Why Paid Links are No Good

Many website owners, webmasters and SEO’s believe that paying for links should not be forbidden. They often say, “It’s just advertising”. Google on the other hand says its artificial manipulation of their search results so they forbid it if you want to play nice with them.

In this article I will try to explain how I went from a disgruntled SEO who thought Google was being unreasonable, to a converted believer with a much fuller appreciation for the dangers and seedy nature of the paid link business.

It starts in 2003 when I first entered the web development business and began learning basic SEO tactics. At the time reciprocal links were ‘da bomb’ and all kinds of link swapping schemes were raging. The smarter SEOs started to realize that a link coming from a site with no reciprocal link is MUCH better than a reciprocal link. So the idea of one-way links was born. The reciprocal link schemes turned into three-way links or triangulated link structures where Site A links to Site B who links to Site C who links back to Site A; this way everyone gets a one-way link. Well Google had become the Lord of the Search engines and began decreeing by fiat the rules of engagement. So when reciprocal links diminished in power and three-way, four-way and other link-ring schemes began to lose their effectiveness, the answer became real one-way links; easier said than done, that’s for sure.

As a result, all new schemes came out for webmasters to get listed on many sites including directories, social networking sites, and blogs. First it was the mad rush of new free-for-all directories that would publish just about any link. Then it was the niche directory which focuses on one segment of the economy. The next great link idea was the blog comments and social bookmarking. And last but not least is the wonderful world of article syndication. All of these tactics create one-way links which is what you want when you are trying to build backlinks to your site.

All along the way the experts had the idea that the backlinks that you really want, the ones that actually help your site’s rankings, are the ones from established, credible, and authoritative websites. So how does some small startup business or even an established local business get links from authoritative websites? You pay for them, of course; in the form of advertising and you get a nice link back to your site. Seems honest and reasonable, doesn’t it? Well, it may have been at one time, but give any honest idea some time and it will become as corrupt as a big white building full of politicians.

The SEO demons came in and made the paid link business a cesspool of thievery, fraud and corruption like they do with everything else they touch. Not only was there an ability for any site owner with a decent budget to buy into powerful sites but a black-market of fake PageRank (pr) and fake websites, content theft, domain redirects, doorway pages and all sorts of unscrupulous pillaging of ignorant buyers emerged. The schemes were (and still are) so good that even savvy SEO’s could get duped without any recourse. Google saw the corrupt nature of a paid link system and decided to totally outlaw the practice.

They did this first of all to keep their search engine a fair field of play. No one likes cheating, especially being cheated, so Google went with the idea that buying links to boost one’s website rankings is not a fair play as it artificially manipulates their index. Why is it artificial you may ask? Google always wanted their search engine to deliver results that were most relevant and most important to the user searching for the information. They offer a pay-per-click link system in their adWords program. But these are set aside and labeled, “Sponsored Listings”. The user knows that those are paid advertisements not necessarily relevant results. If people pay sums of money, large or small, to get a boost in the organic results, the user is left in the dark that these results have been influenced by money when they are not supposed to be.

The second reason, if the first was not enough, is the very dirty and corrupt nature of a business like link trading, buying and selling. There are more scams than anyone would believe, especially being the unregulated world of the Internet. Sophisticated programmers can write code to do all kinds of evil all the while the innocent buyer has no clue they were duped until it’s too late. The dark world of link trading was something that Google wants to discourage. So, they do not permit paid links, link buying or selling in any way shape of form. They developed the use of rel=”nofollow” to place on paid links so that they could easy dismiss them for the purposes of their index and not allow them to influence it.

At the time, my first reaction to this was, “hey, who do they think they are to tell me how to promote my websites!” I rebelled, and found ways to do it anyway … until I got in deep and saw some of the real evil that goes on in the link selling world. I saw how people would rip you off over the smallest amounts of money. In many cases, what seemed to be a good deal would turn out months later as a total scam. The schemes, the tricks, the corruptions… yikes! its awful, awful!

I also saw how search results were so rife with out-of-place irrelevant nonsense sites that are not even close to what I searched on. I saw how the cost to my clients for paying some joker to post a link to their site in hopes that A) it actually provides some juice, and B) it doesn’t get caught by the Google police, or C) the link doesn’t go away mysteriously or turn into a porn site (yes, it happens). What a mess!

