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What's The Latest Thinking On This Blatant Seo Trick?


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22 replies to this topic

#1 zzmac

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Posted 04 February 2009 - 10:51 AM

(a) Website Design company puts links to all their customers websites on their homepage (PR7).

(cool.gif All of their customers have a link to the Website Design company on EVERY page of their websites.

© One of their customers (a competitor of mine) has gone from a Google PR of "0" to now a PR6! And if you rank my website for SEO (using best practices) on a scale of 1-10 at 10 (for argument's sake), my competitors website would rank a 1 or 2. But they have moved ahead of me on a few keywords.

Most of this designer's customers have PR4-PR6 and it's very clear why. Now I know that PR Rank isn't supposed to mean anything but clearly it does in a situation like this. I read comments about a year ago by Matt Cutts that Google doesn't mind this practice but to me it's cheating. Is there anything on the horizon that would get this practice penalized? Or should I just have this company host my site too??

#2 1dmf

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Posted 04 February 2009 - 11:10 AM

That to me looks like a prime example of the problem with the way links / PR works in the G! algo.

A legitimate site, linking to legitimate customer sites for legitimate reasons and legitimate reciprication.

Just look at all the parked domains and free hosting and the adverts / links the registra / domain parking / free hosting compnaies put on these sites / domains.

A free hosting company that has 50,000 hosted sites, has access (and under their T&C), has the authority to put links to any site they wish, so overnight they could add 50,000 IBL's to one site.

Is it black hat SEO or is it simply utilising your resources in a legitimate way, that's the real question!


#3 Jill

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Posted 04 February 2009 - 12:43 PM

You could report them, but I wouldn't hold my breath for anything to change.

#4 mcanerin

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Posted 04 February 2009 - 09:57 PM

It's not cheating, it's reciprocal links between two companies with an actual business relationship with each other.

Google might decide at sometime to have some of these links pass on less PR (or no PR) but the fact is that it's not wrong to link to your customers, or to your suppliers. It's what the web is all about.

It might be creating an unfairly beneficial situation for your competition in this case, but in the majority of cases I know about, it's perfectly acceptable. As an example, Jill links to her Boston SEO agency on every page in this forum, but since it's her forum, it's not like she's cheating or engaging in a "blatant SEO trick". If you have a resource available, you are entitled to use it. Most of my clients do this, and both my own blog and my directory do this too.

I'll tell you another thing, if I could convince my clients to link to their hard-working, underpaid SEO, I'd do that too smile.gif

From the dawn of business, people have benefited from their relationships with others. Businesses have traded referrals with each other, with Chambers and Guilds, and with family and friends. Links are just another form of referral. Sometimes that referral is earned through hard work, and sometimes you get it because you are born into the right family or know the right person. It may not be fair, but it's certainly not new. In this case, they apparently chose the right host for themselves.

At the end of the day, although your site may have better on-page SEO, they are ranking higher than you because they currently have a better linking strategy - in short, you've been beat by better SEO (which is content *and* links, not just content). I'm not trying to be harsh, but I am trying to point out that it's a waste of time complaining about competitors - you are better off beating them instead.

If you do have better on-page than they do, then you are ahead of the game - once you build enough links, you'll outrank them since you have beat them in both areas. It's that simple.

Ian

#5 bwelford

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Posted 05 February 2009 - 09:55 AM

Good reply, Ian. The problem here is not with the world, which has got it right. The problem is with the Google algorithm and they way they still emphasize PageRank and links. I don't believe it makes Google results any more relevant than Yahoo, that does not put so much effort on links.

PageRank by now is a pure marketing concept for Google. Just see how these discussions keeps them front and center. It supposedly is only one of more than 100 factors but it grabs almost all the attention.

#6 zzmac

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Posted 07 February 2009 - 01:06 PM

PageRank by now is a pure marketing concept for Google. Just see how these discussions keeps them front and center. It supposedly is only one of more than 100 factors but it grabs almost all the attention.
[/quote]

There are more than 100 factors but the only one at play here is "PR". Having a link from the home page of a website with a PR7 is a huge advantage. It's equal to thousands of links from PR1-PR3 sites. All this is is a legal link farm. If I have hundreds of more links than my competitor, it hardly seems fair that they can outshine me because of 1 link.

From my perspective, all I ever read about is how Google is constantly improving their algorithms to produce better search results but the people who don't play by the "rules" always seem to get an advantage.

The "ONLY" reason this website company has a PR7 is because of their legal link farm. If they put one link to their customers site and got one back in return that would be the correct thing to do. Putting links on EVERY page of their site AND their customer's doesn't seem right. It's common sense. And to say they have a better linking strategy than me discounts the hard work I've done and credits the "0" work they have done. As per Eric Ward and others, Google is not supposed to give much credence to links from non related industry websites but that's also obviously not true.

And while I'm venting a little, there are a number of websites in my industry that are TOTAL spam. "If you want a widget, my widgets are widgets unlike any other widgets except for the widgets that I sell on my widget based website that is the best widget website in widget land."

