The fear police are out and about this month with billy clubs and tear gas. Comply! Comply!
I hate fear mongering, and right now, the “FEAR FEAR FEAR” mantra is being
shouted screamed from the rooftops and too many folks are buying into it unawares. Add to that mess a lot of smug jerks who claim to have it all figured out (“I told you so…”) but are just as misinformed and we’ve got a DEFCON Level 9 pile of confusion, self-aggrandizing and B.S. stew.
But what’s the fuss?
Link building. SEO. Sustainability. Scary words like “banned” and “deindexed.”
What Happened With Blog Networks?
You know what a blog network is, yes? I’ve written about them here and here and here, for starters. You pay a monthly fee (with most of them) and in return may post your articles with links (presumably back to your site) to the network of sites they control. The networks vary WIDLEY in quality, price, etc.
They are considered black hat – or at least grey hat – by most. Keep in mind that any link building is considered “black hat” by Google. If you built a Squidoo page with the intention of linking back to your site, that’s “black hat” in Google’s eyes.
The bottom line is that some of these blog networks have been “found out” by Google (kudos to Build My Rank for manning up right away and admitting it) and Google has, in turn, deindexed the sites the blog networks own. That means that those blogs – which people have been posting articles with links on – can no longer be found in Google’s search results. And since they aren’t in Google’s index, any links from them no longer “count” for backlinking purposes.
Many folks are seeing a drop in rankings for their sites that relied on a “found out” blog network for backlinks.
And many folks have been getting or have already gotten warnings in their Google Webmaster Tools accounts for “unnatural link building.” Some folks claim their sites have been deindexed after this Webmaster Tools warning.
I have my own VERY STRONG opinions on all of this. And I’ll share them at the end of this article.
But what’s more interesting than what I think? What the blog networks themselves think!
Blog Networks Go on Record
I wrote to 6 blog networks and asked if they’d like to participate in this post by answering a few questions, setting the record straight, as it were. Two wanted in. Three didn’t reply and the last one cited too short a deadline. I first want to thank Linkvana and Article Marketing Automation for replying – a lot of folks in the “blog network” world are hiding under a rock right now and hoping no one notices them.
Neither of these networks have been “hit” by this latest change. I think their open participation in this discussion speaks volumes about the integrity of Linkvana and Article Marketing Automation’s ethics, their product, and their networks.
Dave @ Linkvana: Hi Michelle – Sure, I run the day to day operations of Linkvana. I decide on the direction of Linkvana, what initiatives we want to tackle, and how to best position our sites for success in the future.
Linkvana is a linkbuilding hub where a client can get access to many different forms of backlinks in order to boost their rankings in the search engines. The cool part about Linkvana is that you choose your anchor text and the number of links you want – we make it easy to build very high quality links that get noticed by the search engines and really propel your rankings instead of building thousands of low quality links.
Daniel @ AMA: Marc [Lindsay] and I started AMA back in 2008, it was started as the (as far as I’m aware) first community driven blog network (when blog network wasn’t a dirty word) but as the “genre” has been more defined, it’s become less like the “typical” blog network (aka Build My Rank), and more akin to a semi automated guest posting system.
Talk to me about what kind of marketer benefits most from using Linkvana / AMA? Who’s your ideal client and why?
Dave @ Linkvana: We have some of the top SEO agencies in the world at LV, we have clients with a single ecommerce site, we have big names and people that are new to SEO. The marketer that benefits the most from Linkvana is someone that is able to make linkbuilding a priority and will use the system. We have an integration team at LV, so knowing SEO is not the number one thing in order to get benefit. The most important things are that you’re committed to build links, SEO as a growth strategy for your business, and you’ve got a site that does a decent job at converting traffic into some goal. You need more than just high rankings to make money on the internet, which is ultimately the end goal of 98% of our clients. We help with the high rankings part, but the ideal client is someone that has a converting sales funnel and wants to drive more diverse traffic to that funnel.
Daniel @ AMA: Our ideal client that understands AMA is someone who understands SEO, understands link building (diversity, velocity and quality) and most importantly, doesn’t spam (many people understand SEO but just don’t give a crap).
