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Why Paid Blog Networks Suck – Link Building 2010 Revisited

Link Exchanges

A lot has changed when it comes to gaining links to your website. More importantly a lot has changed on what is considered a good link or a bad link. With the economy in the tank, we are getting more and more calls for help with search position and increased traffic. Some of the calls are from potential clients that have never paid for any type of link building or site optimization, but a good percentage is from small business owners that have either been a part of Link Exchange programs or have purchased links in the past and now they are finding out  it is not working for their website any more. If you are not familiar with the Google or Bing guidelines for links then you should read Google’s position on link exchanges and Links: the good, the bad, and the ugly – Part 2 from Bing.

Paid Blog Networks

So what do you do if link exchange software doesn’t work any more? How about all the fuss about these blog networks? That’s a question we have received a few times. First let me tell you about blog link networks where you pay a monthly fee and publish as many posts as you want, with links to your website. Your posts are distributed throughout a “network” of blogs. The claim is link diversity and unlimited potential. Don’t waste your time! This type of network is popular because they pay out good commissions, that’s it! These networks are easily detected which means they are easily discounted by Bing and Google and could be considered a bad neighborhood. You will waste a lot of time writing or you will pay additional fees to have the writing done for you, and you get nothing or near nothing in return. That time and money would have been better spent putting an article on a popular article network or sending out a press release. While neither of those methods are high value they generally have some value, unlike the so called Nirvana of subscription blog networks. With generic category based blog networks with no specific theme and some of the worst content ever written, you will get zero benefit. Once your post is pushed off of the main page or the main category page, which usually happens in a day or two, any value is lost. At that point your time, effort and money live on a page buried in a site that nobody, including Bing and Google, gives a rat’s ass about.

Example of a Blog Network where you pay per month to post as many times as you want. Just look at the quality. 😉

(The examples we showed here have shut down since this post’s writing, meaning everyone who paid to be on them has lost their investment, for whatever it was worth.)

If you think this type of site is not easily detectable, let me show you how I found them: Google This and then look for nonsensical domain names as the title. See the similarity? Most of these are from one of the most popular subscription blog networks out there. Notice every post has a single keyword link buried in the post? It gets worse, look at almost any post that is over 90 days old and copy a unique sentence, then search for the quoted sentence on Google, and 90% of the time the article can’t be found. The only people making money here is the owner of the blog system and their affiliates.

Let me say that there might be a paid blog network that actually works, but it would need to follow a few rules. I just pointed out one of the most popular networks that in my opinion is a waste of money and just ripping people off. If someone really wants to create a blog network that works, it would need to follow at least the following 4 rules:

  1. At least 75% of the posts need to be commercial quality information without any paid links embedded in the article.
  2. Every subscriber’s post needs to be reviewed by an editor for “real value”.
  3. Each blog needs to have a theme and specialize in one particular subject.
  4. Each blog in the network needs to be optimized and promoted as a “real website” with good content.

That said, you are most likely still violating Google’s guidelines if you pay to post your link on those sites. I’m not judging, just pointing out the risk involved.

How To Build Links

So how do you get quality links to your site? You need to create information and multimedia that people need and are willing to link to. Then you need to contact relevant websites and convince them that they should link to your content. If you are a product reseller, you should get your vendors to link to you as an authorized dealer. If you are a member or sponsor of any organizations, you need to get them to link to you as a such. You could do some guest blogging, but be sure the value of the link you get is greater than the value you would get from posting the article on your own website. You can also use article marketing, press releases, and directory submission but it’s just for diversity and extra exposure, alone they are not the answer.

Let me know if you agree, disagree or what I missed. I look forward to your comments. | Read the original Link Building 2010

—David Blizzard

Domain Names and Hostage Negotiations

It amazes me the number of webmasters or hosting companies that register their client’s domain names in their own company name. There are only a few reasons to do that.

  • You suck at life so you need to hold them hostage
  • You have no idea what you are doing
  • You suck at life and plan on charging clients crazy $$ to leave your sorry company

Let’s be serious, if your company offers reliable hosting or professional web design and you make requested changes or answer support questions in a timely manner then most of your customers will never leave you. A small percentage will move around because a salesman convinces them they need “their” service or maybe you don’t offer a specialized application the client needs, but for the most part if you just stop sucking as a webmaster you can maintain your hosting and web design clients.

The only reason a webmaster or web host needs to hold a domain name hostage is because he knows he has nothing to offer of value. It’s really not difficult to please small business owners. Make sure their email and website are online and update their website when they ask you too. Answer emails and the phone in a timely manner. Is that really too complicated?

