You recently conducted a study on link networks. What did that study involve, and what were your findings?
We signed up for several link networks, which obviously comes at quite a price. But then again, so do paid links in general and all things considered they’re very good value for money.
They are generally promoted by pitching the number of “high PR” domains they include, harping on the widely adopted assumption that a high PR inlink will help your site achieve to a high PR value itself and, by inference, to improved search engine rankings.
This assumption itself bears some very critical scrutiny because things just aren’t that simple, I’m afraid. Sure, PR will help your pages (not your site – a very important distinction!) get indexed in a fairly sticky manner. And yes, they do seem to contribute to your pages’ rankings, but that isolated effect, if at all discernible, is so minimal it’s practically negligible. I don’t think we can go into that at greater depth here because it would really merit an entire interview of its own. So let’s keep it at that for the time being.
I think I might have to conduct such an interview in the near future, Ralph. Please continue….
All the networks we tested worked with blogs: You get to sign up for the individual blogs and are allowed to post your stuff provided it meets their posting guidelines. Depending on the network you’re in, these will either be topically tightly focused blogs, e.g. featuring financial or education or travel related posts. Others are of a general nature but will typically have a slew of different categories you have to assign your postings to in an appropriate manner.
Posting rules are generally pretty sensible, there’s both a minimum and a maximum of words per post, with only a single outgoing link permitted. Just as importantly, your posts must be readable which rules out most autogen stuff, no Markov chained spam, etc.
Quality enforcement is another matter and a pretty laborious task, requiring human editors: You’ll always find some mediocre to downright trashy posts slip through occasionally, but generally monitoring is pretty strict and efficient, at least as far as the marketing leaders are concerned, which is just as well. Because it’s dreadfully easy to burn a blog by dumb abuse, so they have to guard their investment. In the end, everyone will profit from this policy, so I have no contention with that.
I’m not going to name these networks for various reasons.
For one, I have no beef with them, on the contrary – as I said before they’re very good value for money. Second, there’s no point in “exposing” them in any way – that’s not my intention at all. It would, however, be advisable not to burden them with hyped expectations. And finally, it’s not in our interest to make the search engines wisen up to them, especially not Google in view of their hypocritical policy regarding “paid links” and “linking schemes”.
So let’s call them Network #1 and #2.
Network #1 is pretty big, as you can see: Featuring over 500 functional blogs is no mean feat. However, in terms of “high PR” it’s a bit of a putdown if that’s all you’re looking for. (Which you shouldn’t, but I’ll come to that in a bit.) So what’s a “high PR” in the first place? General consensus has it that it should be PR5 or higher. (Note that this is the Google toolbar PR which is metricized from 1 through 10 – there’s many experienced SEOs out there, and I agree with them, who rate toolbar PR as a mere fairy tale.)
Be that as it may, as you can see, the vast majority of these blogs holds PR4 and lower, with PR5+ sites amounting to a mere 2.5%. Yes, there’s a PR7 in the arsenal as well, but that’s reserved for clients who signed up very early in the game and wrote some nice testimonials. You’re also restricted to one single post per day on that one. (In any case, this particular network is a closed shop now so don’t ask me where to sign up.)
Network #2 is comparably small, offering merely 105 blogs as per today, but at least the PR5 sites constitute some 4.5% of the available blogs. On the other hand their number of PR0 sites is almost double that of Network #1.
Another issue to consider is the PR value you’ll actually be getting here. Because all these PR stats relate to the blogs’ index pages only. Now if they feature, say, 25 posts per index page and if you have a lot of people participating, many of them posting multiple times a day, guess how much PR bleed that will give you? Hardly anything – because the post pages themselves, which is what will actually stick in the search engine indices, being absolutely fresh, will have a PR of 0 at least until the next PR update.
Thus, a lot of this PageRank marketing baloney is really nothing but hot air, once you happen to take a long hard look at it. It’s certainly not the reason why we recommend such networks anyway. Because in link building, you will want to get as much legitimate coverage as you can – and from an algorithmic point of view, these blog posts ARE quite legitimate. If Google wants to trash them, claiming that they are capable of judging peoples’ “intentions” when linking to whomever, that’s not an algorithmic thing, it’s an FUD policy of sheer despair on their part. They’ve neatly manouevered themselves into a trap by focusing so much on links right from the start and it seems that they’re having a jolly hard time coming to terms with it. Well, serves them right… (laughs) I mean, it’s not as if they didn’t have the cash to actually do something about it rather than screaming bloody murder at reciprocal linking or implementing that peculiar brand of Web apartheid of theirs termed the “Supplemental Index” no longer so named…
So do we recommend these link networks at all? Most certainly – though there’s still plenty of scope for improvement.
To give you an example. As you know, we’ll be rolling out our own commercial link network soon. It’s dubbed “20 Links A Day” and will offer subscribers exactly that – 20 legitimate (which we equate with “quality”) inlinks per day, spread intelligently across our entire set of sites, lots of different IPs and C classes, etc.
However, not only will we restrict the number of participants to a mere 50 in order not to strain the network’s capacity, we’ll also make sure the index pages won’t feature tons of rotating posts that get pushed off into the archive even before a single search engine spider has dropped by to say hello. There’s more which I’d rather not talk about yet, but it will be a pretty powerful and very intelligently structured setup guaranteeing optimal results. And yes, there will be some nice PR sites included as well, of course, but that’s certainly not our main focus. As every practising black hat knows, PR has been vastly overrated for years, and that’s nothing we’ll hoodwink our paying customers with.
So rather than go for the fast buck by shoving hundreds of subscribers into our network, we prefer to build them at a plausible and consistent rate, adopting a long term approach. We’ll only roll out additional accounts to sign up for when we’ve expanded our capacities, and that’s flat.
Thanks a lot, Ralph. I sense a few myths are about to be rethought. And good luck with your network, too.
More advanced linking interviews coming soon….
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Category: Link Building Tips