Link Building Means Earning “Hard Links” Not “Easy Links”

Please ignore Spam LinksFor ages, Google has encouraged people to build links in order to rank well. But in the wake of the Google Penguin Update, it’s become painfully clear to me how many people have failed to understand the inherent quality links part of that link building message. Consider this a wake-up call. Yes, you want links, but links that are hard to get, that take effort to obtain, that you’ve somehow earned, not “easy links.”

Yesterday, at our SMX Advanced show, I went on a rant about this. All my frustration recently that so many seem so confused just bubbled out. You can listen to that below, if you like (the picture isn’t of me but rather Jeremy Bencken, who recorded my rant):

Consider this article the tamer, more coherent version of my rant. But the core message is the same. You don’t want links. You want good links. And sadly, I think many people have completely lost track of what a good link is.

You Want Links Meant For Humans, Not Google

A comment last month here on Search Engine Land articles really drove this point home with me. The person, who has since deleted the comment, asked about different types of links and if each type was still worthwhile. I started to respond about each type:

I wouldn’t submit to directories just because they’re directories. I would submit to major directories that have real traffic, because people use them.

I would submit to major social bookmarking sites that are actively used.

If there’s an actual audience you want with a classified site, submit to that.

Comment on blogs if you have something useful to say. Otherwise, speaking as a blog owner, don’t comment. Especially don’t comment to just drop a link.

There were even more types of links listed that I didn’t address. I’d grown tired, at that point, and realized I needed to address the bigger issue:

Avoid any link building activity where the only reason you’re doing the activity is purely to build links for search engine rankings. This goes to your other questions, too.

See, you keep asking about all these places because you’ve learned links are important. But what’s also important is that you need important links. Running around the web getting easy links — anyone can do that. So those links don’t count for as much.

What you want is to be linked from places where there’s an actual audience that might see your link and click on it directly to visit. Do that, and you’re building the type of links the search engines want to reward.

I’ve bolded the key part. You want links from places that link because they think some human being will find the link a way to get more information beyond what’s on the page itself, not because the link may help someone rank better.

I asked the person above where they learned this crazy approach to link building, that it’s just get links, not get links that matter. I was honestly curious, because as I’ve read many comments, forum discussions and looked at site after site complaining that they were hit by Penguin, it’s clear that the basic principle of getting links that matter has either been forgotten or never learned by many people.

Some Old Guy Is Yelling & Why Maybe You Should Listen

Credit: Gran Torino web site

Now I’m going to go all old-man yelling about getting off my lawn here, and feel free to ignore the old man if you think I’m just being naive and am not hip to the hard-hitting realities of the real world.

The old man actually remembers when search engines originally said they wanted links and why they said that, so the old man has a pretty good idea of just how lost many people have gotten.

For example, way back when Google started, it advised people that one of the types of links they might seek would be directory links. This is because, back at that time, there were a handful of major directories that people actually used to locate web sites. Yahoo, the Open Directory and LookSmart were among these. You’d want to find sites about a particular topic, so you’d go to these directories to get a nice, ordered list.

Directories & Barriers To Entry

These directories had human editors, and being included was selective in nature. Not everyone got in. That’s why Google felt these links were a big vote of confidence about a web site. It was an easy way for Google to off-load the effort of deciding if a site was quality or not to someone else. Google could look and see if a site was listed in Yahoo. If so, that link counted in its favor.

What Google never anticipated, and certainly I never expected, is that an entire industry of directories would spring up solely for the purpose of offering site owners after a “directory” links, as if all directories were as important as Yahoo or the Open Directory. When Google talked about directory links, it really meant links from the major directories at the time, not from hundreds of directories that few people have heard of and even fewer actually use to find anything.

SEOmoz recently has a post trying to estimate what percentage of nearly 3,000 directories might have been banned from Google. If you think the 80% deemed safe are somehow passing along great link credit, think again. What’s the criteria for being listed? Can anyone get in, or is it selective? If anyone gets in, it’s like everyone getting a “good effort” sticker no matter how good their effort really was. It’s not a valuable link, in my view.

The madness doesn’t stop with directories. There’s no end of types of links that people are reconsidering, with the aspect of link quality seemingly missing from the conversation.

Can’t See The Link Forest For The Link Trees

Over at SEOmoz, Carson Ward recently itemized 17 types of links to avoid, ranging from blog networks to forum links. At Search Engine Watch, Julie Joyce covered the state of various link types from comment links to guest post links, also touching on types of links needed for a diverse profile in her recent Link Week column here on Search Engine Land. Also in Link Week, Eric Ward covers 15 types of “unnatural links” that people might want to avoid.

All of these authors offer some excellent advice. It’s just sad is that they’re having revisit these tactics that people are confused about, because people don’t understand the broader strategic principle of what makes a good link: you have to earn them, that getting links shouldn’t be easy, if you want links that count for much. If you understand that, you can apply it to any type of specific link building activity.

If Your Link Is In An Article No One Reads, Did It Make A Ranking Sound?

Let me take “article marketing” as an example. As I’ve reviewed many sites hit by Penguin, time and again, I’ve seen them showing up with links from the Ezine Articles site. My assumption is that somewhere along the way, people behind these sites heard somehow that they should submit articles to places, where the articles have links back to their own sites, and that will help. Ezine Articles seems to be one of the places they’ve learned will accept their articles.