Some of these sites have been up and ranking #1 on Google on some keywords (widgets, maybe?) for at least 3 years. Complaints to Google are a waste of time and again so much for their amazing algorithms. You would think a two year old with a basic knowledge of coding could make an algorithm to catch that.

I've been taught by High Rankings to play by the book and it irks me when you see some of the stuff that goes on.

I rank high up on Page 1 of Google (thanks in part to Jill's great website here) for many good keywords, but I'm just greedy and I want them all. :-)

#7 Randy

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Posted 07 February 2009 - 04:23 PM

QUOTE
it irks me when you see some of the stuff that goes on.


Join the crowd.

That said, the same sort of thing has been happening since there have been search engines. Back in the day it used to be that people gamed Altavista to gain an advantage. If you think some of the spammy stuff out there now is bad, you should have seen it then!

And here's where I have to put on my other hat. wink1.gif

With all sites but especially withe-commerce sites, it's not nearly as much about rankings and how much traffic a site gets as most seem to think. Because in almost every business if you're attracting quality, qualified traffic and converting as much of it as you should be you wouldn't have enough time to complain about rankings. You'd be spending all of your time either fulfilling orders, working with all of those customers or interviewing people you'd need to hire to help you with the day-to-day operations.

Most people think I'm kidding, but I'm 100% serious.

The vast majority of sites that sell something have an overall conversion rate (for new visits only) of something well under 1%. The average I see from assisting others is around 0.2-0.3% conversion rate. Those sites who are owned by folks who are working at it and think they're doing a yeoman's job are typically falling in the 1.5% to 2% range. Which is a glowing response rate compared to everybody else.

But what does that really mean?

It means that for every 100 people who visit your site for the first time, 98% or more leave dissatisfied. Or they leave you dissatisfied because they didn't take the action you want them to take. You're letting down a full 98 out of every 100 people who visit your site. That's dismal!

If you owned a brick and mortar store and had this kind of response rate you'd be out of business quickly! The only way web sites have been able to get away with it for so many years is because the costs of running a web-based business are next to nothing in comparison.

It's my firm opinion that over the next 5 years or so you're going to start seeing a major shift in this sad state of affairs. Not only are webmasters going to get much, much better at delivering upon visitor expectations, thus converting a considerably higher percentage of them into customers, but as the search engines get ever smarter and understand user behavior more precisely they'll start rewarding those sites that do a better job of meeting and exceeding user expectations. In essence, the search engines are going to make the sites that perform well and meet user expectations their de facto partners.

Those sites that don't measure up are going to become second class citizens in the search world.

In short, 5 years from now 2% won't cut it. Neither will double that figure. Once the search engines get a bit smarter the only way to get top 10 rankings in moderately competitive markets will be to make sure you're satisfying the needs of at least 10-15% of those who find your site, because the Quality measurement will move towards user satisfaction and away from what sites link to you and what keyword phrases happen to appear on the page.

Google already does this reasonably well with their Adwords advertisers. This is mostly because they've had methods in place to help them see a good gauge of relevance and user reactions from beginning to end. Those who do a good job for customers get bumped up in their adwords campaigns, even if they're bidding far less than competitors. Google still lets the other non-performing ads show up for at least awhile, but they basically charge those advertisers a stupid tax by jacking up the cost they must pay to get a reasonable ad position.

Google especially, and Yahoo to a lesser extent, are already in the process of putting systems into place (Gmail to get people logged in constantly so they can collect data, the purchase of Urchin that turned into Google Analytics, lots of experimentation into Personalization over the last few years, etc) to allow this emphasis on a brand new metric (for them) to be incorporated into their algorithms. They've already got mountains of data. They've got years worth of search history and click-thru data.

Give 'em a few more years to test and develop systems to make sure they're getting a good read on user expectations and whether they're being satisfied by webmasters. Eventually they're going to demand all webmasters to do a lot better job of meeting and exceeding user's expectations. If you don't, you simply won't appear in the SERPs in the first 30 or 50 choices.

Now if you want to hear real screaming, wait for those days to get here. Where thousand and thousands of sites that have ranked top of the heap for ages --partly because of their age and links built up over the years-- but don't convert worth a darn suddenly take nose dives into oblivion. The whining will be loud, and will be coming from literally tens of thousands of webmasters who haven't been paying attention to what their visitors really want.

And it won't be an easy thing to correct either. If anything, explaining how to construct a site that converts at a high rate is a more nebulous thing to get across than explaining how to SEO a site. Not because it's any harder, but because there are lots more moving parts that all have to line up perfectly. With most of them occurring in the grey matter of users brains, but never being given voice. It's not something like being able to tell someone to get more good links or fix their title tag. wink1.gif

#8 davidbrett

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Posted 09 February 2009 - 05:44 AM

Excellent Post Randy.

We find that most of our sites convert at between 2% and 5% and currently this would be thought of as quite good.

