As part of your link building strategy you may have considered buying links on sites or exchanging links with other sites. After all links are what make the web work, right? That is how people find you when they did not find you through a search in their favourite search engine. Before you buy or exchange that link you should be aware of how it could affect your standings in the search results and what rotten things some people do to make the link on their site worthless to you (but gladly took your money or got that nice incoming link from you).
Incoming links (a.k.a. backlinks) are good if they are from quality sites that are related to the subject of your website or blog. This whole thing can snowball if you notice someone linked to you that was a respected authority on your subject. It can turn into a business partnership, a friendship and/or further mentions by you and the other site about each other’s content. Win, win situation.
Now put you newcomer to your site hat on. If they see irrelevant links to other sites from yours they are not going to be too impressed. One way to build quality content is to find related articles to the subject of your content and include them as references to backup what you have said or for further information. No one is going to want to link to a site that doesn’t take care when including outgoing links to other sites. This is organic link building. Why ruin it by including links to other sites just for the link exchange or a few dollars?
Be Aware of the Webmaster Guidelines
First you have to be aware of what the search engine guidelines are regarding buying links and link exchanges.
Link Building Schemes
There are all kinds of link building schemes around. Google lists some of these schemes that they consider inappropriate:
…some webmasters engage in link exchange schemes and build partner pages exclusively for the sake of cross-linking, disregarding the quality of the links, the sources, and the long-term impact it will have on their sites. This is in violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines and can negatively impact your site’s ranking in search results. Examples of link schemes can include:
- Links intended to manipulate PageRank
- Links to web spammers or bad neighborhoods on the web
- Excessive reciprocal links or excessive link exchanging (“Link to me and I’ll link to you.”)
- Buying or selling links that pass PageRank
Link schemes – Google Webmaster Tools Help
Bing’s position on link building is straightforward – we are less concerned about the link building techniques used than we are about the intentions behind the effort. That said, techniques used are often quite revealing of intent….
Examples of potentially conspiratorial hocus-pocus that might be perceived as unnatural and warrant a closer review by search engine staff include but are not limited to:
- The number of inbound links suddenly increases by orders of magnitude in a short period of time
- Many inbound links coming from irrelevant blog comments and/or from unrelated sites
- Using hidden links in your pages
- Receiving inbound links from paid link farms, link exchanges, or known “bad neighborhoods” on the Web
- Linking out to known web spam sites
Bing Link building for smart webmasters (no dummies here) (SEM 101) – Webmaster Center blog – Site Blogs – Bing Community
Bing’s take on paid links is included in the quote above. Here is Google’s policy on paid links:
However, some SEOs and webmasters engage in the practice of buying and selling links that pass PageRank, disregarding the quality of the links, the sources, and the long-term impact it will have on their sites. Buying or selling links that pass PageRank is in violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines and can negatively impact a site’s ranking in search results.
Not all paid links violate our guidelines. Buying and selling links is a normal part of the economy of the web when done for advertising purposes, and not for manipulation of search results. Links purchased for advertising should be designated as such.
Paid links – Webmaster Tools Help
So now you know where you stand with the major search engines in regards to exchanging and buying links. Read the full articles quoted so you get all the information.
If you decide to proceed with link exchanges or buying links there are some other thinks you should know before doing so. There are some unscrupulous people out there and if you are a novice to this you need a checklist of what to look for.
What to Look For When Exchanging or Buying Links
Remember not all link exhanges or bought links are bad. You just have to check them out before committing.
Actually Check Out the Page Where Your Link is Going to Be On
When you receive an offer of buying a link or exchanging a link, ask what page yours will be on and go look at it. Also checkout the site in general. Is this a site you want to be associated with?
Can People and the Search Bots Actually Find the Page?
When looking at an offer for link exchange or purchase go to the site as new visitor (the offer sometimes tells you which page your link is going to be on). If you were a visitor to the site could you easily stumble upon the page or otherwise find it without knowing where it was? Can the search engine bots find it?
Reviewing some of the link requests our clients have received, there is no way an average visitor would find the page offered.
Form Letter Link Requests
Link builders search the net looking for links for their clients. That’s fine. Some people don’t have time to do this and decide to hire someone to do it for them. The thing is you have to read the link request email to determine if they actually looked at your site or just rifled your email address off your site. After you have received a few of these you will be able to determine the form letters from legitimate link requests.