The problem is, I don’t know that anyone is actually reading the content from Ezine Articles. Consider what I see when I go to the home page of the site:

The primary call-to-action, the main thing you see as a new visitor, is that this is a site where you can submit articles for “traffic back to your website.”

Can you imagine going to the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal as a reader and finding that the home pages don’t show you the top news but rather suggest that you submit news to get visitors to your web site? No one would turn to these sources for news each day. They wouldn’t be important.

If people are reading the Ezine site, then the site would be designed for readers — and it would have readers — and if it has readers, then the links would be of great value. But a site that exists mainly to help other sites just get links? I don’t think those links have long-term value.

I am absolutely not suggesting that by having submitted to Ezine Articles that you might get yourself banned in Google, hurt by Penguin or any nonsense that I fully expect some people will try to read into what I’m writing. I’m not trying to “out” the site. Moreover, the site apparently does distribute content and has a mission to let other sites discover some of the articles they might want to feature. I’ve not done any deep exploration of how the site works; maybe there are gems of great content within it.

I’m simply saying that on the surface, this site seems to have nothing to offer a reader, no compelling reason why someone would come by each day to see the latest articles and, then when reading those articles, perhaps click on links within them to learn more about something covered. Those type of links are the ones that the search engines want to count, links that add value to a reader.

“Article Marketing” The Right Way

Consider that Ezine has a category for technology articles. I have never seen any articles in that category featured by leading technology news site Techmeme. Go check the Techmeme leaderboard. You won’t find Ezine Articles among the top sources.

If you really did want to do “article marketing” right, then you’d look again at that Techmeme leaderboard. It lists some of the top technology news publishers out there, sites with real readership.

Those are the sites you’d want to pitch a high-quality article to, as a guest submission, if they allow it. Those are the sites where, if you’re accepted, you will have jumped some serious barriers to get published, where the links in your article will add to what you’ve written and be more likely to count.

Earned Links, Not Easy Links

Another site I’ve seen constantly coming up, when I look at people who report being hit by Penguin, is Squidoo. Now, the same caveat I gave for Ezine applies. I’m not saying that being in Squidoo gets you banned, gets you hit by Penguin, is necessarily bad. I’m just seeing that it’s something a lot of sites hit by Penguin have gotten links from. They’ve probably done that because Squidoo has no barrier to publishing.

Despite being backed by Seth Godin, revered in some circles for the marketing advice he offers through his blog and his many books, Squidoo really hasn’t seemed to make it big as a reader destination. It’s not spoken of alongside things like Tumblr. Mark Zuckerberg isn’t offering $1 billion for it as with Instagram. President Obama hasn’t decided he needs to have an account on Squidoo as he does on Pinterest, unless I missed that.

So who is getting value out of Squidoo? My guess is that there’s at least a significant constituency of people who turn to it because it’s an easy way to get links.

Easy links aren’t what you want. It’s the hard links you want. That’s especially so because part of Penguin seems to be devaluing some of the credit that the easy links were passing, such as potentially links from Squidoo, Ezine Articles and lots of “directories” from across the web.

Even if you weren’t actually penalized by Penguin (and the picture has gotten cloudier about whether Penguin was a “penalty” or not, expect more to come in a future post from me on that), the easy links that have lost credit probably won’t be coming back. In fact, even more easy links will probably be devalued.

I Blame Google! Google Made Me What I Am…

If you were hit by Penguin, don’t want to be hit by it in the future or are serious about winning with Google in the long-term, it’s crucial to understand that easy links will always be vulnerable. It doesn’t matter if easy links worked in the past. It doesn’t matter if easy links still seem to be working now. It doesn’t matter if you think easy links are now some type of potential negative SEO issue that Google isn’t policing well. None of that, valid or not, is going to help you with the winning game of earning the hard links, the links that will matter.

I can’t stress this enough. I’ve read too many comments where people want to blame Google for the fact that the easy links they got before no longer work as well. I just keeps reminding me of this classic clip from Repo Man. Please spend a minute to watch it:

YouTube Preview Image

You can sit around blaming Google for taking away an easy route to success, but that’s not going to restore the route. The only thing that’s going fix that is if you understand that, as Erin Everhart wrote recently, that link building is a “time-consuming and frustrating job to do” and then get on with doing it.

Make no mistake, earning quality links is hard. That’s one reason why I challenged Matt Cutts for him and others at Google to spend 30 days actually building links for small, non-profit web sites. I think for all their advice that sites just need to get links, they need some real world wake-up calls of their own of what’s its like to do it. I sincerely hope they accept that challenge (stay tuned).

The Incredible Suckiness Of Building Links

Believe me, I know that quality link building is hard. Back in the day, those years ago, I used to do it. I still occasionally do it for Search Engine Land or Marketing Land, if I see an important place where I think we should be listed. That leads to one example I shared yesterday at SMX Advanced, which could be titled, “The Incredible Suckiness That Google Wants Links.”

I’ve known John Battelle for years. He’s one of the smartest commentators on search, technology and marketing out there. He’s written an essential book about search engines called “The Search.” As part of producing that book, he launched his own blog, Searchblog.

For some time, John had a list of search resources in the sidebar on his blog. My old site, Search Engine Watch, was listed. When I started afresh with Search Engine Land, I eventually asked John if he’d link to it. No problem, was his response. It got passed to his tech person. And nothing happened.