At this point, somewhat recently, I realized that Google was right after all. Paid links are no good! It creates bad search results, it feeds a corrupt black-market, it’s just plain evil!! — Ahh, kool-aid can be refreshing on a hot summer day. Never mind that, what I really mean to say is that even if you don’t believe Google, at some point you will realize that the whole paid link market is not worth the trouble. It is getting worse and worse as it gets more secretive.

In conclusion, paid links are just no good. The right way to optimize a website is in plain English, or whatever language you want, in Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. That’s the real Secret of Search Engine Optimization…duh. People will always find ways to corrupt things and take advantage of a system or other people. It has always been this way, and will always be. But if you search through the confusion and just come back to the simplicity of what the search engine sites tell you is right, then it will all work out the right way. Paid links are definitely not necessary.

How to Make RSS Widget Links NoFollow in WordPress 3.0

Adding an RSS feed your sidebar from a respected site that updates articles frequently is a good way to add dynamic content and keep your WordPress blog fresh even when you don’t have the time to add new content. You see on the right sidebar of this site there is a section called “Web News” which does exactly that. This is accomplished by adding the default RSS widget to the sidebar in WordPress admin and putting the feed URL in the feed field.

Easy enough, but you may not want to let your PageRank juice leak off your home page to this site. Having a link that takes people off-site is enough trade-off for the right to use their content. You don’t need to give them your PR too!

*NOTE the following How-To is for webmasters who have full admin rights to their blog and have access to the source pages to edit. Those with Worpress.com blogs, this does not apply. If you attempt this please backup any edited file first in case you hose your blog. Some basic php editing knowledge is recommended.

The only file that will be modified is wp-includes/default-widgets.php

To make these links “nofollow’ and thus saving your link PR juice, you need to do the following:

1. Located and open for editing “default-widgets.php” in the “wp-includes” folder of your WordPress installation. (this is for WordPress 3.0, older versions had the code in “widgets.php” in the “wp-includes folder”.)

2. Around line 740 you will find the following code:

$title = "<a class='rsswidget' href='$url' 
title='" . esc_attr__( 'Syndicate this content' ) ."'><img style='border:0' 
width='14' height='14' src='$icon' alt='RSS' /></a> <a 
class='rsswidget' href='$link' title='$desc'>$title</a>";

- Replace with the following:

$title = "<a class='rsswidget' href='$url' 
rel='nofollow'  title='" . esc_attr__( 'Syndicate this content' ) ."'>
<img style='border:0' width='14' height='14' src='$icon' 
alt='RSS' /></a> <a class='rsswidget' href='$link' rel='nofollow' 
title='$desc'>$title</a>";

The ‘nofollow’ attribute is added in two places as highlighted in green.

3. Find the next bit of code around line 862. Replace the following:

echo "<li><a class='rsswidget' href='$link' title='$desc'>
$title</a>{$date}{$summary}{$author}</li>";

– Change to:

echo "<li><a class='rsswidget' href='$link' rel='nofollow' title='$desc'>
$title</a>{$date}{$summary}{$author}</li>";

Again the highlighted ‘nofollow’ attribute is added.

4. Save and upload to your server.
5. Open up your blog website and test.

I recommend using a Firefox addon called “NoDoFollow” – which is turned on or off in the right-click context menu and will show regular (dofollow) links and nofollow links using color coded backgrounds. This way you can see ALL the links on a page and identify them for their ‘follow’ attribute.

Happy blogging!

Some Dirty Tricks with Reciprocal Links

Reciprocal links used to be the ‘cats meow’ for improving ranking of your website. They are much diminished in effectiveness these days, but they are still useful to some degree. The idea that reciprocal links cancel each other out like some algebraic equation is simply not true. I know this to be so because several of the sites I optimize have reciprocal links that show up in the Google backlinks check. They only show a handful of the total links back-linking to your site, but if these reciprocals were worthless Google would not list them. Reciprocals are still useful and can help boost your total back-link counts. The real issue is how they are done.

When looking to trade links with a reciprocal partner you need to wary of some dirty tricks or just plain bad ideas.

Bad Ideas

1. Discounted Pages – a page on a website called “links.html”, “resources.html” or similar may be discounted by the SE’s based on the file name alone. Why? Google is not stupid, that’s why. These file names are heavily abused, so even honest link traders can’t use them. So, don’t accept links for a trade on a page like that.

2. Just links – Even if the name of the file is something less telling than “Links.php”, if it is just a page of links, it can’t be very good. The best kind of link is a in-text link. One where the link to the outbound site is part of a sentence or paragraph. Being in a list of links can make the page discounted by the SE’s and render all the links totally useless.

