Link Building Looking for a Google Slap?

Tut tut…

It is a competitive niche, and there is a lot of money to be made over there, so I’m not entirely surprised. Apart from the fact that they could have moved a bit more quietly? I’ve written about conversion optimisation in the insurance niche and car insurance area a few times before.

But in fairness, we had a fantastic 2 threads over on EI board recently:

In that second John Ring made a very valid point about buying rankings. It does happen, but sites will also run the risk of doing so. Mick from Voodoo made some great points in the first thread. Both threads well worth reading, and some of the better discussions on EI I’ve seen in a long time.

BTW – I’ve been looking for new Irish blogs to read. Kieran Flanagan’s and Leo Fogarty are both worth adding to the reader IMO (Leo reminds me a whole lot of Dave). If anyone know’s of other new Irish guys in SEO/conversion who are blogging I’d love to hear about them.

Link Building

Link Building In Ultra Competitive Niches

UPDATE: GoCompare are no longer ranking for their brand name

Link building is tricky. I’ve worked in some farily competitive niches, and link building does become more and more difficult as you ascend the competitive ladder. One niche I do like to watch (primarily due to the wonderful Insider’s View blog) is the UK insurance/financial services market.

Here’s an email that arrived from one of the largest comparison sites in the UK,

Hi – I`m Alex Jones, Website Manager at We are one of the UK`s leading insurance comparison sites, with over 90 insurance companies on our panel.

I was searching the web and came across ******.TLD. We have a constantly growing range of information and advice surrounding insurance and repair themes. This relates to both motoring and household insurance. As such we are looking for good quality partners that have a motoring, automotive, general household or lifestyle theme . . . so I have an idea which I hope you will find useful.

We can have our editorial team research and hand write some unique content for you to add to a page on ******.TLD. We will agree a subject with you that is relevant to both of our sites. The content will contain a single unobtrusive text link in it back to a relevant page on our site. You would benefit from some unique, relevant content to which the search engines seem to be attributing ever more value. We would probably obtain some long term benefit from the link to us — which, as a relevant outbound link, would also be potentially helpful to you from a search engine perspective. We are not currently in the position of being able to exchange or return links so we thought this could be a good alternative.

There are of course absolutely no costs for you in us producing this content.

I have found that email isn`t always as reliable as everyone thinks plus I`m either out or in meetings most of the time. We have therefore created a simple and quick-to-use response page that provides detailed information and answers to questions on the various options and allows you to send messages to our team . . and much more! You can access it here:-

Your Access Code: ******

Of course I know that some people prefer to reply via email which is absolutely fine and I`ll reply as quickly as possible.

If you feel I should not have sent you this email, I`m really sorry – please just reply with REMOVE in the subject.

Please let me know your thoughts.

Thanks and kind regards – Alex Jones
Website Manager

I’ve redacted any info that could identify the site. So what’s wrong with this?

Sneaky Link Building at Site Owner’s Expense

Link building is extremely tough in competitive niches. I’m generally pretty white-hat when it comes to SEO, but when you’re heavily involved in SEO you know the reality of competition – all the sites in this niche are up to no good. Take a read of Insider’s View and you can see how often sites get penalties and bans. You’ll also learn just how much money we can be talking about, and why the returns often justify the high risks taken.

Caveat Emptor

I have a problem with’s email. They are preying on site owners who wont realise the risks of adding this “unique content”. GoCompare’s risk is negligible, while the risks to publishers are high. Alex Jones is disingenuous when he writes:

You would benefit from some unique, relevant content to which the search engines seem to be attributing ever more value. We would probably obtain some long term benefit from the link to us — which, as a relevant outbound link, would also be potentially helpful to you from a search engine perspective. We are not currently in the position of being able to exchange or return links so we thought this could be a good alternative. [Emphasis added mine]

What utter shite. Of course Alex fails to mention that such content on your site goes against Google’s TOS and risks a penalty for the publishing site:

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.

Worse still – site owners aren’t even offered payment for selling links to GoCompare. “There are of course absolutely no costs for you in us producing this content.” I actually had a good laugh at that. Site owners take all the risk while GoCompare take all the benefit. But then again perhaps GoCaompare learnt from previous bans that it’s better to pass the risk to someone else…

gocompare google ban
GoCompare banned from Google

Link Building

Charity Link Love

When I started this site I made a semi-conscious decision not to be overtly commercial. Sure I have a link on each page to my sales ‘pitch’ page, but generally most of my work comes through word of mouth.

There is one thing on my sales page however that maybe flies a little too low on the radar. It has been there on that page since it was first published, and it is this:

If you are a registered charity and would like some advice or assistance I am very happy to donate a few hours when available in return for a simple thank you :).

There are so many things I need or would like to change on my site. Making that offer far more prominent is on that list.