That’s not uncommon. Tech folks are busy. I gave it some time and asked again. John was again positive, passed it to the tech person, and the link eventually appeared. But it appeared as a nofollow link. The tech person decided, for whatever, reason, that all the links in the resources area should be nofollow links.

For those not familiar, a nofollow link means that a link doesn’t pass credit to help with rankings. Here, I’d managed to get a hard link, a link earned because a respected authority in search thought his readers would like to learn more from other resources. But that trust carried no weight with Google, despite this being exactly the type of link it would want to count.

The Broken Link Democracy

Yes, Google’s system of depending on links sucks. Bing’s too, for that matter. I’m somewhat amazed, actually, that neither Google nor Bing are talking up the potential of using social signals more. I’ve spoken to all of them recently about it, and whether link signals can last, and they’ve all still been pretty pro-link. Stay tuned — I’ll be coming back to this.

I’m not pro-link. I don’t think links represent a solid “democracy” of the web these days. I keep joking that if you think counting links is democratic, then that’s like saying the United States was democratic when, initially, only white men who owned property were allowed to vote.

I explain much more about this in my past post, When Everyone Gets The Vote: Social Shares As The New Link Building. I still think social offers some hope in a world where earning quality links seems harder than ever.

Working The Broken System The Right Way

But however sucky it can be that search engines want links — earned links — despite all the problems in getting them, that’s still the reality now. It’s what they want. I could sit around crying that when I finally got a link from John’s site, it didn’t count with Google and blame everyone. Or, I can pick up and move on to earn links in other ways.

And I do, by the way, even from John. If I write something significant, he’ll link to to it, just as I link or share his content to my readers. Similarly, we have an huge readership here that tunes in for our content and naturally links to us. We generate our own linking weather.

But beyond that, if there was some type of article that John didn’t cover, that I really felt his readers should know about, I could email him and ask if he’d spotlight it, and I have a fairly high confidence he would. That’s because we have a relationship. I’m not some unknown source, pitching across some idea that if he links to me, and I link to him, we all win in the search world. It’s about the value to his readers.

Not a news site, with neither your own link weather nor compelling content that people might want to link to? Earning links, good links, isn’t impossible. I watched Casie Gillette of Grasshopper, which she describes being in the boring industry of offering a virtual phone system, share tons of ideas on gaining authoritative links.

She was speaking as part of the “Authority Building Versus Link Building In A Search Meets Social World” session we had at SMX Advanced, and you can read a live blog of the session at Managing Greatness.

Break The Easy Link Mindset

We did that session to try and break the easy link mindset. Do infographics, do viral videos — sure, these are seemingly easy ways to earn large numbers of links. Seemingly easy, because there’s actually hard work that goes behind some of these efforts. But even as focus grows on these types of tactics, the bigger issue of building relationships, of proving your worth and earning links that way is more important than ever.

In much of life, the most valuable things are the things you have to work hardest to get. It’s no different with links. If you find an easy route to obtaining them, there’s an excellent chance you’ve found an easy route to obtaining links that either have, or will have, little to no value. The higher the frustration factor, the harder it is to earn a link, the more likely that link is one that will help you with Google.

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About The Author: is a Founding Editor of Search Engine Land. He’s a widely cited authority on search engines and search marketing issues who has covered the space since 1996. Danny also serves as Chief Content Officer for Third Door Media, which publishes Search Engine Land and produces the SMX: Search Marketing Expo conference series. He has a personal blog called Daggle (and keeps his disclosures page there). He can be found on Facebook, Google + and microblogs on Twitter as @dannysullivan.

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  • http://searchengineland.com/ Danny Sullivan

    The answer is that most good sites have enough good links that an influx of bad links either doesn’t hurt them. In addition, sites depending mostly on easy links rather than being overtly penalized just drop when those easy links no longer pass enough credit.

    Having said that, Google has gotten much more cagier on the whole negative SEO thing. For years, they’ve said it’s possible just very unlikely. They seem to be very slightly admitting it’s a bit more likely in some cases.

    And having said that, the reality is that virtually no sites hit by Penguin were likely harmed by negative SEO, and the drumbeat of negative SEO being a new lurking threat seems a reaction by many sites losing the easy links they once had and not knowing what else to do. They can’t get those links back, so talking about negative SEO as a threat seems almost some type of alternative therapy.

    To me, the bottom line is that most sites have far more issues to worry about than negative SEO, and for them to dwell on that threat is preventing them from moving ahead with more positive actions.

  • http://searchengineland.com/ Danny Sullivan

    Well, a good agency might specialize in some areas, and they may also work closely with the experts from the site they are promoting.

  • Matt McGee

    Why does this have to be about small vs big business, AJ? If you’re suggesting that SMBs are unable to create the kind of websites and content that attract links, I’d be glad to debate that point. :-)

  • Matt McGee

    David, I have a SMB friend that’s got about zero “easy links” but has built out a fantastic website with great information and articles, and has earned enough trust and authority to have earned links and mentions from sources like USA Today, Women’s Day, Glamour and several other very high-profile media sites.

    How’d it happen? Two to three years of VERY hard work, just like the article discusses.

    This is a SMB in the health care field. Outranking major medical sites and being used by Google as one of its “trusted sources” when it shows health-related definitions and information at the top of a search results page.

