketing and  SEO world is just so full of facts and figures, and of course hundreds of acronyms (and let’s face it, it is just impossible to remember what they all mean) that it just gets too confusing for words.

With this in mind and after many questions as to what this and that means I’ve decided to create a Frequently Asked Questions section on the Serendipity Online Marketing website.

There are two good reasons for this, one of course is to help anyone confused about things and who is looking for answers, whilst the second is all about Google’s desire for what is termed ‘User Generated Content’ or UGC.

As you may have seen in my page on the Panda update and how to create pages that Google will love UGC in the form of FAQ’s are one way to improve the chances of your pages getting better rankings.

Also, if you have any questions or Acronyms that you want answered, please let me know and I’ll include them.

How to use Majestic SEO to Improve Your Linking Structure

One of the surest ways of increasing the rankings for any site is to get more links pointing to it, the other name for these being ‘backlinks’. There are of course many many ways of getting links to a site, blogging, social bookmarks, articles to name but three.

However, in many cases these links have a very low linking power (it’s a numbers game here) so what you need in an Impressive Linking Structure, one that will impress the Search Engines, are links from some high power links, these where possible being from truly relevant sites.

Reverse Engineering a Great Linking Strategy

There is however another method, that of finding out what sites are linking to the sites that are already doing well on the Engines (for your target terms) and then copying them. The first step then is to find a tool that will help here, and one of the best is MajesticSEO.

The next step is knowing how to use the data it provides, and to help, here I have produced a video on how to use MajesticSEO in improving your linking structure, as well as a page in our SEO videos section giving more details.

How Google Rates Pages as Spam

As my readers will know, SOM’s website has a ‘When, Why, What is and How’ section, all the pages being designed to inform about SEO, SEM and Social Media Marketing.

My last item was about ‘How Google Rates Pages’ and in that I promised to cover the area of how Google rates pages as Spam. Well it’s done now and can be found here: –

In it I cover the point that Google use humans to check that their ranking algorithms are working correctly  (this being needed as in some cases some clever Search Engine Optimisation may well push the ‘wrong’ sites to the top of the listings, when in reality they do not deserve that sort of position).

The purpose of this item is to let you know that besides checking how good / relevant a page is to a given search phrase, Google also gets its operatives to check for Spam.

The process is carried out on all checked pages, and takes the form of a ‘tag’ (not a rating), one of three tags being assigned.

Not Spam: The page does not use ‘deceptive’ web design techniques.

Possible Spam: The page may be using ‘deceptive’ web design techniques.

Spam: The page IS using ‘deceptive’ web design techniques, these being described in the “Webspam Guidelines”.

In all cases if a page is rated as Possible Spam or Spam, comments have to be made by the human checker. In these instances no doubt, a Google engineer will check later and decide on the page’s fate.

The Webspam Guidelines

So what ‘techniques’ are deemed to be ‘deceptive’?

The methods mentioned include…

Hidden text
Javascript redirects
Keyword-stuffed URLs
Framed pages and
Computer generated gibberish.

For the full story and an interesting question that you should be asking yourself, please see the article on our website.