Wednesday, December 12, 2007

How Are Your Link Neighbors?

“Go with your Gut” ~ Matt Cutts, head of Google's Webspam team, at PubCon 2007
I like that quote. It can apply to virtually anything in business and usually defaults to the correct answer. In this case, Matt was talking about link building, and specifically not linking to a bad neighborhood.

How do you know if you're linking to a bad place?

Well... how did you come about the links... naturally or artificially?

Google wants you to build a web of links organically. Over the normal course of events other sites just found you. They liked what they saw and thus, linked to your site. They don't want pure manipulation of links.

They want links that would happen in the normal course of business between companies. Linking between sites that makes "business" sense. It all goes back to relevance. Even reciprocal links are ok... IF... they are relevant, limited in scope and make normal business sense.

So, if that's you... great. You are clean.

Hi neighbor... "It's a beautiful day in this neighborhood. A beautiful day for a neighbor..."

On the other hand if you did a deal with a link broker and overnight you got 1000 links, in other words, from 1 link to 1001 between visits of the Google bot... or all your links are reciprocal and incorporate every non-relevant business sector.. Yikes!

My gut says that's artificial and abnormal... and you live in a bad place, man.

It's really common sense... if all your links are reciprocal and not relevant to your business that's not natural. Spin how you want, but it not commonplace. AND Google knows this!

You want with your search strategy to accelerate what happens in nature but not to mutate or bastardized it. You don't want to live in this neighborhood.

So if you get an out of the blue email or a "dear site owner" letter asking to swap links... what does your "gut" tell you?

My big gut tells me to hit the delete button. For some the answer is not that easy. They don't want to give up any potential links. Ok, but you have been warned...

In the alternative, for you aggressive types... post the link but don’t pass page rank - use your no follow tag on the link. For more on this tag, read the CVoD issue: Do You Follow or No Follow?

What does Google officially say about this?

Check out the Webmaster Help Center. In the Quality guidelines it states:
* Make pages for users, not for search engines. Don't deceive your users or present different content to search engines than you display to users, which is commonly referred to as "cloaking."

* Avoid tricks intended to improve search engine rankings. A good rule of thumb is whether you'd feel comfortable explaining what you've done to a website that competes with you. Another useful test is to ask, "Does this help my users? Would I do this if search engines didn't exist?"

* Don't participate in link schemes designed to increase your site's ranking or PageRank. In particular, avoid links to web spammers or "bad neighborhoods" on the web, as your own ranking may be affected adversely by those links.

* Don't use unauthorized computer programs to submit pages, check rankings, etc. Such programs consume computing resources and violate our Terms of Service. Google does not recommend the use of products such as WebPosition Gold™ that send automatic or programmatic queries to Google.
As I've always said, good business doesn't fight the power, it uses the power to it's advantage. You know what Google wants, now go with your gut!


PS - OK, I can't help myself... everyone sign along:

Won't You be My Neighbor
By Fred Rogers

It's a beautiful day in this neighborhood,
A beautiful day for a neighbor.
Would you be mine?
Could you be mine?...

It's a neighborly day in this beauty wood,
A neighborly day for a beauty.
Would you be mine?
Could you be mine?...

I've always wanted to have a neighbor just like you.
I've always wanted to live in a neighborhood with you.

So, let's make the most of this beautiful day.
Since we're together we might as well say:
Would you be mine?
Could you be mine?
Won't you be my neighbor?
Won't you please,
Won't you please?
Please won't you be my neighbor?