    I agree with you that the “average” SMB owner probably doesn’t have the time. I’d also say that Google doesn’t want to give first page visibility to “average” businesses.

  • http://site4shopping.com/ Anil@Shopping

    Hi, Its true that hard link is not easy link. You havementioned that get links where there are readers but nowhere you have mentioned about the relevancy factor. Does it matter or we just need to comment on blogs which we found useful ( like current one) even it is not little relevant? Pls let me know.
    Thank you

  • http://www.ebestcars.co.uk Ahmad Wali

    HI Danny,

    I hope you answer my question! My question is what should a new webmaster do to rank their website in Google? They dont havt big budgets, they don’t have resources, they don’t have knowledge. For example: A person living in India or in Pakistan would make a new blog, how he will promote? It is real hard for him to get featured on Mashable, New York Times or Search Engine Land. He may have a langugae barrier because mother tongue is not English. Maybe somone would answer, he probably selected a wrong niche or business then.

    Here comes the real issue! People look for easy methods becuase no one is Matt Cutts to know what is of “High Quality” and low quality. A person may be inspired by you, Rand Fishkin and try to write and share their knowledge after learning. Even if he works real hard it won’t be easy to outrank those websites having thousands of dollars in budgets. If I have thousands of dollars I would simply hire an expert Technical Copywriter to get my website featured on Mashable or any other famous website.

    What do you suggest? Where to Start with limited budget of for example 100$ where we can just buy web hosting and domain name?

    Second scenario, Many many US companies outsource SEO work to third world countries and the workers perform these “Easy Methods” because they don’t have resources. Some people in US cannot afford like Fotune 500 companies. What should they do and where do they build backlinks?

    Relevancy factor is very important and I’ve been hearing this from many people, but imagine a “Real Estate” startup try to link exchange or requesting a link to be placed on realtor dot com or trulia would that be possible? Please advise, thanks.

    Best Regards
    Ahmad Wali (E-Wali)

  • http://twitter.com/DavidJo45324615 David Johnstone

    to everyone who replied to me, let me reply to you by replying to myself, as it’s the only way I can reply to you (God this forum sucks in terms of usability guys….)

    ….it seems nobody has taken on board my points whatsoever.  Let me summarise them in a different way:-

    1. The one-size-fits-all approach that Danny is putting forward here doesn’t apply to many small businesses.  Sorry, it doesn’t.  Tell you what Danny, if you think it does – YOU do a 30 day program and launch a site that sells velcro straps to other businesses.  Make your little website with its case studies, testimonials, and blog (related to velcro straps of course), and then go out there and market the site for all its worth and see if you can legitimately win high quality organic, natural links from your marketing efforts, without using any of your contacts.  If you’re not up for the challenge, perhaps that immediate, visceral feeling of despondency is telling you something….

    Let me tell you that this is a typical scenario for a small business, and while for every outlier example of how an SMB succeeds with SEO online, the barrier is not only too high, it’s not even one they can climb over because of the nature of the product or service they provide.

    2. You guys can only see things from how you market your own sites – this means you inevitably fall into the trap that “content is king” because you guys ONLY provide content (i.e. that’s why people come to SEL).   For most businesses, their product or service is king, and improving their product or service is how they market themselves offline.  People visit their sites not for the content, but for the service or product they provide.  Most SMBs have a “content ceiling” in regards to how much they can tangentially write about what they sell.  I know you will disagree with that, but I’ve worked with SMBs since 1996 in regards to web design, and I see this time and again – you hit a “content wall” and you can’t get past it without the content really starting to suck (repeating yourself, content just gets thinner and thinner) – and for what? To rank better? They’re already breaking Google’s guidelines (would you publish this content if search engine’s didn’t exist?).  Their target market doesn’t need their blog.  They need their testimonials perhaps, their case studies even, their other signs of trust, a trusted payment gateway, but they don’t need them to try to be the “expert in their field” in regards to showing it as content on a website – they are the already the “expert in their field” because of the product or service they provide.

    3. To win those “hard” links, what you’re asking for Danny is EVERY site to somehow become remarkable purely in regards to their content, for the sole means to rank.  This is a laughable and unnecessary requirement for most sites.  You don’t understand this, and this is where you are going wrong.  For SEL, content is the end itself (the product), for most other businesses, content is nothing more than a means to an end.  You have to sit down and meditate on that difference until you fully “get it” – and then recalibrate the way you see SEO in regards to small business.

  • http://twitter.com/DavidJo45324615 David Johnstone

    It’s a bit disingenuous to say that negative SEO wasn’t a factor in Penguin.  Of course, of course – because negative SEO really only reared its ugly head at the end of March when the blog networks got taken down and hundreds of thousands of domains got an unnatural links notice (with MANY if not most getting penalties that stand to this day). 

    Matt Cutts said it out loud – links can carry a negative weight to them.  If that is true, then logically negative SEO has to be possible.

    Those “good sites” you mention Danny are few and far between.  I know I keep going on about SMBs, but these are the guys I am worried about – these are the bread and butter of any country’s economy, and they’re the small guys I build sites for.  Their link profiles are not strong and could so easily be victims of a negative SEO attack.

  • http://twitter.com/DavidJo45324615 David Johnstone

    I think if social signals gain more “weight” then we’ll just see these being gamed.  Again, how does a site operating in a “dull” market gain natural (and I mean, natural) “buzz” on the social networks? Please don’t tell me it’s through the usual marketing cliches of coupon discounts and whatnot or viral videos (the nature of which determines that only a very few can actually succeed at that).