In an ideal world your search engine rankings should take your conversion rate into account as this is the ultimate relevance score. It would certainly be refreshing to see the majority of posts on this forum focusing on conversion

However it would be difficult to measure the conversion rate for sites that offer a phone bookings/orders in addition to e-commerce functionality. This is a real issue in our industry, obviously we would prefer if this becomes less of an issue in the future.



#9 petri

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Posted 09 February 2009 - 08:15 AM

QUOTE(davidbrett @ Feb 9 2009, 12:44 PM) View Post
In an ideal world your search engine rankings should take your conversion rate into account as this is the ultimate relevance score.


Where would that leave non-commercial sites?

#10 Randy

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Posted 09 February 2009 - 10:05 AM

Contrary to popular belief, conversion has nothing to do with commerce.

Every site has a conversion metric. Whether that's getting people to sign up for a free newsletter, spending x-number of minutes on a page/site, visiting a specific page, downloading a report, reading a certain blog post, visiting the site more than one time, etc, etc.

#11 Yoshimi

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Posted 09 February 2009 - 10:42 AM

How do you anticipate that Google or any other search engine would differentiate between the different convesion metrics though? A conversion on my site may be Twitter followers, how does Google know that that's what constitutes success when for the next site in my industry the conversion metric is newsletter signups, and for a third it's email enquiries?

I agree that in the long term Google will have to look at more in depth user information to rank sites and there will be a lot of unhappy campers, but I think it will be much more personal search based, and am very interested in how you would expect a conversion model t work?


#12 Ron Carnell

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Posted 09 February 2009 - 10:53 AM

I absolutely agree, Randy.

As a writer, I usually say it a little differently, pointing out that everything we communicate is ultimately a sales pitch for something. We are, of course, saying the same things here.

When I say it, I'm usually trying to get someone to define what it is they're trying to sell, because frankly, most people don't know. How can they hope to communicate well if they don't know what it is they're trying to communicate?

I only bring this up because there's a not so obvious corollary that I think is perhaps pertinent. If the writer/artist/webmaster/business person doesn't usually know what they're trying to sell, or on your side, doesn't know what constitutes a conversion . . . how in the world can we expect a search engine to figure it out?




#13 Randy

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Posted 09 February 2009 - 11:02 AM

Spot on Ron. I'm constantly amazed that most webmasters don't know what they're trying to convince people to do. Hence a conversion. I hate to say it, but based upon my own experiences I'd say 90% or better have never given it a moments thought!

QUOTE
I agree that in the long term Google will have to look at more in depth user information to rank sites and there will be a lot of unhappy campers, but I think it will be much more personal search based, and am very interested in how you would expect a conversion model t work?


Maybe I worded some of the above badly.

I don't think Google will ever care one iota if the conversion trigger or the web site was fulfilled or not. It may be an indication, but isn't an absolute requirement. For several reasons, the largest being that a webmaster's ideal of what a conversion means may vary considerably from what a user's would be.

Truth be known Google etal don't care and can't care what the webmaster's wishes are. Their customers after all are the people using their search engines to find stuff, not the web sites they serve up in their results.

Thus what they're going to care about is whether the site was relevant for the search term used and if the site delivered on the expectation of the individual users who visited the site.

The connection between those two being that those webmasters who properly target the correct target audience and deliver on the users expectations will by necessity have a higher conversion rate for the action items they've set up. Most users won't even know they've been included in the conversion metric.

And that's where the search engines are going to look primarily. Yes they can compare conversion metrics if a site is signed up for something like Adwords, Google Analytics and the like. If they have this data it'll be a pretty safe assumption on their part that the webmaster gets it, assuming the conversion rate is at or above what it should be. But what they'll be most concerned with measuring for ranking purposes is user reaction. Does the user stick around to view x-number-of-pages on a site, do they spend 10 or 15 minutes there, do they make a return visit after a day or two, etc.

#14 Yoshimi

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Posted 09 February 2009 - 11:16 AM

QUOTE(Randy @ Feb 9 2009, 04:02 PM) View Post
But what they'll be most concerned with measuring for ranking purposes is user reaction. Does the user stick around to view x-number-of-pages on a site, do they spend 10 or 15 minutes there, do they make a return visit after a day or two, etc.


But again, this is so subjective, if I log onto a site I love to check for an update and it's not there I log straight back out again, I normally get that site of a feed, so as far as the SE is concerned that site is a bust, or I go to another site which is niche and i need specific information, but send 20 minutes navigating round a badly designed site, give up and go hunting for the information again 2 days later because now it's really urgent, but on a conversion model the second site would be the better of the two?

It's all very speculative but I'm struggling to see things going in this direction, it seems so difficult to define and open to manipulation?

#15 petri

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Posted 09 February 2009 - 11:54 AM

I have a couple of pages that come up #1 in Google. Most people find what they are looking for on those pages, I suppose, and never bother to click further. So those pages have close to 100% bounce rate. Somehow the algorithms seems to be working tongue.gif





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