To date only two charities have approached me. Today good ole’ Grandad tagged me for the charity link meme which arrived on Irish shores via Gavin’s blog.

The Charity Links

These are the links I’m adding

to the current list:

Here’s the text file.

And I’m passing this on to some other SEOs:

  1. Mr. Davis
  2. Mr. Roe
  3. Mr. McDermott
  4. Mr. Stanley
  5. and lastly, because he needs some extra link love himself Mr. Mulley

And lastly

If you are involved in a charity and would like some of my time for free please fly me a mail. I can’t guarantee any set time frames, but I will help out as and when my schedule allows.

PS – @Grandad – if you ever want some help with Jack and Jill give me a shout 😎

Google Link Building

Webmaster Console Updates Backlink Data

Just a quick heads-up for anyone who linkes to track their backlink data. Google appears to have updated the backlink data in the Webmaster Console.

Time to go check your links boys and girls.

Link Bait Link Building

Weirdest Link Exchange Request Ever?

I get a lot of those ‘we’ve linked to your site, please link back’ type of emails. This one is the weirdest I’ve seen though:

Gerald Gerbrone Here,

We recently started our blog here and linked to your website hoping you would notice us and maybe link back. To be honest we don’t know what the fuck we are doing and are desperate god help us we arn’t even ranking for anything in msn , yahoo or google and need your help. And link would be of great help thanks again, Gerald.


Gerald Gerbrone CEO
A-Built Computer Systems and Consulting
14781 Memorial Drive
Office 2464
Houston, TX

I’m in two minds as to whether this is the craftiest or dumbest link request ever. I’m erring toward the former.

What do you think?

Google Link Building Search Engine Optimisation

Reporting Paid Links To Google – Mountain Or Molehill?

Google has announced increased counter-measures will be put in place to neutralise the practice of buying links which game the ranking algorithms.

For many years webmasters and SEOs have indulged in buying links to boost the rankings of their sites in Google’s SERPs. This practice became especially prevalent as Google increased the link relevance in their ranking algorithm.

Google strikes back

On Saturday Matt Cutts, Google’s head of Web Spam (and generally all-round nice guy), posted about Google’s intention to go after paid links that don’t disclose their paid status to both visitors AND search engine bots. In the post Matt gave information on how users could report paid links that are not following Google’s guidelines:

– Sign in to Google’s webmaster console and use the authenticated spam report form, then include the word “paidlink” (all one word) in the text area of the spam report. If you use the authenticated form, you’ll need to sign in with a Google Account, but your report will carry more weight.
– Use the unauthenticated spam report form and make sure to include the word “paidlink” (all one word) in the text area of the spam report.

This data will be used to “start testing out some new techniques we’ve got“.

And what does the SEO world think?

The response in the webmaster/SEO world has been fairly predictable – virtually everyone is up in arms. For a great mash-up see here, more good commentary here.

There seem to be a lot of people who think this will be openly abused:

The call for submissions of paid links is also fraught with problems, most obviously that of competitors sabotaging each other by buying ads for them and reporting them to Google, and secondly of just how Google expects to be able to detect paid links without access to a webmaster’s bank account.

Now if you know Google you will be aware that they really hate human intervention. Algorithmic solutions scale far better than human solutions, and it’s commonly known that Google cant apply the HR to many areas that need them.

Is this valid?

I think that Google is going to roll out something that simply turns off the juice from any link that appears to be a paid link. So if I go out and spend my hard earned money buying links to point my competitor, and then report that competitor for link buying, all that will happen is those links will no longer pass any juice. Will the competitor’s ranking drop? No. Because they will still have all the link juice that got them their rankings in the first place. Google are going to tackle the supply side rather than the demand side IMO.

As for the request to report link buying activities, well that’s really some more smoke and mirrors. Google is after the link buyers so that they can ferret out the link sellers. And if you used Google’s spam reporting feature you’ll know that those reports do not result in micro-level changes to the index. Reported sites are not (generally) removed. Instead Google uses the reports to tweak their algorithm to pick up such sites on a later run.

It’s all about scale with Google

Google doesn’t like human intervention. Plain and simple. Google prefers automation. So I think that the reports will simply be used to test and tweak whatever automated techniques Google is about to unleash.

So will I be able to sabotage my competitors with this feature? I seriously doubt it. Time will tell.

Link Building

Links Form The Fabric Of The Internet

Hyperlinks are the glue that holds the Internet together. Users traverse links to get from one resource to another. Search engine bots crawl links to discover new resources. Algorithms use links as a primary signal of quality and relevance in order to display search engine results. So links benefit everyone.

So if links benefit everyone why would you want to curtail peoples’ ability to link to your site by publishing something like this:

Irish Cancer Society link request form

Whoever drafted that form does not understand the Internet. Period.

Oh, and just to make a point purple monkey dishwasher.