    Maybe this is an outlandish suggestion, but this one could earn Google a lot of money AND appeal to everyone:-

    Site reviews.  You pay a yearly fee to Google, and they pass your site for manual review.  This review is conducted by 3 (for example) random site testers by Google, and their aggregate score (based on signs of trust, quality of content etc) goes a big way toward where you rank.  It would weed out all the crappy thin affiliate sites, protect the genuine small business sites.  Anyone with a decent site would be happy to pay the yearly fee, and it gives Google an extra revenue stream.  When your review is complete, you get some basic review notes as to what they found so you know how to improve your site (from Google’s perspective).  Of course, Google will spider your site regularly anyway, so they can see if you’ve made drastic changes to your site (e.g. someone buys your domain, changes content), and you get “flagged” for a review-update. Am I being idealistic here….or is it feasible?

  • http://twitter.com/kimoftheworld Kim Tyrone Agapito

    Surely it’s not feasible or scalable to develop the breadth of expertise necessary to do “good” link building in multiple niches? – Not exactly, IMHO all of these viral/link building strategies follow a certain pattern, call it a formula if you will, with variables as niches, target sites, influencers, specific web properties etc. 

    The idea to be all natural (in a shorter time) remains the same. **also posted this on the Inbound link. 

  • Blue-eyed Gal

    Odd. I still write the bulk of my articles on Squidoo rather than my own websites, because they get more reader comments (and, yes, the pay is better than the trickle of adsense)’ and because I can write on any old thing I’ve got the yen to write about instead of sticking to one abstruse niche. I haven’t seen a significant drop beyond the usual “school’s out, and the kids and teachers aren’t reading about Greek mythology and volcanoes” summer sag. Quantcast seems to bear this out, and I haven’t heard from any of the writers in the community that we’re losing traffic.

    But then, we’re not using Squidoo as a tool for backlinks. We’re just … writing about things that interest us. There’s the usual mix of godawful thin content written by people who don’t know what they’re talking about, shallow content, and more thoughtful/well-researched content all higgledy piggledy together like you get on blogspot or any open publishing platform, so it’s not exactly the next library of Alexandria, but as far as I’ve seen in the past year, it just bumbles along without Pandas or Penguis paying much attention to it.

  • http://twitter.com/MercyMathews Mercy Mathews

    Wow, I’ve really been relying too much on EzineArticles and looks like it backfired. Thanks for the advice. What you say really makes sense.

  • http://www.cutey.co.uk/ cutey

    Problem is, anchor text is a massive ranking factor but completely unnatural no one links with keyword rich anchor text that’s not the brand/url name.

  • Blue-eyed Gal

    I think it should be about attracting the people who are interested in what you’ve got rather than “marketing strategies” or “referrals.” 

    But then, that’s why I’m an amateur and not a pro, eh? 

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/GQCQVFBOVJ7KJ5PMT2YAZ7LWTA Megan

    Hi Danny remember me ?

    Yes it was me who commented about the main issues about link building.Name megan.  Few days after i commented i cam to know that your site blocked me. I couldn’t post via Disqus.  So now i have to post via my yahoo profile. Kindly allow my twitter profile & disqus profile too.

    I am thankful to you for pointing out my issue.

    Did u blocked me? if yes then kindly unblock me 

    I know very well that you have a valid point, but its the company that is interested more into such type of activities, as they feel its all about links etc. They say every company does the same stuff like directories, sbm, classifieds etc in finding about easy links. Also when penguin was affected some sites got affected and some sites dint, so they have a feeling of let go and try to continue with the same trends.

    I have a major question which i would like to address here. Recently google even had its concern. Its about duplication of articles & pr.
    My question is “Can i submit 1 article to 100 article directories ?
    Can i submit 1 press release to 100 pr directories?
    Will it cause affect in my ranking?  Will google penalize ?
    Can i have the same article and pr on my website? 
    Does this relate with penguin?
    Is there a solution that is feasible to google’s current view about duplication of articles

  • Kevin pietersen

    Hi Danny remember me ?

    Yes it was me who commented about the main issues about link building.Name megan.  Few days after i commented i cam to know that your site blocked me. I couldn’t post via Disqus.  So now i have to post via my twitter profile. 

    I am thankful to you for pointing out my issue.

    Did u blocked me? if yes then kindly unblock me 

    I know very well that you have a valid point, but its the company that is interested more into such type of activities, as they feel its all about links etc. They say every company does the same stuff like directories, sbm, classifieds etc in finding about easy links. Also when penguin was affected some sites got affected and some sites dint, so they have a feeling of let go and try to continue with the same trends.

    I have a major question which i would like to address here. Recently google even had its concern. Its about duplication of articles & pr.
    My question is “Can i submit 1 article to 100 article directories ?
    Can i submit 1 press release to 100 pr directories?
    Will it cause affect in my ranking?  Will google penalize ?
    Can i have the same article and pr on my website? 
    Does this relate with penguin?
    Is there a solution that is feasible to google’s current view about duplication of articles 

  • Cardboarded

    There was a time when content from Ezinearticles and Squidoo ranked on the first page of Google for just about any keywords you care to mention. If something is popular then people will jump on it. In the same way, blog commenting and other ‘safe’ methods of link building will no doubt get hit further down the line.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/TG3VSGIZJKFSPSVVXKVXOXUHZY Rochelle

    Great example –  paydayloan guy had probably ranked that site with minimal effort, time and investment (some high PR private blognetwork links, paydayloan anchors etc.) Now, with that #1 position the guy probably does make quite a bit. ROI at least > 500%  
    He may not stay there for long, but even a few weeks, a month will make it super worthwhile for him… Then he can start a new project!
    People let’s not forget that the big G’s investment in fighting spam will always have to be within their ROI!  