Dirty Tricks!

There are many dirty tricks that some webmasters use to turn what appears to be a reciprocal link into a one-way link for themselves.

1. “NoFollow” Link – The nofollow attribute was implemented by Google to help eliminate link spam. What this attribute (supposedly) does is tell the search engine, “here’s a link, but don’t follow it, don’t count it as a valid backlink, and don’t pass any page rank (PR) to it.” This can be useful in controlling the “link juice” of your pages. Placing nofollow on links to certain internal pages of you own website can be a good idea if those pages should not be indexed by the search engines. Contact us, or login pages are the best example. This can also be useful with blogs and other sites where linksters like to spam comments with their links. Makeing them ‘nofollow’ will nullify the effectiveness and keep your blog clean.

BUT! For reciprocal link exchanges neither link in such an arrangement should be nofollow. Why? because its no longer an even trade. If a trade partner offers you a link with ‘nofollow’ activated, they aren’t playing fair. To check for this, I recommend two methods.

  • Automatic – Mozilla Firefox has a plugin that automatically checks every link on the page for nofollow attribute. Every link will get a color overlay, purple or blue means “do follow”, pink means “nofollow”. So you can quickly see on any page if the link is a nofollow link.
  • Manual – Using your web browser (firefox recommended)  you can look up the source code and find your link in HTML code. If it says, ‘rel=”nofollow”‘ in the <a> tag, then its no good. Firefox allows you to select a section of the page and then look at the source code for that section only. This is easier than scanning through the whole page.

One additional thing to watch out for with regards to the nofollow attribute; you need to check back in a few weeks and check again in a  few months to see if your trading partner double-crossed you. Some evil webmasters offer the trade with a dofollow link, but change it later figuring your won’t bother to check it again. Check it again, and again!  There are some link checking tools available on the web that can check it automatically. Just do a Google or Yahoo search.

2. NoFollow <meta> tag – Just like the nofollow links mentioned above, a webmaster can make an entire page “nofollow” by adding a <meta> tag called “robots”. In the <head> section of the page are <meta> tags which tell the search engines certain “extra” information that is not seen on the page in the browser. One of these is <meta name=”robots” content=”index,follow” /> -This is  common, and as it is, is not a problem as it is telling the search engines to index this page and follow the links. But, one can change it to read <meta name=”robots” content=”noindex,nofollow” /> This version is telling the search engines to IGNORE this page. The major SE’s abide by this meta tag and will skip this page and not index it or follow any links on it. So, if this is done on a reciprocal link page it will render your back-link useless. Check the page you are going to have your link posted on for this <meta> tag.

3. Robots.txt block - This is the dirtiest of all. Many people fail to check this file, let alone even know about it. The above two methods are common, and many people already know about them so webmasters who want to play dirty, can’t get away with it. So, they came up with another way.. Robots.txt file. This file is intended to allow or disallow search engine bots (spiders) from accessing certain parts of your website. This is good if you have backup folders, or other files and folders that you do not want to show up in the search engines.

But, some evil webmasters will add a line to block access to the reciprocal page (or folder) so that the major search engines will not access it. The real trick here is that if you check for ‘nofollow’ links, manually or automatically with software, everything will appear kosher. Most people don’t think to check the robots file. But you must!

To check this file, it will be in the root of the website (http://www.thedomain.com/robots.txt). you can view it in any browser. Some sites don’t use it at all, so if it does not come up, its not there. When it does come up, you want to look for a line similar to this: “Disallow: /link-page.html “. This is telling the SE’s that they are FORBIDDEN from accessing this page; and the major ones listen. So Google or Yahoo won’t access that page and thus, your link will never be seen by the search engines.  ‘Pretty sneaky, eh’!

Well, I am sure there are other dirty tricks with reciprocal links used by evil webmasters, but these are the ones I have seen and check for constantly. Once again, checking for this at the time of the trade is good, but remember to check back several times to see if they have employed these tactics after the fact.

Hope this helps, good linking!

Blog Comments, Social Bookmarking, Free Directories, Equals SEO Spam

One of the primary tasks of SEO is generating backlinks. To do this right is no easy task for even seasoned experts. Its time-consuming, rigorous, and just plain hard-work. Often, such work is farmed-out to link-grunts who do all the tedious work for you. Over the past several years this work has evolved into such menial tasks as submitting links to thousands of free directories, blog comments, social bookmarking, forum posts, and article syndication. All these can be valid backlink generators, however; when these things are done wrong, they can backfire.

