The Ethics of Link Building Services

by El Plumber (admin) on June 6, 2011

I received this question on a forum the other day and decided my response was going to be too long to post there:

ElectronPlumber,

I want to send you a big thank you for all the time and meticulous effort you are putting into this and for sharing so many extra details. It is much appreciated! I also appreciate your straightforward honest approach.

I have been wary of trying these automated and semi-automated link services for fear it would erase all my “elbow grease” efforts. I notice you chose to not try this on your established sites. How are you feeling about this now after using these services for several weeks?

and a response from Rinor81:

We’re not doing anything illegal here and we basically put links in high PR blogs, so what’s the problem?

Building links manually will take ages and more and still you’re not sure it will help. This is a day by day help for link building so it’s a great service I enjoy using.

I am sick and tired of Google changes the rules every Monday or Thursday just because he wishes, forgetting it was us, the affiliate and the small sites that helped him grow and beat Yahoo…

This is the eternal debate, will a particular link hurt my site.  Here is my take.  This is going to be a loooooooong one, so stick with me please.  It’s worth the read.

Note that I haven’t started using any link building services on this site and a few of my oldest sites just as a precaution, but I am using them on all of my new sites.

Everyone thinks Google is capricious and arbitrary in their decisions on which sites are indexed and ranked and which aren’t.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Google HATES taking manual action against sites.  It costs them money to have a human review a site, wade through a reconsideration process, etc.  There are TRILLIONS of unique URLs out there.  If their algorithm can’t handle webspam correctly, they lose tons of money manually trying to fix their rankings.

There are certainly varying SHADES of Grey Hats here with these services.  I wrote an article about White Hats vs Grey Hats vs Black Hats a few months ago, check it out to see the definitions I use.  In short, Grey hat means techniques that aren’t illegal in the US (such as spamming email, false testimonials, or unrealistic earnings claims.) but are against the terms of service of a particular company and may get you banned from that companies services such as the Google search results.  If I lose my income stream from a site, I can deal with that.  I DON’T want to go to jail though.

There are also varying SIZES of Grey hats here as well.  Consider the example of JC Penney last year.  They used a football stadium sized Grey Hat last year to increase their search engine rankings though buying MASSIVE numbers of paid links that weren’t even inside content and Google didn’t notice until the New York Times pointed it out to them!

So, how dark is too dark a hat?  And how big is too big?

Don’t forget SEO Rule #1:  If your content doesn’t deserve to be #1 on Google for a given keyword, no amount of links will keep it there long term.  If people click in the search results and wonder if Google screwed up by showing you a terrible spammy page, one or more of them will eventually report it.  You will get a pass on a number of small violations of the Webmaster guidelines if you have darn good content.   A Google Quality Engineer doing a manual check of your site should instantly see that your site probably deserves to rank well for your keywords and they’ll move on.

Note that for 99% of the keywords and niches out there, Google isn’t going to bat an eye if you’ve bought links or paid for article marketing as long as your content is good and deserves to rank well.  If you pick a spammy niche like perscription drugs, gambling, weight loss, making money online, and the like, expect any Grey Hat link building to eventually fail you.  Google keeps a close eye on these subjects.  But for the hundreds of thousands of other niches out there you have to go pretty far over the link building line to get noticed.

Google considers paid links against it’s terms of service.  Why?  Could it be they want you to pay THEM for links, by using Adwords to advertise?  Or that the Google ranking algorithm relies on natural linking to find the best content?  It’s probably a mixture of both really.  These link building services are one small step away from buying links and one small step away from traditional article marketing.

I can go pay Associated Press $500 or PRWeb $200 for a press release that will put my information and links on various sites, which help build backlinks, is paying BuildMyRank honestly that much different?

That all being said, using a link building service is a business risk decision just like any other.  I can pay more in an attempt to hire better employees, I can buy more or less insurance for my inventory, I can buy an existing website in the hopes it will keep it’s Page Rank after the sale, and thousands of other decisions.  You have to weigh the cost vs the benefit vs the risk.

For any new sites I start, the ~$50 cost of one of these services to help it rank and see if the site and keywords are viable and to help garner initial traffic is totally worth it.  Remember that you have to be found for people to backlink to you, and being high up in the search results certainly helps.  The very very small risk of a site being deindexed vs the still very small risk of a site being penalized vs the also small risk of the links just not being counted are outweighed by the results I’ve seen so far by using these services.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

teatree June 7, 2011 at 12:21 pm

As long as people arn’t breaking the law (the real law, not Google law), there’s actually just one rule, which is Don’t Make Google Look Stupid.

I love reading about ranking challenges like the one you’ve been doing with the link networks. But at the same time, my heart sinks every time someone discusses a system I use myself. I think, sugar, it will now become popular, and if it gets really popular, G will move to stop it as it makes them look stupid.

Soon as a technique gets too popular, it’s time to move on.

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