  • http://twitter.com/DavidJo45324615 David Johnstone

    I don’t think it’s possible (outside of whitelisting) to truly measure the trust of a social account.  What? Measure it by number of likes or something like that? It’ll just get gamed – people will sell likes and plusses from highly liked/plussed accounts – and believe me, if those accounts gained influence, marketers will know about it through their various tests.  So then you just get the same old game again of buying and selling.

  • http://twitter.com/ShaunMyandee Shaun Myandee

    Before I get started I want to just say that in general, I agree with Danny (who I hugely respect btw). There’s a difference between just a link for a link’s sake, and an actual link someone might click on, that provides value above and beyond the little, loopy world of SEO. I think that the latter type of link is the only one that matters in the long term, and that’s only going to become truer as Google increases its clampdown on “webspam”.

    HOWEVER. David is right, I think (if I’m interpreting him properly). While I agree 100% that quality links > easy links, you try turning around to your client, who relies on his website for 70-80% of his sales, and say something like “Okay, if you give me a couple of thousand a month I’ll work on getting you some quality links from quality sites…buuuut that’ll take a while. In the meantime, you won’t rank for your money terms because you won’t have the necessary link equity yet. But y’know, LONG TERM, this is the way to go.” He’s going to turn to you and say “So in the short term I go bankrupt then? Are you insane?” 

    99 times out of a hundred, SMBs or the marketing managers of huge companies are under tremendous financial pressure (the only kind that truly matters) to get results. Right. Fricking. Now. Sure, sometimes you come across a brand with the luxury and foresight to be able to take the long view, and that’s awesome. But at the sharp end of the stick, you need to get down in the dirt and do what it takes to help your clients. I don’t see my responsibility as an SEO as “getting better rankings”, or even “improving visibility/traffic”. I see it as doing whatever is required to get my clients GENUINE value to their business through search. If that means making great content, sharing it with bloggers or related sites, getting great social signals and whatnot, that’s what I’ll do. But if I have to get a bunch of crappy directory links to get them where they need to be and (crucial part here) that works for them….well that’s what I’ll do. 

    Danny, you’re awesome, you’re right and I love what you’re saying, just like I love what Rand at SEOMoz, the Critchlows at Distilled, and countless other brilliant guys and girls in our industry are saying….but the real world is not all sweetness and light. I think I’m not alone in saying that for most people doing client-facing SEO these days, its impossible to have such lofty ideals, when you’re dealing with those huge pressures that come from the “rank or die” scenarios that many businesses face. If your client needs to rank for some decent terms in the next few months or face not making enough sales to stay afloat….is a “long term” plan really viable, nice though it may be?

    That’s my two cents to the debate, for what little its worth.

  • http://twitter.com/Anirbann_Das Anirban Das

     Good advice ..as we are getting news about spam link building policies
    since Panda..but if any one knows..which links are crappy,harmful..then
    it can be easily used for penalizing one competitor(even they are not at all engaged in spamming technique’s) by spending 5$..not sure how
    Google react on competitor’s spamming/black hat activity to push down a good website!
    I suspect , It will open another gateway of “dirty”  business!

  • http://www.monicawright.com Monica Wright

    Many small businesses focus on their strengths and knowledge and develop content for their sites – they don’t spend thousands of dollars outsourcing content or hiring search marketers. The recommendation is to write and share socially. It’s laborious and it takes time. Supplement this work with networking and good old fashioned marketing. Link exchanges can come across negatively, you really need to develop the relationship first.

  • http://www.brickmarketing.com/ Nick Stamoulis

    If I had to guess, I’d be willing to bet that the biggest anti-Penguin uproar is coming from site owners that don’t understand why their site was hit. Somewhere along the SEO road they were told to get links, so they got whatever links they could. A small business owner probably doesn’t have the time to do a large link building campaign on their own, nor do they have the budget to hire someone. But they knew they needed links so they went the quick and cheap route. Now it’s got them in hot water but they don’t understand why. They got links, isn’t that all they were supposed to do?

  • http://twitter.com/DavidJo45324615 David Johnstone

    In response to Shaun, yes there’s time pressure to rank, but I really do question how likely it is that an SEO is even going to carve out such a pristine link profile (that Danny describes we need to do) for a humble little SMB site no matter how much time and money you throw at the project.  This is where the whole link game is so undemocratic and favours sites that exist in what I would call “content niches” (like being an SEO pundit). Your small SMB doesn’t exist to deliver content on a website, it exists to sell a product or a service.  The people who want that product or service will use Google to try and find that product or service.  What I’m trying to do is outline the huge disconnect between what Google are telling us what we need to do (as site owners), and how their customers (Google searchers) use their search engine.