Understand your limitations and when you know you can’t meet your customer’s expectations then admit it, help them move somewhere that can. Think I’m crazy? Trust me, the next time they need something they might just call you again, you know why? Because you were helpful. For some reason that’s uncommon in the small business web world. Some of you act like losing $15 or $20 per month in hosting fees is going to bankrupt you.

Some of you are so offended by losing a client that you turn into an evil crook and you take hostages (domain names). I can’t keep track of the number of times I have been put in the position of hostage negotiator so some poor old lady can have *her* domain name transferred to *her*.

Time to face the facts. If your only chance of customer retention is stealing domain names (taking hostages) then you are going to fail.

—David Blizzard

Internet Marketing – Recipe For Failure

internet recipeSome ideas have no chance of succeeding, or should I say profiting since that is measurable. Success, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. Profit is a measurable result. Some people will say they are successful because they quit their job and started baking cookies at home and sell them on Sunday at church.

Let’s call the cookie lady Betty. Betty has no ambition, at least not anymore. Her husband makes a hefty income, she finally quit her crappy job and she likes to bake cookies. Betty is done, take her out of the oven, that’s everything she wanted.

Friends and Family – Betty’s brother-in-law, Eddie, comes along and woofs down a dozen of her sugar cookies. High on the sugar, he tells her she could sell these cookies on the Internet and make a fortune. Betty asks Eddie if he really thinks she can sell them on the net. Eddie says his “Worm Farming in a Box” pyramid site is really taking off (Lie) so he is sure she can do it too. Now the rest of the friends and family join in cheering Betty on, telling her how much money she could make on the Internet (It’s Magic). So now Betty is pumped, all she has to do is almost nothing and she can get rich on the Internet. “Almost nothing” is a little more ambition than she has, but maybe she can muster up the strength.

Web Designer – Betty finds out her cousin Cindy’s kid just graduated high school and he has the most popular website on the planet, and he built it from scratch. Right away they hit it off because Betty builds cookies from scratch (box). Plus this kid knows more about the internet than Al Gore. So for $200 bucks, Betty is hooked up with a website to sell cookies. Her cousin’s kid used all the latest technology, including those cascading tables, so it is going to be a surefire success.

Social Media Expert – Someone tells Betty that the Pastor’s sister is a big deal on Twitter and Facebook. She gets the story about how she can have tens of thousands of followers in a month and followers are better than pixie dust. So she pays the Twit $60 for a 2 hour lesson on “how to use Twitter” and away she goes. Next week, for $75 she can find out how to share her high school and wedding photos with thousands of strangers on Facebook.

Pay-Per-Click – It’s been 4 months and no sales. Betty is discouraged, but brother-in-law Eddie is back to the rescue. His worm sales had “slowed” last month after he got banned from Twitter, so he set up a Google AdWords account and he has never looked back. Betty whips out the credit card, and she and Eddie set up an AdWords account. Eddie hooks her up with all the best keywords: “cookies”, “sugar cookies”, “baked goods”, “recipes”, “housewife”… They start the budget at $200 per day as Eddie quotes from memory the PPC website he read, “You get every PPC dime you spend back in sales.”

Reality Check – The $6000 credit card bill comes in. Lucky for Betty, the ads have stopped on their own because of the expiration date on the card. Betty’s husband gets involved because he now has an investment in a sugar cookie website. He calls and talks to some Internet Marketing companies. Company #1 tells him they are sure they can turn this disaster around for $3000 per month with their awesome directory submission and secret link building service. Company #2 tells him he has nothing they can work with. He will need a business plan and a niche because he isn’t going to sell Betty’s sugar cookies unless he can make them unique. He argues that the congregation loves them. Company #2 continues “unless you have time lapse photos of the cookies transforming into images of Mary or Jesus then we can’t help you. Even if they are miracle cookies you would be better off on eBay than hiring us.” He swears at them, slams down the phone and hires company #1.

The End – Three months later Betty calls Internet Company #2 and says they are all out of money, in serious debt, and they really need help. She then asks if she can pay for their services after they turn her cookie business around…

—David Blizzard

Web SPAM – Should We All Snitch For Google?

To snitch or not to snitch, that is the question.

Should we report our competition or sites we come across for Web SPAM, or is it Taboo? Does it make you a snitch or a rat? Is it OK to publicly point it out but not in a private report?

I think everyone would have a somewhat different opinion of what the Utopian Web would be like. Ask 100 people the question, “What is Web SPAM?” and see how many answers you get. Some will tell you it’s the ocean of scraper sites that steal data for content so they can run ads. Others say it’s the numerous sites that come up top 10 for unrelated content or that come up top ten but have little or no content, just a big funnel towards AdSense. Just like we won’t all agree on that question we also don’t agree on how to police the web and whose job it is to fight webspam. This is another example of  how SEO and search mirrors politics.

