Sometimes we get an e-mail (or a blog comment) from someone who says their PageRank declined because they were buying links. This happens often enough that I thought I’d write something about why buying links is not good for search, period. It isn’t because Google is some mean, rotten pig. I mean, it actually makes sense. Best Premium WordPress Themes for 2018.
Think about what Google’s job is. It’s to return the most relevant search queries for a particular search based on the parameters that searchers enter into a query box. What would happen if the top 10 search queries were there because someone paid for them to be there? Suppose you had to pay $10,000 to be in position No. 1 and each subsequent position below that cost just $100 less than the previous one. The guy in the 10th position, the last position on page 1, would pay $9,000 to be there. But what about every one else?
Suppose the payment system “filtered down” this way until the website in position No. 100 (page 10) paid $100. Everyone below that opted not to pay at all so they just fell in wherever Google decided to put them. What would happen if the system was based on money?
Eventually (and I’m betting it wouldn’t take long), no one would rely on search at all because everyone would know that the website on top was there because he paid the most money. His website may not be relevant to the actual search that I conducted, but he paid the most money so there he is.
How many people would search the Internet through Google if that’s the way search worked? Not many. Because why would anyone look for specific information if they had to sift through a bunch of paid-for listings to find the ONE item that was relevant and answered their question?
Paid links is an attempt to turn Google into just such a system. Because Google’s ranking algorithm is so heavily based upon the number and quality of inbound links, paid links actually serve to dilute link quality. It is assumed, and always has been, that website owners link to other websites out of a value that they hold for the other site. But if website owners linked out only because they were paid to then no one could trust the quality of the links. That’s why no one should want paid links contributing to ranking factors at Google or any other search engine.
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In a recent interview with Aaron Wall, legendary “black hat” SEO Fantomaster commented that Google’s PageRank algorithm is based on a fallacious view of links. Is he right?
Let’s review what PageRank is and how it is calculated. If you’ve been around on the Internet for awhile then you know that PageRank is based on the concept that inbound links count as “votes”. The system was devised as a way for Google to examine a website’s authority based on how many other websites were linking to it and the quality of those links. Over the few years that this system has been in place, the algorithm has changed and shifted from merely counting numbers of links to analyzing several factors related to the quality of a link. But the basic underpinning of links as votes is still in place.
Fantomaster has a point when he says this is a flawed view of linking. A link does not necessarily equate with quality in the eyes of the linker. There are all sorts of reasons, as he points out, for one website to link to another, including disagreeing with a premise or an entire point that the linkee made on his or her blog. A link could be for the purpose of criticism, not praise.
So why is this system still in use when it is clearly based on a flaw? And why do so many Internet marketers still rely on it as a test of relevance and authority?
PageRank has its flaws, no doubt. It certainly is not a reliable test of authority, especially since many “so called” search engine optimization experts have used it to buy and sell links and to manipulate rankings and their own site authority through complex linking schemes. In the world of SEO, link building has become an industry of its own simply because of the PageRank algorithm.
Aaron Wall’s question to Fantomaster regarding the future of links – will the search engines get away from link evaluation for the purpose of determining authority and relevance – is a good question. I wish they would. I’d like to see a more complex measure in place that takes into account other factors like scalability, heavier emphasis of on-page factors, and more weight toward new websites that meet a specific query answer. But until something better comes along we are stuck with evaluating links.
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Social bookmarking has grown in popularity in the last couple of years. I’ve noticed that there are two minds concerning how social bookmarking sites are used. On the one hand, social media marketers promote the social sites as relationship-building tools and tend to discourage their use for link building. Search engine optimization experts, particularly traditional and technical SEOs, tend to emphasize the link building aspect of social bookmarking.
With sites like this promoting the link building aspect of social bookmarking, it’s difficult to just ignore the benefits the temptation offers. The fact is, social bookmarking, if done the right way, can be useful in building links to a website and if you have a brand new website it can prove to be more than instrumental. Even the pros who stress the social benefits over the SEO benefits know this.
Social bookmarking, however, is best used as more than a link building tool. That shouldn’t be its primary use. But it is OK to know that the benefits are there and there is nothing wrong with submitting your website to social bookmarking sites that pass link building juice in addition to those sites are popular and don’t. In other words, not everything has a single purpose. Social bookmarking is one of those.