  • http://twitter.com/seo_george George LaRochelle

    It’s so funny that your whole post is really just common sense. Links are what they are and everyone went all crazy. A little education goes a long way and hopefully this post does a lot to bridge that gap. Thanks for the time to take you rant and formulate it into a post for more to read.

  • Durant Imboden

    The other problem with “social” is that it works only for certain types of content. Somebody who’s looking up kidney-stone symptoms or divorce law in Idaho probably isn’t going to “like” the site that provides information. Cat photos, recipes, political rants, or band fan sites, on the other hand, are likely to attract as many “likes” as a bowl of molasses attracts flies.

    On our own editorial travel-planning site, we get very few “likes” and even fewer “+1s,” but we get e-mails (often several a day) from readers who find our content useful and want to say “Thank you.” That makes sense, because the visitor who’s reading a travel article about Longyearbyen, Svalbard or Venice vaporetto fares probably doesn’t have many friends who are likely to be interested in those subjects. And that reader probably isn’t in a “social” frame of mind when researching the details of a trip.

  • Ruth Herman Wells

     I have to say that as big a fish as you are, you actually appear to care about people. Whether you ever write about the damage created by the massive number of spam sites stealing content and generating harmful links, I appreciate that you remember me and my situation. It gives me hope that you will give that Penguin element the same thorough examination that you gave to other types of links here. I think that once you dig down and see the scope and extent of the problem, you are going to be shocked how often spam sites secure top rankings post-Penguin while the source sites have nearly vanished.

  • http://blog.clayburngriffin.com/ Clayburn Griffin

    It’s worth noting that these “easy” links can still help with the search terms you rank for.  While they definitely pass very little PageRank, they do help refine relevancy.  So, if you work really hard to get important links on powerful sites, you would expect to only rank for whatever anchor text they use.  But each easy link is a vote with its anchor text that says, “This is what this page is about”, whether it gives you a significant boost to your ranking or not.  

  • GilesJuliana

    my friend’s mother-in-law makes $85 every hour on the computer. She has been out of a job for 6 months but last month her paycheck was $19177 just working on the computer for a few hours. Read more her

    ⇛⇛⇛⇛► (Click At My Name For Link)

  • Matt McGee

    If your client needs to rank in the next couple months, you tell them to use PPC. SEO is, was, and always will be a long-term deal. It’s our job as an industry to educate our clients on best practices, and best practices on the SEO side take a long time to see real impact. (Unless you were able to get a guest spot on Oprah or something like that.)

  • http://twitter.com/monsieurharper Devin Harper

    Something I do that helps me concentrate on quality link building tactics, albeit it’s difficult to do for a bunch of clients, is to ask myself, “If this were my business, what would I do?” Quality and honest link building requires acts of selflessness on our part.

  • Paul Ryan

    Google has created a difficult, but not impossible situation.  But is it so bad that it isn’t easy?  Otherwise everyone would be able to rank so easily and spammers would win.  Good links can be earned.  Good content will also rank on its own.  Maybe not for big terms straight away, but don’t forget about the longer-tail traffic; this is very specific, so if you answer their question there’s more of a chance visitors will recommend your site (for example), whether that is a social share, blogging about it, etc.

  • Paul Ryan

    I have to agree about Squidoo; it has been abused by some spammers, but also has genuine users and a big community.  I get quite a bit of traffic from one of my lenses.  I don’t think it has any value in the eyes of Google, but that’s unimportant to me as I just wanted visitors, to tap into a big community.  I frequently read lenses and have found some genuinely useful content (as well as rubbish or copied, but that happens in a search engine, too).

    Danny – try out Squidoo, you might be surprised.

  • Paul Ryan

    I think it’s more of a maths equation/error correction.  The links went from having a value of five, for example, to zero.  So the rank was corrected to what it should be.  That’s not really negative SEO (because these links helped the site in the first place), but an error correction.

  • Adam Stetzer

    “What you want is to be linked from places where there’s an actual audience that might see your link and click on it directly to visit”

    Not a viable statement without definition. 

    Is 10 targeted visits a month qualify as “actual audience”? 50? 100? 500? 

    And please don’t say “oh, it’s more about your intentions.” As that logic is a rabbit hole also.

  • http://searchengineland.com/ Danny Sullivan

    I can’t give you a definition like that, other than to say you should be seeking links from places where you think there’s an actual audience genuinely interested in learning more about your site. But I also think people have a pretty good idea when they are getting links from places designed to be read by an audience rather than places simply designed to generate links.

  • http://searchengineland.com/ Danny Sullivan

    It sounds like you’re using Squidoo in the way Squidoo was intended, not just as a backlinks tool, and so I wouldn’t worry at all about it.

  • http://searchengineland.com/ Danny Sullivan

    So to the SEO link at the top of the page, review the resources and start with Google’s own guide. If you want to rank better, at least begin with the official advice and grow from there.

  • http://twitter.com/DavidJo45324615 David Johnstone

    Well, I’d rather believe Matt Cutts than you.  He recently stated that links can pass a negative value as well as a positive one.  Just to remind you – negative is less than zero.

  • Paul Ryan

    Believe who you wish, but if you’re talking about at SMX he didn’t state that links pass a negative value.

  • Alan

    Ruth you have a great site with VERY good content. It really should not be being out ranked by sites like you mentioned. Sites like yours are the perfect example of the travesty that is going on around the web at the moment. great sites being buried byt scrappers/scammers oh and multi nationals! 