You may have seen Matt Cutt’s response to Dan Theis re: blog networks. How is Linkvana/ AMA preparing for – or have you already prepared for – this kind of search engine scrutiny?
Dave @ Linkvana: I think Linkvana is more or less the longest running [Michelle's edit: launched in 2007], and I am pretty proud of that.
Regardless of what many people think, de-indexing is not a new thing. Google’s team is always going to do their job the best they can, and they have some of the smartest people out there. Everyone knows that. Take Traffic Equalizer for example. There were people making millions of dollars a year in Adsense and affiliate offers wiped out overnight – I believe that was 04 or 05. Google is going to change. It’s a privately run company who is trying to do it’s best to serve accurate results – it’s revenue depends on the accuracy of it’s results.
LV is prepared for the changes to come because we take a more holistic approach. We don’t rely solely on high page rank sites, and we don’t believe that’s what linkbuilding is all about. It’s a portion of your ranking, no doubt – but a marketer should not rely on one network of sites alone for their rankings.
Daniel @ AMA: Ultimately, if Google wants to take something down, they’ll take something down. They have people infinitely smarter than I am, I’m sure as hell no wonder boy genius
With that said, private networks (where the sites in the network are owned by one person) of any kind are dead, or will shortly be dead. What people don’t seem to remember, is that Google sees all, nothing is hidden, no matter the layers of “protection” people try to put in place. Never forget that.
The thing about that tweet, and ALN (and from that seomoz.org and the post that it surfaced from – for anyone interested feel free to look into it) – the core of it (and this is just speculation since Google is as Google does), is that one site had 5k odd links from the ALN network. And guess what. It was a (excuse the language) piece of $%@! site.
Would everyone have screamed so hard if it was Allstate.com or Nationwide.com? Nope, you would never have heard of it. The fact is, that site should have ranked for 24 hours maximum, and then periodically “retested” to see if it was worthy of the user.
Google needs to place MUCH more emphasis on the sites performance once it ranks, not the links they used to get there. The moment they do that, is the moment links become an irrelevant part of history that spammers can never use to manipulate, because if spammers built quality sites, they wouldn’t be spammers (I can’t see a spammer going out of his way to take the time to build an Allstate.com but hey you never know).
We all know Build My Rank’s network was deindexed, as they announced on their blog. How does Linkvana / AMA stand out or differentiate from Build My Rank and other services out there?
Dave @ Linkvana: BMR and LV have always done things differently. BMR was a great service from what I hear, and obviously they made a large impact on the market. We have several shared customers. I’d like to think that Linkvana is much more white hat than many of the other services.
Linkvana has some automation, but it seems like a lot of marketers are looking for a silver bullet… a service that the end user does nothing at all and moves their site to the top of google. That’s just not natural any way you cut it. It’s short lived. At Linkvana we’ve never given into what we feel are short lived strategies. Because of that, we can’t please every marketer out there. We can’t show them the URLS, and spin all their content, etc… Linkvana provides an effective service to it’s customers. It’s not flashy all the time, but we stay on top of SEO, we understand what moves a site to the top, and we make decisions based on what is in the best interest for our clients long term, not from a marketing perspective. Not everyone can say that.
Daniel @ AMA: The main distinction is this, in BMR the sites in there have one purpose, to generate backlinks back to the sites being promoted. Regardless of content quality, whether it’s good or bad, there is no incentive to NOT link to that site, because its primary purpose is to build links.
AMA is a self regulated social/community body. If a site owner doesn’t like the content, or the site it links to, they can reject it (and many do). Site owners can have full control over the content.
So for the users that submit rubbish, they either submit that rubbish and get it rejected by the site owner, and if it’s really bad, the site owner can flag them, in which case we review their account and give them a warning or kick them out (and if they rejoin and do it again ban their email/details, if they do it again, we ban their PayPal, etc. etc.). The better alternative, is that the user improves, they realize that they can’t just keep pushing crap, so they get better, write better content, build better sites and grow.
Should someone who’s used any kind of blog network – yours, Build My Rank, another – be worried?
Dave @ Linkvana: No. If that was the case, we could get our competition banned pretty quick. Just sign up for a linking service as your competition, and send links to their site and ban them… No, that’s not the way it works.