Let’s look at Free Directory submissions first. Seems reasonable to submit your site to free directories and generate some one-way backlinks. But can it really be that easy? If you pay someone $500 to submit your site “manually” to 1000 free directories are there any assurances that this method is effective? Even worse, are you sure that there is no negative impact for doing it? Even if you found a grunt willing to do it for $100, are you sure about this?

The answer is: you cannot be sure about any of it. You have no real idea what all these directories really are. Are they long-term, or temporary? Are the real, or fake? Its a gamble. In the worse case, some directories are bad neighborhoods, or penalized sites of which you have no way of knowing unless you research each one. If they are “bad sites”, you do not want to be associated in anyway. Why risk it? Do you really think search engines are not aware of all the garbage directories out there? This tactic is just throwing money away.

How about Blog Commenting? The idea here is that you can comment on many blogs and include your URL so that when the comment is published it generates a backlink. Sounds nice, but; its a load of crap. First of all, most blogs have “nofollow” comment backlinks, so your link is fairly worthless even if it gets published. Second, most REAL blogs will spam your comment if it is the typical meaningless generic nonsense like,

“I love your posts. This topic needs to be discussed. Thanks for the great blog!” (URL link: www.viagrasuperhugesale.com)

Do you really think blog owners who want to build a solid web blog will allow this nonsense? Third, any blog that is deliberately set up with “do follow” URLs in the comments and advertises to SEO forums that they are a “do follow” blog… are not real blogs. They are non-authoritative and built for SEO purposes only. Also, most of the “services” who do all this blog commenting for you do it on ALL worthless blogs. Don’t you think Google and the others notice phony blogs and phony comments? Do you think they are stupid? Do you really think you can fool them?

As for social bookmarking and article syndication, the same principle applies. Namely, creating a bunch of fake posts on a forum, making phony profiles on social sites, or syndicating the same exact article on a bunch of crappy article sites DOES NOTHING POSITIVE, and may even be negative.

Am I saying that these things at their core are not solid SEO tactics and techniques? No, actually they are. The problem I am pointing out is in the execution. It is human nature to want the fast-track, the easy way; and such phony methods serve that end. But, they pollute the Internet with SEO spam. There may have been a time when this sort of “backlink blitz” worked well, but that time is gone. All of these tactics are good only if they are done correctly. What is the correct way? Ahh… that’s for me to know, and you to find out.

Web Site Tips to Increase Visitor Conversion

Layout- Most of us are very experienced website visitors, we have seen thousands of websites in our lifetime. During this time we have learned how to scan a websites homepage to determine if the site is worth further exploration. Because of this you need to plan the layout of your site, if the site does not offer value to the visitor there is little chance that they will stick around. A quick way to turn people off is by overusing ads, if your website has more ads than content this is a huge turn off.

Don’t make people search for what your site is about. If your website is there to sell a product make sure that most of the links are teaching people about the product or leading people to information related to ordering the product.

Ease of Navigation- When you are thinking about how people will navigate your website, start with the basics. Start with a clean canvas and then add the most valuable points. Each of these points needs to have a link in highly visible location There should be an area where people can easily learn about your company, contact you and view what products and services are being offered. If these things are not easily visible to your visitors they may not find the best part of your site before they click off to some other part of the internet.

Make sure that your that the most relevant pages of your site have links to one another. If someone clicks on your products page there should also be a link there which will allow them to contact someone if they have a question.

Page Load Time- I’m sure that everyone reading this has had a time when they visited a website and the page load was just too slow, after a few seconds many of us will just give up. Remember that not everyone has high speed broadband access and often those that do may not have patients for a slow loading website. It is important to minimize the size of your web pages. Extras like large photos, Flash and ads are not needed and can cause people to never return to your site. Besides this Google is now beginning to put weight on search results according to their page speed download. It is understandable that search engines would want to serve WebPages that are more optimized than full of excess baggage. This is a very deep topic that will be covered in another article.

Browser Compatibility- What could be worse from a webmasters perspective than working to bring visitors to your site and they are not able to view the page or view it in a distorted way? If your website is not correctly setup you will have exactly this problem. How many users will you loose? Your site should display the same way whether you visitors are using Mozilla Firefox, Opera, Internet Explorer or Netscape.

Designing a successful websites can be complicated. However if you think like a consumer and use common sense it will help you to create an idea of how your users experience should be. By using these ideas you can make improvements to your current site or get an idea of how to setup a correctly layout site. Either way a website is a very powerful ally, jut make sure you set it up with some consideration.

Author

Phillip DeMassa is a staff writer for Core Web Solutions Web Design

Content Management or CMS

What is a “content management system” or CMS?

CMS is a programming feature that utilizes a database to store the content of your website and displays that content seamlessly on the designated web pages. A simple user-interface allows non-technical people to access, add, or modify that content on the fly without need of special software like Adobe DreamWeaver® nor does it require any special web development knowledge or skills. All you need is a standard web browser and you can modify your own website easily and efficiently… not to mention the cost savings in not having to hire a developer to routinely update the site for every little change. You have the control.

How does CMS work?

CMS uses server-side programming and a database to store content information. The design is html and CSS implemented in the server-side code. The design structure can be interchangeable “themes” (out-of-the-box design templates) or custom web design done by a professional designer. A user can log into the administrative panel from any web browser and use the provided interface tools to manage, edit or add content including text and images.

How difficult is it to learn the system?

There are a variety of CMS systems available. Depending on the implementation, some CMS are simple to learn while others are complex and difficult.

How do I set it up?

There are many existing software platforms out there that provide all the programming and database functions right out of the box. These software have to be installed and configured on a website server.

What do you offer?

Core Web Solutions has discovered that most small business website owners and start up businesses are most concerned with user-friendly CMS at an affordable price level followed by a fast implementation and low learning curve. To meet this demand we have developed two CMS deals that cover all those concerns.

Contact Core Web Solutions for more information

Help Your Website Become Famous

You have the perfect idea for a website, you plan everything to perfection. Your ecommerce provider is setup, your website looks and functions excellent but you have one problem. There is no one knocking on your front door. More than a few people have faced this problem, but there is hope. By working to optimize your site for the search engines you can earn a stream of well targeted traffic, this will not happen overnight but if you are diligent it will happen. The more you know about optimizing your site the better you will rank in the search engines. There are some things to think about, like have you submitted your site to these searches engines, do you have any inbound links, are your SEO efforts completely ethical?

Are You In the Search Engines?

Your first efforts should be to make sure that you are indexed with the search engines. The 3 main search engines that you want to be focused on are Google, Yahoo and Bing, in this order as these are the most trafficked search portals.

If you want to check to see if your site is listed in these search engines simply go to the search engine and type in your domain name. If it doesn’t show up then your site isn’t indexed in their search directory. If this is the case you can submit your site for free, the main three search engines have provided pages where you can do this quickly and easily.

If your site has any inbound links then it will be automatically picked up and indexed when the web spiders index those inbound links. Web spiders “crawl” the Internet and update an engine’s internal database of links and sites.

Build Up the Links to Your Site from Other Sites

One way to build credit amongst the search engines is to have other websites linking to you. These links are seen as votes for your website, some search engines don’t look at Page Rank or links but the biggest search engine Google does so you may want to pay attention. The point is to have as many inbound links as possible, but it is actually more complicated than just links. These links range in authority from Page rank 0-10. You goal should ultimately be to have many inbound links as you can but from the highest page rank sites possible.

Next it is advisable to have links from sites that are in a similar market or sites that use similar keywords. Google likes to see that sites that are in the same “family’ as yours are sending you votes or links. Links from other types of sites don’t hurt, especially if they are high page ranking. Just keep in mind that it is optimal to have links from other sites of the same genre.

To find a list of sites that link to yours type this into Google search area: Link:yoursitename.com

If your site has many pages linking to it you may need to use a more advanced back link checking tool which you can find by doing an online search.

Keep Your SEO Campaign Ethical

In the drive to gain traffic to your website make sure not to participate in unethical practices. It can often have terrible consequences on your sites search ranking and possibly get you banned. Some people have tried to use sneaky tactics like a white background with white text. This white on white is use to hide keywords that will attract search engines. The problem is that search engines know how to detect this now, this tactic worked in 2004 but not today!

Do not create mirror site. Mirror sites are sites that look like your site but offer different content. One site is used to attract visitors through the search engines and then the other site is used to deliver a alternative message. This can get you banned quickly. Also you want to avoid suspicion by having a varying level of content, on indicator of false pages to a search engine spider is series of pages with nearly the same content.

Overall if you follow ethical rules while promoting your website and work to create content that offers something to the world you will receive more traffic and build your customers base. These tips are very important but there are even more things to watch out for, keep reading and searching for tips online.

Author

Phillip DeMassa is a staff writer for Core Web Solutions Web Design

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