  • http://twitter.com/whoisadamc Adam Collings

    Google ‘african mango’ and tell me how these sites qualify as having obtained links the “hard way”?

  • http://searchengineland.com/ Danny Sullivan

    “It doesn’t matter if easy links still seem to be working now … none of that, valid or not, is going to help you with the winning game of earning the hard links, the links that will matter.”
    I’m assuming you didn’t read that. Go back up, read it again, then see if you want to restate your question.

    If you really meant to say “but easy links are working,” then you’ve missed the entire point of this article, which was they might not in the future and they certainly aren’t for a lot of people hit by Penguin.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=588188254 Jim Hodson

    That’s kind of my point David.  Anything that has happened with links will simply happen with social.  Social is already being spammed.  And once it is a crucial part of Google and/or Bing’s algorithms, I think the “Social spam” will explode exponentially.  Then all of the things people like about their existing social networks will cease to be. 

    The only thing that would prevent social spam is if there were some Verisign type service that checked people’s social security number, fingerprints, facial images, had they’re grandmother attest they were who they are and their would STILL be fraudulent accounts. 

    Then of course Google would need some type of Akismet type service so people could flag social profiles as spammers so that they could automatically devalue any signals generated using those spam accounts.

    And personally I don’t want my results personalized based on my “friends” on Facebook, my connections on LinkedIn, my Followers & Followees on Twitter.  Not all of my “friends” are “friends”.  Many are people I haven’t seen in 30-40 years. Others are people I’ve met once. Our lifestyles and tastes are often nothing alike. Many of my LinkedIn connections I’ve never even met.. one time business connections… or “bookmarks” for connections I plan to use  in the future.  

    Google could personalize my results based on what some randon person on Facebook that is not even in my Friends list has liked and would have as good or better chance of showing me a better search result than if they personalize based on what my Friends have liked.

  • GrimesCorey

    my roomate’s ex-wife brought home $19224 the previous month. she is making income on the internet and moved in a $491500 condo. All she did was get lucky and try the instructions laid out on this web page

    ⇛⇛⇛⇛► (Click At My Name For Link)

  • http://twitter.com/DavidJo45324615 David Johnstone

    I might also add that hundreds of thousands of sites have been penalised this year simply because of links pointing to their site.  Maybe you’ve been living under a rock this year and haven’t heard of the “unnatural links” notice and subsequent penalties that have occurred.  Oh, and there are still reports of “unnatural links” notices coming into GWT accounts in June, so this isn’t a one-off by Google. 

    So to sum up, if you get an unnatural links notice, then see your site lose rankings out of the top 1000 for keywords you always ranked within the top 1000 for, that’s no link loss, that’s a penalty based on “unnatural links” pointing to your site (whether you built them or not).

    Ergo, links have been proven to carry a negative ranking factor, and Matt Cutts himself admitted:-

    ” Our guidelines used to say it’s nearly impossible to do that, but there
    have been cases where that’s happened, so we changed the wording on
    that part of our guidelines.”

  • http://www.internetmarketing247.net Herbert

    this is really great post as one of link builder it is very important to understand the rule of google penguin because if you are doing things just to build and build links you will get into google pen tly.

  • Paul Ryan

    In Reply to David “Mr Friendly” Johnstone’s later comment.  (It seems Disqus has a limit on comment threading depth and replying.)
    Matt Cutts has publicly stated that only about 2% of those notifications were link related and the rest were for other violations of webmaster guidelines.  (They were just sending out generic notices, something they have also publicly confirmed.)

    Let’s take an example: If a site had backlinks from BMR and they were helping it to rank, then BMR links are made of no value they are going to drop in rank.  That’s not proof of negative SEO, but error correction.  Going by your definition of it here, you would first need to make the site rank from something and then takeaway what made it rank.

    Penalties issued by Google are manual actions they take (as stated by Matt Cutts recently) and not as a result in ranking change due to the algorithm lowering/discounting links’ values, relevancy of content, etc.  This manual action is a penalty from Google, not from links.  (It might not even be link related, but some keyword stuffing on-page, cloaking, etc.)

    As for some of these examples of so called negative SEO, such as Dan Thies’ site, you should watch Rand Fishkin’s whiteboard on it.  He did a very good analysis that shows the mythical negative SEO wasn’t the cause for the sites he took a look at.

    (It’s well document on Search Engine Land as well as other SEO blogs, Dan Thies lost rank due to changes he made.)

    There’s a big difference between violating Google’s well-published guidelines, and paying for it later on, compared to an outside person trying to harm another site.

  • http://www.facebook.com/sharmasatish Satish Sharma

    Broken Democracy: 

    Ranking thru Google Link building is very close to winning general election in India:-) Google behaves like Election Commission & tell all the candidates that don’t cheat, don’t pay bribes to voters etcbut in 2009 elections more than 60% parliamentarians have serious criminal records(murders, cheating, r*** etc). 

    The good part is Google can improve itself, election commission can not :-)

  • Durant Imboden


    with social, you’re dealing with links that come from a known account that you can assign trust to more easily than with a web site”

    Wouldn’t AuthorRank tie in with his? A link from a Web page by a known author would have trust and reputation (to the degree that the author has trust and reputation) built in. (And yes, Google+ may fall under the broad heading of “social media” or “social networking,” but its real role in this context is that of an identify verifier.)

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