Well done Donncha for discovering this. (Was that link OK for you Donncha?)

Or was it Frank? Well I know that Paul has been discussing it. Please send all linking complaints to the linking manager. By Fax.

[Update] Lar has rewritten this into a user-friendly linking policy that ICS could adopt. Free advice from Ireland’s leading accessibility and usability experts is surely hard to turn down.

Link Bait Link Building

SES London – Linkbait, and When It’s Not

The link baiting season promised to be one of the highlights of SES London. With linkbait being one of the hottest contemporary SEO themes, the crowds filled the room to hear what the industry experts were going to share.

The widget as link bait

First up, Nick Wilson gave a good high level introduction to ‘viral link building’. Giving a passionate speech, Nick discussed widgets as the ultimate linkbait, and his observations were well worth hearing.

Heellloou Jason Calacanis

Dave Naylor gave another extremely passionate speech. During the entire conference Dave entertained the crowd, and this session was no different. Jason Calacanis was the main target, as Dave vented vitriol on the ‘SEO is bullshit’ argument. All highly entertaining.

‘Textual advertisements’

Alan Webb of Abakus gave a presentation on link buying with some interesting, if not ground-breaking, discussion about how to approach site owners when buying links purchasing textual advertising . Bread an butter stuff.

This is the bit When Link Bait Isn’t Link Bait

This last guy annoyed me so much that I actually bailed about 60 seconds into his presentation. The official handbook says his name is Matt Paines, MD of XSEO. This guy obviously does not understand link bait.

He started off by referring to the famous SEO ‘Chris’ until someone in the crowd told him it was Rand. OK, that’s a human mistake – anyone could make it. But the 30 seconds that followed showed that this guy doesn’t have a clue. So fumbling on he’s muttering ‘Wow…. yeah…. Rand Fishkin…. Superbowl….. now that was some link bait’. I got up and left right then and there.

Link bait is contrived content created with the intention of deriving inbound links. [My definition]

So what the final speaker was basically saying that Rand Fishkin contrived his engagement in order to generate links.

I don’t know Rand Fishkin personally, but do read his blog which regularly contains some great posts. Maybe I’m a sucker, but I believe that people are in general innately good. So the idea that someone would go on national TV (and the Internet) to say, first, that he loves his soon-to-be fiancé, and then ask her to marry him, that this was in some way link bait….

Well I didn’t stick around any longer so I’ll never know what else he said.

Link Building Search Engines

SES London – When is a Link Farm NOT a Link Farm?

Answer: When it’s a hub.

The things search engine reps mention…

If you were at SES London, you might have heard one or two little nuggets that seemed inconsequential at first, but were probably more important than you realise.

I was lurking toward the back of the room at the Linking Strategies Session when (I think) Tom Alby from Ask made a comment about hubs and authorities. He said that the difference between a link farm and a hub is that at least one or two authority sites would be linking back to the hub.

Hmmm… so there I was thinking about that for a second. If one or two authority sites link back to a link farm, hey presto, you’ve got a hub! I’ll be honest – I couldn’t hold back the snigger, and I wasn’t alone.

From the last row in the room, I swear I could just about hear the penny drop in Greg Boser’s head as he sat next to the Ask guy. I’m pretty sure he was trying very hard to hold back the laugh (he didn’t succeed :grin:).

Very funny moment, and probably one of those little nuggets the search reps wish they hadn’t dropped.

Link Building

I Don’t Share Enough Link Love – I Hope That Buddha Forgives Me

Yes, you heard me right – I hope Buddha forgives me. He’s actually a pretty cool guy, certainly the best God I’ve ever read about.

But I digress

Right, first off I have never had a blogroll here. Yes, yes, I should know better – if you don’t show some link love then why would you expect any back?

Well I’ve been very fortunate and lots of kind people have linked to my humble blog. Thank you everyone who has linked here 😀

But one thing that’s really pissed me off is when I take a peak at Technorati. Occasionally I see links coming at me from guys who I know here in cyberspace, some of whom have this rather lonely message after their blog name:

Technorati blog info

So here’s some links to take away that horrible text:

First off…

If you asked me who were the best Irish Internet marketing/monetising people I would probably say ‘not the one’s who advertise it’. The cutest guys and gals are the ones who actually just do it. I reckon Gavin at Ireland SEO Marketing is one of those, and his blog is worth a read because he’s at the coalface and knows how to work the system.

Those bloody awards again

While I am quite outspoken about a certain Irish awards ceremony, there is one winner who I think deserved to get that golden thingie. So if you’re looking for a web designer in Navan, that link brings you to such a person’s blog from which his website is just a click away.

Really slick design

Last link this time around points at a site whose design spoke volumes the first time I stumbled upon it. I’m not sure how I found Stuart Curry’s design website, but I can say that it’s very hard to knock his design skills. Really sweet. And I think he’s for hire.