What are SPAM reports?

Matt Cutts recently asked for SPAM reports but what are they? Are they reports that show people buying links? Is Web SPAM really sites that buy or sell links? Maybe indirectly, because people buying links can, in many cases, have their sites rank higher than those that don’t. I’m sure by now you have heard some stories about what kind of links you can buy for the price of a MacBook Air 🙂

SPAM is not just those buying links and in many cases a purchased link should not be considered a bad thing, in my opinion. I’m sure there are a lot of people who paid to be in Best of the Web that don’t actually use the site or expect others to, they just wanted the link.

Should content scraping and 100% pure funnel to AdSense type SPAM sites be included and addressed in SPAM reports too? Is Google’s AdSense partly responsible for creating the Web SPAM they claim they want to get rid of?

Can the community police itself?

If Microsoft’s Bing Team and Google’s Web SPAM team listen then I think so. When the MacBook issue hit TechCrunch the pages that may have benefited were pulled down (as far as I know), and I think this can be credited to the web community and peer pressure, partly. Score one for the community. Now there is a ton of talk about Mahalo and SPAM. Some claim that something is being done, others say no. I like to think that Google has acted as Big Daddy and contacted Mahalo and we are in a holding pattern, just waiting to see the response. This is speculation on my part and many will argue that this isn’t fair because their little $500 per month MFA site would just get burned down without warning if they violated the terms of service. Let’s not be naive, you aren’t Mahalo, you don’t count and the big boys always play by different rules. That said, we do expect after numerous warnings have not been addressed that action will be taken. If not, the community will not be capable of policing itself. Bing and Google must listen and take action for that to work. If they don’t, the top 10 search positions for all but the smallest niche markets will eventually be filled with corporate built, Made-For-Adsense or advertising websites. Don’t get me wrong, not all MFA sites are SPAM. There are some bright people building useful sites and their original intention was to make money from AdSense or other ads; they chose to do it by providing “real” content.

Let me know, should we snitch publicly, privately, or not at all? Tell me what you consider to be the worst type of Web SPAM or at least what your definition is.

—David Blizzard

Link Farms and Link Swaps

What is a link farm?

If I own 10 websites and link them all together do I own a link farm? Will my competition report me? What if all 10 have unique content? Let’s extrapolate that over 200 websites. What if they all have unique, valuable, content but also have links between each other? See where the problem comes in? Many individuals and companies own 10, 20, or maybe hundreds of websites. If someone reports you for owning 20 websites that all link to each other at what point or through what checks are they considered a farm? What if they are all on the same IP address or registered to the same individual or company? We can only hope that content value and link purpose is a big consideration when judging a group of web sites as a farm. It would be great if we knew the answers but Google, for fear of aiding “the bad guys” rarely goes into detail. The best I can find from Google is this Link Schemes article at Google Webmaster Central. I saw a comment once where it was suggested one ask himself “Would I be doing this if the search engines didn’t exist?”. Well, yeah! How else would anyone find my other 50 websites if there was no search engine.

What about link swaps?

Are SEOs moving away from link swaps? One thing I can see in some search results reports is that Google has made some headway with link swaps. In some niche markets I monitor, I see some top sites losing position, sites that counted heavily on link management software for the past few years to build thousands of inbound links. I hope the decline in position for sites that use blatant, irrelevant link swapping continues but it must be done with consideration for context, content, and value of the swap. To penalize a two way link swap just because it is two-way goes against some of the finer points of valuing links. If I link to my local Chamber of Commerce and then join that Chamber at a later date will I be penalized because they now link back? If so then that becomes a real issue. I know search algorithms have evolved but maybe sometimes we need to remind the brainiacs of the simple and obvious.

New attempts to cheat the system.

A new practice I see with some big SEO agencies is 3-way link swaps between those in their portfolio. I’m not talking about a few clients who know each other and trade links. As far as I can tell these are large numbers of 3-way link swaps being managed with an application. It’s a genius idea for these big companies with 100 or more SEO clients where they can manage links without any two-way trades. I was able to detect this because of their public portfolio pages but imagine the really bright ones that don’t offer a portfolio page. If they keep the swaps between relevant markets then this might just be the one that works. Once they build a reputation of “page one results” then it becomes perpetual and they could really dominate the SEO field with this tactic. One caveat for their clients is that once they stop paying that marketing company they potentially lose two dozen or more quality links. It’s a little scary for the little guys (me).

Remember, Bing Search is not too far behind, if it doesn’t work with Google then it won’t be long before it doesn’t work with Bing.

What do you think, do link exchanges still make sense? Have you noticed some high-tech link farms? Should we report SPAM to Google?

—David Blizzard