Nofollow Attribute or Meta Tag
The nofollow attribute is used by the search engines as an indication they should not follow the link provided. You can view the source coding of the page where your link will be placed or use a nofollow plugin if you use Firefox to see these. Not all nofollow links are bad. If the audience of the page fits your target audience then they could still drive traffic to your site.
Another way the search engines can be told not to follow the links on the page is with a meta tag in the head of the web page coding. Like the nofollow attribute in links, if you view the source code of the web page you can see it in the head section (between the<head> and </head> tags) of the web page coding.
Type of Page Link Will Be On
Will the link be on a page full of links or resources type page?
Is the page topic specific? Say your site is sewing related. Is it going to be on a page with only sewing related links?
Does the page allow for a description or some kind of blurb on it about your site with your link within the content of the description?
Page Blocked From the Search Engine Bots?
As a novice website owner you might not even know what a robots.txt file is. The robots.txt file is a plain text file on the web server that contains directions to the search engine bots about what sections of the site to stay out of. Some people put the link pages in the list. Not all search bots follow these directions but it is something to be aware of. The website owner might have actually attempted to do this but did it wrong.
Viewing the source code of the page and looking for the robots meta tag in the head section is another way to block the page from the search engines. Look for <meta name="robots" content="noindex, nofollow"> This tells the search engine bot not to include this page in their index (in this particular example the nofollow is included also).
Do You Trust the Person?
Are you prepared to check that your link is actually placed where they said it would be? Some people use a delay tactic where you put their link on your site but they just never seem to put yours on theirs. In the meantime they have an incoming link to their site.
How Long is the Link Going to Be For?
Some link building offers are for a specific amount of time. Once that time has expired you loose the incoming link.
If it was supposed to be permanent, are you going to check regularly that your link is still there? Only fair if you are providing a permanent link the person you bought or exchanged links with does too, right?
Does the Link Go Directly to Your Site?
When you put your mouse over a link, the url of the page you will be taken to will appear in the bottom right of your browser window if the website owner has not done some creative scripting to fox you. This is an old technique. Webmasters use to use a script to place a message instead of the url in the bottom status bar of the browser. What you have to do is actually click the link to see where it takes you.
Some will boast that your link will be on a PR whatever site or page. If you were promised a specific PR page, make sure it is.
PageRank isn’t really something that important to be worried about. It’s nice but in the background the PageRank of the site and pages within it are constantly changing. The tools to check PageRank are not that accurate either. For example, the Google Toolbar PR bar is out dated as soon as it is updated.
Look at the future potential of the page where your link will be. Does it have good content that eventually will earn a better PageRank? Does the site look like a stable site that is in this for the long haul and they are going to work on getting a better PageRank some day?
Cloaking is where the search engines see one thing and real visitors see another. You can check for cloaking by looking up the page in the search results. Does the description match what you see on the page? View the source code and check the meta tags also.
Are They Offering to Put Your Link on a Different Page Than What You are Linking To?
There are link schemes where you are offered an exchange where you link to a page but the link to your site will be on a different site all together. They are offering this to try and hide they are purposely link building (instead of organic link building). Do you want to get involved with this type of scheme?
Can You Link to a Page on Your Site Other Than Your Home Page?
Each page on your site needs incoming links. When link building you need to spread out the incoming links so people see the other pages on the site. If you worry about PageRank, it is quite possible for an inner page of your site to have a higher PageRank than your home page because of the quality and quantity of incoming linkds to it.
Maybe you have a special page you want to building links for. Say, your specials page. The quickest way to get people to that page is to have a direct link pointing to it.
Build Links Slow and Steady
There are link building specials all of over the place. Just do a search for link building to see them. If you are going to use one of these services make sure the links are going to be built over an extended amount of time. If you read this article from top to bottom you would have already seen that Bing states a signal of unnatural link building is a bunch on new incoming links all of a sudden.
When Was the Page Last Cached by the Search Engines?
Using the Google toolbar you can check the last time Google cached the web page your link will be on. If it has been a long time that means the site owner is not keeping the content of the site fresh which resulted in the search bots saving their energy and not visiting very often.
Is Your Link Going to Stay on the Page?
What this question is about is: Are they adding new links to top of the page as they add them and is your link going to get bumped off to the next page? This happens on classified and some directory sites.
Before You Buy or Exchange That Link Think About It
As previously stated, exchanging and buying links (for the purpose of advertising) is not a bad thing. You just have to be careful of the deal. Will this deal really benefit your site?
More Link Building Articles:
- Creating Win-Win Link Building Scenarios
- Buying Links is Shallow, Short-Term Thinking. Buying Blogs? Now that’s a Strategy.
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