Here’s how it does work. Say you’ve put 1,000 links out to a bunch of sites. Say they were all on article sites that Google used to love, and now they don’t. So in Feb of 2012, you’ve got 1,000 links and you are sitting at the top of Google (because Google valued those links in Feb of 2012) for all the keywords you want. Now in March of 2012, Google decides they don’t like article sites anymore. Half your links get de-indexed and the other half get de-valued. Your site drops to number 30 in the rankings. Now, that is not a penalty. That’s a change in the way Google values links. They don’t value the particular linking method that you were using as much anymore, therefore your site doesn’t rank at the top anymore. It’s not that they are penalizing you or your site… it’s just that they are not valuing the methods that you’ve used to build links anymore.
Daniel @ AMA: Absolutely! But it goes for any type of link building. Link building is about diversity. Google will always be chasing spammers (as they should), which means Google will always be devaluing certain link types, and revaluing others (until they day they go all AI on us at which point link building won’t matter a hoot). If you’ve only built blog network links, or worse, only one type of blog network link, you’ll live a short life.
What’s the best way to use Linkvana / AMA in this current SEO climate?
Dave @ Linkvana: That’s a really big question, but basically you have to vary your anchor text and link to internal pages on your site. This is going to look natural and help your site the most in the long term. If you have a page on blue widgets (www.yourdomain.com/blue-widgets.html) – link about 40% of your links to the homepage (www.yourdomain.com) and the rest of the links to deep pages with the anchor text “blue widgets”, “widgets that are blue”, “blue widgets 2012″, “best blue widgets”, etc… This is natural and good. What is not natural is Google seeing 97% of your links pointing to your homepage with one keyword.
Daniel @ AMA: As with any type of link building. Do it properly. Do it within the realms of my blog post here [link forthcoming...]. Don’t spam. Do the right thing by the user on the site you’re promoting. Don’t give me cause to kick you in the nuts
Michelle’s Take on Blog Networks and the Future of Linkbuilding
Like Dave pointed out, deindexing isn’t a new thing… but Ed wins “Most Creative” for the Game of Thrones references in his post on Google’s history of “Slaps” and deindexing. There will always be change in search – I think that’s what makes it so interesting to some of us crazies.
But, there’s this thing called common sense that seems to be thrown out the window as soon as people look at SEO. If something works, they tend to do it x1000. But it doesn’t always work 1000x better when you do it 1000x more! You might not remember, but there was a time people would put 50 keywords in their meta keyword tag. “If 3-5 keywords worked well, 50 is better!” was the thinking. It seems silly in retrospect, but everything looks silly in retrospect (think chain wallets).
My dad used to say, “Everything in moderation.”
And that includes link building.
Daniel mentioned diversity as far as building links from multiple sources, not just blog networks as well as the velocity and quality of links and Dave mentioned the importance of varying anchor text and where your links are pointing to (not just the homepage). All things you MUST be doing.
I just wrote, as I published some link building test results on Monday, “Keep in mind also that you should never, ever put all your link building eggs in one basket. Use more than one method (i.e. article marketing plus social profiles) and more than one service. That’s just smart link building and smart SEO!”
It’s when you start depending on only one thing that you become vulnerable. Just because social links are “natural” doesn’t mean you’re safe if ALL your links are social links.
That’s why I wrote this post on Link Mixology as far back as 2009 (this isn’t new folks!) emphasizing the importance of including social media, blog comments, press releases and, yes, article syndication in your backlink profile. That’s why I offer 30 Minute Backlinks – to help you diversify your link sources.
Anyone who’s looking down their nose at folks who use a blog network better stop living in a glass house – all link building is black hat, according to Google TOS. Beware the hypocrites who tell you “X” is wrong but their “Y” is good.
Be moderate. Don’t be the guy who x1000′s everything. Be thoughtful. Use your common sense. Keep calm and vary your backlinks, no matter where they come from.
Yes, we’ve known for a while there were massive changes in search happening. Panda was only one small indicator. I did a video in February of LAST YEAR on what to look at going forward in SEO. Now’s a good time to re-watch and start implementing: